|THE SUPPLY LINE
Series: What A Fellowship - Part Nine
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
June 28, 2015
Long ago in a city far far away our neighbor brought home this cute adorable little Rottweiler puppy - that soon grew into this huge muscular Rottweiler dog. In order to keep this dog in his own yard our neighbor ended up building a retaining wall and fence - what amounted to a small fortress - to contain this cute massive dog.
When I could I would go over and help construct this fortress. Putting boards in place - pounding nails. Helping out. Which made me feel pretty good. I’m helping out my neighbor.
One day our neighbor and I were talking about our yard. I happened to mention a problem I was having with some ivy. Common - pretty much everyone has some in their yard - garden variety ivy. Which I’m allergic to. Something I found out the hard way. Lots of itching and swelling. Not good.
We had this ivy that was threatening to take over a section of the yard. For me to remove it would have been a life threatening experience. Our neighbor said he’d come over and get rid of it for me.
Suddenly I felt very uncomfortable. I was going to be at a disadvantage - indebted to my neighbor. I was the one needing help. Even with my great need I struggled to accept his graciousness. Have you ever been there?
Here at Creekside we can struggle with this kind of awkwardness. Its hard to ask for help. We’ve said that money should never be a reason to not participate in something that’s happening here at Creekside. And yet, it’s hard to ask. Somehow asking for support to go to some far off place and do ministry is easier than asking for help to get our family to camp - or help with rent or food or whatever. We can feel inadequate or shameful just by asking.
Sometimes we get down on ourselves because we seem to be more on the receiving side of the equation than the giving side. We feel like we should be giving more. But we have no clue how that can happen.
Sometimes giving is tough. We can feel the pressure and expectations of others. Our motives and attitudes can get messed up. Our pride and self can kick into our thinking about the deficiencies of those on the receiving end of things or that we’re giving so sacrificially and others aren’t or that our giving puts us in some kind of special category around here. Attitudes that can mess up our giving, our participation, our commitment.
Even in the best of circumstances - money and things and need and ability can be a source of division and tension and awkwardness even between God’s people. Even in families or between friends. And yet - God has placed us here together and given us a tremendous opportunity to care for each other - to support and encourage each other as we witness of Jesus together for the glory of God.
Paul is in Rome under house arrest. The Philippians are in… Philippi - Macedonia - Northern Greece. The Philippians had sent Paul some gifts. Probably monetary. What might have helped Paul pay for his lodging or his legal defense. We don’t really know. We do know that the Philippians - the givers - had sent Epaphroditus from Philippi to Rome with gifts. And, Paul - the receiver of these gifts - had sent Epaphroditus back with this thank you letter. What is this letter of Philippians.
Philippians is essentially a thank you letter. Paul’s teaching on fellowship - which to a large extent is what Philippians is about - Paul’s teaching on fellowship - its purpose and how to guard it and deepen it - Paul’s teaching on fellowship comes as Paul - who really knew how to write letters to people that meant something to those people - and us - Paul is thanking the Philippians and in the process touching on some of the deep issues that we all struggle with in our fellowship together.
What we’re coming to this morning - Philippians 4 - starting at verse 10 - are Paul’s final thoughts as he’s giving thanks and his final greeting to the Philippians. In the process Paul cuts through the tension of giving and receiving in a way that is hugely helpful for us.
Read with me - starting at verse 10: I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Yet, it was kind of you to share my trouble.
The Philippian’s lack of opportunity - verse 10 - probably had more to do with Paul than the Philippians.
Towards the end of Paul’s 3rd missions trip - around 57 to 58 AD - Paul leaves Philippi for Jerusalem. The book of Acts describes Paul as man with a singular purpose. He’s in a hurry to get to Jerusalem before Pentecost. In the towns he visits he spends very little time with the believers there. Other towns he bypasses completely.
Along the way a prophet named Agabus prophecies that when Paul reaches Jerusalem he’s going to be imprisoned. Which we know happens. When Paul gets to Jerusalem he’s arrested on trumped up charges.
Then he’s taken to Caesarea where he’s confined in Herod’s palace. Interrogated for two years. Until - as a Roman - Paul - finally appeals to Caesar for justice. So Paul is sent to Rome. Along the way Paul is ship wrecked at Malta. Months after being sent to Rome Paul finally he ends up in Rome - under house arrest - a prisoner of the Imperial Roman government.
If we’re in Philippi - Instagrams not existing - to where and how do you send the letter - the gift? Now - finally - at length - Paul is in a place where a letter with a gift can be sent and received. So Ephaproditus is sent with all possible dispatch.
“Revived” - verse 10 - translates a word that describes plants blooming in the Spring - reviving after the winter. “Concern” has to do with what’s on our mind. Paul is on their minds.
Putting that together: Paul is rejoicing in the Lord. God’s timing. God given opportunity. For their fellowship to again grow. Through all that God given opportunity this gift has been given and received.
Verse 11: Not that I am speaking of being in need - My rejoicing isn’t because you sent this gift and I’m not asking for help now. That’s not my purpose in writing. for I have learned - a process of God led education - maturing - I’ve learned that - in whatever situation I am to be content - satisfied. I’m okay regardless of what’s going on.
Verse 12: I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
The secret is - verse 13: I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
In other words, “Thank you for the gift. I appreciate your generosity. But, it really isn’t the most important thing here.”
Verse 14: But, it was kind of you to share my trouble.
Paul’s point being: “It’s not the stuff - the gift that’s important - it’s the source behind the gift - the One who makes it all possible - even the timing of the gift - meaning God. My strength - my sufficiency - whatever I need to do life - all that comes from God.”
Are we together? We need to make sure we’re clear on what that truth touches in our own lives. The stuff saturated culture we live in can really mess with us. How we view wealth or the lack of it.
Today we have more things - more wealth - more toys - more abundance - more reasons to be optimistic - and yet more emptiness - more depression - more emotional pain than at any time in history. Many people go to bed exhausted and wake up tired. We’re hurried - harried - harassed - and helpless.
A while back I read this. No idea who said it. Quote: “It’s been said that there are many things that money cannot buy. Money can buy: A bed but not sleep. Books but not brains. Food but not an appetite. Finery but not beauty. A house but not a home. Medicine but not health. Pleasures but not peace. Luxuries but not culture. Amusements but not joy. A crucifix but not a Savior. A church building but not heaven.” (1)
These are pictures from Nepal. April 25 of this year - there was a 7.8 earthquake in Nepal. Thousands died. Millions have been affected. Whatever people may have had - what they may have been counting on in life - in a short period of time - it was gone. Worthless. That’s a game changer.
When I see pictures of what’s happened in Nepal and other places I think of Armenia. These are pictures of Armenia. Similar. Yes?
On December 7, 1988 an earthquake devastated much of Northern Armenia. Whole towns ceased to exist. In a short period of time over 25,000 people died. Thousands were maimed. 100,000 plus were homeless.
That summer I went to Armenia and I saw the devastation. I can’t describe it. It’s was just too overwhelming. Piles of rubble that had been schools. Apartment buildings that were now mounds of concrete. And the stories… everyone had lost someone. In many cases whole families were lost except for a single small child or a grieving parent.
This is a picture of the Church of the Holy Savior in Gyumri - second largest city of Armenia. Gyumri - a city of 250,000 was brought to its knees. In Gyumri - in center of the city is this church - split into two halves - the center section had collapsed. Every building around the city center was damaged. Just to the left of that church - sitting on a curb in front of another church - there was an old woman - wearing black.
I asked her, “How are you doing?” She looked up at me and said, “I’m praising God.”
It’s not the stuff that’s important. It’s the source. God.
Verse 13 - read this out loud with me - together: I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
I - the recipient - can do all things - living even in these circumstances - through Him - God - the source - who strengthens me - the means of my living - His strength which is what I really need.
Anyone remember who this is? Laura Wilkinson
At the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney, Australia - the diving competition figured to belong to the Chinese. Li Na and Sang Xue of China - in their prime at ages 16 and 15 - apparent heirs of China’s diving dynasty - winners of other major international competitions - Li and Sang had placed first and second going into the finals of the 10 meter platform. One would go home with the gold. One with the silver.
Needless to say Wilkinson was not expected to win. For 36 years no US woman had won a gold on the platform. In pain, Wilkinson hobbled on a broken foot to the platform. And she won.
The San Francisco Chronicle said this, “Then, just as she does before each dive and every ascent of the platform, she recited Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. That might explain why pressures such as a broken foot, an eighth place ranking, a 36 year gold drought, two young Chinese women and the legacy they uphold didn’t rattle her.” (2)
It’s not the money - the stuff we have in life - that brings contentment - that gives us what we need to keep going - that frees us to love God and love others more deeply - to reach out with the Gospel. What we really need in life doesn’t come from having more things. It comes from God.
If we’re going to care for each other - giving and receiving care without all the awkwardness and attitudes - we need to get our eyes off of the stuff - who has it - who doesn’t - and see it as a means not the end.
We need to see past the stuff to God - the source. That it’s God who’s giving us is the opportunity to share His love, His grace, His mercy - to tangibly reach out in His name or to be touched in love through a brother and sister in Jesus. And that’s a far greater gift than all the things we count as important.
Paul’s second point about giving and receiving comes in verses 15 to 20. Paul’s second point: It’s not the gift. It’s the giver. Meaning that the value of the gift is not the gift. The value is in what God does in the life of the giver.
Let’s read these verses together: And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
There were at least two other occasions when the Philippians had supported Paul. About 10 years earlier when he’d left Macedonia. Then again when he was in Thessalonica. Meaning - there’s been an ongoing partnership in ministry between the Philippian church and Paul. They’re a sending church. When no one else stepped up. The Philippians stepped up.
Don’t miss the word “partnership” - which is a use of the word “koinonew” - think fellowship - that has to do with participating together in something - sharing together in what’s taking place. It takes two. One to give and one to receive. The giver needs to give. The receiver needs to receive. So that the fullness of what God - the source - is seeking to accomplish - is accomplished in our lives.
Paul writes - verse 17: Not that I seek the gift - I appreciate that once again you’ve stepped up - but more so - I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.
In the Greek Paul is using words that apply to financial management - writing about what’s credited to their account. Interest that accrues in their bank account. The fruit - what’s produced by their investment - their giving.
The comparison he’s making is to their lives. What’s more important that drachmas and dollars. The support is huge. But it’s not as important as what God can do in our lives - at the heart level - as we give focused on God - not us.
Paul writes - verse 18: I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, - having once again received from you a gift of support - which is - a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.
What they’ve given - Paul says is a what? A fragrant offering. A sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. We need to make sure we’re clear on what Paul means by that imagery.
In the Old Covenant a priest would take a male animal as an offering to God. He would lay his hand on the head of the offering - symbolizing identification. In a sense transferring his sin guilt to the animal. The animal taking his place as Jesus took ours on the cross.
Then the priest would cut the animal into pieces and lay it on the burning altar - as Jesus was sacrificed for us. The smell would rise up - a soothing aroma - well pleasing to God. (Leviticus 1) Pleasing because of the heart attitude of the one making the offering.
The New Testament application of that truth Paul lays out in Romans 12:1: “I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1 NASB)
Long ago in a church far far away - there was a man who was so disgusted - offended - with the direction worship - and in particular music - had gone in his church - that every time the church sang his favorite hymn he donated $100. In kind of a sick way I wondered what would happen if we would sing his favorite hymn five or six times in one service.
What was sad was that - because his heart was not sacrificed - surrendered - open to God - he was using his money - his giving - for his own purposes - for what he could gain for himself - and totally missing out on all of what God could have been blessing him with.
We sacrifice so much to be here with all the other choices of what we could be doing on a Sunday morning. Imagine - we get ourselves out of bed and put together to show up here at least reasonably close to 10:00 in order to worship the God to Whom we owe our very existence - every breath - every heart beat - the ability to think reasonably rational thoughts.
Worship isn’t about us. Worship is not about the music or teaching or coffee appealing to us. Worship isn’t some great act of religious piety on our part. Our service of worship is not about our own egos and self-gratification.
Worship is about God. Laying our lives out before Him. Access to worship comes only through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ - by the grace and mercy of God - Who chooses to allow us to know Him and have a saving relationship with Him.
Paul says, “I’ve received full payment - in abundance - not just because of what you sent with Epaphroditus - but because what you sent was acceptable to God.” In giving - and receiving - its not the transaction of stuff between us that counts. The gift. What counts is our hearts sacrificed before God. The heart attitude of the giver.
That’s when God does His work. When God credits us - brings fruit into our lives. Growth happens. Huge and amazing results that go way beyond our ability.
Verse 19: And - as we give from lives totally given to God - then - my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
“My God” - the source - “will” - the certainty that He will - “supply every” - meaning all - the extent of His supply. Like taking an empty bucket and pouring water into it until the water is flowing over the edge and still He keeps pouring.
My God will supply every “need” of yours. Not wants. But what we really need. To know God - salvation - purpose in life - our daily needs. Heart level - valuable - what counts for eternity needs.
My God will supply every need of yours according to His glorious heavenly riches that are Christ Jesus’. How rich is Jesus? What is the bottom line on what heaven is worth? How priceless is our salvation - paid for by the blood and body of Jesus - God Himself?
When we finally understand what God has done for us - all that He has supplied and is supplying and will supply in our lives - there is no reasonable way to make our giving about us.
Do you remember Zaccheus? Short - bald - rude - obnoxious man. Zaccheus was a… tax-collector. He took advantage of his own people by working for the Romans. He was getting rich by legally ripping off his own people. By the standards of our society - focused on things - Zaccheus was very successful.
But Zaccheus’ wealth had failed him. He was without friends - without hope - insecure - with deep inner needs. When Jesus passed through Jericho - perhaps because of these deep inner needs - Zaccheus climbed up a Sycamore tree - just to see Jesus.
When Jesus passed under that tree where Zaccheus was perched, Jesus stopped and said, “Zaccheus, hurry down out of that tree. Regardless of what everyone else may think of you - whatever you may think of yourself - I’m going to befriend you today. I’m going to stay at your house.” Then these words - powerful - life changing: "Today salvation has come to your house."
Zaccheus had all his needs supplied. His life was changed. He got it. And he gave ½ of his possessions to the poor. Instead of stealing from people he started giving back what he had stolen at 4 times the amount he had stolen. What he had - materially meant nothing - compared to how his life - his deepest inner need - had been supplied by knowing Jesus. (Luke 19:1-10)
Zaccheus understood what Paul is talking about - giving - that’s not coming from what we achieve on our own. But giving coming from a life - a heart - sacrificed - responding to what God has done for us. A heart pleasing to God. A heart that God is going to produce His fruit in.
Verse 20 is a doxology - a response of praise to God. A offering of praise that reminds us that all this is about God. Life - worship - wealth - giving is all about God. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
We’re together with Paul? There’s no awkwardness in that because none of that is about us. We’re not end users or end receivers. Its all about what God supplies to us and through us for His purposes - that we together would witness of Jesus for His glory.
Paul’s final greeting comes in verses 21 to 23: Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
Let’s not miss this. Notice four groups of people.
First - the greeting to - every saint in Christ Jesus. We’ve observed in past Sundays that those saints - the Philippian church - was a pretty diverse group. Roman citizens - Gentiles - Jews - slaves - masters - a former possessed fortune teller - a jailer and his family - former convicts - all meeting at the home of Jewish business women who led a women’s prayer meeting down by the river.
Back in 1:1 - Paul began by addressing this diverse group - dear “saints in Christ Jesus” and then went on to greet the overseers and deacons. Almost like an afterthought. Point being that Paul emphasizes the little guys - not what some might have seen as the higher ups in the church hierarchy. Here in verse 21 - he doesn’t even mention the leadership.
Paul ends as he began. He’s writing to people that he has great affection for - brothers and sisters in Jesus - all of us saved by grace - who are trying to follow Jesus through the drama of life. People who need peace in our hearts that can only come from God. Writing about fellowship - about being the Body of Christ together - which we desperately need. Not about position and personalities and pride.
We’re together? Paul writes to the saints in Christ Jesus. Those in Philippi who have a unique relationship together in Christ - because of Christ. Saints - saved - because of God’s grace.
Groups two to four are those in Rome with Paul that are sending greetings to Philippi.
First: “The brothers” Paul’s co-workers - his mission team.
Then “saints” - who were the church in Rome - Jews and Gentiles - slaves and free. Also a mixed bag.
And third - “those of Caesar’s household” - the Imperial guard - the servants working in Caesar’s home. All converts who had recently come to faith in Jesus.
There’s purpose in these verses. A reminder of who we are to one another. Regardless of background - social or economic status - what we have or don’t have - we’re one together in Jesus Christ. We’re brothers and sisters with the same Father. We belong to each other. United in spirit - in fellowship - in purpose - because of God grace given to us in Jesus the Christ our Lord.
Processing all that…
This is… Lebron James. Plays for the second place Cleveland Cavaliers. Right after Cleveland lost to Golden State in game 5 of the NBA Finals - LeBron James was asked about how confident he felt that Cleveland could come back and win the finals. James said, “I feel confident - despite being down 3-2 in the series - because I’m the best player in the world. It’s that simple.”
Hold on to that. A short video. This is Stephen Curry starting off his acceptance speech as the 2015 NBA Most Valuable Player.
(Video: Stephen Curry NBA MVP - Testimony)
He goes on to thank everyone - equipment managers, security guards, uniform managers. No disrespect intended towards LeBron James - but that’s a huge contrast to: “I’m confident because I’m the greatest player in the world.”
Sometimes we think that our ability - our resources - our gifting is because of us. We’re the source. Our confidence is in us. And that really messes us up.
Question: Who gets the credit for what you’ve been gifted with? As a giver or a receiver - who’s in the driver seat? You or God?
We’re not end users of God’s blessings. God gives to us such a great opportunity to care for one another. As Christians we need to resist the temptation to focus on ourselves. To keep in mind that things are not important. They’re a God given means not the end. Because what we really need comes from God. We need to be open - sacrificed - to what He wants to do in us and through us for each other.
1. Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations
2. San Francisco Chronicle, 09.25.2002, A10
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.