Sermon series: Going Right in a Culture Gone Wrong
The Philippian Christians had learned the secret of joyful, liberal financial giving. The church in Philippi had taken up an offering to give to Paul, in prison because of his faith. Paul wrote back to the church and expressed his joy (see verse 10). Joy, or its derivative, occurs almost 20 times in this letter.
Have you discovered the joy of giving? Perhaps too many of us view giving as an occasion for grief or dread rather than an occasion for joy. In what ways can giving make you a joyful person?
1. Giving revives our concern (v. 10)
The word renewed in verse 10 pictures something that was dead now coming to life. The word sometimes is translated as revived. The word pictures a tree or plant that is barren in the winter, but when spring comes, the tree or plant blossoms with new shoots and flowers. The Philippian Christians had been barren in expressing their concern for Paul, but now, with the gift of money they sent him, they were blossoming anew with concern for Paul's welfare.
Giving takes the focus off ourselves and puts it onto someone or something else. Giving becomes a tangible way we can express concern and love to other people.
A rich man sought help from a wise counselor. The counselor led the man to a window in his office that overlooked the street below. "Tell me," said the counselor, "what you see." The man said, "I see people." The counselor then led the man to a mirror and said, "Tell me what you see." The man said, "I see myself." The counselor explained that a mirror is a piece of glass that has been covered with silver. "No sooner than a little silver is added," he explained, "and you cease to see others and you see only yourself."
As we focus on the needs of others, and give to help meet those needs, we experience joy. Giving revives our concern for people.
2. Giving teaches us contentment (v. 11)
Paul did not want this church to think that his joy rested on whether he had money. Paul had schooled himself to be satisfied with whatever he had. He had joy in his life, not because his purse was full, but because he had learned contentment. The Greek Stoics used the word content to describe self-sufficiency. Paul believed his sufficiency was in Christ (Read Hebrews 13:5). Paul believed that whether you were naked or clothed, hungry or filled, rich or poor, if you had the Lord in your life, you had everything you needed.
Our consumer-oriented society pressures us to place too much value on material things, to the point that our joy is based on how much we have. This approach to life results in chronic dissatisfaction. We never seem to have enough.
An elderly man, who had learned to live off little, watched as his new neighbor moved in one day. After all kinds of modern appliances, electronic gadgets, plush furniture, and costly wall hangings were carried into the man's house, the older man called over the fence and said, "If you find you are lacking anything, neighbor, let me know, and I will show you how to live without it."
How do you define contentment? Contentment is not trimming down your desires. Contentment means living with a sense of God's adequacy, a conviction that God is adequate for any need we face. Therefore, we can give joyfully, knowing God will supply our needs.
Can a Christian really attain joyful contentment, especially in our materialistic world? Yes (Read verse 13). From our union with Jesus comes the strength to learn contentment.
3. Giving makes us partners in ministry (v. 14)
Paul said about this gift of money sent by the church at Philippi (Read verse 14). The word share is the same word often translated as "fellowship." The word denotes partnership. Each time we give to the Lord's work, we partner with other Christians to help advance the kingdom. That exciting thought puts joy in our hearts.
Southern Baptists recognize the importance of partnering with one another. We do this through the Cooperative Program, an ingenious missions support plan that allows us to do far more together than we could individually.
I shopped for a new computer recently. A salesperson said to me, "Just make sure you get the biggest bang for your buck." When our churches give through the Cooperative Program, we are getting the biggest bang from our missions bucks.
4. Giving pays spiritual dividends (vv. 17-18)
Paul made clear he was not looking for monetary gifts for his own benefit. Giving blesses the one who gives more than the one who receives the gift. The phrase "credited to your account" implies that giving to the Lord is like investing in kingdom matters. Kingdom work pays spiritual dividends.
Giving from the right motives and for the right reasons becomes in God's sight, (Read v.18). This language from the Old Testament shows that our giving becomes an act of worship and devotion to God. Sacrifices to God fill our hearts with great joy (see Ps. 4:5, 7).
A study of the giving patterns in churches of five major denominations revealed that
Those who commit to tithe give an average of $4,042 per year.
Those giving "what they can afford each week" average $1,882.
Seventy-five percent of the money given to churches comes from 25 percent of the people.
Southern Baptists are giving a little more than 3 percent of their incomes.
These figures show just how many people are missing the blessings that result from giving.
5. Giving grows our faith in God (v. 19)
Perhaps some of the members of the church at Philippi had given to Paul's ministry but were worried they might not have enough money left to meet their own needs. Paul gave them a great promise to stand upon.
Many Christians sit at the kitchen table or at a desk each month with their bills, and they conclude they have no or little money to give to the church. Putting braces on the kids' teeth, paying for college tuition, buying new tires for the car, and replacing the roof on the house loom as larger priorities than faithful financial stewardship.
Verse 19 encourages us to take the step of faith and to give, trusting God to meet our needs.
God meets our needs personally ("my God").
He meets our needs liberally ("all your needs").
He meets our needs gloriously ("according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus").
Joe Trull told of a primitive tribe located in the South American jungles. Anthropologists learned that the most important role within the tribe was the "keeper of the flame." Fire is a precious commodity to this tribe, and one member of the tribe is entrusted with the responsibility of keeping the flame alive. During the night, the flame-keeper adds wood to the fire. His task is vital.
As we give financially to the Lord's work, we become keepers of the flame. We help spread the gospel message. We meet people's needs. We assist people in growing spiritually. We enable our churches to shine as God's lights in the world. Such privileges fill our hearts with joy.