Rejoice in the Lord greatly – Philippians 4:10-20
Eight weeks ago (with a little break for the Blessing of the Animals and the Open Baptists weekend) we began a series on Philippians, and today is the last in this series. But joy, (hallelujah!), goes on! It is firmly and deeply rooted in the God’s grace. In God’s presence it is found in fullness. It is one of the fruits of the Spirit. While “weeping may linger for the night, joy comes with the morning.”
Today’s reading comes with a sense of déjà vu. Firstly, because Paul revisits here many of the themes he has covered in this letter, but also because he focuses in these 10 verses on financial giving – and I am reminded of my ‘10 sermons in 1’ on financial giving at the end of June.
That sermon was quite an outlay, to use a financial term, but today’s (if you like) is the half price version because here Paul preaches just ‘5 sermons in 1’ on financial giving!
And the head of the balance sheet is this, we give because God gives. Verse 10: “I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me.” The words ‘at last’ sound like Paul is criticising the Philippians, but that sense isn’t found in Greek. Paul knows why there was a delay. What he emphasises is that he rejoices “in the Lord” because it is the Lord who put this generosity in their hearts.
As we looked at last week, it is God’s grace working in our lives that enables us to be gracious to others. In the same way, it is God’s generosity to us that directs us to be generous. “We love,” 1 John 4:19 says, “Because he first loved us.” In the same way, we give because he first gave to us.
We are to be giving people because we are people of a giving God. It’s that simple.
I know you are giving people and I know many of you give to particular organisations. That is good! But this morning I also want to highlight five opportunities to give in our church bulletin, and the first is Baptist World Aid’s Middle East Appeal. I am quoting from their website: “Our hearts ache as we watch the terror and violence unfolding in the Middle East. With our Baptist family across the world, we mourn the catastrophic loss of life and look to our God of peace who is always at work through his people.”
“Our God of peace who is always at work through his people.” May we cause others to rejoice in the Lord because the Lord has put generosity in our hearts!
Secondly, Paul says, we give “in the Lord” because Christ is fundamentally all the capital we need for the enterprise we are undertaking. “In any and all circumstances I have learned…. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Paul is not idealising poverty here. And he is not saying he practices some form of stoicism; that he is indifferent to pleasure or pain. He is simply reminding the Philippian church (as he has done before) that in all the ups and downs of the work, the life, God has called him to, the times “of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need… in any and all circumstances” he has found the resources of Christ sufficient to his needs. It is a wonderful statement of faith.
American sociologist and Baptist pastor, Tony Campolo, tells a story about being the guest speaker at a mission rally, where he was asked to lead in prayer for a missionary doctor the group supported. The prayer was, essentially, that God might provide the $5000 US dollars urgently needed for the medical centre the doctor ran.
Tony said no. He knew that the audience was made up of people who were quite well off. So, he announced he would pray only after everyone present gave to the project the money they had on them that day. The audience were shocked, but when Tony emptied his pockets on stage, they knew he was serious. After a short pause, people began following suit. The prayer of request soon became a prayer of thanksgiving, for by the end of the giving they had collected $8000, more than what was needed.
Also, in our bulletin – and already up in the hall foyer – is our Christmas Giving Tree. This year we are collecting for St Benedict’s, a joint initiative of the churches in Queanbeyan a place that, their website says, “assists guests to find appropriate housing, and provides meals, advocacy and practical support, as well as emotional, physical, and spiritual security”. Some of you will have visited there or heard Peter Junor, the minister at Queanbeyan Baptist, talk about their work. They have asked specifically for fuel vouchers, men’s and women’s toiletries and food items.
Knowing Christ provides all the capital that we need, let us give generously.
Thirdly, Paul says, we give “in the Lord” because “in the Lord” we are family! In verses 15 and 16, we are reminded of what we discovered in chapter 1, that Paul and the Philippians were close, that he “prays with joy… [for them] because of their sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.” This was genuine sharing, genuine caring, entering into each other’s experiences, offering practical support.
Also mentioned in our bulletin is Christian Education in Schools and their fundraiser this Wednesday night at the ACCC. Tickets cost $20 and must be bought by tomorrow. This evening promises, the announcement says, “an opportunity to invest in our children’s growth in the love and knowledge of Christ.”
Our children’s growth. This is a ministry we share in the gospel because it comes close to us! Can I invite you to stand if you are a child or have children in ACT schools? Can I invite you to stand if you once had (or once were) a child in an ACT school? Finally, can I invite you to stand if those who are standing are your family in Christ? Let us invest in this ministry for our children’s growth in the love and knowledge of Christ.
Fourthly, we give “in the Lord” because we are part of God’s economy.
In this passage it isn’t just me using the occasional financial term; balance sheets, capital, investment, but in verse 17 Paul adds a few of his own. He makes a financial disclaimer. I am not seeking gifts, he says, but I am seeking, “the profit (or interest) that accumulates to your account”. The Philippians’ gifts, Paul is saying, are actually investments, investments that will pay rich dividends in God’s economy.
In 2 Corinthains, chapter 8, Paul further explores this idea of God’s economy. He speaks about Christians giving so the books can be balanced, so there is, verses 13 and 14, “a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need…. As it is written, “The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.”
It is a vision of balance and peace and harmony. It is a vision of God’s kingdom, God’s economy, bringing peace and joy to our whole earth.
And our giving – our fragrant offerings, as Paul says – are part of God’s economy that will bring joy to the world. That is the vision behind our Christmas Offering– which if you go to the motions for the church meeting next Sunday, the deacons are recommending we divide between Baptist World Aid’s Bangladesh project, Hagar and their work in restoring lives in Cambodia and Canberra Refugee Support.
The Baptist World Aid slogan is “You see a better world for all. So do we.” We want to be part of God’s vision for our world – of God’s economy.
And finally, fifthly, we give “in the Lord” because God just keeps on giving. “My God,” Paul says, “will full satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” says Romans 11:33. These are the gifts that God keeps giving to us.
Many years ago, I was collecting money for the Salvation Army in Sydney, and I came to one house that was looking rather dilapidated and I hesitated about knocking on the door, but I did and an elderly woman opened it, and when she saw my badge, she was so excited. “I’ve been waiting for you,” she said, “I always give. Every year. My father told me, she said, that you should always have two coins in your pocket. One to give away and the other for the jingle!”
I love that! One to give away and the other for the jingle. Do we have this attitude of generosity and joy and regular giving? “God loves a cheerful giver”, 2 Corinthian 9:7 says, or as Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message, “God loves it when the giver delights in the giving.”
At the very bottom of our bulletin (and as part of our worship) there are slides indicating the different ways we can give regularly – and joyously – to the work that this church is doing and that this church supports.
“I rejoice in the Lord greatly!” Is that something that can be said of us – and of this church because:
– We give because God gives.
– We give because Christ is all the capital we need.
– We give because we are family – we share in the gospel with others!
– We give because we are part of God’s economy.
– And we give because God just keeps on giving to us.
Let us sing of this great joy that through Christ can transform us and our world.