Blog Detail

Philippians - #8 of 8

Philippians - Message #8

Since shortly after Easter, we have been on a journey through the New Testament Book of Philippians. A letter written by Paul to Christians in the city of Philippi. Paul was responsible for many of those Christians being Christian. He is the one who began the Christian church in that city. He had a special love for the Christians there. Hence the letter he wrote to them, in which Paul challenged them, warned them, and encouraged them.

Briefly in review - very briefly because not all the points Paul made in his letter can be repeated at the start of this message - Paul identifies himself as a slave of Jesus, meaning he was dedicated to following the Lord’s will and way. He challenges the Christians in Philippi to be of the same mind, thereby agreeing on the purpose of helping others believe in Jesus. He warns them against grumbling. He also warns them about false teachers. Any teacher who teaches anything other than the true word of God. Paul encourages them to imitate his spiritual zeal and discipline. He encourages them to rejoice. And he challenges them to think about whatever is good, wholesome, and helpful.

We have considered all that and more on our journey. The journey that will end today as we complete the Book of Philippians, beginning with verse 10 of chapter 4. A passage that features more of Paul’s encouragement.

Verse 10. Paul expresses his appreciation for what the Philippian Christians had just done for him, which was sending a gift to him. A gift of money that helped him survive prison, where he was at that time.

However, it was more than the gift itself, as important at it was, for which Paul was thankful. It was even more important because it showed their love for him. That was a great encouragement for Paul.

Paul writes,  “I rejoice in the Lord.” “In the Lord” indicates Paul knows the generosity of the Philippian Christians - both the means and the willingness to be generous - was made possible by the Lord. That is why he rejoices in the Lord.

“I rejoice in the Lord that you have revived your concern for me and now have had the opportunity to fulfill it.”

What Paul refers to specifically about an apparent lack of earlier concern is not explained. As before, Paul’s intent was never in this letter to dwell on the problem, but rather the solution, but apparently there had been a time no help was offered to Paul. However, now help had been sent. Paul rejoices that he once again feels the love of the Christians in Philippi.

But wait, Paul writes in verses 11 and 12. “Do not get me wrong. I did not complain when help was not given, and I do not complain now. Ho matter what, not that I complain of want, for I have learned to be content [satisfied and at peace] in whatever state I am.”

Paul explains. “I know how to be abased,” meaning humiliated or degraded.

We know that is accurate. He continued his ministry, even when in prison. Even when he was criticized and threatened before his imprisonment - criticized and threatened for his faith in Jesus - his ministry continued.

“I know how to be abased and how to abound,” referring to times Paul was highly respected, such as by the people of Philippi he had helped lead to believe in Jesus. They certainly expressed appreciation to him.

“I have learned the secret of staying true to my faith when facing plenty and when experiencing abundance, and when I am hungry and in want of other basic necessities of life.”

Let’s remember the difficulties Paul suffered throughout his ministry. Earlier on our journey, we considered a list Paul provided in another of his letters. Let’s remember what he endured. He was whipped five times and stoned once. Shipwrecked three times, another time adrift at sea. On land, he was in danger from robbers and from those opposed to him. He also had times of being cold and lacking food.

Paul experienced all that. All those difficult times. But they never dissuaded him from doing the ministry Jesus called him to do.

By the way, neither did any of the easy times Paul experienced cause him to rest on his laurels, which is as much of a temptation as is being discouraged by difficult times.

Thinking of that in preparing this message somehow brought to mind one of the phrases in wedding vows. The phrase, “for richer, for poorer.” As I discuss with couples, what usually comes to mind is the poorer part, as in “Of course we will stay in love if we struggle financially,” which I hope will be the case. But there is also pressure with the richer part.

I remember a married couple many years ago who had what at least seemed like a solid, happy marriage. It was the second marriage for both. Again, they seemed to have good relationship.

A relationship that shattered when the wife was informed a rich relative who had died had left her a very significant inheritance.

At once, she declared the money to be hers, which would be saved for her children from her first marriage.

Right after that, the husband became upset. As in, “I thought we were we, not you and me. And what about my children from my first marriage? Are they worth nothing?”

What could and should have been a very positive thing - being financially secure - turned out to be a marriage wrecker.

Paul knows what he writes about when he suggests there are problems related to suffering and problems related to times of ease. How good it was for him that he had  developed the ability to be satisfied and at peace in either case.

A couple times in Philippians, Paul encourages the Christians in Philippi to imitate him - his zeal and discipline, including in thinking only good thoughts. Though not stated in this part of the letter, I assume Paul’s wish was that they will also imitate his ability to endure both good and bad times. But he once again points out it is not him who makes that possible. Verse 13. “I can do all things in Him [in Jesus] who strengthens me.” What a wonderful reminder it is the Lord who makes us what we need to be.

In verses 14 through 16, Paul again thanks the Philippian Christians for helping him with financial gifts. 

The gifts had been and were crucial for him to be able to continue his ministry. As mentioned earlier, it was not just the financial help that was appreciated. So, too, was the encouragement it gave Paul. What a reminder he was not alone. He had friends willing to help him.

Paul then describes two other benefits of the gifts. Benefits for the givers of the gifts. Verse 17. “Not that I seek the gift.” In other words, he did not demand the latest gift. He certainly accepted what was given, which he writes about in verse 18. Paul calls it a “filling gift and a fragrant offering.” But he did not demand the Philippian Christians help him.

Instead, he writes - back to verse 17 - “I seek the fruit which increases to your credit.” Two fruit. The givers of the money were to feel good about what they had given. In addition, their giving pleased God.

I wonder if the Philippian Christians gave beyond their means. That might have been the case, based on verse 19. “And my God will supply every need of yours.” 

However, whether the giving was sacrificial or what was readily available, even if it was just a bit here and there, the giving was important and would be repaid by God, “according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Therefore - verse 20 - “to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

The “amen” could be considered the end of Paul’s letter. However, he adds three more verses - 21 through 23 - as kind of a P.S. An addendum that matches how he opened the letter.

In the first part of the letter, Paul wrote about the good camaraderie he had with the Philippian Christians. He recognizes that relationship again at the end of the letter, and he wants to make sure the relationship continues. Hence the instruction to “greet every saint in Christ Jesus.” 

“Every saint” refers to every fellow Christian. “Say hi to them. Remind them I am thinking about them and praying for them.”

The greeting was not only from Paul. It also came from fellow Christians with him in Rome. Paul writes, “All the saints here [here in Rome, where Paul was] greet you.” And get this. “Especially the saints here of Caesar’s household.”

“Household” in this context refers to people inside the palace of the emperor of the Roman Empire. The household was a kind of civil service for the emperor. Included were palace officials, secretaries, tax people, administrators.

Do we realize what that means? There were Christians within the inner circle of the Roman emperor. People who most likely had become believers in Jesus because of Paul’s witness, even as he was in prison. What an impact Paul had, even in prison. Having an impact is something else he no doubt wishes Christians to imitate.

Verse 23. Paul’s last wish for the Christians in Philippi in the letter is the same as his first wish. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” He wishes them the joy that being a believer in Jesus brings and the pleasure that comes from being in God’s will.

*        *       *       *       *

During our journey through the Book of Philippians, we have, each week, asked the question, “So what?” The answer each week has been to think about what can be applied in our lives as Christians now.

For this message, three things for us to apply.

Concerning the topic of being content, may we work at having the same attitude as Paul. The attitude of being satisfied and at peace in difficult times, trusting the Lord will give His people - those of us who are Christians - what we need. Maybe not everything we want, but what we need.

That includes during times we are degraded because of our faith. That is not easy, but, like Paul, being degraded must not get us off track of serving the Lord. And being satisfied and at peace when things go well. Of course we can celebrate at such times, but may easy times and successes not lead us to think we have arrived at the pinnacle of life, as in not needing the Lord anymore.

Both bad times and good times present potential problems. Instead of problems, let’s be content, using either state to help us grow closer to the Lord, relying on Him, no matter what, to supply every need we, His people, have.

Concerning the topic of greeting one another, let’s keep that up. 

It is easy to do when we gather together at church - the social distancing keeps us from close fellowship, but it is easy to greet one another.

However, I continue to be encouraged by the amount of greeting going on remotely through calls, texts, emails, letters, cards. As has been mentioned throughout the pandemic, let’s continue to communicate. To greet one another even when everything is back in order. That will be helpful for the spiritual growth of our congregation to continue.

And yes, let’s be ready to greet our guests next Sunday - Brian Smith, who is the candidate to be the next pastor of Fellowship Church, along with his wife Jennifer and their sons Marshall and Wyatt. They are fellow Christians. It will be good to greet them next week in person. Or greeting will display our Christian love to them.

As we greet them as we worship together next Sunday, so they will greet us. No matter what the decision that follows the next Sunday, they and we will mutually encourage one another in the cause of Christ.

Let’s be content. Let’s greet. And, in ending our journey, let’s be reminded of the main theme of the Book of Philippians, which is that Christians are to rejoice. Let’s recall some of the challenges to do that, one from each chapter. 

1:19. Paul rejoiced, knowing that prayers and the Holy Spirit would cause him to survive, at least spiritually. May we rejoice knowing we, too, can survive spiritually.

2:2. Paul wanted his joy to be complete, which would happen as there was spiritual agreement and love in the Philippian congregation. May we continue to have love for one another in our congregation, along with agreement of purpose in making the Lord known.

3:1. “Rejoice in the Lord,” Paul wrote. He shared that he never grew weary of reminding Christians to do that. May we heed the reminder, knowing rejoicing is to always be in the Lord because He is the giver of all blessings during good times and difficult times alike.

4:4. Rejoice in the Lord, doing so always. And again, Paul wrote, “Rejoice.” The benefits are many. The Lord will be pleased. We will be reminded it is the Lord who helps us always, bad times and good times alike. And we will be good witnesses to others, at least attracting others to the Lord.

No matter what, let’s rejoice, which will help us be content as we greet one another.

The closing song for today is a hymn that will one more time remind us to rejoice in the Lord. It is Rejoice, the Lord is King.

Rejoice, the Lord is King!

Your Lord and King adore!

Rejoice, give thanks, and sing,

And triumph evermore:

Lift up your heart,

Lift up your voice!

Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

The Lord, our Savior, reigns,

The God of truth and love;

When He had purged our stains,

He took His seat above:

Lift up your heart,

Lift up your voice!

Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

His kingdom cannot fail,

He rules o’er earth and Heaven;

The keys of death and Hell

Are to our Jesus given:

Lift up your heart,

Lift up your voice!

Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

Rejoice in glorious hope!

Our Lord, the Judge shall come

And take His servants up

To their eternal home:

Lift up your heart,

Lift up your voice!

Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

Lord, You are our King. That is why we are privileged to worship You, serve You, obey You, doing all that with rejoicing. Help us to know, remember, and abide by all You teach us in Paul’s letter to the Christians in Philippi, knowing we will benefit personally and as a congregation, that others will be attracted to You, and, most importantly, You will be pleased. Amen.

No comments (Add your own)

Add a New Comment


Comment Guidelines: No HTML is allowed. Off-topic or inappropriate comments will be edited or deleted. Thanks.