Tag Archives: Providence

Philippians 4:14-20; brief thoughts pt. 1

14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 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. 16 Even in Thessalonica, you sent me help for my needs once and again.17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. 18 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.19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

One of the most prominent marks of the authenticity of a Christian community is a concern for the expansion of the gospel. When a pastor or missionary begins a new work, other Christian groups prove the veracity of their faith by their own support of the work of the gospel. This is the reason that modern division and dissension over new church starts and gospel ministries is so disheartening. When a church plant begins, often the new work has met a sort of passive rejection. Churches will express sentiments such as, “We’re not going to help and if this is the Lord’s work, it will survive.” Behind closed doors, the same churches will exclaim that their town does not need new churches. This sort of rejection is the same sort of rejection of the gospel ministry that the early church dealt with (Acts 5). Of particular interest is the statement of Gamaliel in which he advises the other Pharisees that they should leave the Christians alone because their work will fail if it is not of God (v.38-39). It is a tragic reality that many modern churches would assert the same instruction given by the opponents of the gospel in the first century.

The heart of the Christian church ought to be the increase of the mission of the gospel. When one body of believers hears of another work that is proclaiming the gospel, their response ought to be an immediate and powerful desire to join in the work. The Philippians joined in the work of the gospel from the beginning of Paul’s ministry. So great was their partnership with him that no one else joined in the work. Consider what they are being commended for: “giving and receiving.” The Philippian church joined with the work in both giving and receiving. It is easy to receive. It is easy to take the benefits that ministers and churches provide. It is quite a different when the support of another ministry requires sacrifice. The easiest way to test the authenticity of a church and its dedication to the mission of the gospel is to examine their budget and finances. Churches will allocate their money to what they deem most important.

Paul’s motivation for the commendation of the Philippians is that they would be inspired to increase and maintain their work for the gospel. He does not need nor want to gain more money from them. His motivation is for the proliferation of the gospel. Paul is glad to receive the gifts that the Philippians send because the resources sent result in the increase of the gospel. Paul has already exhibited a tremendous confidence in the provision of God for him. For Paul, the advance of the gospel message into the world is the chief purpose of the resources he is given. Concern for his own welfare and provision are secondary to the call to obey the gospel ministry.

Oh Christian, if you would submit to the calling of the gospel in the way Paul demonstrates, you would find that you have nothing to lose in obedience to the gospel. You will see that the Lord provides for those who follow Him. Paul surrendered every comfort for the gospel. He allowed himself no luxury and sought no benefit or provision beyond what the Lord would provide. Yet, in obeying the gospel’s call to engage his community with the gospel, he found peace, happiness, security in God’s provision, and a renewed purpose of life and ministry. You have nothing to lose in obedience to the gospel. Obey what the Lord calls you to do, He will meet your needs.

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Philippians 2:19-24; Brief Thoughts

19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. 23 I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, 24 and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.

Christians are part of an army of faith. They are connected in a cause that is greater than themselves and that establishes them in unity through battle. So it is with Paul and Timothy. Timothy and Paul have found themselves battle-hardened together. As they have been knit together through the gospel, they have come to value the connection they share based on the gospel. So deep is their connection that they share affection and concern for the Philippians.

The connection exemplified in Paul and Timothy is not unusual for Christians. It is a profound connection that unites Christians. They are not united around the same principles as the rest of the world. For others, there must be some commonality in order for communion to occur. People seek others who share the same affinity, preference, interest, life-stage, vocation, etc… Yet, for the Christian there need only be Christ. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the sole foundation of the community of faith. All other disunities and divergences are overcome and surpassed by the great truth of who He is and what He has done. This is why Christians across the world can weep for one another’s burdens and can rejoice in each other’s successes. There is a common mission and a common soul-bond between those in the household of faith. Timothy exemplifies this bond. Whereas everyone else is concerned for their own interests, Timothy seeks the interest of Jesus Christ.

It is interesting that Paul does not cite Timothy as seeking the interest of the Philippians, but that of Christ. Christians find their common interest in Christ Jesus, not in their affinities or affections. Consider what the churches in the west would look like if their common bond was based on Christ and His mission alone. The beauty of this sort of community could change the world.[i]

Paul hopes to be released to see his brothers and sisters soon. While he has yet to have received a verdict in his case and his future is technically uncertain, he recognizes that his verdict is already in the hands of God and his future is, in reality, certain. This is why his hope for release “in the Lord.” Paul is certain that the Lord’s will is going to be accomplished and he hopes that he will be reunited with the brothers at Philippi soon. The confidence of a believer to endure through any circumstance is remarkable. This confidence is based entirely on the work and life of Christ in the heart of His people. So Paul can say with confidence that he hopes to join them soon, because he is trusting that, whatever the outcome may be, it is the Lord’s design.

Often, when a Christian speaks of sovereignty or providence, the discussion upsets immature believers and non-believers. There is a sense in which the reality of God’s providential care over all things should upset weak and non-believers. The recognition that man is not in control of his own destiny ought to bother the independent spirit. So, the young believer is no exception and the struggle to trust Christ with control of all things is a difficult one. But, for Paul, the providence and sovereignty of God is critically important and is part of the foundation of his confidence. Likewise, true believers will cling to the truth that God is ultimately in control of circumstance and that no circumstance is outside of His purview. It is this confidence that allows Christians to hope for what is to come, no matter how difficult it may be. Christians are confident in the future because they are confident of God’s presence in and engagement of their current circumstance.

Oh brother or sister, can you boast of such a confidence? Can you be brought low to a prison and have the confidence that you are right where God has placed you? Can you overcome circumstance and trust that the Lord will accomplish His purposes even amidst your suffering and seeming failure? I hope in the Lord that you can.

[i] For a more thorough examination of gospel centered community, check out Mark Dever’s work: “The Compelling Community.”