The Joy of Christian Giving
Text: Philippians 4:10-13
As we come to these closing verses, we approach no doubt what was one of the primary reasons for the apostle taking up his pen, which was to express his gratitude to them for the gift which the Philippians had sent to him by the hand of Epaphroditus.
He made a passing reference to it in 2:25,30 but now he makes it a subject in his communication to them, v18.
But in these verses we’re not given a simple thank you, but valuable teaching on the whole concept of giving, receiving, and a proper perspective of material things.
I. PAUL’S DECLARATION OF JOY IN THEIR GIFT – v10
After having given much instruction concerning the Christian’s need to rejoice in the Lord no matter what, Paul gives another example of himself finding joy in the midst of his imprisonment. He has already spoken of his joy in the going forth of the gospel that was the result of his house arrest (1:18), but now he speaks of another matter which brought him great joy, “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly…” i.e. he was made to rejoice.
1. He Declares the Source of His Joy – “that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again”
Here he uses a very rare term in greek, “hath flourished again” i.e. to shoot up, sprout again, grow green again, flourish again. It’s the manifestation of life after a long winter. It is the proof that the tree has not perished by reason of a harsh winter.
This is the real reason for Paul’s joy, a blossoming which gives proof of life. That’s how he interprets their giving. Proof of spiritual life. In the years that had passed since he left them, he had not witnessed any tangible fruit of their spiritual life.
v15-16 – he says how they had supported him after he initially left them when he was in Thessalonica. But now they have done it again after so many years, and it has delighted his soul.
2. He Declares the Sphere of His Joy – “in the Lord”
His joy was bound up in the union he had with Christ (3:1; 4:4). We mentioned before that the key to rejoicing all the time, as commanded, is to realize that no hardship changes the unchangeable truths of the gospel and your standing in Christ. You are always forgiven, you are always a child of God, you are never devoid of His presence, and you are assured of your home in glory, etc.
But this is not just the perspective to have when bad things occur, but when good things occur as well. When Paul sees their gift, he sees the grace of God that was triumphing in their hearts and which led them to be generous toward him. He saw the love of Christ in their action. That the Lord Jesus loved Paul so much that He would move his people at Philippi to rise to his temporal needs. That His sympathizing High Priest moved in the hearts of His people to supply where he was wanting. So he rejoiced in the Lord.
Believer, remember to rejoice in the Lord with every good thing as well as what may be perceived to be bad. And if you’re a generous person, remember to rejoice in the Lord who has supplied such grace to your heart.
3. He Declares the Sympathy of His Joy – “wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.”
i.e. you had concern before now, but didn’t have the chance to help.
Notice his thought patterns are not negative in light of their lack of giving over the last ten years. He is putting v8 into practice, isn’t he? He is not giving his mind to think of their negligence. I wish more Christians were like this.
I’m amazed at the thinking patterns of some people. If someone doesn’t respond immediately to their text message, they start reading into the meaning of the delay. If someone doesn’t reply to their email, even though their email didn’t require a response, they start reading into it. If you’re the type of person who when someone doesn’t act or move or respond or speak as you think they ought, and you entertain negative thoughts as a result, then you need to confess that weakness before God. Paul looked at the Philippian scenario and rested his mind on the reality of God’s providence in the matter.
May God fill all our hearts with a love that thinks no evil.
II. PAUL’S DISCLAIMER OF JOY IN THEIR GIFT v11
He was never downcast about his material state. He had learned to be content in any condition. Epaphroditus did not find a man who because of his lack of material possessions was questioning the love of God. That’s where the prosperity gospel will lead you. Despair in times of want.
Paul wants to give a clear disclaimer that his joy was not based in material things. When I see that the giving of this year is up near 50% on last year and I rejoice in that, it’s not because it’s about the money. It’s because I see God has a purpose for this work, and that there’s much grace in your hearts. And while it would be more than ambitious to project such increase year on year in the future, I can see how God may open up opportunities for the spreading of the gospel at home and abroad.
If you knew the thoughts I had about this work, you’d either think I’m crazy or you would give even more! But I believe God will support what we need to do without me mentioning anything. Just like Paul. He never requested them to give. He knew that God always finances His will, and that’s what we believe in this house as well.
One commentator writes on this verse, “The aorist tense of the verb learned encompasses all the varied experiences of his life described in the next verse. He did not learn this lesson in a day but throughout a lifetime of ups and downs. The laboratory of his life experience provided continuous opportunities for him to learn the attitude of contentment. His emphatic use of the personal pronoun I highlights his claim that he did his homework, mastered his lessons, and passed his tests. Although the attitude of contentment was not natural nor did it come easily, this quality of contentment eventually became an essential attribute of his character.”
III. PAUL’S DISCOVERY OF JOY IN GOD’S GIFTS v12-13
1. The Contast of His Experiences v12
Note the contrasts – abased vs abounding. Full vs hungry. Abound vs suffering need.
In the midst of these extremes, Paul demonstrates contentment no matter what.
“I am instructed” i.e. I have been initiated into this mystery. The word isn’t used anywhere else. It relates to v11, “I learned”, not he is explaining how he learned contentment. It was by being taught of God. Through His providences of having and having not.
God brought Paul into a classroom not of mere theory, but of practical experience. At times everything went well for Paul, but at other times he was made to trudge through destitution and despair.
Some of you have no financial worries, but you have health worries. Some of you have no health worries, but you have family worries. Each is following a path wherein God is teaching us how to be content. Some of you could say, ‘Lord, you can take away my money, just do this for my family, I could cope with that’. And you may be right. But, in such a scenario you would not have to LEARN contentment, you would naturally possess it due to your personality and previous experience. But God is teaching you contentment in Him in the midst of turmoil without.
2. The Claim of His Strength v13
It is not something innate in himself. It was something he learned by experience, and which he learned was only possible by the grace and strength of his Saviour.
Now this text is often stretched to impossible application. It does not mean that a person who can barely do basic math, will be able to solve a complex equation by something Christ gives. The way some Christians apply this text, you would think they can be in possession of God’s omniscience or omnipotence.
“all things” – means everything that the providence of God brings across my path, in Christ I have a supply of grace to be content in that experience. He knew how to abound. He wasn’t like some Christians who feel guilty for being blessed materially, not did he give way to greed. But he also knew how to be abased and not feel that God was punishing him. He could go through all things by the grace of Christ which strengthened him to do so.
Whatever your trial, pray that God would teach you v11. Contentment in singleness. Contentment in a marriage to someone without Christ. Contentment with childlessness. Contentment with troubled children. Contentment with sickness. Contentment in your employment. Contentment in your unemployment. Content in whatever your struggle is.
That is not to say you stop praying about what you face. No, you may pray on for deliverance and for change. But you must not charge God in frustration. You must be content with His providence.
Remember, the grace only comes through Christ. And some of you are facing trials and discontentment in your life and you’re not a Christian. You’re not saved. You need Christ. True contentment is in Christ alone.
You are not to be fragile.