In these verses, Paul names three wonderful spiritual resources that make us adequate and give us contentment. In Part 1, we saw the first resource: the overruling providence of God. Today, we will look at the next two spiritual resources.
The Unfailing Power of God (Phil. 4:11–13)
Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Paul is quick to let his friends know he is not complaining! His happiness does not depend on circumstances or things; his joy comes from something deeper, something apart from either poverty or prosperity. Most of us have learned how to “be abased” because when difficulties come, we immediately run to the Lord! But few have learned how “to abound.” Prosperity has done more damage to believers than has adversity. “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing” (Rev. 3:17).
Through trial and testing, Paul was initiated into the wonderful secret of contentment in spite of poverty or prosperity: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (4:13). It was the power of Christ within him that gave him spiritual contentment. Paul depended on the power of Christ at work in his life (Phil. 1:6, 21; 2:12–13; 3:10). “I can do all things through Christ!” was Paul’s motto and it can be our motto too.
The Living Bible puts it this way: “I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.” No matter which translation you prefer, they all say the same thing: the Christian has all the power within that he needs to be adequate for the demands of life. We need only release this power by faith. It is not by trusting our own faithfulness, but by looking away to the Faithful One! Moment by moment, we are to draw on the power of Christ for every responsibility of the day and Christ’s power will carry us through.
Jesus teaches this same lesson in the sermon on the vine and branches in John 15. He is the Vine; we are the branches. A branch is good only for bearing fruit; otherwise it is cast into the fire and burned. The branch does not bear fruit through its own self-effort, but by drawing on the life of the Vine: “Apart from Me, you can do nothing” (v. 5). As the believer maintains his communion with Christ the power of God is there to see him through.
Often, we go through “winter seasons” spiritually, but then the spring arrives and there is new life and blessing. The tree itself is not picked up and moved; the circumstances are not changed. The difference is the new life within. Unless we draw on the deep resources of God by faith, we fail against the pressures of life.
The Unchanging Promise of God (Phil. 4:14–20)
Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction. You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, but you alone; for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account. But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Paul thanks the church at Philippi for their generous gift. He compares their giving to two very familiar things.
An investment (vv. 14–17). Paul looked on their missionary gift as an investment, which would pay them rich spiritual dividends. The church entered into an arrangement of “giving and receiving”; the church gave materially to Paul and received spiritually from the Lord. The Lord keeps the books and will never fail to pay one spiritual dividend! That church is poor that fails to share materially with others.
A sacrifice (v. 18). Paul looked on their gift as a spiritual sacrifice, laid on the altar to the glory of God. There are such things as “spiritual sacrifices” in the Christian life (1 Pet. 2:5). We are to present our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1–2), as well as offer the praise of our lips (Heb. 13:15). Good works are a sacrifice to the Lord (Heb. 13:16) and so are the lost souls we are privileged to win to Christ (Rom. 15:16). Here, Paul sees the Philippian believers as priests, giving their offering as a sacrifice to the Lord. In light of Malachi 1:6–14, we need to present the very finest we have to the Lord.
Paul does not see this gift as simply coming from Philippi. He sees it as the supply of his need from heaven. Paul’s trust is in the Lord. There is an interesting contrast between verses 18 and 19. If we were to paraphrase Paul, we might say: “You met my need and God is going to meet your need. You met one need I have, but God will meet all of your needs. You gave out of your poverty, but God will supply your needs out of His riches in glory!”
God has not promised to supply all our “greeds.” When the child of God is in the will of God, serving for the glory of God, then he will have every need met. When God’s work is done in God’s way for God’s glory, it will not lack God’s supply.
Contentment comes from adequate resources. Our resources are the providence of God, the power of God, and the promises of God. These resources made Paul sufficient for every demand of life and they can make us sufficient too!
* This concludes our verse-by-verse study of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi. I hope you have enjoyed and benefited from this series.
Our next series will look at Paul’s first letter to Timothy.