Philippians 4:10-20

Remember that the original purpose of this letter to the Philippian church was to thank them for practical support they had provided to Paul by their emissary, Epaphroditus. Unlike some of Paul’s other epistles, this letter did not address specific questions of doctrine asked by the Philippians. Nevertheless, this letter is no mere thank you note. In it Paul has addressed specific issues in the Philippian church, like the dispute between Euodia and Syntyche, which he no doubt heard about from Epaphroditus. In doing this, he provided for them (and us) important insights about how we are to live our Christian lives.

 Above all, the letter is a note of encouragement and admonition to stand firm in the faith, and to persevere with the joy of the Lord through the severe anti-Christian persecutions which were already taking place throughout the ancient world at the time this letter was written, and which Paul knew would certainly increase in both frequency and severity.
 
Even now, in closing, as he writes his thank you, Paul’s letter continues to edify and encourage.
Philippians 4:10-20

10But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. 14Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. 15Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. 16For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. 17Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. 18Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. 19And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. 20Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Recall that this letter was written while Paul was imprisoned. We know this from…
Philippians 1:12-14

12But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; 14and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Even though this imprisonment was likely Paul’s house arrest in Rome around 60-62 AD, when he was still free to preach the Gospel openly – albeit under continual Roman guard – he was almost certainly not allowed to ply his trade selling tents to make money. 
 
Furthermore, in ancient times (as in many places even today) prisoners were required to rely on their friends and family to provide for their own needs. The Roman state certainly did not provide Paul with food and clothing. Very likely they didn’t provide even the house where he was held. Paul would have been required to provide these things for himself. Isn’t that an amazing witness to the truth proclaimed by Jesus which we looked at last time…
Matthew 6:31-34

31Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

So Paul is certainly understating the situation when he says in verse 11, “Not that I speak in regard to need.” The Philippians would have known his plight, and had blessed him with their gift to provide for Paul’s physical needs. Paul was certainly thankful for this blessing, but also took the opportunity to emphasize once again his joy in the Lord regardless of his circumstances…
Philippians 4:11-12

…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

These aren’t empty pious platitudes. Paul had walked the walk and earned the right to talk the talk. At the time of this letter, it had been nearly 30 years since his blinding encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road.
 
He first spent 3 years of discipleship in Arabia, and nearly 10 years as a tent maker in his home town of Tarsus. After this time of equipping, he had then traveled throughout the Mediterranean basin preaching the Gospel.
 
On those three missionary journeys, he had planted some ten or more churches, and proclaimed the Gospel to untold thousands. He had performed numerous miracles in the Name of Jesus. He had cast out a demon (Acts 13:11), healed the lame (Acts 14:10), and even restored the young man, Eutychus, to life (Acts 20:10).
 
He had also written some 10 books of our modern New Testament including a number of letters to the congregations he had founded, and that great instruction manual for Christian living – Romans – written to believers he had never met.
 
With all of these accomplishments, Paul certainly had reason to be proud. Yet…
2 Corinthians 12:6-10

6For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me. 7And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Indeed, Jesus Himself proclaims…
Luke 14:11

For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Of course, Paul had also suffered greatly for the sake of the Gospel, even in the midst of these successful ministries.
 
In Lystra, Jews from Antioch and Iconium hunted him down, and stoned him so severely they presumed he was dead (Acts 14).
 
The Philippians knew this very well. He had been jailed with Silas in Philippi after casting the demon out of the soothsayer but had been miraculously set free by the earthquake. We fondly remember the story of the Philippian jailer who was saved along with his whole family after hearing their testimony (Acts 16).
 
Following his arrest in Jerusalem he was imprisoned for nearly a decade before finally being killed for professing the name of Jesus.
 
Paul himself gives a succinct summary of his sufferings writing to the Corinthians from Ephesus sometime during the winter or spring of the last year before his arrest…
2 Corinthians 11:24-28

24From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— 28besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.

_____________________________
 
Yet here in one magnificent verse Paul summarizes the main lesson we can all learn in the midst of both our triumphs and our suffering…
Philippians 4:13

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Through faith in God, there is nothing a believer can’t do. The Word of God is full of such testimonies. Jesus tells us…
Mark 11:23

For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.

The converse, of course, is also true. Without Christ to strengthen us, we can do nothing of ourselves…
John 15:1-8
1I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

5I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

I’m sure each and every one of us has a testimony of being “at the end of our rope” brought up finally to the end of our pride, and the full knowledge of our total reliance upon God for all things.
 
For most of us, the moment we first called on the Name of Jesus for our salvation was one of these times.
 
Many of us have faced a sudden catastrophic loss. Some of us have received the diagnosis of a life-threatening disease.
 
For me the instance most vivid in my mind was a day last summer when I was lost in the midst of impassible chaparral, miles from the nearest beaten track, having led my family into danger behind me in my foolish pride, separated from them beyond earshot, with the sun about to go down, wanting only for my family to survive, knowing that the rightful reward for my arrogance was death from thirst and exposure.
 
It is in these desperate straits that God shows Himself strongest in our lives. Consider the words of David when he realized he had been “caught out” for his transgression with Bathsheba and the subsequent murder of Uriah the Hittite…
Psalm 51
To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
1Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
2Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.
3For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
4Against You, You only, have I sinned,
And done this evil in Your sight—
That You may be found just when You speak,
And blameless when You judge.
5Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.
6Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,
And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.
7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8Make me hear joy and gladness,
That the bones You have broken may rejoice.
9Hide Your face from my sins,
And blot out all my iniquities.
10Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
12Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
13Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted to You.
14Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
The God of my salvation,
And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.
15O Lord, open my lips,
And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.
16For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise.
18Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion;
Build the walls of Jerusalem.
19Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness,
With burnt offering and whole burnt offering;
Then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.
_____________________________
Philippians 4:14-20

14Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. 15Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. 16For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. 17Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. 18Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. 19And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. 20Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

In closing, Paul reiterates his thanks to the Philippians for their gift. He also reminds them that giving blesses the giver just as it does the recipient. This is the fruit he refers to in verse 17.
2 Corinthians 9:6-11
6But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. 9As it is written:
“He has dispersed abroad,
He has given to the poor;
His righteousness endures forever.” [Psalm 112:9]
10Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, 11while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.
Colossians 3:23-24
23And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.
Matthew 6:1-4

1Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.

Ezekiel 44:30
The best of all firstfruits of any kind, and every sacrifice of any kind from all your sacrifices, shall be the priest’s; also you shall give to the priest the first of your ground meal, to cause a blessing to rest on your house.
Malachi 3:10
Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
That there may be food in My house,
And try Me now in this,”
Says the LORD of hosts,
“If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such blessing

That there will not be room enough to receive it.”

Finally, let’s take a quick look at…
Philippians 4:19

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Nothing is a surprise or emergency to God. He knows everything whatsoever about us. He knows our needs, and we can trust that He always has our best interests in mind, even when we ourselves don’t recognize them (c.f. Jeremiah 29:17). As we saw last week, Jesus taught against worrying about how we can provide for our physical needs. Instead…
Matthew 6:33

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

Furthermore, we are told that we are not to hoard the resources with which God has blessed us from the fullness of His riches…
Luke 12:16-21

16Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ’ 20But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ 21“So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

This isn’t to say we shouldn’t plan for the future. We have been saved unto good works, not so that we should stand idly by awaiting the Lord’s return. To accomplish these works, we obviously need resources. Here in this verse, Paul reminds us that those resources are God’s to give or to withhold. They are His possession just as we ourselves are…
Psalm 50:10-15
10For every beast of the forest is Mine,
And the cattle on a thousand hills.
11I know all the birds of the mountains,
And the wild beasts of the field are Mine.
12If I were hungry, I would not tell you;
For the world is Mine, and all its fullness.
13Will I eat the flesh of bulls,
Or drink the blood of goats?
14Offer to God thanksgiving,
And pay your vows to the Most High.
15Call upon Me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.
Furthermore we need to be careful to differentiate between what we need and what we want. Once again, God knows the difference even when we do not. The story of God’s provision for the nation of Israel during their wilderness wandering gives us a perfect model of this principle…
Exodus 16:13-26
13So it was that quails came up at evening and covered the camp, and in the morning the dew lay all around the camp. 14And when the layer of dew lifted, there, on the surface of the wilderness, was a small round substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15So when the children of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “This is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat. 16This is the thing which the LORD has commanded: ‘Let every man gather it according to each one’s need, one omer for each person, according to the number of persons; let every man take for those who are in his tent.’ ”
17Then the children of Israel did so and gathered, some more, some less. 18So when they measured it by omers, he who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack. Every man had gathered according to each one’s need. 19And Moses said, “Let no one leave any of it till morning.” 20Notwithstanding they did not heed Moses. But some of them left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. 21So they gathered it every morning, every man according to his need. And when the sun became hot, it melted.
22And so it was, on the sixth day, that they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. And all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. 23Then he said to them, “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. Bake what you will bake today, and boil what you will boil; and lay up for yourselves all that remains, to be kept until morning.’ ” 24So they laid it up till morning, as Moses commanded; and it did not stink, nor were there any worms in it. 25Then Moses said, “Eat that today, for today is a Sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field. 26Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none.”
We’ve been discussing earthly needs here in the context of Paul’s thank you note to the Philippians, but here at the end of Philippians 4:19 Paul alludes to God’s provision for our eternal needs. God provides for our most important need – rescue from sin and death – by Jesus’ death and resurrection. We see this beautifully foreshadowed in the story of Abraham when God had commanded him to sacrifice Isaac at the place that God would show him…
Genesis 22:6-8
6So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. 7But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!”
And he said, “Here I am, my son.”
Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

8And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together.

Romans 8:32
He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
_____________________________

Leave a Comment

two × 1 =

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.