Summary: If we want our church to continue to exist and to be lighthouse pointing the Way to salvation, we have to give.
THE OCCASION FOR WRITING PHILIPANS
The partnership between the minister and the church is one of the main themes in the Epistle to the Philippians. Paul writes this letter in order to express his gratitude to the members of the church in Philippi for the financial support they have sent to him. From Philippians 2:25-30 we understand that the courier who brought their gift, and on his way back to Philippi took Paul’s thanksgiving letter to the Philippians was Epaphroditus.
25 But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. 26 For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. 28 Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. 29 Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, 30 because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.
We do not know the exact circumstances around Epaphroditus’ illness, but we know that in order to come and minister to Paul, Epaphroditus got sick and put at risk even his own life. This shows how important for him was to be partner with God’s servant Paul.
In Philippians 4:10-19 Paul is even more outspoken.
10 I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength. 14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.
Paul is a man of tact. From one side he thanks them for their gift. In the same time he is careful not to touch them on the matter that they could take care of him even earlier. And thirdly he is careful with his tongue lest he thanks them in such a way that his gratitude would be misinterpreted as mendicancy for more. At the same time he encourages Philippians fixing their focus on Jesus.
THE SECRET OF CONTENTMENT
It is very important for us to know the secret of contentment because very often the main obstacle to being partners with God’s servants is that we are afraid that if we support them we will lose the opportunity to live the luxurious life we see on TV commercials. But listen to Apostle Paul. In vs.11 he says:
11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
The secret of happiness doesn’t rest in material possessions. It is found in Jesus and the abundant life that only He can give us. One of our songs that might have been inspired by this text says:
I am content, even though I have no hut
My trust is not in money neither is my hope in gold
But there is prepared for me in heaven
Home from pearls and gold walls
I am not afraid that there is no rest
That I am poor, alone, and without any support,
But I am pilgrim, traveling upward
There my hut shines in gold.
The contentment is very important in Christian life. It does not mean conciliatoriness in the face of want and insufficiency, but an attitude of thankfulness and life without murmuring and grumbling. God hates murmuring. He brought the Israelites out of Egypt and he fed them with manna in the desert, but they were discontent with it and wanted quails. Aren’t we like them very often? God gives us what is necessary for our lives, but we are discontent with it - we want something more - we want "quails". But we should remember that because of their voracity many of the Israelites perished! And if we do not want to have the same destiny, we must be thankful. Thankfulness is the antidote against murmuring (Philippians 4:12-13).