Summary: When we give to the LORD's work we are blessed immediately with the joy of participating in something bigger than ourselves. We also look forward to eternal rewards as God gives to us rewards for the reach of our gift far beyond what would could imagine.
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Paul had a tough time establishing the church in Philippi.
You can read the story in Acts 16. The church wasn’t actually the problem; there was a girl who had issues with demons. She was a slave to people who were using her for her ability to make predictions and such. She followed Paul & his team & proclaimed loudly how people should listen to them. Paul finally got tired of the free advertisement from the realm of darkness, so he said ‘in the name of Jesus, come out of her’. No more demons. No more predictions and such either. Her keepers were not happy with their loss of income & stirred up opposition against Paul & his team. So, he & Silas were thrown into prison and beaten. The standard beating in that day was with a cat-of-nine-tails, binding together nine strings of leather, encrusted with sharp stones and broken glass and nails and such. The whipping was bad, but the worst part was after the lash came down, the soldier tasked with beating would pull the sharp items through the prisoner’s back. This was a form of interrogation as well. The prisoner was assumed guilty of some crime, and if he confessed after a tearing of the flesh, the beating would go lighter. Paul and Silas had nothing wrong to confess, so they would have received the full brunt of the beating. A well-trained Roman soldier could deliver every stripe with brutal precision. The fortieth strip was designed to kill. Thirty-nine stripes was called “grace”.
So, Paul and Silas were beaten, then placed in stocks. We have not seen stocks in our day, other than the NYSE & other exchanges, so some description is required. Stocks were blocks of wood with spaces provided for the ankles and wrists. The feet would be placed in, then the wrists above the ankles, then the stocks were closed and locked in place. the body of the prisoner in stocks would be in the shape of a U on its side. It’s difficult to imagine the agony of such a position for someone who has just been beaten nearly to death. Understandably, Paul and Silas couldn’t sleep. So, they figured they may as well make good use of the time, and sang praises to God. While they sang, at midnight, there was an earthquake. Everyone’s shackles and prison doors were broken open. Yet no one escaped. As a result of this, the prison-keeper became a follower of Jesus. Paul and Silas were asked by the magistrates of the city to leave. So they moved on. But they left a legacy behind in that city, and, it seems, believers in Philippi were grateful.
The letter to the Philippian church appears at least in part to be a thank-you letter. The church had supported Paul through some of his ministry adventures in the past. Apparently, they had lost track of him, and now that he was in prison they were able to find him, and they had renewed their financial support of his wellbeing. Paul was grateful for this precious group of believers that had taken such an active and practical interest in his work. His gratefulness is expressed in the extremity of his working-Every time he prayed, all his prayers for all of them, always with joy. Every, all, all, always. The church at Philippi was a consistent encouragement and blessing to Paul.
Two Sides of the Benefit of Generosity
Paul benefited from the generosity of the Philippian church. In those days a prisoner could live in a rented room with a guard if they had the resources. This was much better than the typical dungeon-which was often a former cistern that once provided water storage. He would have been more free to live a normal life, with his accustomed food and the option of having regular visitors and even guests. Apparently, for this reason Paul was able to collaborate with Timothy for various projects including the writing of this epistle. Through the gift of the Philippian church we are now blessed with this and other portions of the New Testament scriptures. Their generosity continues to bless us.
The Philippian church benefited from their own generosity. Imagine taking part in the work of a person who’s influence changed the course of human history? Paul has his impact even today, with all of us, and billions of others, benefiting from his ministry. The Philippian church could not have known this, but they were taking part in an earth-changing ministry. They were storing for themselves treasures in heaven. Jesus said where your treasure is there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:21; Luke 12:34). I believe it works the other way too. Where your heart is, there your treasure will be. An older mentor once told me if he wants to measure the spirituality of a man, he’ll ask to see his bank account book (he may have been quoting someone else, I don’t know). I think there is a lot of truth to this. If you don't give you shouldn't say you love. If you love, you will give. If you give, it shows you love. If you love God, you’ll give to His work and His people. This is part of the reason Jesus said you cannot serve God and Mammon (the ancient god of prosperity).