Summary: In rejoicing over the Philippian church’s monetary gift, Paul showed his thankfulness and his understanding toward them, his contentment in spite of them, and his recognition of Christ as the source of all.
1. Confront people with care
2. Confront circumstances with contentment
3. Confront all things with Christ
A young mother of two opened up the kitchen pantry one afternoon. She knew that she had two cookies left and was planning on setting them out for her two boys when the oldest one got home from school. But when she opened the cookie jar, she only found one. Well, she knew who the culprit was. It had to be her youngest son who was four years old. She thought for a minute about how to deal with him. Then she decided the best way was to confront the situation head on. So, she called him downstairs. “Young man, there were two cookies in this pantry last night. Why is it, there is only one in there now?” The little boy looked up at her and said, “I guess ‘cuz it was so dark in here I didn’t see the other one?” That wasn’t exactly what that mother was looking to get out of her confrontation, was it? But even though that wasn’t the response she was looking for, she did get results. Confrontation always produces results. It’s just that the type of results depend on the type of the confrontation. The mother’s confrontation produced the wrong results because she confronted in the wrong way. She asked the wrong question. We think of confrontation as a bad thing because the kind of confrontation we’re most familiar with is bad confrontation. But some things in life need to be confronted. They just need to be confronted in the right way. Paul was never known as one who backed down from confrontation. Before Jesus got hold of him on the road to Damascus, he was in the business of confronting Christians. After he was saved, he confronted the Jews in the synagogues. He confronted sin in the church. He confronted James and the church leaders at Jerusalem over doctrinal issues. And he even confronted Peter because Peter had succumbed to the Judaizers. Paul was a bold man who didn’t back down from confrontation on the occasions when it was necessary. But later on in his ministry, you notice something. As the early New Testament churches started to become more established, the true focus of what Paul is confronting becomes clear. Last week and this week, we have been looking at a passage Paul wrote as he closed out his letter to the church at Philippi. As we close out this week of Thanksgiving, it’s particularly appropriate that Paul closes his letter with a very thankful attitude. We don’t normally think of confrontational people as being thankful people, do we? But Paul was. As a matter of fact, it was his Spirit-controlled confrontational nature that enabled him to continually give thanks. Even though I’m sure we’ll all be happy when all the Thanksgiving leftovers are finally gone… there is one part of Thanksgiving that I pray will never go away. And that is the Christian hearts that are full of true, humble, thanksgiving before God that comes this time of year. That’s what I want for each of us this morning. I want each of us to experience true Thanksgiving every day. But in order to do that, we’re going to have to be a little bit like that mom with the cookie jar. We’re going to have to be a little bit like Paul with these Philippian Christians. We’re going to have to get confrontational about some things. Not in our attitude or in our demeanor. But in the way we give. We have to have confrontational giving. As a matter of fact, in order for us to continually experience Thanksgiving, we have to have three kinds of confrontational giving. First, we must confront people with care. Look at verse 10:
The first kind of confrontational giving is to confront people with care. Do you see what Paul is doing here? He’s thanking the people he’s writing to for the way they supported him financially. But notice the way he words it. He says, “that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again.” It’s like he’s saying, “I’m thankful that finally, you started supporting me again.” It had been over 10 years since Paul had planted the church at Philippi. He had spent a short time there with them at that time, but they were known for their enthusiastic support of Paul and the other churches. When he went to Thessalonica, they supported him. When he went to Berea, they supported him. Even later on when he left the Macedonian area and headed south into the region of Achaia, they supported him. As Paul continued his important ministries in Athens and Corinth, he knew he could count on the support of the church at Philippi. Throughout his second missionary journey, they were faithful in the way they supported him. But time and distance tend to change things, don’t they? Have you ever had a long-distance relationship? Most of the time they don’t work. Mine and Miranda’s did because she’s such an extraordinary woman, but most of the time they don’t. Why is that? Because it takes a lot of work to continue to love someone you can’t see. It takes a lot of work to maintain interest in someone you can’t talk to. It takes a lot of work to keep a person at the forefront of your mind when their memory begins to fade. And that’s what happened with the Philippian church toward Paul. Knowing the way that Paul was, I’m sure that his devotion to them never wavered as he prayed for them continually. But their support for him began to fade. And over the years it faded and faded till it became completely non-existent. But then—over 10 years since Paul got them started as a church—they got word that their church planter was in prison in Rome. And when they did, it brought back all those feelings of love and devotion they had towards Paul. And when those fires were stoked again, they renewed their support for him. They picked up where they left off and poured out their support for him and his ministry. Now here’s the wonderful thing. Yes, it was great that they renewed their support for Paul. But what was wonderful was the way he confronted them about it. He could have confronted them in two different ways. He could have confronted them like I would have been tempted to. He could have said, “Well it’s about time.” “I can’t believe you forgot about me after all I did for you.” How easy it would have been for Paul to give them an itemized list of all the things he’d done for them. Of all he’d sacrificed for them. How easy it would have been to list all the troubles he’d been through during those 10 years. All the hard times. All the struggles. All the ways their support would have made it better for him. What a guilt trip he could have laid at their feet. And they probably deserved every bit of it. But that’s not the path he took, is it? How did he confront them instead? “Oh, I thank the Lord that you’re caring for me again.” He didn’t throw in any sarcasm or subtle digs. He simply said, “I know you would have continued if you had the opportunity, but that doesn’t really matter now. What matters now is that you’re caring for me now and I’m rejoicing in the Lord with you because of it.” You know what’s beautiful about that? Yes, they were caring for Paul by providing for his physical needs. But the beautiful thing is that Paul was caring for them by providing for their spiritual needs. He didn’t beat them over the head, even though he could have. He didn’t dwell on the mistakes of the past, even though all those problems weren’t fixed. He didn’t look back. He pointed them forward. Look to the now. Whatever was wrong in the past, I rejoice in what you’re doing right now. Paul was able to experience thanksgiving because he gave to the Philippian church. He didn’t take away from them by digging up the past. He gave by confronting them with the care they needed right now. The first kind of confrontational giving is to confront people with care. To continually experience Thanksgiving, we must confront people with care and we must confront circumstances with contentment. Look at verses 11-12: