October 25, 2020

Rev. Mark F. Bartels



Old Testament Lesson; Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm of the Day; Psalm 23

Gospel Lesson; Matthew 22:1-14                           

Sermon Text; Philippians 4:4-13


Today's text is taken from Philippians chapter four, verses four through thirteen. 


Rejoice in the Lord always!  I will say it again:  Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be known to everyone.  The Lord is near.  Do not worry about anything,  but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if anything is excellent, and if anything is praiseworthy, think about these things.  The things that you learned, received, heard, and saw in me:  Keep doing these things.  And the God of peace will be with you.  I rejoice greatly in the Lord now that you have revived your concern for me once again.  Actually, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.  I am not saying this because I lack anything; in fact, I have learned to be content in any circumstances in which I find myself.  I know what it is to live in humble circumstances, and I know what it is to have more than enough.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, while being full or hungry, while having plenty or not enough.  I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.


These are your words, Heavenly Father.  Lead us in the way of truth.  Your Word is truth.



We are living in a season of high stress, high anxiety, and high worry.  Just a little window in to that.  Yesterday Sherri came home from Walgreens.  She had been developing some pictures at their photo center, there.  She came home, and said, “Wow, you can sure tell people are stressed out.  And, the people at Walgreens seemed stressed out.”  Then she said, “One of the workers came up to one of the other workers at Walgreens, while I was developing pictures, and said, 'Wow!  Working here, now, I should have a degree in counselling.'”

There is a lot of high stress, high anxiety going on.  Symptoms of that are:

-suicide is on the rise,

-alcoholism is on the rise,

-marital strife is on the rise, and

-divorce is on the rise. 

It is in part largely due to what is going on in society today, with the virus, loss of job, loss of economy, and all of the other kinds of struggles people are going through. 

Now, you may be going through some of that stress, some of that worry, and some of that anxiety.  If not, there may be other very deep stresses, worries, and anxieties you are going through. 

The Bible is not afraid to talk about the worries, stresses, and anxieties of this life.  I want to show you, just by doing a little exercise here, the direction The Bible takes us, whenever we start to consider the whole concept of the worries, and stress we are all under.  I am going to give you three Bible verses.  I am going to leave one of the words blank, and I want you to see if you can figure out what word goes in the blank spot in The Bible passage.

The first one is from James, chapter one.

“Consider it pure ____ ,

whenever you undergo any kind of trial.”

What goes in the blank? 

Consider it pure ?pain?  Consider it pure ?drudgery?

Actually, here is the word that goes in the blank.

“Consider it pure joy,

whenever you undergo any kind of trial.”


Here is the next one, from Romans, chapter five.

It starts out this way.

“We ____ in our suffering.”

We what? 

We ?wallow? in our suffering.  We ?struggle? in our suffering.

Here is what it actually says.

“We rejoice in our suffering.”

The word 'rejoice' is actually the verb form of the noun 'joy'.  So, we do joy in our suffering.


Here is the next one.  (You have probably caught on at this point!)  This is from 1st Corinthians, chapter seven, when St. Paul says:

“In all of our afflictions,

I am overflowing with ____”

Overflowing with what?  ?depression? 

I am overflowing with joy.

So, The Bible takes all of our struggles, all of our trials, all of the difficulties, all of the anxieties and worries we are going through, and puts them next to this whole concept of joy.  That is where our Bible text is going to take us. 

How can a Christian, in the face of all of these trials, have this thing called joy?  We understand, as we look at The Bible, The Bible is not talking about the type of joy the world looks at, where you have this outward, super, exceedingly happy face, and everything seems to be going well, outwardly. 

        -It is a type of joy that is an inner spiritual joy. 

        -It is this sense of gladness you have in Christ,

because you are a Christian. 

We are going to dive in to that, today. 

If there is anybody who understood these trials, it was St. Paul.  St. Paul writes the book of Philippians, which we are looking at today, while he was undergoing some sever trials.  It just so happens in this circumstance, he was in prison.  He said he was, “in chains.”  So, he was under a social isolation, only it was not social isolation because he had a disease.  (Well, they maybe they thought he had a disease.  It was not the Corona Virus, but he did have the 'social disease’ called Christianity'.)  They wanted to separate him from people so he would not spread Christianity, which the world saw as a 'disease'. 

So, he is writing from prison, and this letter overflows with joy, as he faces these trials.  He wants the same to happen for us.

So, let's jump in to this text.  First of all, look at verse four.  There it is.

“Rejoice in the Lord always!” 

That is the verb form of the word 'joy'.  Basically,

“Do joy in the Lord always! 

I will say it again:  Do joy! (or rejoice) 

Let your gentleness be known to everyone. 

The Lord is near.”

And now, look where he takes us.  He is going to take us to our anxieties, our troubles, our worries, all of the things that can seem to overwhelm us.  He says,

“Don't worry about anything...”  

Now the word for “worry” here is the word that at its root means, 'to be torn apart'.  It is saying, “Don't let anything rip you apart on the inside, or tear you up on the inside.” 

There are a lot of things (all of the concerns, and worries of this world) that can tear our hearts up.  For example, my heart may be torn up by things that are happening in my family, in your family.  Or, our mind can be torn apart by, “What is going to happen, if this or that occurs?”, “or I get sick?”, “or I don't get my job?”  “What is going to happen?” 

It says, “Don't be anxious about anything.” 

But then, it tells us what to do.  It says,

“...but in everything, by prayer and petition (which is a technical term for prayer, for something particular and specific you are praying about, whatever that trouble is)...

“...but in everything,

with prayer and petition,

with thanksgiving,

let your requests be made known to God.”

So, it tells us Christians to take all of our troubles, all of our trials, all of our worries, whatever we are concerned about, and throw it into His hands.

Then, it makes this turn, and it takes us from worry, and anxiety to the opposite.  He says,

“And the peace of God,

which surpasses all understanding,

will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

What is that peace of God that will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus?  What is that talking about?

One time there was a contest put on by an artist's artistic society.  The contest was to paint a picture that represented peace.  They got 'tons' of submissions, paintings of peace.  There were a lot of great ones. 

Finally, it was the day to award the prize to the picture that best depicted peace.  All of the people gathered, and the judges said, “We had great entries.  We had a really hard time deciding.  And, actually we couldn't award it to one.  We could not decide, so there are two winners who painted a great picture of peace.” 

They unveiled the first one.  It was what you would expect. It was an idyllic lake, with beautiful trees, a calm, sunny, blue sky, with puffy clouds.  You would look at the picture, and say, “That is peace.”  That was the first picture.

Then, they uncovered the second one, and said, “This is the other one.  And, we could not decide which one of these was better.” 

The other one was the least thing you would expect.  It was dark, and there was lightening.  You could see the wind was blowing, because trees were bending over.  There was rain crashing down.  There were craggy rocks, and water was rushing over these rocks like this terrible downpour. 

People looked at it, and thought, “What does that have to do with peace?  That is the last thing you would identify with peace.”

Then, one of the curators of the art society said, “Look way down here in the picture, in these craggy rocks.  Look at the little cleft in those rocks.” 

There was a little cleft in the rock.  And in that cleft in the rock was a bird's nest.  In that nest was a bird, a calm, little bird, in the midst of all the storm, at total peace, knowing it was protected in that little cleft in the rocks.  Peace, in the face of a great storm.

I want you to keep that picture in your heart, for just a second, and then we will get back to it.

There was a young pastor who was in his mid thirties.  (He actually ended up dying of tuberculosis, at the age of thirty-seven.   So he had his own troubles, and trials he was going through.)  He became editor of a little, Christian magazine that would go out.  In the third copy he had done, he was trying to compare our sin to a load of debt.  He started out by writing about the national debt in England, because he lived in England.  He was writing about how big the national debt was, and wondering, “How are we ever going to get out of this national debt we owe?”  

Then, he transitioned over to sin.  He did these interesting calculations to get people to consider the debt they owe, because of their sin.  He said, “Imagine you sin once every second, all of your life.” 

He calculated it out, and said, “If you are ten years old, you would have sinned by that time three hundred fifteen million times.” 

Then he said, “If you are twenty years old, by this time you would have sinned double of that, which is six hundred thirty million times.” 

Then he said, “If you are eighty years old, you would have sinned by this time two point five billion times.”

Next he laid it out, “So how do we get out from underneath that debt we owe to God?” 

Then, he wrote a little poem at the end of this article.  Here is how the poem goes.  I am going to take you right back to that rock, that little cleft in the rock, where the bird was finding all its safety through the storm.  Our storm is ultimately our own sin, and everything sin brings to us - the guilt, the power, and the punishment, all of the troubles of this life.

Rock of ages

Cleft for me.

Let me hide myself in Thee.

Let the water and the blood

from Thy riven side

which flowed,

(that was the blood that flowed from Jesus on the cross)

Be of sin the double cure.

Cleanse me from its guilt and power.

(Jesus' blood cleanses us.  It is a double cure.  It cures us from the guilt of sin, and the power of sin.)

Nothing in my hand I bring.

Simply to Thy cross I cling.

Naked come to Thee for dress.

Helpless look to Thee for grace.

Foul, I, to the fountain fly.

Wash me Savior, or I die.

There is that picture where you and I have found the peace of God that surpasses all human understanding.

And, where have we found it?  We found it in that cleft in the Rock, which is Jesus.  He has forgiven all of our sin.  And when we take our troubles, and put them in to His hands, in prayer, we can have this peace of God that surpasses all human understanding, and it guards (the word here is like a sentinel, an army person guarding) your heart, and your mind. 

I know I have taken my troubles, and have put them in to the hand of God, who is so loving, and so merciful that He shed His blood.  He has a home waiting for me in Heaven.  I know He has risen from the dead.  He sits at the right hand of God.  There is nothing, anything that could make me shudder in fear, and doesn't even cause Him to blink.  He has power over everything.  I have put my troubles in to His hands.  He is so wise, and knows exactly how to deal with all of this.  And so we can have this peace, which creates an inner joy, a sense of spiritual gladness, even in the midst of any storm. 

In fact, St. Paul goes on and says,

“...I have learned to be content in any circumstances in which I find myself.  I know what it is to live in humble circumstances, and I know what it is to have more than enough.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, while being full or hungry, while having plenty or not enough.” 

So, he says he has learned this secret.  It is not something that comes automatically.  He says, “I have learned it.” 

“I have learned the secret of being content”

no matter what's happening.

Now, I want you to listen.  This is just a small portion of what happened in Paul's life.  This is a list he gives us, through which he learned the secret of being content no matter what.  You can, also, learn this secret, whatever troubles you are going through.  He says,

-“Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.”  So, he was whipped with a cat of nine tails, back shredded, body shredded, not just once, but five times.  And he learned the secret of being content.

-“Three times I was beaten with rods.”  But, he learned the secret of being content.

-“Once I was stoned.  Three times I was shipwrecked.  I spent a night and a day in the open sea.”  But, through all of that, he knew the secret of being content. 

-“I have been constantly on the move.  I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles, in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at the sea, in danger from false brothers”  Through all of that, he knew the secret of being content.

-“I have labored, and toiled, and often gone without sleep.  I have known hunger, and thirst.  I have often gone without food.”  Through all of that, he knew the secret of being content.

-“I have been cold, and naked, besides everything else, I face daily the pressures of my concern for all of the churches.”  Through all of that, somehow he knew this secret of being content. 

So, what is the secret?

I heard a pastor one time tell this story.  He said there was a man in his congregation who was an older man.  He was a man who had this wonderful Christian spirit.  I suppose he was one of those Christians you could just tell he had this joy in his heart, this inner sense of gladness, no matter what was going on.  The pastor said this older gentleman used to have this saying.  The pastor said, “I never quite got exactly what he meant by it, but the saying was, 'For this I have Jesus'.” 

This older gentleman was so fond of that saying that he actually had taken a bunch of yellow pieces of paper, and turned them into bookmarks.  On those little bookmarks he had written, “For this I have Jesus.”  He handed those bookmarks to a whole bunch of people. 

The pastor thought, “Well, that is nice he is doing that.  I am not sure exactly what he means by that, though.”

Anyway, one day the pastor found out this older gentleman, who was very dear to him, (who had been making these bookmarks) had a severe stroke.  It was crushing to this man, and his wife.  When the man finally made it home from the hospital, the pastor was talking to the wife on the phone.  He asked her, “What is going to happen?”

The wife said to the pastor, “Well, the doctors have said he has lost the use of his arm, and his leg.  He will never use them, again.  And, he probably won't ever be able to speak in a way that he can articulate, and be understood.”

The pastor knew how crushing that must be.  He asked, “Can I at least talk to your husband, even though I know he is not going to be able to talk to me?”
So, she put her husband on the phone. 

The pastor said as soon as the gentleman was handed the phone, he could tell this older guy was trying to say something.  The pastor said, “I listened very carefully, as the old gentleman slowly mouthed five words.  'For… this… I… have… Jesus.' 

It was then that the pastor understood what the gentleman meant by that phrase all along.  Whatever trials we have, 'For this I have Jesus.' 

The pastor said he actually told that story to an audience at a seminar.  A couple days later, he got a letter in the mail from some lady.  The lady wrote,


“I was at your seminar, and I heard you tell the story about the bookmarks.  I had wanted to come up to you, and talk to you, but you were busy, so I couldn't.  I had to write you this letter, instead. 

“Pastor, I want you to know that I think I got one of those bookmarks in the mail!  My friend sent me a letter, and in the letter was this little, yellow, bookmark.  On it was written, 'For this I have Jesus.'  I looked at it, and thought, 'That is sweet'  I didn't quite get it, so I put it down on my kitchen table. 

“A little later that day I got a devastating phone call from the police.  They told me my husband had been tragically, tragically killed in a terrible accident.  I had to go down to the hospital, and get all of his possessions and belongings he had with him.  I was crushed.  Then, I had to tell our two, little, children who were in school.  I had to take them out of school.  We had a devastating day. 

“Pastor, I came home at the end of that day, walked in to the kitchen, and there on the counter-top was that little, yellow, bookmark that said, 'For this I have Jesus'.  That meant so much to me, at that moment. 

We grieve, because he has died.  But, we see that phrase, whenever we go to his tombstone, now, because we even have it engraved on his tombstone, 'For this I have Jesus'.”

That is what Paul meant when he said,

“I have learned the secret of being content

in any and every situation...” 

Here is what the secret is. 

“I can do all things through Christ,

who strengthens me.”

Now, that is one of the most misinterpreted Bible passages in the world, because people sometimes think, “That means, if I want to be a lawyer, then I can be a lawyer.  If I want to play for the Green Bay Packers, I can play for the Green Bay Packers.  I can do whatever I want to.” 

That is not what that passage means.  You have to look at it in context.  What it means is

With Jesus, I can face anything. 

“I can be flogged because, For this I have Jesus.”  “I can be flogged five times because, For this I have Jesus.”  Paul was saying, “He gives me strength”.  “I can be shipwrecked, For this I have Jesus.”  “He gives me strength.”  “I can be hungry, or naked, or cold, but I can do all things.  I can be hungry because, For this I have Jesus”.  

That is the secret we have as Christians, the secret of being content.  It is knowing we have Jesus,

-who loves us dearly,

-who in His mercy and grace, has forgiven all of our sins,

-who will never leave us, never forsake us,

-who will someday solve all of these problems in eternity in Heaven,

-who promises in this life to work out all things for our good,

-whose wisdom is far beyond ours,

-who works through all of these trials to draw us closer to Him.

For this, (whatever it is, whatever it is), I have Jesus!

Paul even went on to say this. 

“We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed, perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted but not abandoned, struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus.. look at what he says, next… so that the life of Jesus may be revealed in our body.  We who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that His life may be revealed in our mortal body.”

There is something different about you.  When you go through trials, and you display the life of Jesus in your mortal body, a peace of God that passes all human understanding (the understanding, For this I have Jesus, a sense of joy on the inside, that all is well, and I am glad, in Christ), with that, we can truly be lights in a troubled world!

God grant that, for Jesus' sake.



Now may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord.




Prayer later in the service….


One of the things we are probably concerned about is how the elections are going to turn out.  The Bible says, “Don't be anxious about anything, but in everything, with prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make your requests be made known to God.”  So, in this prayer we pray for our country, the elections, and then we can have peace in Christ.


O Lord,

As our country approaches the election of the President, we thank  you for placing us in a country with the privilege to vote in free elections.  Move many to exercise that privilege responsibly, and so guide the process to give us wise, and effective rulers.  Keep us mindful that, whatever the outcome, you are in control and, whatever the issues, the only lasting one is the issue of eternal life for all who trust you in Christ.

Help us to use our freedom to spread that saving Gospel message.  

We think of the many blessing you have showered upon our country.  Forgive us our many complaints, and our negligence in asking your blessing upon our land.

Continue to allow us peace, and bless all honest endeavors.  Do not let our wonderful freedoms be abused, or removed.  Let justice, and right prevail.

Place loyalty in the hearts of our citizens so that all may take an active role to do away with wrong, and foster what is right.

Preserve our freedom to worship you according to the dictates of our conscience.

We thank you for the selfless service of those who have risked, or given their lives to protect our freedoms, and to provide safety in our towns, and streets.  Grant relief to those who continue to experience emotional, or physical trial from their days in service.  Give us a sense of responsibility for their welfare.

God bless our native land!