Philippians chapter 4 and verses 10-20 is our passage tonight as we come to the last in our short series on "GOD'S PROVISION" and our theme is MEETING NEEDS. In the world the 1990's were meant to be about caring and sharing. About meeting the needs of others. As we come to the end of that decade have they been? Or is greed still good? Perhaps the corruptible on the IOC can tell us! This month here in the UK charitable donations through the National Lottery reached £1billion. Tesco is giving computers for schools. The Times is giving books for schools. Large institutions and corporations are getting into giving perhaps more than people though their motive is usually PR and customer loyalty. And altruism is not the primary motive of those buying lottery tickets every week. One journalist has written:
"We are living the myth and not the reality. I am more caring and sharing because the Nineties have taught me to be. I don't have to prove it. Couple all this with Nineties overload, too much stress, not enough time, concerns for the future and its easy to see that caring and sharing on a societal level has been converted to concern for yourself above the needs of others".
A concern for self which can mean being dominated by financial investments, stock market returns no matter how those companies make their money, with mortgages, student loans and the falling interest rates, with PEP's and the change to ISA's in April, with pensions and life insurance buying clothes and CD's or with the day to day concern of making ends meet and paying the rent. That's not to say that Christians should not be concerned with money matters. We are to be wise stewards of what God has given us. And surely it is not wrong for some Christians to create wealth and jobs in a Christian way and be able to give large amounts to further gospel ministry. But what a contrast to the concerns, selfishness, greed, materialism and money worries of the world is this passage from Philippians 4 as it speaks of Paul's contentment in Christ, his trust in his God to meet needs and the joyful generous giving of the materially poor church at Philippi, a church which was caring and sharing and did help to meet the needs of Paul and the church in Jerusalem even if they did struggle to look to the interests of each other (see ch.2). A church who were investing in heaven, whose investments would pay them rich spiritual rewards. So what does this passage say about meeting needs? How are we to be caring and sharing as Christians? How are we to give and receive? How are we to view our needs? What part are we to play in helping to meet the needs of others, of the church and of gospel ministry? And how does God meet all our needs? So to our first heading: CHRISTIAN CONTENTMENT How are we to view our needs and wants, the things the world tells us we should have, the money that we have or are given and our circumstances? Are we content? Paul was a man of unshakeable contentment in Christ. His circumstances might vary and his earthly future might be uncertain as he writes from prison but, v.11, he has learned to be content whatever the circumstances. And v.12 he knows what it is to be in need and what it is to have plenty. He has learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. For, v.13, he can do everything through Christ who gives him strength. He can, in other words, meet all circumstances with contentment through Christ. Whatever amount the Philippian church sent him contents him. In v.18 he says he's received full payment and even more, he is amply supplied now that he's received their gifts. In v.11 in thanking the Philippians he's not wanting to hint that he's asking for more. And in v.17 he even says that he wasn't seeking a gift. Not that he didn't want it or that he was ungrateful but that he was just content to accept whatever circumstances the Lord had appointed for him. He was content in Christ. Union with the living Christ is the secret of being content and the source of abiding strength. In Christ he also had discipline of self to be content with what he had and a deep trust in God to provide what he did really need. He had learned to be content - Christian contentment is not something we have overnight - he had learned the secret test by test, circumstance by circumstance. It is the mark of a mature Christian who wants to grow in Christ, who had nowhere to lay his head. Contentment does not come easily. It takes discipline - we must decide not to covet - like Paul in vv. 11 and 17 who didn't covet the Philippians' gifts. Covetousness had been a problem for Paul but in Christ his heart, weaned away from 'things' became wholly and solely God's. One myth of this world is that 'things' can bring contentment and happiness. Often they just bring a desire for more and for the person going comfort shopping they don't satisfy. In fact the opposite of contentment is covetousness. It's not things that bring contentment but rather a relationship with Jesus Christ - a growing relationship - being in Christ. The person who possesses Christ possesses all. Paul had also learned to be content because he had learned to trust. He was contented because God was trustworthy. "I can do all things in him who strengthens me". No circumstance would be too much for Paul's God. In Christ we too can meet all circumstances with contentment. "My God", says Paul, "will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus". 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. Which brings us to our second heading: CHRISTIAN GENEROSITY 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 can also lead to generosity. Paul makes 4 points which are for our learning and applying. First, this passage clearly tells us that the Lord uses generous Christians to help meet the needs of others and of his work. Here in these verses we see that the Lord uses the Philippians to help to meet Paul's need and therefore also the ministry of the gospel. Look at v.10. Paul rejoices greatly in the Lord for the concern shown to him by the Philippians - for the gifts they had sent him with Epaphroditus (v.18). For, as the first chapter of James says, 'every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above' (Jas 1:17 RSV). How are Christians to give and receive? We are to give generously and joyfully to God's work here and overseas and receive gratefully, giving thanks to the Lord for his provision. The Lord uses us to meet the needs of his church here and those who have gone out from here to serve God elsewhere. Jesmond Parish Church has no outside financial help and no monetary reserves. The Lord uses generous Christians to help meet the needs of his church. Are we generous? Are you willing to be used by the Lord to meet needs? God has given us so much - chiefly his indescribable gift - his Son Jesus Christ. How can we not be generous? And not just in terms of money but also with time and gifts. At the moment there are needs for helpers in Cubs and Beavers on an early Friday evening. Over 40 boys meet in those groups. Some from non Christian families. Are we willing to help to meet those needs? Secondly this passage tells us that we are to keep on giving generously. The late Sir John Laing who ran the well known Laing construction company was throughout his life a careful and generous steward of the resources God gave to him. So much so that when he died the size of his estate was just £371. After his death it was said of him that the man who had handled millions had given them all away. The Philippians generosity to Paul was ongoing too. Their gift to Paul was not a one off. Look at verses 10 and 14-16. Paul says that they have kept on being concerned for him, for his needs and for his work, right from their first acquaintance with him preaching the gospel, when they first believed. Only they had shared with Paul in the matter of giving and receiving when he'd set out from Macedonia. And when he was in Thessalonica they sent aid again and again when he was in need. How concerned are we for our home group link missionaries and how ongoing is it? How concerned are those of us in CYFA for the girl we support through TEAR FUND? How concerned are we for this church, its growth and its ongoing needs? It is sometimes easier to give generously to a new project or missionary than to keep on giving generously to it or them; or to the everyday ongoing needs of the church. And as part of our ongoing generosity it is important to review what we do give both monetarily and otherwise and ask "can I now give more?" Those of you who are new to JPC will have noticed that we don't pass the collection plate round every Sunday. That's partly because we do want you to give regularly, generously, prayerfully and in a planned ongoing biblical way. Whether you're in CYFA, a student or older. In a larger church everybody is vital. We all have a part to play and a contribution to make. We are all to be concerned for the future ministry of this church. Now the Philippians had been concerned for Paul all the time but, v.10, had had no opportunity to show it for a while. It wasn't always easy for them to keep in touch with Paul when he was in prison or on his travels. Perhaps that is sometimes true of the missionaries we support but maybe it's also true the other way round! Perhaps some of you who are relatively new are still waiting for the collection plate to come round, still waiting for that opportunity to show your concern financially. I know I waited for the plate for at least a term when I came here as a student until I realised at a newcomers evening what the church's policy was! Well don't keep on waiting for that collection plate! And at this giving review here is your opportunity to show your concern. To fill in the response form that comes with the giving literature, to fill in the covenant form if you're a tax payer and to fill in the bankers order form. To fill in similar forms for the other Christian missionaries and work we want to support. If you're a student and have an uncertain income then start small and build up. When the opportunity opened up for the Philippians to send Paul gifts they were swift to grasp it. Will we be? They had a spirit of generosity. Do we? The Philippians shared in Paul's troubles (v.14). His need was not a remote thing to them. They felt it themselves. It touched them and they responded. Their generosity then was a means of Christian fellowship and it was literally beautiful of them, writes Paul, to share in such a way. Our generosity can be a means of Christian fellowship in helping to meet the needs of others both here and overseas and the costs of ministering to people inside and outside the church. Thirdly this consistently 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 v.17:
Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account.
Paul needed the help which the Philippians had sent but because of his sensitivity in receiving monetary help from the churches he'd planted and his contentment in any situation he was more concerned with how their gift would affect them spiritually. Using the language of accounting Paul sees their gift as an investment that would pay them rich spiritual dividends. One commentator concludes that "Paul seems to suggest here that this is a proper motive for Christians to cultivate: they should seek out opportunities to expend their generosity upon the needy, because by selling what they have and giving alms they would make for themselves 'purses that do not grow olda treasure in the heavens that does not fail'. (Lk 12:33) For God would not be unrighteous and forget their work and the love which they showed him when they ministered to the saints (Motyer)." It is 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. A church which fails to share materially with others is spiritually poor. As in 2 Cor 9:6 Paul sees the systematic faithful giving of the Philippians as an indicator of their spiritual health. Are we spiritually healthy? Fourthly generous Christian giving is a gift to God as well. It is a work acceptable to God: a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. In v.18 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, v.19, what the Philippians have given to God will be amply repaid by him from the limitless resource of his riches in Christ Jesus. Look at v.19:
And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
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 he will meet their needs though not their greeds. And look very carefully - he will meet them according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus not out of his riches. A millionaire may donate £1000 to charity out of his riches, but compared to his total wealth it is small. But if he gave according to his riches it would be larger. God's giving is in proportion to his infinite resources, according to his glorious riches in Christ. Glory be to God the Father for ever and ever.