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Well Supplied by God

Stonebrook Community Church https://www.stonebrook.org

This week, I reflected back on my 40 years of adulthood. Various trials I have gone through. My attitude towards them.
One topic that I have faced—as we all have—is finances. In my 40 years of adulthood, I cannot ever remember facing the pressure of joblessness or poverty. Nor can I ever remember having all the finances I could desire.
But I can remember many times when I was discontent about my situation. And anxious.

Another topic I thought about was health. In the last 3 years, my wife and I have faced some significant challenges with health. Over these 3 years, I can remember many, many days where both of us struggled to be at peace in our situation. To be content. Not anxious or complaining.

Contentment and peace in our souls is such a beautiful quality, but it seems so elusive. Like trying to grasp the vapor from our breath on a cold morning.

We are in the final week of an 8 week series learning from a letter the Apostle Paul wrote to a church in Philippi, a city in the Roman Empire. Such a beautiful letter. Personal. Warm. Yet very hard-hitting. Challenging.
Paul’s final words address this topic of contentment. And we will find inspiration from his example.

Philippians 4

Paul is bringing his letter to a close. As he does this, he changes topics. But he does not change his overall theme of the letter.
The theme still remains a life with Christ at the center.
Back in chapter 1, Paul said, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Life—as long as he lived it on earth—was centered around Jesus. Not centered around his own agenda or selfish ambition.
And if and when he died—even if it was martyrdom in a Roman prison—that would be gain. The best life.

Also back in chapter 1, Paul said this:
Philippians 1:27 ESV “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel…”
This very well may be the theme of the book. As citizens—not of the Roman Empire but of heaven—Paul wants them to live their lives in a way that is worthy of Jesus. Jesus as Lord of heaven and earth is worthy of our devotion and our love.
He is worthy of our trust. He is worthy of our obedience.
This call to a life having Christ at the very center carries throughout the letter, including here in chapter 4.

Paul offers no commands in this section, only his testimony of God’s work in him.

Vs. 9
Look at vs. 9 in chapter 4. Dave covered this last week:
Philippians 4:9 ESV “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
Paul’s life and heart and attitude is an example for us to follow. This final section of the letter will provide us that example.

Vs. 10
Philippians 4.
10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.
We will see as we read farther that the Philippians sent money to help support Paul in his ministry.
In 1 Corinthians 9, written 4 or 5 years before this, Paul says that when someone’s fulltime job is preaching the gospel, they have the right to earn a living from the gospel.
1 Corinthians 9:14 ESV “…the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.”
In other words, just like any other job, they deserve a paycheck for their work that they can use to pay for food and rent.
So here in this chapter, the Philippian church had wanted to help Paul before this time, but for some reason they didn’t have opportunity.
Why not? We’re not told.
Perhaps the church was so poor they had not money to send. Or perhaps they had no good, safe way to send him money. It would take someone, like Epaphroditus, the Philippian church member, to take the money safely to Paul.
For whatever reason, Paul says, “I rejoice greatly…I have great joy…. IN THE LORD… that the church cares about me.”
It’s worth noting that Paul rejoices greatly in the Lord. His praise goes straight to the Lord, who enables all and provides for all. Such upward directed praise goes to where it is ultimately deserved. Yet at the same time such praise would bring satisfaction and joy to the Philippians that God enabled and empowered them to help Paul. I am reminded of chapter 1, when Paul says, “I thank God every time I remember you in prayer.”

Vs. 11-13
11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
12 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.
13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Paul is saying that he rejoices greatly in the Lord that the Philippians sent him money. But in vs. 11, it’s not because he had a great financial need. In fact, in this passage, we don’t find out if Paul had great financial need at that time or not. He is simply grateful that they cared about him.
So he emphasizes that his joy is in their concern, not because he had this great need that they met.
And in a way, he DOWNPLAYS their gift to him. He says, “Whether you give or not….whether I have a little or a lot, I have learned to be content.” In any situation—poverty or wealth— Paul is content.

Contentment is such a beautiful quality. But so elusive.
Contentment —The word literally means, “self-sufficient,” but Paul uses it in the sense of being “Christ-sufficient.”
In a way, Paul is saying, “In Christ, I have enough. I am satisfied and content in him and in where he has me.”
Contentment is such an elusive quality. We tend to think that contentment comes only after our circumstances get better.
• When we are no longer poor.
• When our health is better.
• When the new job comes.
• When my boss at work gets fired.
• When I get the new house.

Signs of discontentment: Whining, complaining, restlessness, no joy, nagging, anxiety, envy, coveting, entitlement

Like weeds growing up naturally in our gardens, so discontentment and complaining can sprout up in our hearts and on our lips.

But Paul gives us no hint of a contentment that is based on better circumstances. In fact, Paul speaks of the opposite. In vs. 12 he says, “I’ve been brought low…I’ve been humbled.” That means, “I have faced poverty.” And he says, “I know how to abound.” I’ve had times where I had plenty of money.

Then in vs. 12, he says something intriguing. Enticing. He says something you hear in advertisements. “I’ve discovered a secret.” Advertisers offer testimonies where the spokesperson says, “I’ve found the secret to life and happiness. And if you buy this product, you can find it, too!”

Paul says, “I’ve learned the secret of contentment.” I’ve learned the secret to being satisfied….to say, “I have enough.
In a way, Paul is saying, “I’ve found the secret to ‘the good life’?” like Matt talked about two weeks ago. We all want “the Good Life.” What’s the secret to it?

He tells us his secret in vs. 13: “I can do everything through Jesus who gives me strength.” Paul says, “I have contentment whether I have lots of money or no money at all.” I have peace. Joy. Satisfaction. I can say, “I have enough.” HOW? Through Jesus Christ and the strength that he provides for me.

So the Secret to Contentment is Jesus. It’s a Person. It’s found in the strength that Jesus gives us.

Honestly, we can read vs. 13 and be disappointed. “That’s the secret, Paul?” I find myself wishing for a different answer than that. I want the secret of 10 easy steps to riches. Because from THAT comes happiness and contentment. I want the secret of a new plan that will restore my health. And one that doesn’t include exercising. Because that’s the only way I can stop grumbling and complaining about feeling so lousy.

But Paul gives us an answer that shouldn’t surprise us. If we know Paul at all….and if we’ve read any of his letters in the NT, including the first 3 chapters of this letter….his answer is no surprise at all.

What did he say in chapter 1?
“To live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Jesus is the center, and my life orbits around him. And as long as I live, my life is all about Jesus.
So when Paul gives us the secret to “The Good Life,” we shouldn’t be surprised at his answer. In fact, we should be intrigued. Paul’s contentment in the face of hunger and lacking and being stuck in prison, and having other preachers of the gospel trying to cause trouble for Paul is astonishing in its depth. He has peace and a quietness in his soul in the midst of turmoil.

But even he had to learn this, per vs. 11 & 12. “I have learned the secret…” We don’t become content overnight at the snap of the fingers. Our contentment depends on our trust in Christ. Our confidence in him.

Contentment in Christ has a relational component to it. It’s like the peace that comes to a child when Mom or Dad is near.
My 3-year old grandson demonstrates this. Not long ago, he injured his knee and started crying. But his Mom acknowledged him and kissed the hurt knee, and he instantly stopped crying. It was comical to me. But it’s so real. His peace and contentment is founded largely on his trust in Mom and Dad.
Our contentment in Christ— to say, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me”— is largely founded upon a PERSON, not a circumstance.

Contentment in Christ does not mean we have a “do nothing” or “need nothing” attitude. When we are content in Christ, we don’t sit back and watch the world fall apart. We don’t stay in bed and not go to work to earn money. We don’t let relational problems go unaddressed. We don’t let health problems go unattended.

To be content doesn’t mean you love your circumstances. It doesn’t mean you should not or cannot change the circumstances.
But it does mean that UNTIL it changes….or even if it NEVER changes on this earth… you can say, “In Jesus, I’m OK. I’m OK.” We find our strength and satisfaction and joy and peace in Jesus.

Vs. 14-16
14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.
Paul makes a second point of telling them he greatly appreciates their gift to him. After all, if we read only vs. 11-13, we could think Paul is very independent and doesn’t need help from anyone. He says, “I’m content if I have a little. I’m content if I have a lot. I don’t have to have your gifts.”
I think the reason Paul may state it all in this way is not to tell them he doesn’t need others or want their help. It may be that he wants to assure the church that he’s not like some other preachers who are in it for money. For greed. For great riches. So he says, “I don’t have to have your gift.”

But now in vs. 14, he again reassures them how grateful he is for their gift. He commends them for their kindness.

We know from 2 Corinthians 9, we are to be cheerful GIVERS.
Here, Paul is a cheerful RECEIVER.
Though God empowered him to be content even in difficult circumstances, he was grateful for the Philippians kindness.

This is highly instructive for us when people give us gifts or offer to help us in some way. We must not be too proud to receive help when we are in need….. or simply because others WANT to show kindness to us. This is important. Many of us in this room LOVE to serve. God’s Spirit dwells in us. We see the servant heart of Jesus Christ who came to earth and died for us sinners. And we love to serve others.

But when others want to serve us, we resist. We balk. We refuse the help. In short, some of us are bad receivers. Why?

Why do we resist the help of others? I’ve thought much about this over the years. And I’ve had to wrestle with this even in my own life. I have not always been willing to receive a gift or help from others.

Why do we do this? Here are a few possible reasons:
1. We are proud and independent. We want to do life on our own. Self-sufficient. “I can do it myself.”
2. We don’t want to be greedy or entitled, or we are afraid others might think we’re this way.
3. We don’t truly believe giving is good… for others, that they will find blessing from God by giving.
(We’ll read about that in the next few verses.)

For these reasons or others, we can be bad receivers by refusing a compliment or gift, or even making our needs known.
Or if we do accept the gift, we tell them we have to “pay them back”.

Many years ago, someone told me, “One of the best ways to serve is to let others serve you.” If serving Jesus is a good thing for us, it’s also a good thing for others.

So we ought to strive to be like Paul by being cheerful receivers!

15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only.
16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again.
Here Paul refers back 10 years earlier. We read about it in Acts 16 and 17. Paul went to Philippi, then Thessalonica and Berea.
Paul is commending the Philippian church. Out of all the churches he had helped start, only one church helped support him financially in his role as an apostle: the Philippians. On the one hand, that is sad that none of the other churches helped. But on the other hand, he commends this church: Excellent job!

Vs. 17-20
17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.
This is Paul’s second, “not that”, in this passage. Vs. 11 says, “Not that I am speaking of being in need….”
It seems that Paul is trying to emphasize that his friendship with this church is not utilitarian, based on mere usefulness. He is not greedy or demanding financial help. His joy is not based on their gift of money.
Rather, he demonstrates his utter contentment and unselfishness. He says, “What I’m really after is fruitfulness in your lives.”
Paul knows very well Jesus’ own words, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” So look carefully at Jesus’ words: He says you will find more blessing when you GIVE than when you RECEIVE.

Now look at Paul’s words in vs. 17: He says, “I am not seeking a gift for me. I am seeking God’s blessing on your life when you give.” Paul truly does believe that the Lord will bring eternal fruit to the Philippians’ lives

How utterly unselfish Paul is here. He is not looking for money himself. Yet he doesn’t have a false humility that says, “Oh, I would never take a gift from you.” He is willing to receive their gifts to him because he honestly believes they will receive heavenly rewards.

18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.
Generosity like Paul commends the Philippians for is not some moralistic or legalistic path to success and righteousness. Rather, it is an act of worship. He says, “Your gift is ultimately offered to God as an offering that is pleasing to God.” It puts a smile on the face of God.
In the OT, Israel would offer sacrifices to the Lord. Grain offerings. Animal offerings.
Some of them were to atone for their sins. Some of them were simply acts of worship.
In the New Covenant, the only sacrifice for the atonement of our sins is the blood of Jesus Christ. He is the sacrifice.
John the Baptist described him as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
Jesus is also the great high priest who offers his own blood in the presence of God as payment for sins.
This is the message of the gospel of Christ.

So no more sacrifices are EVER needed to pay for sins.

But there does remain a sacrifice we can and should offer to God: We should offer our hearts and our lives and our actions in WORSHIP. Paul says, “Your gift to me is a gift to God, a fragrant offering that is like a pleasing aroma to the Lord.”

Vs. 18 tells us that we can indeed please the Lord more. From my teaching 3 weeks ago, I spoke mostly about our identity in Christ. That I am not more or less loved by my performance. If I have a 5-star sermon today, I am NO MORE LOVED than if I have a 1-star sermon. That is definitely true.

Yet here in vs. 18—in no conflict at all—he praises them for their generosity, for they are offering up something pleasing to the Lord. There is an active, relational aspect to Christianity. We CAN please or displease the Lord. We can earn rewards from him for faithful service, or not.

This doesn’t conflict or contradict our core identity as justified and adopted children of God through Jesus Christ. But it does relate to an active, vibrant relationship.

We see this lived out in healthy families. When my daughters were growing up, they were loved by me from the day of their birth. They didn’t earn that love. They were born into my family, and I loved them dearly. By God’s power that never changed. At the same time, they could please or displease me. They could bring me JOY or SORROW. If they respected their mother and loved their sisters and walked in honesty, it brought me pleasure and joy. If they lied and argued… if they yelled at their sisters and disobeyed their mother…. it brought me grief and displeasure.

Good behavior didn’t make them more daughter-ISH. Bad behavior didn’t make them less daughter-ISH.
But there certainly was a relational component to their behavior that brought me pleasure or dis-pleasure.

Similarly, there is a relational component to our behavior toward God. The Philippians—by their unselfish and loving gift to Paul—brought pleasure to their heavenly Father. This is profound. Whether it’s a small act or a large one, we can worship and honor and love our heavenly Father in our obedience to him.

19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
What a promise!! In saying, “My God will supply every need of yours,” Paul is talking about financial needs, per the context of vs. 10-18. But is he also talking about every other need in our lives, i.e., “he will supply every need”?
When we are givers like the Philippian church, we’ll never run dry. The Lord himself will supply every need, for he is rich in glory. And the more he gives to us, the more his glory is revealed.
And notice this: Our needs will be supplied in Christ Jesus. Our needs shall indeed be met, but we must go to Christ for everything.
What a fitting way to bring the letter to a close.

We are citizens of heaven. We should live like it. Live in a manner worthy of that calling.

Application

Let me offer you two action points for us this morning.
Learn Contentment
Like Paul, we won’t be consistently content overnight. We will grow in this. So we need to set ourselves on a journey to learn this secret of contentment. Our circumstances are up and down. Paul at times had more than he needed. And at other times he faced poverty. And our hearts are up and down. Sometimes we feel strong inside. Other times, we feel shattered into little pieces.

One place to start is repentance. When we find ourselves grumbling, complaining, and anxious, we should repent of our sin.
And then we turn the other direction. But when life is beyond our control, we want to repent of our whining and complaining and grumbling and irritability. And instead have peace in our souls, and say by faith, “In Jesus, I’m OK. He is enough for me today.”
And one very practical attitude to have is to take it One Day at a Time. Jesus spoke in Matthew 6 about anxiety over money, and he said,
“Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34
These past 3 years with our health challenges, my wife and I have felt overwhelmed and discouraged and anxious as we looked too far out into the future. But when we brought it back to simply walking by faith TODAY, we found peace. We had enough faith to call on the Lord to help us today. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but he can help us today.

And second, part of learning contentment is this:
Find Strength in Christ

Paul’s secret was receiving strength from the Lord. That sounds nebulous. Vague. But it’s quite real. And quite practical.
One question is, how do we receive strength from Jesus?

We should pray for strength.
Colossians 1:11 ESV being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy;
In the past 3 years, this verse is in my top 2 or 3 most frequent prayers. We need God’s strength….his POWERFUL strength and might….to have endurance and patience with joy. We need the power of God to keep pressing on….to not quit in our faith….to not turn away from the Lord. And to do it all with joy.
This strikes me as something that is not possible on a mere human level. We need the Lord to empower us to joyfully press on in the midst of the most severe trials.

How does God answer that prayer?

One, his Spirit and his Word.
The Bible is described as “the Sword of the Spirit,” and is a vital part of our fight in the spiritual warfare.
The Holy Spirit can and will take the Scriptures and get down into our innermost parts and correct us, strengthen us, comfort us, and even rebuke us.

Two, through the people of God.
Fellowshipping with them. You might be tempted to dismiss the importance of this because it sounds so cliché. But typically God ministers to our souls through each other. Their example. Their love.

Galatians 6:2 “Bear one another’s burdens.”
Last week I heard news of someone in my extended family that is going through a very severe crisis. My heart was grieving intensely for several days. I’m not very close to these family members. And they live a long way from here. So I’m quite limited in help I can offer. And so I found myself tempted to think that I wish I hadn’t heard this news. “I don’t know how to help. They live so far away. It’s too painful.”
But the Spirit brought to mind Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens.” I realized I can help them carry this terribly heavy load by praying for them. That’s a very real way I can help bear this heavy, heavy burden.
We do this by praying for them. We do this by listening and loving and serving.

We find strength in Christ as we, like Paul, more and more ORBIT our lives around Jesus.
“To live is Christ, and to die is gain.”