Texts: Philippians 4:10-13; Matthew 6:25-34
“Not that I am speaking of being in need,” St. Paul said, “for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13, English Standard Version) St. Paul wrote these words in the closing section of his letter to the Philippians while he himself was imprisoned in Rome. He found himself there for the sake of the Gospel only after being shipwrecked en route, and that after being imprisoned in Galilee for two years. His imprisonment was not due to a crime he committed, but was originally for his own safety after some had taken vows to kill him for his faith. St. Paul was also accustomed to being without a home, food, or clothing. In short, Paul was acquainted with suffering. Yet, he wrote, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”
Name, our dear wife, mother, grandmother, sister, and friend also knew that same feeling. Name was born in Month 1954. She was baptized into Christ that same month. She was blessed to meet her future husband at a young age, though their courtship took a couple tries before it stuck. But, stuck, it did. The Lord blessed Names with 48 loving years of marriage resulting in three children: Names During those years, Name found many opportunities to love by serving at home, in the church, and in the community. However, as with St. Paul, suffering was known to Name, especially in these most recent years. Yet, her trials and struggles, the medical setbacks and what-have-you, she bore with patience. Every time I had the opportunity to visit her in the hospital, there was a smile on her face. She bore her suffering with patience, with faith, and – dare I say – with a sense of contentment. St. Paul said he knew the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. Name knew that secret, too.
But, what, we might ask, is that secret? Actually, it’s not a secret because we’ve already heard the answer. Jesus said in the Gospel,
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?…Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.Matthew 6:25, 32-33
St. Paul’s secret to facing all things in all situations, to doing all things, is faith in Christ’s loving promise. Just a few moments ago, we confessed our Christian faith together using the words of the Apostles’ Creed. The Creed begins, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” In Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, we learn that this means that, not only did God create all things, but He preserves and provides for all things – even us. By the way, Name knew and believed this. She had the rare opportunity to take confirmation class twice, which, technically, makes her twice as Lutheran as any of us are.
Name knew that the Lord provided for all her bodily needs, but she knew His even greater provision, as well. We are here today because our sister has died. Yet, we also gladly confess that she is alive with Christ. That’s because Jesus won for Name the forgiveness of sins, and by His resurrection, secured eternal life for Name, too. We know from Scripture that death is not part of God’s good creation, but came through our own evil deeds when our first parents doubted and disobeyed God’s Word. All who are born of flesh and blood inherit the same corruption of sin, which is punished in all people by death. However, God is merciful and does not let death and the devil have the final say. God the Father sent forth His eternal Son to take on our same human flesh. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He was born without sin and did not sin. Though He alone was unworthy of death, He took the sins of the world away by bearing them in His body on the cross. Jesus died to make the perfect, full, and complete payment for sin. Then, He rose again. He gives salvation as a gift to all who believe this, as the Scriptures say, “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)
When St. Paul said that he knew the secret to facing all things in all situations, it wasn’t some strategy for us to learn, nor was it ever really a secret. St. Paul’s secret was faith in Christ’s promise to provide all that we need – both for the body and, especially, for the soul. Our heavenly Father knows exactly what we need, and well provides. He did so for Name throughout her life. But, beyond providing for her body in this life, He has provided bountifully for her soul. The Father sent forth His Son and purchased for Name the forgiveness of sins and the eternal life which she now enjoys. Today, this secret is once again made known to us.
The Lord’s promises weren’t only for St. Paul and Name, but they are for us, too. We now know the secret to facing all things: the promise of Christ to provide. He has promised to provide for us and He does, even if we don’t always realize or believe it. But, as greatly as He provides for our bodies, He provides for us to an even greater extent by giving to us the forgiveness of our sins. He paid for all sins by His death on the cross, and He gives forgiveness freely to all who believe. Those who believe in Him will live, even though they die. When it is the Lord’s will that our last hour comes, we, too, will depart to be with Him in heaven with all who’ve gone before us in the faith. When Christ returns, He will raise our bodies – He will raise this body. Then, we will fully know the love and care of God. St. Paul knew the secret of facing all things and our sister Name knew it. May Lord grant to us that same grace, even as we await our joyful reunion in heaven and the resurrection of the dead. In Jesus’ name. Amen.