Topic: Expository Passage: Philippians 4:15-20
Read vv. 10–20
For the past 8 months, I’ve spent a lot of time preparing sermons on Philippians. To be honest, at times, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with this epistle. I don’t mean that I’ve hated anything in Philippians. This letter is pure gold. But I have been frustrated many times as I’ve tried to figure out how in the world, I’m supposed to say everything that needs to be said about some of these passages?
I again felt that pressure this week with vv. 15–20. On the one hand, it’s a relatively simple passage, because Paul’s not expounding on complex theological issues. He’s simply giving thanks to the Philippians for their generous support and offering encouragement that God will bless their sacrifice.
But in the process Paul touches on so many practical themes, and as I meditated on our text this week, it was like little light bulbs were popping up everywhere. There are so many significant applications that deserve emphasis. So how can I express everything on my heart and not keep you here all day or overload you with too much stuff?
I’m so thankful that it’s not ultimately up to me. God’s Word is powerful, and the Holy Spirit will apply the Word to each heart according to our individual need. In light of that, let’s dive into the text. Verses 15–20 divide pretty clearly into 3 sections, which I’d like to summarize with 3 challenges. First…
I. Give generously (vv. 15–17).
Remember that Paul’s primary purpose in vv. 10–20 is to thank the Philippians for their financial support and to encourage them that God will bless their generosity. So, essentially, we are listening in on a conversation between a godly apostle and one of the godliest, most mature churches of the 1st century. And the primary benefit of vv. 15–17 is what we can learn from both the example of Paul and the Philippians. Let’s begin with…
Paul’s Example: Give yourself to the ministry. In vv. 15–16, Paul reviews the beginning of his relationship to the Philippians, and the hardships that followed (map). Specifically, Paul’s time in Philippi ended suddenly when he was beaten, thrown in prison and ultimately kicked out of town.
From there, Paul went down to Thessalonica, but after only a few weeks, a wild mob again drove him out of town. Then he travelled further south to Berea, but again, he wasn’t there long, because the Thessalonian mob came down and stirred up a Berean mob, and again they drove him out of town. From there, Paul made a very brief stop in Athens, before spending a considerable time in Corinth.
Our text doesn’t mention the persecution he faced in these cities, but Paul does mention his financial hardships (v. 15). We have to remember that when Paul entered a new city, his only concern was to preach the gospel. Paul didn’t want anything to get in the gospel’s way.
Therefore, Paul states in 1 Corinthians 9 that while he deserved to be paid by the locals to whom he was ministering, he didn’t want finances to get in the way of his preaching. Therefore, he says in v. 12, “Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ.”
Ideally, this wouldn’t be an issue, because other established churches would be sending him support. However, most of the churches did not step up to the plate. Verse 15 states that when Paul first “departed from Macedonia (speaking of his time in Corinth), no church shared…” The Philippians were the only church that supported him (2 Cor 11:9).
Again, we see Paul’s razor-sharp focus on advancing the gospel, no matter the personal cost. And it’s worth adding that the Philippians weren’t able to fully support Paul at Corinth. Instead, as he often did Paul paid much of his own way in Corinth by making tents, while also putting long hours into the ministry (1 Thess 2:9). Paul lived an exhausting life.
But he didn’t mind, as long as God was working. In fact, notice what he says in v. 17. Obviously, Paul was thankful for the gifts the Philippians sent, because they freed him to do more gospel ministry. But his greatest joy was over what their generosity said about their growing faith. God’s work among the Philippians brought Paul far more joy than the money did.
That’s so different from all the religious hucksters of our day. It’s truly crazy how some of today’s prosperity preachers and even evangelical mega-church pastors often live. Paul would be dumbfounded by the extravagance.
But what’s especially relevant for us is Paul’s absolute commitment to the GC. He didn’t ultimately care if he enjoyed luxury or endured poverty, because it was all about the gospel.
And whether you are called to the ministry or not and whether God blesses you with lots of wealth or very little, it should be the same for all of us. We are not here to get stuff, achieve success, make memories, or impress each other. No, we are here to glorify the Lord in all of life, to find our joy in him, and to live for the advance of the GC.
So, all of us need to pause for a moment and evaluate, “What am I doing with my life? Am I wasting my life? How much does the gospel mission truly shape my direction and plans? Am I really chasing my ambitions and trying to throw a little mission on the side, or does Christ shape everything else?” Those questions are so important, because we live in a day of rampant materialism and humanism. We can easily be more influenced than we realize. Therefore, we need the challenge of Paul’s example to give yourself to the ministry. And then notice that the Philippians example challenges us to…
The Philippians Example: Give your resources to the ministry. Again, to appreciate the Philippian example, we have to remember that they were extremely poor. 2 Corinthians 8:2 describes them as enduring “deep poverty,” to the extent that when Paul collected an offering from his church plants for the Jerusalem church, he didn’t ask the Philippians to participate.
Sure, there may have been a couple of wealthy people in the church, such as Lydia, but Paul clearly saw this church as uniquely challenged.
This makes vv. 15–16 all the more remarkable. First, they sent Paul a sizeable gift “when (he) departed from Macedonia,” speaking of his time in Corinth, where BTW, there were some very wealthy believers.
Not only that, v. 16 backs up chronologically and says they even sent him more than one gift during his time in Thessalonica, which again was his first stop after being kicked out of Philippi. That tells you how committed they were to Paul.
Think about it. Paul plants the Philippian church in a relatively short period of time. This is a baby church, when Paul suddenly gets kicked out of town. However, almost immediately after Paul left that they started collecting money to send to him. And they even sent more than one gift during Paul’s very brief stay in Thessalonica. What a testimony of eager, sacrificial participation in the gospel!
And notice how unusual this commitment was (v. 15). Now, 2 Corinthians 11:8 says that at times multiple churches helped to support him. However, what was probably Paul’s poorest church plant, did far more than anyone else to support his ministry.
Therefore, Paul and the Philippians enjoyed a very unique bond. Yes, Paul appreciated the money, but the Philippians love meant far more to him than the money. Notice again how he expresses that love in v. 17.
Paul knew that he could never repay their incredible love. But he rejoiced that they were building up credit with the Lord and that he would repay the Philippians for their generosity. And there is so much significance for us in the Philippians’ example both as a church and as individuals.
As a Church: First, I don’t know about you, but I sure want Life Point to be like the Philippian church in the sense that we are heavily invested in the spread of the gospel to new places and that we are heavily invested in our gospel partners who are working on our behalf.
I want us to be a church that stands out for what we are doing to take the gospel to the nations. I want our missionaries to know that we love them, we are excited about their work, and we are behind them 100%. And I want it to show in our budget. By God’s grace, we’ve made a lot of progress there. In the last 5 years, our missions’ commitment has risen from $9,000 a year to $34,000. Praise God for that, because it’s truly incredible to think about all that God is doing with that $.
But being a missions-minded church is about much more than the budget. The Philippians were partners with Paul, not just financial investors. As such, the advance of the gospel was central to who they were. Thinking again of this illustration, the gospel mission, including in other places, was at the core of what bound them to together as a church. It was in their DNA.
Frankly, I think most American churches fall terribly short here. Yes, we talk about missions, and it’s respectable to have a missions’ budget. We look bad if we don’t, but it’s not a driving force. For example, I bet I could count on one hand the number of times a visitor has asked me early on in their evaluation of Life Point about our involvement in missions. We just don’t think about it that much.
And that’s not an indictment on anyone; it’s just an example of the fact that we don’t generally see missions as being at the core of the church’s identity or at the center of what draws us to a church. Therefore, especially since we are looking at potentially building on to this church, we need to remember that our mission extends far beyond this spot or this community. Our partnership with the Eads, Lawsons, Magees, McPhillips, Roberts, Vintons, and Shad is an essential aspect of our gospel mission. Let’s talk next about how the Philippians example should impact us…
As Individuals: Very simply, if a group of slaves could give out of their “deep poverty,” then we don’t have many excuses not to make the advance of the gospel a priority in our personal budgets. Of course, I always want to preface this kind of discussion by saying that it’s not a sin to hav nice things. The Scriptures invite us to enjoy the fruits of our labor. As well, there are exceptional situations where people can’t give, and there is such a thing as irresponsible giving, when you truly can’t afford it.
However, that’s not where most of us struggle. Our problem is that when 1 Timothy 6:8 says, “Having food and clothing, with these we shall be content,” we have no idea what that looks like. We’ve convinced ourselves that we need lots of things that are anything but needs. As a result, we are chasing the fleeting pleasures and securities of this life, while missing out on the joy today and the eternal blessing of being fully engaged in the GC.
So, I’d challenge you to go home and pray over your budget. Don’t just compare yourself to others. Really consider what God would have you to do, and then generously get involved in the GC with your finances (like the Philippians) but also with your involvement in ministry (like Paul).
And let me just add that none of this has anything to do with pressing needs at Life Point. God has been very good to our church, because many of you are committed to generously supporting what we’re doing. However, there is always more that we could be doing for the advance of the gospel in the USA and around world. And there is certainly more that we could be doing to reach the HD. If you’d like specifics, I’d love to talk some time (chart). So, let’s link together around the gospel mission and find our joy in seeing what God will do. The 2nd challenge is…
II. Trust the Lord to provide (vv. 18–20).
What Paul says in these verses is such an important complement to vv. 15–17, because vv. 15–17 call us to stretch ourselves in a way that can be very uncomfortable. God is calling us to do something we Americans love to talk about but hate actually doing—walking by faith. But vv. 18–19 follow by saying that we don’t need to fear, because God will provide. The 1st reason we can trust the Lord is that…
God provided for Paul (v. 18a): Paul confirms that the Philippians’ gift had fully supplied for his needs. In fact, Paul sounds pretty happy, doesn’t he? He says “I have all and abound. I am full.” That’s pretty incredible for a guy sitting in jail about to go on trial for his life. That’s the uniquely Christian contentment we talked about last week.
It reminds me of what my Grandpa Leroy told my mom when he was dying of cancer. His body was breaking down, but he said to her joyfully, “A dying man never had it so good.” He had plenty of reasons to complain, but he chose to see God’s blessings even in the face of death. Similarly, Paul had plenty of reasons to be cranky and discontent. But instead, he had learned the secret of being content in Christ. Therefore, he could have joy even while enduring an unjust imprisonment.
It’s another reminder that Christ satisfies in a way that stuff never will. Paul had jumped into the ministry with both feet and no regard for himself, and until the Lord was done with Paul, he met every need. Sure, Paul suffered a lot, but God faithfully provided every need, and most importantly, he gave Paul “godliness with contentment,” which 1 Timothy 6:6 says is great gain.
Maybe you know that God is calling you to take some uncomfortable step of obedience or a step into greater ministry, but it scares you to death. Paul’s testimony speaks to the fact that God always provides as we walk in his will. It may not be easy and problem free, but he will meet every need, and he will give you a contentment that you will never find as long as you resist him. The 2nd reason we can trust the Lord is because…
God responds to our sacrifice (v. 18b): Notice how v. 18 describes God’s response to their giving (read). This is very weighty language that comes from the imagery of the OT burnt offering. When the smoke and aroma of the offering rose into the sky, it pictures God as inhaling the air and being pleased with what he smells.
That’s a great picture to keep in mind when you put money in the offering plate. I know that it’s a struggle sometimes to drop that check, because I could do a lot of things with that money. But how incredible is it to imagine that when I give that offering, it’s like the sweet aroma of an offering wafting up to the Lord. He takes it in, and he accepts it. And not only that, he is pleased. Wow! I can please the Lord with my gift.
This verse is why the offering is not just a formality. It’s an act of worship that really is at the core of what we are doing each Sunday. When I drop that check, I am declaring that God is the source of all that I have and that he is worth more than a new car or whatever else we may want.
I am declaring by faith that he will satisfy in a way that stuff never will and that ultimately in eternity he will bless me with eternal riches that are far beyond anything I could buy with that money here. Praise the Lord that he sees our sacrifice and that we can please him with our gifts. The 3rd reason…
God will provide for us (v. 19). This is an incredible verse. First, notice how personal it is. Paul doesn’t just say, “God will provide”; he says, “My God shall supply.” It’s like Paul is looking at his friends, and with conviction in his voice he wants to assure them about the nature of his God whom he knows so well.
Specifically, he wants them to know that his God, “Shall supply all your need according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” First and foremost, God is promising that he will meet every spiritual need, and specifically, he will give the contentment of vv. 11–13. I say that because both v. 13 and v. 19 emphasize what we have “in Christ.” It’s the same preposition.
As I said last week, we live the Christian life in Christ. “For to me to live is Christ.” He is my hope, my joy, my passion, and my strength. All of life is in him. And when I walk in him, he gives abundant grace to experience joy, peace, godly thoughts, godly choices, and contentment. He supplies for every spiritual need. He’ll never leave me hanging. What a gift.
But in this particular context, which has emphasized sacrificial giving, I’m confident that God is promising more than spiritual provision. Philippians 4:19 promises that God will provide for the physical needs of his children. I say that Paul just reflected in v. 18 on the fact that the Philippians’ gift had met his physical needs. He rejoiced in God’s abundant physical provision. So, when he turns around in v. 19 and says God will supply “all your need” we have to assume that the promise at least includes physical provision.
Now, especially considering what Jeremy is talking about today, we need to emphasize the word need. God’s not promising to make you wealthy or healthy. Rather, we have to read this in light of 1 Timothy 6:8. As well, we have to remember that God defines our needs, not us. Sometimes, what we truly need is financial loss, suffering, illness, and even death.
But all of that being said, let’s be careful that we not undercut the true weight of what God says. Specifically, we should not be afraid to step out in faith and push ourselves into ministry like Paul did. And we should not be afraid to give generously like the Philippians did, because God will take care of us. He will meet every need (Ps 37:25–26). Therefore, I have 4 applications.
Walk in Christ. It’s essential that we not miss the end of v. 19. God’s blessing always begins with living in deep dependence on the grace of the gospel and in submission to God’s will. Again, Jesus is not your turbo charger; he is the engine. Don’t try to straddle the fence. Sink your roots into him, love him, trust him, and walk in him, because God’s glorious riches are in him. 2nd…
Grow a strong faith. Where so many Christians get in trouble is that they want to keep a hand on the wheel. They don’t really want to give Christ full control and really walk by faith. But he is worthy of our faith. He is good. He possesses glorious riches, and he will be faithful. So, see him and believe him.
Be generous. We have the privilege of participating in the most important purpose in all the world. Our little church in our little corner of the desert gets to participate in making God’s glory known to the nations through planting of local churches. It’s an awesome privilege, and it’s so much more significant than the stuff you’ll see on a television add this afternoon. So, be generous in supporting the work of the gospel. 4th…
Glorify the Lord for it all. Again, v. 19 makes an incredible claim about our Lord. Through his glorious riches he fully supplies for the needs of his children. Therefore, Paul explodes with a doxology in v. 20. The fundamental truth of Philippians 4 is not that I’m really important, and he wants me to be happy. No, the only right response to all that we’ve seen in this chapter is that we serve an incredible God. So we need to see him in all of his glory, and we need to stand in awe that such a great God would take interest in lowly sinners like us. Let’s close by quoting v. 20 together, “Now to our God and Father…”