Lord God speak to our hearts from your Word and change us for Jesus' sake, Amen. And our first theme in this Giving for Growth Giving Review is
1) GOSPEL PARTNERSHIP which is my first heading
I thank God for you. You weren't expecting that to be my first comment were you! But I really do - for your partnership in the gospel as Paul puts it in Philippians 1, for your giving and serving this past year. And it's been an exciting year with God's provision of St Joseph's, Benwell and again I thank God for your sacrificial generosity and enthusiasm for that wonderful, vital and challenging opportunity. I also thank God for the Newcastle Chinese Christian Church, who are partnering with us in the gospel so generously in this week's Christianity Explored Taster Sessions by providing the food free of charge. And for our gospel partnership with Mburi in Kenya and with our other mission partners. Yes it's God who gives the growth but we have a part to play, a part which always involves giving and sharing in our partnership in the gospel.
And that means giving our time, talents and treasure in response to what God has done for us in Christ. You see we're to share the love of Christ with each other and with those who still don’t know him in the power of the Holy Spirit. And love is more than a noun – it’s a verb; it’s more than a feeling – it’s caring, sharing, giving, helping and sacrificing.
In Hebrews 2:14-15, we read of the ultimate in sharing. Jesus Christ, God the Son, shared in our humanity. If he hadn’t we’d still all be lost. In response how can we not be generous givers and willing to share?
The church at Philippi had been generous and willing to partner with Paul to support his preaching and church planting ministry. And this letter is a thank you letter from Paul to them. He thanks them for their sharing in his troubles (v14) and for their sharing in the matter of giving and receiving, sending him aid again and again (v15&16).
And God does not want us to stop giving and growing as a church – for the sake of the gospel, for the sake of this needy region and world and for his glory. The materially poor church at Philippi partnered with Paul in the spreading of the gospel again and again (v16). So will we continue to be generous and willing to share in what God has called us to? One Christian couple I know give 1% more of their income away each year. Now the Philippians, says Paul in v10, have been concerned for him and his gospel ministry but recently have had no opportunity to show it until now. Here at JPC this Giving Review is an opportunity to show your concern by giving regularly and generously to the work here and overseas by filling in the response form that came with your giving literature, the gift aid form if you're a taxpayer and the standing order form. Perhaps you'd like some help and advice in managing your money as you review your giving. The CAP Money Course is a free course for anyone wanting to manage the whole of their finances better and so better obey the Bible's teaching on giving. John Wesley said, "Earn all you can, Save all you can and Give all you can." The details of the Course at JPC are in your service sheet. You see the vision for growth God has given us as a church - 5000 at JPC across a number of sites and 5000 in church plants over the next generation - will be costly both financially and in terms of time but as we’ll see from v17-20 there are many blessings too. So will we be like the Philippians – generous and willing partners in the gospel - or like the other churches who didn't partner financially in Paul’s needs and ministry? Look at v15:
... when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. (v15)
You see we live in urgent times. But the gospel brings hope and change and we need to be working not just for this generation but for future generations too.
But before we look at the blessings of gospel partnership we need to understand the importance of Christian contentment, otherwise we’ll always be struggling to be growing in our generosity and in our willingness to partner financially in gospel ministry. So secondly
2) THE IMPORTANCE OF CHRISTIAN CONTENTMENT
The world says that one of the secrets of being content lies in having more things; that things make you happy and content. The adverts tell us that we need to go to the new Eldon Square or even online for some ‘retail therapy’. But that secret is ultimately a lie. You can collect all the things you have ever wanted and still feel desperately empty. The Apostle Paul learned that the secret of being content was not things but rather a relationship with Jesus Christ. V11&12:
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. (v11-12)
What's the secret he's learned? What is the secret of being content we are to learn? That (v13):
“I can do all things through him [through Christ] who strengthens me.” (v13)
He can, in other words, meet all circumstances with contentment through Christ. Who needs to hear and learn that? You’re a Christian but life is not easy. Well you can do everything through Christ who gives you strength. In fact that is what God wants you to learn through the situation you are facing. Perhaps you’re not yet a believer. You know you don’t have true contentment. Well why not trust Jesus Christ this morning and begin to learn the secret of being content in him in any and every situation.
You see another myth that the world puts out is that all you need is within yourself. But Paul is clear. We're not self-sufficient but Christ sufficient. No matter what challenges lie ahead, Jesus Christ is big enough to meet them. To be content in need or in plenty, in whatever situation we face is not the product of human skill. The secret isn’t us, it's Jesus in us! The strength that Christ gives is sufficient for anything we face in life. 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
In Christ Paul also had discipline of self to be content with what he had and a deep trust in God to provide what he really needed. Note that Paul says he'd learned to be content. Christian contentment is not something we have overnight. He'd learned the secret test by test. Contentment does not come easily. It takes discipline. For example, we must decide not to covet - like Paul in v 11&17 who didn't covet the Philippians' gifts. Covetousness had been a problem for him but in Christ his heart was weaned away from 'things' and became wholly God's. In fact the opposite of contentment is covetousness. But the person who has Christ has everything.
Paul had also learned to be content because he'd learned to trust. He was contented because God is trustworthy. "I can do all things through him who strengthens me". In Christ we too can meet all circumstances with contentment.
And my God [says Paul] will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (v19)
He will meet our need to the full. And his supply will not be limited to the size of our need but according to his riches in Christ. Indeed one of the factors which makes for Christian contentment is the generosity of others as the Lord uses the resources of one to meet the needs of another. But Christian contentment also leads to generous sharing, which brings me to my final point:
3) THE BLESSINGS OF GOSPEL PARTNERSHIP
You may never have thought about it in this way before but partnership in the gospel brings blessing to others, to the givers and it blesses God.
First these verses clearly tell us that the Lord uses generous Christians to help to meet the needs of others and of his work. Christian sharing in gospel ministry is a blessing to others. Paul writes (v10):
I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. (v10)
Secondly Christian sharing in gospel ministry also brings blessing to those who share. Now of course we can’t earn our salvation. That comes only through faith in Jesus Christ. Everything received is a gift of God’s grace. But consistent, generous and sacrificial giving lays up treasure in heaven. Generous giving is not all about meeting the needs of others and of JPC but also about the spiritual growth of the givers and the spiritual interest that will be credited to their account. Look at what Paul writes in v17:
Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. (v17)
You see Paul was chiefly concerned with how their gift would affect them spiritually. He sees their gift as an investment that would pay them rich spiritual dividends. It’s a deposit in the bank of heaven that will multiply at compound interest to their advantage. The Lord keeps the books and will never fail to pay one spiritual dividend unlike the fluctuating stock market. The generosity of the Philippians was an indicator of their spiritual health. So how is our spiritual health? Are you laying up treasure in heaven or on earth?
Thirdly generous Christian sharing is a gift to God as well. It blesses God. Look at v18. Paul abandons the language of accounting and takes up the language of worship. The Philippians gifts are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. In the Bible the fragrant offering or burnt offering expresses obedient consecration to God, and God delights in his people dedicated to himself. So Paul teaches here that when Christians take note of Christian needs and generously sacrifice to meet them, it is, for God, the burnt offering all over again, and he delights to accept it.
And finally, v19, what the Philippians have given to God will be amply repaid by him from the limitless resource of his riches in Christ Jesus.
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (v19)
Paul says you met my need and God is going to meet your needs. You met the one need that I have but God will meet all your needs according to his riches in Christ. Through the Philippians Paul's need had been met by God. And now Paul says that God will meet all their needs though not their ‘greeds’. And look very carefully - God will meet them according to, or as befits his glorious riches in Christ Jesus, not merely out of his riches. Do you see the difference? A millionaire may donate £1000 to charity out of his riches, but compared to his total wealth it is small. God's giving is in proportion to his infinite resources, it is according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. We needn't be in any way afraid of giving generously and proportionately to God’s work here at JPC and to world mission, whatever our income. Partnership in the gospel does bring blessing. We can trust God. We can’t out give God. God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Glory be to our God and Father forever and ever. Amen.