Living a Life of Joy 10) Giving with Joy

10) Giving with Joy

Text: Philippians 4:10-20

 

Have you ever been on the receiving end of someone else’s generosity? Maybe you were in a bit of financial hardship and out of the blue someone gives you a hundred dollars. Maybe someone bought something for your birthday that you never thought you’d be able to afford, or they took you on a holiday that was way out of your budget. Or maybe you really wanted to visit your family interstate but you couldn’t afford it, and someone paid for your plane tickets. In the first year of Bible College my uncle actually gave me return flights back to Tassie for Christmas. When stuff like that happens you can’t help but be joyful. There’s something about generosity and joy that go hand in hand. I mean who isn’t happy to get a present, especially one that’s unexpected, or extravagant. This morning in our text, Paul receives a gift from the church in Philippi and he rejoices. Paul rejoices in their generosity. But as we pick apart this passage we’re going to see that Paul’s joy goes much deeper than just receiving an unexpected gift. We’re going to see Paul’s joy, not just in their gift, but in their concern. We’re going to see that Paul’s joy is based not on their gift, but on his contentment. And finally Paul is going to tell us eight things about giving that should bring us joy.

 

1) Joy in Other’s Concern

So let’s start with Paul’s joy in their concern. Paul writes, ‘10 I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. (Phil 4:10a)’

a) Rejoicing in the Lord

Firstly, Paul says that he rejoices in the Lord. This is actually the last time he uses ‘rejoice,’ the word of our series. Twice he’s commanded the Christians in Philippi to rejoice in the Lord, and here we see Paul practicing what he preaches, here he rejoices in the Lord. And, just to make a point he says, he rejoices ‘greatly.’ This isn’t a little joy, this is a huge joy. And the thing Paul rejoices greatly in is ‘the Lord.’ As we’re seen over and over in this series, the secret to living a life of joy is found in Jesus Christ. Back in chapter 3 Paul told us why we should rejoice in the Lord. He says, ‘8 …I consider [everything] rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. (Phil 3:8b-9)’ Only Jesus can make us right with God, that’s why we rejoice in Jesus. It’s because Jesus humbled himself even unto death on a cross, that we find our joy in serving him, that we find joy in prayer, that we find joy in proclaiming the gospel. It’s because Jesus redeemed us from our sins that we find joy in community, that we find joy in being different from the world as we shine like stars. It’s because Jesus has given us new life that we joyfully follow the examples of others, and we run this life with joy. As Christians we rejoice in the Lord.

b) Rejoicing in their concern

But Paul doesn’t just rejoice in the Lord he also rejoices in their concern. The reason he rejoices greatly in the Lord is ‘that at last they have renewed their concern for me.’ The word ‘concern’ is that familiar word ‘think’ that we’ve seen over and over throughout this letter. What really gets Paul excited is that they have been thinking about him. And their concern isn’t just a concern, they showed their concern by their actions. In verse 18 Paul talks about how he had ‘18 …received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. (Phil 4:18b)’ Paul doesn’t mention what sort of gift it was, but we can probably guess it was a gift of money, seeing that money was a bit easier to send than a load of pumpkins. And Paul doesn’t mention how generous their gift was. In fact, Paul doesn’t focus on the gift at all. Rather Paul is more concerned about the fact that they showed their concern for him.

Paul goes to great lengths to reassure them that the thing that really matters isn’t the gift but their concern for him. What Paul rejoices in is the fact that their concern was renewed for him. The word ‘renewed’ is only used here in our text, and basically it means to revive something, or to see something flourish again. Paul is rejoicing in the fact that their concern for him was flourishing again. Paul adds, ‘10 …Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. (Phil 4:10b)’ This isn’t a new concern for them, they have always had Paul in their thoughts, they had always cared about his well-being. The problem was they ‘had no opportunity to show it.’ Paul was travelling from city to city and from country to country, and over the years they had lost track of him. And then one day they hear he is a prisoner in Rome, and straight away they put some money together and send it with Epaphroditus. I’m sure that gift filled Paul with joy, but what really filled him with joy is the fact that they cared about him, that their concern was renewed.

And when Paul says, ‘11 I am not saying this because I am in need… (Phil 4:11a)’ he isn’t saying ‘thanks, but no thanks!’ Rather he wants them to know that the reason why he’s rejoicing is not because he is desperate, it’s not because of their gift, rather it’s because of their concern, it’s because they care about him.

What makes giving so great is that it is an expression of our love for someone else, or at least it’s meant to be. When we give to earn someone’s love it becomes self-serving and hollow. Giving is meant to be an act of love. In fact, that’s what the gospel is all about. Jesus says, ‘16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son… (Jn 3:16a)’ God loved us so much that he gave us the greatest gift of all, his own Son. Jesus loved us so much he gave us his own life, dying in our place on the cross, so that we might be reconciled with God. Just like we rejoice in God’s generosity towards us in Jesus Christ, so we should rejoice in the loving concern of others.

I want to ask you this morning: how do you show your concern for others? How do you show that you’re thinking of other people? The first way you can show your concern is to pray for people. If someone pops into your head, don’t just let it pop out again, rather stop and pray for them. If you think about someone, pray for them. The second way you can show your concern is to say it. The truth is we are terrible at telling other people that we appreciate them, or that we care about them. The next time you’re thinking about someone, don’t just think about them, or pray for them, go up and tell them. Even if you have to butt in for a few seconds, just say, ‘hey, I really appreciated that!’ or ‘I was thinking about you the other day, and I just wanted to ask how things are going!’ If you think about someone, tell them. Thirdly, if you think about someone help them. If you are concerned for someone in need, do something about their need. We can’t always fix people’s needs, but often we can do something to help, even if it’s only in a small way. Like the Philippians we can give a gift, even if it’s only a meal, a few dollars, or a helping hand. When we do something we show our concern. How will you show your concern for others?

 

2) Joy in Contentment

Paul goes to great lengths in our text to make it clear that his joy isn’t just in the gift he has recieved, but in their concern for him. The first reason is that for Paul giving is an act of love, and he rejoices in the fact that they love him, and showed it by their generosity. But the second reason is because he finds joy in the fact that he is content with his circumstances in life. Paul finds joy in contentment. He says, ‘11 …I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. (Phil 4:11b-12)’ Paul says four things about contentment in these two verses, and these are some of the most radical, counter-cultural things you will probably ever hear.

a) Joy in absence

Firstly, Paul says, I find joy in absence. Paul talks about three things that have often been absent in his life. Firstly, he talks about knowing what it is to be in need. That word ‘need’ literally means ‘to be humbled,’ or ‘brought low.’ Paul isn’t referring to financial difficulties here, but circumstances in life where he has been humbled. Situations when his efforts haven’t been recognized, or he’s been overlooked. This is the same word he used earlier in chapter 2 to describe how ‘8 …[Jesus] humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! (Phil 2:8b)’ To a certain extent Paul knew what it felt like to be rejected. But even in those circumstances Paul was content. Secondly, he talks about being hungry, but even in the absence of food Paul was content. Thirdly, he talks about being in want, and this word has distinct financial overtones. Even when he doesn’t have a cent to his name Paul is content. I’m not sure about you, but I’m not sure how content I’d be in those circumstances. I’m not content when people don’t notice my efforts. I’m not content to have sandwiches for lunch every day. I’m not content to spend $200 to fix the central locking on my car. We so easily become discontent, and loose our joy, when we don’t have enough of something.

b) Joy in abundance

But then Paul flips it on his head and talks about joy in abundance. In fact, he uses that very word twice, the NIV translates it as ‘plenty.’ Paul is content when he experiences an abundance of encouragement, an abundance of food, and an abundance of financial resources. Now you might be thinking, ‘who wouldn’t be?’ But the truth is often we aren’t content with the abundance of our possessions, we aren’t content with how well our lives are going, we aren’t content because we always want more, or better, or newer, or faster. There’s nothing wrong with our laptop, but it’s just not as fast as the latest model. There’s nothing wrong with our clothes we just want something new. There’s nothing wrong with our house, it’s just not big enough. Even though we have an abundance we still aren’t content. The challenge for us as Christians in western society is to receive an abundance from God’s hands without our wealth becoming our god. In the midst of our abundance we need to remind ourselves of Jesus’ words, ‘15 …a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. (Lk 12:15b)’ We need to memorize Hebrews 13:5, ‘5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have… (Heb 13:5a)’ Are you content with what you have?

c) Joy in Christ’s strength

So where does Paul’s contentment come from? How can Paul be content in absence and abundance? The answer is found in verse 13, where Paul writes, ‘13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Phil 4:13)’ The everything that Paul can do are the things we’ve just looked at. Paul can do well-fed or starved, he can go from riding high to crawling low, he can do rich or poor, because Jesus gives him strength. Ultimately, Paul’s ability to handle the highs and lows of life isn’t self-generated, it’s not based on his will-power, or strength of character, rather it’s based on God’s will, and Christ’s strength. Paul finds joy, even in the most difficult of circumstances because he finds his strength in Jesus Christ. Paul’s contentment is a gift that comes from God. The truth is that same strength is available to us. You too can face the highs and lows of life, not in your own strength, but in the strength that Christ gives. You see it’s not about how strong you are, but how strong Christ is. The key to contentment is to trust in Christ’s strength.

d) Joyful contentment is learned

Finally, Paul says that contentment is something that you learn. Twice he says ‘I have learned,’ or ‘I have learned the secret.’ Paul’s point is that while contentment is a gift from God, it doesn’t come pre-installed in our lives, it’s not something that is given at the beginning of your spiritual journey like a chocolate bar in a welcome pack, it’s not something that you get all at once. Rather Christ-centred contentment is something that you learn over time. Paul has learned to be content because he has experienced highs and lows, plenty and want, good times and bad times. He says ‘I know’ what it’s like to go through these things. We learn contentment through experience. Contentment takes practise.

And when Paul talks about ‘learning the secret of contentment,’ he is borrowing a word from pagan religions referring to the secrets only the initiated know. Which is interesting because for Paul there are no secrets about the Christian faith. In fact, Paul sees his whole job as to make plain the mysteries of the gospel, that Jesus, the Son of God, became a man, lived a perfect obedient life, then was crucified and died for our sins, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and will return in glory to make all things new. If you want to learn the rest of our secrets I suggest you come along next week and hear Jeremy preach on what we believe. When Paul says he has learnt the secret of contentment we have to understand it in the context of the gospel. The secret to contentment is Jesus Christ. The more we get to know Jesus the more content we will become. The better we get to know Jesus the more we discover that he is the one who satisfies our hearts. For Paul the secret to contentment is only a secret for those who don’t know Jesus. If you don’t know Jesus you won’t ever really be content with the things that this life has to offer.

 

3) Joy in Giving

So we’ve looked at how Paul rejoices in the concern of the brothers in Philippi, and how he finds joy in contentment, in the last part of our text he tells us eight things about giving that result in joy.

a) It is Good

Firstly, Paul says giving is good. As he talks about the gift that they gave him through Epaphroditus he says, ‘14 …it was good of you… (Phil 4:14a)’ Another version has it, ‘you have done well. (NASB)’ Paul commends their generosity. Giving is a good thing. In fact like we saw earlier giving is a good thing because it’s a God thing.  It’s good to give because our God gives. God gives us life, God gives us health, God gives us everything that we have. And most importantly, God gives us his Son, and God gives us the Holy Spirit, and God gives us eternal life. When we give we are behaving like God. Giving is good.

b) It is an act of Partnership

Secondly, giving is a way we can work together, it’s a way to partner with others, particularly in God’s work. Paul talks about how the brothers in Philippi ‘14 …shared in my troubles. (Phil 4:14b)’ and how they ‘15 …shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving… (Phil 4:15b)’ Paul wasn’t alone in his troubles because the Christians in Philippi were thinking of him, in fact they sent him a gift. When we give to someone in need we share their burden. And when Paul talks about ‘sharing in the matter of giving and receiving’ he’s referring to the give and take of gospel ministry. He gave them the gospel free of charge, and they received God’s word in faith. In the same way they gave him financial support which he received with heartfelt gratitude and joy. In a very real sense Paul was the pastor of this church, they supported him, they were partners in his gospel ministry. When you financially support gospel ministry, whether that’s my ministry, or what Jack does in the Solomons, or Javan Sisodiyah in India you become partners in those ministries.

c) It is exceptional

Next, Paul talks about how their giving is exceptional. The rest of verse 15 says, ‘15 …when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only. (Phil 4:15)’ The truth is giving with joyful generosity is exceptionally rare. Of all the churches that Paul planted only Philippi displayed this exceptional generosity. Generous givers aren’t the rule they are the exception. My prayer is that we will be one of those exceptions.

d) It is consistent

Next, Paul mentions how their giving is consistent. Verse 16, ‘16 …even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. (Phil 4:16)’ They didn’t just give while Paul was among them, they also sent financial aid while he was in Thessalonica, in fact they sent aid again and again. They were consistent in their giving. How consistent are you in your giving? The opposite is sporadic, you have no plans to give regularly to the work of the Lord, you just give when you feel like it. Elsewhere Paul says, ‘2 On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income… (1 Cor 16:2a)’ Giving is consistent.

e) It is a credit

Next, Paul says giving is a credit. In verse 17 he talks about how he is, ‘17 …looking for what may be credited to your account. (Phil 4:17b)’ What matters is not how much their gift meant to Paul, but how much it means to God. When Paul meets God face to face he isn’t going to say, ‘look how much money I was received,’ instead he’s going to say ‘look how much money they gave.’ When we are generous it goes on our account, not to earn God’s acceptance, but to elicit his commendation. It’s to people who use their money well that God says, ‘well done good and faithful servant. (Mt 25:31)’ When you get to heaven I wonder how big your bunch of flowers is going to be?

f) It is a blessing to others

The sixth thing that Paul says about giving is that it is a blessing to others, in this case himself. In verse 18 he says, ‘18 I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. (Phil 4:18a)’ Paul’s point is that their gift has blessed his socks off. Their generosity didn’t just fill his needs they over-filled them. Because of their generosity he is amply supplied. Through our generosity we can really bless people, even in small ways like making a meal, or babysitting, or our expertise, whether it’s painting or bookkeeping, or whatever. How has your generosity blessed others?

g) It is an act of worship

Next, Paul refers to giving as an act of worship. Paul says, ‘18 …[Your gifts] are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. (Phil 4:18b)’ The same way that the smell of bacon makes our mouth water, so generosity makes God’s heart happy. When we give to others in the name of Christ we honour God’s gift to us in Jesus Christ. Giving is an act of worship. So don’t just stick your money in the bad, or hit the transfer button on your computer, tell God that you are honouring him with the first and best that you have.

h) It is a blessing to the giver

Next, Paul says that giving will result in blessing to the giver. Verse 19, ‘19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:19)’ When Paul says, ‘needs’ he’s not just talking about our everyday needs of verse 12, he’s also  talking about our truly essential needs – our need for forgiveness, our need to be made right with God, our need for a new life. These are the things that flow from God’s glorious riches in Christ Jesus. We are filled with joy because our contentment isn’t found in the things of this life, but on our new life in Christ Jesus.

 

This morning I want you to see that living a life of joy starts with generosity. People who love to give, like God so generously gave to them, are people whose hearts are filled with joy. And it’s not about what you give, but the attitude with which you give. It’s about your loving concern for others. And I hope that you have learned the secret of contentment, that no matter your circumstances you can rejoice in the fact that you have Jesus Christ, and that you will find your contentment in him and the strength that he gives. And I hope you will be exceptional in this area of giving, and that you will be consistent in giving, because it’s good to give, you get to partner in the Lord’s work, you get to bless others, you get to worship God and he will credit it to your account.

This morning we’re going to do two things as a response to God’s word. Firstly, we’re going to pray and ask God to help us become more giving and generous people. And then we’re going to give through our offerings as a way of putting into practice what God has told us this morning.

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