Summary: Giving is one of the key ways to produce encouragement. Givers create grateful hearts, and the world can never have too many grateful hearts.
Winston Churchill use to love to tell the story about the family
who were having a picnic by the lake, and the little boy fell into the
water by accident. The family did not see it, but a stranger passing
by saw the boy slip under the water, and fully clothed, he leaped into
the lake and rescued the little guy from drowning. He presented the
boy to his mother alive and well. Instead of thanking the stranger
for his heroic effort, she snapped, "Where is his cap?"
Some people have the neurotic ability to be discontent in
whatever state they are. No matter how much there is to be grateful
for, they have an eagle eye that can spot that hidden detrimental
detail that others overlook. Such eagle eyed, or should we say, evil
eyed, people are what we call neurotic. All of us pass through this
valley from time to time, and we feel a negativism that says, I just
don't like reality as it is. Karen Horney says, the psychotic is one
who says two plus two equals five. They are out of touch with
reality. The neurotic says, two plus two equals four, but I don't like
it. The neurotic is in touch with reality, but it is reality that they
Paul is far removed from this category, for he goes so far as to
say, even if reality is not to his liking; even if it falls short of basic
expectations, he has the ability to be content. Let's face it, there are
few Christians who can boast such a well-balanced personality.
Paul was not always this way himself. In his B. C. days, before
being converted by the Savior, he was a malcontent if there ever was
one. He was ranting and raving about reality, and by anger and
force he was trying to change reality to his liking. He was
determined to sink the Christian ship, and restore reality to its
previous stability. He could not be content until he had external
circumstances in the shape he considered ideal. That is why he was
arresting Christians, and even killing some.
Now, he says that in Christ he has the power to do everything.
That is, he can be content whether he lives in poverty, or in plenty.
The external circumstances are no longer the determining factor in
his contentment. Now he has a sense of peace and security in Christ
that enables him to disregard the externals. He does not have to
change reality to be content, for the reality of what he has in Christ
can never change, and that unchanging rock is the foundation on
which he builds his house of contentment.
The fascinating thing we note about Paul here is that he does not
become a Stoic. The Stoics taught that man should learn to be
content whatever the external circumstance, be they good or bad.
But they went one step further and said that man should free himself
from the emotions that go with good and bad circumstances. They
said you should not feel joy or grief, but be indifferent to pleasure or
pain, and keep your feelings on a dead level plateau regardless if you
are at a wedding or a funeral. The Stoics were indifferent to
This is not what Paul is about at all, and not what Christians are
to be, for it is not Christlike to be unfeeling. Paul could, like his
Lord, weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice.
And in this very text that highlights his contentment he reveals just
how emotional he could be as he expresses himself concerning the
gift from his good friends in Philippi. Paul is so moved by their
generosity to him that he ends his letter to them with this fairly
lengthy thank you note exalting their gift, and giving spirit. Even
calls their gifts a fragrant offering, and acceptable sacrifice pleasing
For a man content to go without, he sure goes wild with praise
when he gets to go with. There is no Stoic indifference to feelings in
Paul. He lets them all hang out, and in so doing, teaches us some
powerful lessons in Christian giving. The first thing we see here is
the importance of-
I. THE RENEWAL OF GIVING.
Notice how Paul is so delighted in verse 10 where he says, "At last
you have renewed your concern for me." The Greek word is
anathallow, and it means to flourish, or shoot up again. Paul has
gone through a winter of neglect, but now spring has sprung, and
they have renewed their giving to him. Vincent translates it, "Ye
cause your thinking on me to bloom anew..." Alford has it, "Ye
budded forth again in caring for my interests." The point is, out of