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Philippians 14

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Philippians 14.

God is GOOD! Hallelujah! He has given us many things. Each of us have talents, don’t we? [P] It is quite interesting to see what the Bible has to say about talents. It is easy to do these days with computers and software with search engines. You type in “talent” press enter and up come the answers! 65 times in my NASB, and 65 times in your KJV (if you use a NIV it is only 48 times). But do you know that not one of those times is it talking about “talents” as we use the word today? In the OT it is a weight (about 35 Kg), usually of gold or silver, so it was a measure of money; and in the NT it was an amount of money – a large amount: a silver talent was getting on for 20 years pay, a gold talent maybe 30 times that! But the funny thing is that our word “talent” comes directly from the Greek word used in (Matthew 18 and Matthew 25). The word comes straight from the Bible, so how come talent means something so different today? We know the parable in Matthew 25 where the landowner gave different amounts of talents to his servants to look after (in Luke he gave minas, not talents) – to one he gave 5, and he earned 5 more, to one he gave 2 and he earned 2 more and to one he gave 1 (and remember?) he buried it in the ground. People took this parable and applied it – what God has entrusted to you, you are to use for Him. You use the abilities He has given you, your “talents”, and apply them to the furtherance of His Kingdom. And so from the application of that parable, the meaning of the word in English changed from money to abilities. There is nothing wrong with applying the parable, we are right to do so – but Jesus was actually talking about money! [P] He did so quite a lot, actually. I don’t want to get too deep here – but sometimes when the Bible talks about “money”, it actually means, well, money! But we spiritualise it, money is “evil mammon” and we don’t talk about that. But Jesus did and so did Paul – he spent considerable attention and effort in collecting it – not for himself I might add! In fact how we handle our money is taken as a measure of how suited we are to responsibility with other things [Luke 19:17 “And he said to him, ‘Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities.’ Luke 16:10-11 “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. “Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?]. We are coming to the close of Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi – and it is all about money. There are some well known verses here that people love but Paul is talking about the practical subject of finances: [P] [Philippians 4:10-23 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction. You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the Gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account. But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren 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.] Paul says: “I rejoiced greatly in the LORD” – there it is again – over and over again in Philippians Paul mentions rejoicing. The Philippians had sent him a financial gift and he is acknowledging it – it is about money. Is Paul rejoicing over the money? No, what made him rejoice was the concern that the Philippians had for him. [P] There is Paul in prison – it is an encouraging thing to know people are concerned about you. And often we are concerned – what we need to do is show it – express it in a practical way. Giving is a way of showing your concern. The motive in giving is love. They were showing their love – not in word or in tongue but in deed and in truth. James and Carolyn are serving the LORD is Kazakhstan – it’s a pretty hard winter there. You are concerned for them – that is wonderful, but not much good unless you do something about it. Your concern has to be expressed! – you send them a gift to help pay their heating bill. [James 2:15-16 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?] But the Philippians had expressed their concern and Paul rejoiced in the love shown to him. I have just had a birthday – and I was given some presents. I guess when I was little I was more concerned with what I got but now that doesn’t matter so much – it is not getting things, but that someone cared enough to give – the gift reflects the love of the one giving it. Your joy is not in the presents but the love expressed. You express your love through giving [P]. I think it is a truism: Love gives! You can give without love but you cannot love without giving. And Christians can get hung up on giving. I’ve been in churches where there have been sermons preached on how we should be giving, how we should be tithing – it becomes some onerous, heavy thing. But if the motivation is love, it all changes. Paul says [2 Corinthians 9:7 Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.] – a “hilarious” giver. There is joy in giving when it is done in love. Love longs to be expressed. So here Paul is acknowledging the gift that the Philippians had sent him while he was in prison. I was taught when I was little: if someone give you something it is good to say thank you. If love must expressed, so too must gratitude [P]. But sometimes it is a bit tricky saying “thank-you”. Here’s what I mean. I like my food, and so if someone gives me something delicious, I am going to make sure I express my appreciation. I may think that I am doing it to be a courteous and thankful, but at times I have ulterior motives. If I say, “That was a fabulous chocolate cake!” Chances are they will say, “have another piece.” So if there is too much praise, it may sound like you are actually seeking more. If you give too little thanks, they might think you didn’t really like what they gave you. It can be a difficult balance at times. Paul has to handle this. He wants to genuinely thank the Philippians for their generous gift to him, but without sounding like he is seeking more of the same. If he praises the gift too much, it will sound like he wants more. If he downplays it too much, he may sound ungrateful, or as if the gift was insufficient to meet his needs. So what he does is both. He begins in (Phil 4:10) with the downplaying. At first glance it might seem like Paul is saying something like, “You’re finally getting around to remembering me.” [P] Then he basically repairs that statement by saying that they “were indeed thinking about him, but they just lacked an opportunity to express it.” He didn’t make a mistake – remember, Paul is writing, not speaking; so it is not a slip of the tongue, he does it deliberately. He is being careful not to go over the top in his praise. He is making sure that they don’t think he is hinting that he wants more. He makes it clear that he is not suffering lack – he is content – and that contentment doesn’t depend on what he has. [Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.] Paul now goes into a little sidetrack on contentment, and to understand this section, we need to recognize Paul’s distinction between what is desired versus what is required. [P] Paul uses two different words: “want” in this verse and the word: “need” (Phil 4:16) – some translations are unhelpful by using “need” in both places. The first word means a lack or shortage: there is not enough of something. You could be running low on something without necessarily having run out. The latter term refers to something that is required, a necessity, and is missing. If I needed a screwdriver to assemble something but didn’t have one, the project would grind to a halt until the need was met – it is essential, it is required. It would be nice to have an electric screwdriver – I lack it, but I don’t need it – it is desired, not required. Why is this distinction important here? When Paul talks about learning to be content in (Phil 4:10), he is talking about a lack or shortage. When he talks about God meeting needs, he is referring to a “must-have”— something essential to accomplish a given task. So in (Phil 4:11 and again in Phil 4:12) Paul talks about a “lack” in contrast to having an abundance. Paul had “learned to be content” [P] – CONTENTMENT! It is so rare! The cry of the Rolling Stones was: “I can’t get no satisfaction!” Where can you find someone today who is truly content? Everybody is striving to get something, or be something. Everywhere, all around us, yelling in our ears are voices teaching us to be discontent! To strive to be better, get better pay, better position, better house, car, .... or whatever. The advertising industry exists to make you discontent – so that you will buy what they say you need or deserve. Contentment is rare – but you notice it has to be learned – Paul had to learn it, so I guess we have to learn it too. And how did he learn – by being put in situations where he went without! [P] He learned that contentment doesn’t depend on your circumstances. If you are dissatisfied you will be dissatisfied no matter how much you have. Have you ever considered that having a lack might be a blessing? – That it might be from God to teach you contentment regardless of what you have? [Philippians 4:11-12 I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.] I used to live very simply, by choice I went without. Now that I am married I have an awful lot more stuff, so much it makes me uneasy at times – but I was certainly no less content before. Contentment doesn’t depend on what you have. Paul had done both: lack and abundance – his contentment was independent of his circumstances. Do you know a real key to contentment? Thankfulness! If you are grateful for what you have, you can’t be discontent at the same time. Paul knew about contentment, he had learned the secret – there is a wonderful verse in Timothy where he says: [P] [1 Timothy 6:6-8 But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.] Being content doesn’t depend on having all that you want, but on being thankful and satisfied with what you do have. The problem is that the more we get, the more we tend to want. If being content depends on our desires being met, then we are destined to be dissatisfied. Paul makes clear in (Phil 4:18) that he is not suffering lack, at least not anymore. The Philippians’ gift has ensured he has abundance. In either case, he’s learned not to base his satisfaction on his circumstances. Paul could handle any situation! [P] Humble means, or prosperity; being filled or going hungry, having abundance or suffering need – any and every circumstance! Have you ever found yourself in a situation that threw you? Paul could handle anything that came his way: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me!” This well loved, and often misused verse, is nothing to do with prosperity name it and claim it, being able to do great and audacious things because of Divine empowerment. Yes, there is Divine strengthening – but it is not only in prosperity and abundance – it is also in poverty and lack! Divine power to handle the lack [P]; not Divine provision of prosperity, but it may include that. Paul could handle whatever the circumstance because he took that circumstance as coming from God. He viewed God as sovereign; his situation was under His control. He was suffering lack – well God knew about that, not only knew but ordained it – therefore if it was from Him, He would also enable him to handle it. Paul had a circumstance that he found hard to accept and he asked God to get him out of it – but God didn’t [2 Corinthians 12:9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.] – he had learned how to be content. There is the Divine power within! Christ within! Not making you supreme, invincible, wealthy; but enabling you to handle the weakness, the humble situation, the lack. That takes Divine power, not the magicking you out of your circumstance. How often we are discontent and want out of our situation rather than learning to rely on Divine power to live in that situation. He is well able to bring us out of it, but maybe we need to learn the secret of contentment first. The “nevertheless” in (Phil 4:14) indicates that Paul has finished his little sidetrack on contentment and is getting back to what he was saying – expressing his thanks for the gift they had sent. He commends them: [Philippians 4:14 Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.] Giving money is a way of “sharing”. [P] You participate in the endeavours of the one you support. If you give to a missionary, then you are a partner with them in the work that they are doing. Back in [Philippians 1:5 in view of your participation in the Gospel from the first day until now.] – by their giving the Philippians were sharing in what Paul was doing. It there again in (Phil 4:15). But Paul here shifts from talking about lack – now he is talking about real need. Their support was not providing a lack but something that was required to accomplish his mission, absolutely essential. Paul addresses them as: “Philippians” – he is getting their attention. What’s so important? The critical role that the Philippians’ gift has played in his ministry. It wasn’t a matter of abundance versus lack but of moving forward versus grinding to a screeching halt. Paul takes them back to the very beginning of his ministry after departing from Macedonia, letting them know the significance of their gift. He then makes a statement that is false—at least, until you read both parts. By delaying the rest of the story, he makes them stand out as the one notable exception. [P] He states that no church shared with him in the matter of giving and receiving, despite the fact that the Philippians indeed shared. Why bend the truth like this? To draw extra attention to the one single and notable exception! There was just one church that did: it was them! He places them on a pedestal. Paul could have simply stated that they were the only ones who helped, but he drives home the point that the Philippians’ gift made all the difference to his ministry. In (Phil 4:16), Paul recalls that this sharing happened on more than one occasion! And it was for his need, the required kind – not an increased comfort or abundance for abundance’s sake – it was essential for the carrying on of his ministry. He makes it clear in (Phil 4:17) that he is not seeking another gift by praising them, but wants them to understand the difference it made for the kingdom—something the Lord will reward them for. He is not out for more for himself but more for them – the reward that will come to them. [P] And giving brings a blessing on the giver – giving is rewarded by God – because you are displaying His nature – He loves to give. He says, “Ah, there’s my boy, taking after me!” And He rewards his child for emulating Him. Giving results in profit – in gain to our account – eternal riches – we can lay up treasure in heaven. [P] Jesus said: [Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.] We can invest now in eternity by our use of our finances. Paul returns to his main line of thought in (Phil 4:18): thanking them for their gift. He makes clear that he not only has received their gift in its entirety, but that it has resulted in abundance for him – he doesn’t want more, he has more than enough. It was his receipt – if you give a significant gift, you want to make sure it was received. Furthermore it is just plain good manners to say thank you, to express your gratitude. [P] I have been involved in transferring gifts given to missionaries to the field … and it is interesting and revealing. There was one particular missionary couple who received more than most of the others, not that they had big amounts given, it was just that there were so many that were supporting them – we had to use a larger size paper to fit all the donors on. Why? Because they were good at feedback, acknowledging and thanking, their letters made their supporters feel part of what they were doing. And they were! This is just what Paul does. And even though Paul knows how to be content when going without, having abundance is a welcome change from what he usually experienced (2 Corinthians 11:9 and when I was present with you and was in need, I was not a burden to anyone; for when the brethren came from Macedonia (that is from Philippi) they fully supplied my need, …..). The gift that Epaphroditus brought had the effect of making him full – not “full” as in (Phil 4:12), that was the opposite of being hungry; here it doesn’t just mean filled, but being complete. The idea is that their gift has not just met his needs but has given him all things necessary to move forward with his ministry. Paul says that their gift was: a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice well-pleasing to God. It is not just a gift given to Paul, it is a sacrifice offered to God Himself! [P] When you give, it is not just to the person who gets the gift – you are also giving to GOD! It is an act of worship! What blessing it would have been to hear their gift described like this, especially since it had been sacrificially given out of their own lack. It cost them to give. You might think that because they gave that they were flush, on the contrary: [2 Corinthians 8:1-5 Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favour of participation in the support of the saints, and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.] To give, cost them; it was a sacrifice, but they did it gladly and eagerly – “God loves a cheerful giver”. Here Paul gives them his receipt – they gave to him, and so he gives in return. He couldn’t give them money, but he could give them a blessing from His Father: [P] [Philippians 4:19 And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.] Paul had alluded to receiving a reward in the eternity in (Phil 4:17), but here it is God’s provision in this life. Paul spoke about being made full or complete; he now uses the same term in to describe the promise that God will fill or fulfil their every need according to His riches in Christ Jesus. Needs, remember? [P] Not, God will give me a Mercedes – he is referring to necessities, what is essential, not to a shortage or lack. The fulfilment may result in an overwhelming abundance since it is based on God’s riches in Christ, but the focus here is not on riches, comfort, or making someone wealthy. Instead, the idea is that as we sacrificially give to meet the required needs of ministry, God Himself will see that our own required needs are met. There is no hint that a prosperity Gospel is being taught here. This is a well-loved and oft claimed verse. But it is not a verse; it is in a passage – written in a specific context. It was written to the Philippians because they had given so wonderfully and sacrificially to Paul and in fact to God Himself. For instance, Paul didn’t say that his God would supply all the Corinthians needs according to His riches in glory – he had to really put the squeeze on to make them give. It was a blessing given in return for the blessing they had spontaneously and generously given. [P] God is no man’s debtor, you can’t out give God. If you give in sincerity to Him He will give abundantly in return: [Luke 6:38 “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”] If you give like the Philippians you will receive, but if you are mean like the Corinthians – that is the measure you will receive. [Proverbs 11:24-25 There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more, and there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want. The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered.] People have proclaimed a blanket prosperity message from this verse – God is abundant (which is true) and He will bless you with riches – but the application should not be about all we can get from God but rather prompting us to emulate the Philippians in giving! The LORD ensures the supply of the requirements of those walk in His way of generosity [Psalm 37:25-26 I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread. All day long he is gracious and lends, and his descendants are a blessing. ] God provides, and He does so abundantly – according to His riches in glory! Hallelujah! Glory to His Name – and that is what Paul closes doing: giving glory to God our Father—the provider of all things that we need: [Philippians 4:20 Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen. ] Giving gifts is not about earning His favour or approval. It is an act of worship which results in God receiving the glory that He so richly deserves. I have said that Paul has been talking about money matters, [P] the Philippians had given to him – what can we learn about our use of money, about giving? [P] You can use it to express your concern in a tangible way; [P] it is a way that you can show your love practically. [P] That we should learn to be content with what God has supplied us with. [P] Through giving you can participate in another’s spiritual work. [P] We have seen that giving is rewarded, it is blessed by God both in this life and in eternity. [P] We can invest in eternity through the way we use our finances here on earth. [P] It is not filthy lucre; it can be a spiritual thing, an act of worship to God Himself! Paul closes this letter the way he began it: addressing all the saints in Christ Jesus, sending them greetings. [P] There are people on the receiving end of the letter – people Paul loves, and who love him – love shown in practical support. He includes greetings from those with him, mentioning a politically well-connected group just as he did back in (Phil 1:13). Remember at the beginning he addressed the concern that his imprisonment was hindering the advancement of the Gospel – so he sends greetings from those who have not only heard the Gospel but have responded. The Gospel was still advancing and their practical support had made that possible. Their gift resulted in souls being added to the Kingdom. God was still graciously working through him, and that is the blessing that he imparts as he closes: grace, just as he had at the beginning. Paul had experienced lack and abundance – it didn’t matter – what was needed is the grace of Jesus [2 Corinthians 12:9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,]. [“2 Corinthians 13:14 Now may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.]

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