Generous

Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 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. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.

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. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. ~Philippians 4:14-23 (ESV)

Paul concluded his letter to the church at Philippi thanking them for their ministry support. They had given to the cause of Christ, so that Paul could spread the gospel further without the need to support himself. This freed him to share even more on his missionary travels.

Philippi was alone in their giving in this season of Paul’s ministry, but they gave generously. So much so that Paul was able to say to them, “I am well supplied.” In other words, he didn’t need them to keep sending him money at this point. This shows that Paul was no charlatan preacher. He wasn’t in it for what he could gain. He wasn’t pleading for more and more money despite having a nice house and fancy clothes.

And in return, Paul assured them that God would bless them and supply their needs. This not that every want would necessarily be met, but that they would not lack in the basics of day to day living.

From this example, we learn what it means to be generous. God has chosen human beings as the ordinary means for the gospel to spread in this world. He could use a choir of angels. Jesus even said he could make the rocks cry out if every other voice fell silent of God’s glory. Yet, he chose people as the means.

The spread of the gospel takes money, then. It costs to travel and to live in new places. It costs for new Bibles to be printed in the languages of those who have no access to the scripture. It costs to meet basic human needs of clean water, good food, and clothing. Those of us who have been supplied by God have a duty to share with those who are in need.

But we should also be careful to whom we give our money. When people who are more than “well supplied” beg for our giving, we should question just what they intend to use our money for. There are too many needs in the world, too many people who have not heard the gospel for us to give unwisely. Let us be generous to the cause of Christ all throughout the world.

This is our last post in this devotional series on Philippians. Look for a new series starting next week.

Philippians 4_19-20

All Things Through God

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. Not that I am speaking of being in need, 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 4:10-13 (ESV)

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. In our culture, this seems to be one of the more famous sayings of Paul. But Paul didn’t write it as a motivational speech for locker rooms or keychains. His focus was on contentment found through the grace of God.

Paul faced many needs while on the mission field. At times he was supported by those around him and at times he supported himself through tentmaking. At other times, such as when he was locked in prison, he was completely dependent on the kindness of others

In all of the ups and downs that Paul faced, he could be content. God was at work, the gospel would spread, and people would be saved. Therefore, he knew the secret of facing plenty and hunger—he would rely upon God’s strengthening grace.

I have heard it said: You are immortal on this earth until God’s work for you is done. That doesn’t mean that we play fast and loose with our lives, but it means that we develop a deepening trust in God’s provision. This is what happened with Paul. As he stayed faithful to the work to which God had called him, Paul found that when he had little then God would supply, and when he had much it was because God had supplied, through whatever means.

Let us, then, seek for the same deep trust in God’s provision. Let us remember that in times of hunger and in times of satisfaction, we can rest content in God because through his strength we can keep pursuing our mission.

New posts from this devotional series in Philippians will run most Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

Philippians 4_12

Think On These Things

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. ~Philippians 4:8-9

So much of what defines us and drives us comes from where we place our focus. You become what you dwell on, what you let in to shape your heart and mind. If you spend most of your time dwelling on what is frightful, then you will spend much time afraid. If you dwell on what is bitter and contentious, then it will build bitterness and anger in you. If you dwell on the traits that you don’t like in another person, you will soon find yourself not liking that actual person.

Paul called us to think better thoughts and to follow a better way. He called us to set our minds on all things true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy. We do this in several ways.

First, we dwell on Jesus crucified, resurrected, and ascended. In other words, we think often about the gospel. There is nothing more true, honorable, just, pure, etc., than God himself. And it is the life, sacrifice, and victory of God the Son that takes us from being rebellious sinners to pure and holy children of God. This should be what drives us more than anything.

Second, we dwell on what is good in others. Even if our sins have been washed away by Jesus, in this present life we are still imperfect, still fail, and still disappoint and hurt others. When it comes to these realities, God calls us to be forgivers, forgiveness-seekers, and reconcilers, just as he has forgiven us in Christ and reconciled himself to us despite our sin and flaws. So, we seek to dwell on what is good in others. We strive to give them the benefit of the doubt until proven wrong, then we seek to deal with that wrong. But if we are always looking for the best in others instead of the worst, it will go a long way in making our lives better.

Third, we should fill our imaginations most by what is good, honorable, and beautiful. This isn’t to say that Christians can only see sappy movies or read such books. No, life has grit in it and we cannot sugar coat that. But we should strive to let most of our entertainment come from that which has “redeeming value”—that which ultimately comes back to the good and helps us to remember that no matter what happens in life, in the end good has already triumphed over evil.

Dwell on the good that is God and that we find in life. Let this shape your mind and heart.

New posts from this devotional series in Philippians will run most Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

Philippians 4_8

Joy Building Prayer

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication 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. ~Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV)

As Paul moved into the conclusion of his letter, he followed the pattern he often employed and launched into a series of commands. This set of commands show us how to keep a proper attitude of rejoicing.

Throughout the letter, Paul has called his readers to a world-surpassing, Christ-centered, God-exalting joy, and he did so again. This joy flows over into our relationship with others. By “reasonableness” Paul seemed to mean a sense of courtesy and deference toward others where we do not overly concern ourselves with our own will and rights.

Paul knew these things went hand in hand. If we have proper joy in Christ, then we will treat others like we should.

But, much in this world tries to rob us of our joy. When fear, anxiety, and worry come, then our tendency is to come under a cloud of depression and such a mood often leads to a poor treatment of others. So, Paul urges us to combat fear and anxiety by remembering the nearness of our God as we go to him in prayer.

Prayer is an act of worship in which we commune personally with our Father. Prayer is as a child approaching a king in his throne room and being able to lay out all our hopes and fears without reservation. Prayer is an act of faith in which we trust God to answer his promises to care for us. And, indeed, as Paul wrote: There is something about prayer that brings the peace of God over us.

Deepening prayer leads to stronger faith, greater peace, and fuller joy. So, let us seek our joy in Christ. Let us run to the Father in prayer.

New posts from this devotional series in Philippians will run most Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

Philippians 4_6

Agree in the Lord

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are written in the book of life. ~Philippians 4:2-3 (ESV)

There are some things in life worth dividing over. The gospel itself causes division between true believers, false believers, and non-believers. But under the gospel umbrella of true believers there is far, far less that is worth dividing over. Toward the end of his letter, Paul called two ladies in the church at Philippi to unity.

We don’t know what their problem with one another was exactly, but it was an issue that Paul didn’t see as worth the fight.

These were two ladies who were very dear to him in the church. They were two women who worked hard, side by side with Paul, to see that the gospel spread throughout their city. They were two women who through Jesus and their gospel ministry had more in common than apart. So, it pained Paul to see them divided.

He called them out personally and publicly by name, as is sometimes needed when private resolutions do not work, and this seems to have become a public dispute at that. He pleaded with them: Be unified! Agree in the Lord! He wanted them to see the bond of love in Jesus as greater than whatever issue they faced.

More than this, he called others in the church to help. Commentators differ in opinion on the identity of this “true companion.” Paul may have been writing to a man named Syzygus, who possibly could have been an influential leader or at least had great influence over the life of these women. He may have been writing to another but unnamed dear friend of his in the church who had such influence. Or Paul may have been speaking to the church as a whole. Whichever interpretation we take, the point remains the same: These women needed the encouragement of someone other than Paul in this as well.

We learn from these two verses that whenever we see division in the church of Jesus, we cannot keep silent. Jesus said in John 17:21-23 that our unity (founded on the gospel, not contrary to it) is part of our witness to the world. So, we urge and we plead and we work with others to bring about the richness of a Christ-centered unity in the churches where we worship and serve.

New posts from this devotional series in Philippians will run most Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

Philippians 4_2

Heavenly Citizenship

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, who I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. ~Philippians 3:20-4:1

In the United States, patriotism is often seen as a high virtue, more so it seems than in most other parts of the world. There is a sense of pride and identity in belonging to our country. Though there is nothing wrong with being patriotic, so long as we don’t make our country our first love, Paul reminds us that we belong to an even better Country.

Unlike those whose minds are set only on “earthly things” (3:19), meaning that they’re more interested in what they can gain in this life than in eternity to come, we have a heavenly citizenship. This means that when we come to Jesus, our earthly home becomes at best our temporary second home. Though the book of Revelation describes people from every tribe, tongue, and nation in eternity, we will be united as one people under one banner: The Kingdom of Jesus.

So, we look above and ahead. We long for the coming of Jesus, awaiting the day that he will glorify our bodies. And this longing has present implications. We’re to “stand firm thus in the Lord.” Our faith is to be firmly fixed on and rooted in Jesus, and our primary business is to be about his business.

In his book Surprised By Hope, NT Wright describes this business in three terms: Justice, beauty, and evangelism. Knowing that we have a Savior-King who will one day right all wrongs, we are to seek justice in his name, doing our best to right the wrongs inflicted on those around us. Knowing that God himself is beautiful and that he makes things displaying his beauty (glory) and that eternity will be unimaginably glorious, we’re to combat the ugly stain of sin in the world by seeking to make things beautiful through various forms of art. And knowing that only those who have trusted in Jesus will be a part of the eternal Kingdom, we are to seek to lead as many other people there as possible through evangelism, our sharing of the gospel.

So, let these things drive you as you live and work in this present world but wait for the day of the return of the Savior-King.

New posts from this devotional series in Philippians will run most Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

Philippians 3_20

Who Influences You?

Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. ~Philippians 3:17-19 (ESV)

Life is about imitation. Even as time and experiences shape our own unique personalities, as we learn and grow in this world, much of our education (in every facet of life) comes through watching and imitating. This is true physically, academically, and spiritually.

Life is about imitation and leadership is about influence. All of us are influenced by and influence others. Paul knew this well, so he called for the church to be influenced only by those who would lead them in their faith in a Christ-honoring direction.

Then, even with tears, he warned them against the corrupt influences. These were the “enemies of the cross”—those who are in the religion business for personal gain and/or those who corrupt others by calling good what is evil. Paul said the end of such men and women will be destruction. The same may very well prove true for us if we fall under their influence.

So, we’re to be guarded about who influences us and who’s example we follow. Fix your eyes on those who provide a godly example by staying faithful to God’s word, the gospel of Jesus.

New posts from this devotional series in Philippians will run most Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

Philippians 3_17