This morning as we speak the Caribbean territories and the ‘pan-handle’ state is caught in the grip of a hurricane, which, if predictions are correct, will result in dire need. Back here, in case you are not aware, on the western seaboard of the Atlantic, many public figures have criticized the lethargic, sluggish, response of the UK government – while the French and Dutch had troops positioned in advance to deal with the looming crisis, the ministers in Whitehall were sitting on their hands (at least that is the charge), while their overseas territories of Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands, were left in the eye of the storm, for Irma to do its worst.
Paul writes to the Philippians from prison, with the potential of facing death row, to issue a promise that God would supply all their need. Just like any church or group of Christians, the needs of these believers were great. In addition to the normal round of problems that all of God’s children face, Paul catalogued a long list of urgent needs for both Himself and Christ’s flock, for which He was responsible.
Philippian & Pauline Needs
The recipients of the letter of the apostle clearly were in need of much prayer for discerning love, blameless conduct, and righteous fruit 1.9-10; rival teachers were taking advantage of their pastor, while he was in prison – this no doubt would unsettle and cause difficulties for his apostolic adherents, 1.15; they faced terrorism & disunity in their struggle for the Gospel, 1.27-28; inside the church they were discouraged by rivalry, selfishness, pride, joylessness and grumbling, 2.1-4 & 2.14; it seems that even exemplary Epaphroditus was sometimes worried sick, 2.16; Paul was skint & sorrowful, 2.27; Jews, like dogs, were barking lies & hunting in packs – they seized upon the slightest worldly opportunity to mutilate some flesh, 3.2; the apostle was still imperfect & struggling to press on upward, 3.3.12-15; believers needed to stand still for the Lord, and learn to hold their ground, 3.16, imitate Paul 3.17, face-off intimidation 3.18 and stand firm in their faith, 4.1. Where would they find joy, 4.4, of the sort that Paul recommends? How would they pursue excellence, 4.8, when wolves were howling hungrily? Who would give them peace, 4.9, in the midst of the storms? Concerns met, contentment found, circumstances varied 4.10-13 – where would they obtain strength to meet their all the pressingly present and foreseen future needs? Paul gives the answer in Philippians 4.19:
“My God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus”
Promise of Provision
The Philippians will lack nothing. Paul is certain that every corporate or individual need they have will be met. “My God” he says “will supply every need of yours.” Their need of provision, progress and perseverance – it will all be supplied powerfully, magnificently, gloriously by the God whom Paul is glad to serve. Why, we might wonder, is the apostle Paul so confident?
Source of Confidence
There are a number of reasons implied in, or inferred from, the text, or stated explicitly in the surrounding verses, which should make us see that the confidence of Paul was entirely, securely and abundantly not misplaced but well-founded.
1. The Promises of God.
The LORD has not promised to meet the greeds of believers, but to more than abundantly supply all needs of His people, both in this life, and in the next world. There are many promises in the bible that state this to be so. This world ‘supply’ can either mean ‘fill up’ or ‘fulfil’. Is there a Word from the Lord? He can never lie but will make the promise good (in due season when we ask aright). Is there a lack in us? God is not a cup-half-empty deity, but whatever is our deficiency or defect, God will fill up our cup until it is running over. The main part of our problem is that our flesh is full of natural carnal self-reliance and distrust in the Word of God. We need to believe the promises of supply, stated in His book, and pray ‘Lord I believe! Help my unbelief.’
2. The Power of God.
Omnipotence is an attribute of God. He has all authority in heaven and on earth. There is nothing too hard for our God. All things are possible for him who believers. We need to repent of the way our sinful doubts maim the character and attributes of God, and make Him out to be far less great and glorious than He actually is.
3. The Goodness of God.
Satan implanted this thought in the mind of Adam and Eve – that though God had blest them greatly, He had His own selfish interests in mind, and was not to be trusted in what He said. The flesh naturally believes the lie that says that if God is great, He is not nearly as good as the Bible likes to make out. What we need to realize is that God is not only the fountain of infinite goodness but also most wise, knowing, caring, and loving. He will not give us what is less than the best, and may withhold what is good in order to do it. He knows exactly what we need before we ask, and has exactly the right remedy when we are ailing in any respect. He cares more than any anxious Father or worried mother who sends the child off to College or University over land or sea – when they are distressed, His heart goes out in love; where parents are powerless to be beside them in a crisis, He is near by His Word, through His Spirit, to bring cheer, comfort and help in every circumstance. Parents are unable to protect, shelter, control – our Great Good God, sends messengers like winds, moves people to befriend, swings doors of prisons open, when and where we need His help. How we need forgiveness, when we have doubted that our lives or times are beyond His loving reach or embrace.
4. The Christ of God.
The help that Paul envisages is not minuscule or straightened. “According to His riches of glory in Christ Jesus.” We must remember chapter 2.5-11 that Paul positions Christ in His thinking, on the throne of the Cosmos – this is His resultant exaltation following His servanthood of crucified-flesh humiliation – Jesus Christ is LORD, all knees will bow to Him! According to God’s eternal purpose, in the Covenant of Redemption, the incarnate Son of God, the Mediator of the Elect, was appointed by the Father, to complete and finish His Gospel Mission Work. When this would be completed, He was promised vast reward. The throne of Heaven would be His as the exalted Mediatorial King. All power and authority of the cosmos would now belong to Him, not only as Eternal Son, but now as Glorified God-Man. The right to pour out the Spirit would be granted by the Father. He would obtain the right to apply salvation, to all the elect – on this one ground, the infinite merit of His atoning death. He has accomplished and completed every perfect detail of this work! This Christ is now full of all the treasures of God’s grace to be poured out on His church – Paul knows that nothing at all is lacking in Christ to meet all Philippian need. Are you in need brother or sister – Christ is God’s treasure store, the fountain of all grace, for all ministerial lacks and all character defects!
5. The Covenant of God.
Paul calls Yahweh ‘My God!’ The God of Paul is the God of the Jews. The God of Paul is the same as Him of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The God of Paul is both Creator and Redeemer, in whom will live and move and have our being: in Him we also have, through the death of His Son, redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. Had this God not promised, at the heart of the Covenant, to be a God to His people, and that they would be the People of God? That is what we are told of Abraham and his seed in Genesis Chapter 17.1-2 & 5-8; of prototypical Israel in Exodus Chapter 6.6-8; and of the anti-typical New Covenant Israel in Jeremiah 31.31-34. What was His purpose? Redemption from their sins, inheritance of a land and to establish His powerful, saving, sanctifying presence among them. Paul is sure, Plan A had not changed, and with no Plan B on offer, God would continue to supply all their need. Why, if God, has given us His Son, would he not along with Him freely give us all things, Romans 8.32, and lavish that grace upon us with abundant affectionate abandon? These are the graces for which He suffered so much, and endured His bloody curse! If God is for us, then, who can be against us – at this point you might want to start singing Psalm 46 (or at least humming it!)
6. The Generosity of Philippi.
No church, in spite of a stormy entrance, where persecution followed preaching – followed by strips, stocks and an overnight prison sentence, rudely interrupted by an earthquake – had excelled in their practical, prayerful, financial support of the apostle like Philippi. Even when Paul was being run out of Thessalonica they had filled His pocket with gold and clothed his back with wool. Epaphroditus was sent to convey their monetary gift. This is the principle stated in 2 Corinthians 9: that when they sow to God, in supporting Gospel work, they were sure to reap from God, a harvest of spiritual blessing. Jesus mentioned this principle – even a cup of water given to Christ’s servants, in His Name, was sure to meet reward. Paul calls Yahweh, ‘My God’ because he knows his God has seen the support given by this church to His work – it is this that floods his soul with confidence that great return benefit awaits. Paul, then, is sure that all their prayer, care, money, assistance will find reward; he is categorically certain that the wounds the gaoler bathed, that welcome Lydia gave, as well as all other help received, in their struggles for the truth (smiles, clothing, medicine, food, cards, letters, gifts), would meet with spiritual remuneration and supply of all their need). This is not a prayer or plea or possibility for Paul – this promise is a pledge of which the apostle is very sure. Calvin explains the situation well:
“He expressly makes mention of God as his, because he owns and acknowledges as done to Himself whatever kindness is shewn to his servants. They had therefore been truly sowing in the Lord’s field, from which a sure and abundant harvest might be expected. Nor does he promise them merely a reward in the future life, but even in respect of necessities of the present life. ‘Do not think that you have impoverished yourselves; God whom I serve will abundantly furnish you with everything necessary for you.’
If this is how you and your congregations have been reacting to the Gospel of God, and the ministers of Christ, Paul is doubly sure, you will amply be repaid. What God loves to see is a life so learned in grace, that it responds by cheerful giving, to support His gracious cause.
The UK may neglect its overseas territories – I hope the criticisms in the end will prove unfounded – and the Federal US agencies may more than meet the needs of the citizens of Florida that suffer from Hurricane Irma or Jose – or they may not. One thing, however, of which we can be certain, is that those who respond with a free and willing heart to the Gospel, will not lack any need, but will find all support in Christ.