Gospel Partnership and Contentment (Philippians 4:10-23)
I. Don’t Just Express Concern, Demonstrated It (verses 10, 15-16)
The Philippians had expressed their concern for Paul from the very beginning by supporting him financially (vv. 15-16). But for some reason, for a period of time there was no opportunity for them to meet his needs. Still, Paul was confident that all along they had been genuinely concerned for him, because when the opportunity came for them to meet his need, their concern was “revived” and they did what was needed by sending him a gift. Their concern was not just expressed verbally or in written form to Paul, it was demonstrated in the fact that they actually met Paul’s needs, even though it was costly to themselves. Real concern is never restricted to mere verbal expression—it always looks for opportunity to demonstrate itself. This is the pattern we see in our God and Savior: “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Is your concern for others merely expressed in word or tongue (1 John 3:17-18)? Or are you looking for opportunities to pattern Christ’s example by actually meeting needs when they come?
II. Seek the Profit of Others, Not Your Own (verse 11)
Paul rejoiced in the Lord on behalf of the Philippians’ gift to him, but not because it met his need. Instead, he rejoiced because in sending their gift to Paul, they themselves actually profited (v. 17). Paul wants the Philippians to know that he cares more about them than he does their gift. He rejoices more in their profit, than in his own. His relationship to the Philippians was not utilitarian, based only on its usefulness to him. It was based on their bond in Christ and in his desire to see them profit. Christ’s friendship with us is characterized by his words in John 15:3 – “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”
When a friend fails to meet your felt needs or expectations, are you willingly to remain faithful to the friendship as you seek the good of the other person? Or are your friendships utilitarian, determined by whether or not they serve your own interests?
III. Be Content Always, Because Christ Strengthens You (Verses 11-14)
The word Paul uses for “content” literally means “self-sufficiency.” But Paul does not mean it in the same way the Stoics would have meant it in his day: a complete detachment from all circumstances and emotions so that you are left utterly unaffected by your surroundings. Instead, Paul’s self-sufficiency simply meant that his joy, completion, and satisfaction were never based on the conditions in his life. Instead, they were based on the sufficiency of Christ. He was convinced that in Christ he lacked absolutely nothing, even if outwardly he was lacking all kinds of life’s comforts. When we are discontent, we are saying nothing less than this: “Christ and all that He has given me is not enough. I need more.” Contentment is rare, and it is only possible through Christ who strengthens us. Paul was confident that Christ could strengthen him for contentment in all circumstances, because he was certain that Christ could strengthen him for all things. Not just contentment, but obedience in all things—in every aspect of God’s will—was possible for Paul because he had been joined to Christ and now experienced the liberating power of His Spirit.
What are the things that tempt you to be discontent? Why is Christ sufficient for our perpetual contentment? What does it look like to rely on Christ’s strength?
IV. Give Abundantly, Because God Supplies All Your Needs (verses 17-20)
The Philippians’ gift resulted in a profit that increased to their account. Their gift reaped eternal fruit not just for Paul, but even for themselves. And it reaped eternal profit because it was given with the right motives, as a sacrifice to the Lord. Their gift was pleasing to God because it was motivated first of all by their desire to serve Him, by meeting the need of one of His servants. And Paul was confident that just as they met his needs, so also God would not leave them without one of the good things that they needed. Specifically, Paul says that God would supply their needs according to His glorious riches—according to His limitless power, boundless love, perfect wisdom, etc. This supply of God’s riches would be “in Christ,” who Himself became poor, so that in Him we might be given His riches (2 Cor 8:9).
- When you give, do you do so for the purpose of pleasing God? Is it an expression of gratitude and love to Him more than anything?
- Why should it motivate us to give generously knowing that God supplies all of our needs according to His glorious riches? Why are these riches given in Christ alone?