Theme: Joy in Giving (Sunday 18th October, 2020)
Series: Philippians Joy
Bible Reading: Philippians 4:4-20
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
It was the summer of 87. It was a great holiday. My brother Richard, myself and our mutual friend Steven went for a weeklong holiday down to Philip Island. It was a memorable week for many reasons. It was on that trip that I got stuck in a fully enclosed toilet cubicle. Now that is a great story, but its not relevant to the topic.
Here we were, 3 young guys – late teens, early 20’s – on a trip to Philip Island. Do you know what Philip Island is famous for? Penguins, no … it is famous for this one bakery. Has anyone been to this bakery. It is on the corner in the main street. They make some absolutely beautiful stuff.
During our week at Philip Island, we went into town each day – mainly because three young blokes are not capable of planning food more than one day ahead. On the first day, I decided to be nice and snuck into the bakery and bought something nice for the three of us to eat. It wasn’t hard to find something nice! Anyway, when we got home I pulled out my generous gift and waited for the others to be impressed. But to my surprise, my brother Richard had the same idea, he also had bought some yummy treats to share.
The next day our friend Steven upped the ante and bought a chocolate cake. And so not to be outdone, the following day I bought a selection of apple turnovers and other delights.
This went on for the whole week. We are all trying to out do the others with our generosity. We would try to sneak off at different times of the day to surprise each other with more bakery treats. The bakery must have made heaps of money from us that week.
We were all trying to outdo each other, but we couldn’t. Nobody won, except maybe for the bakery. But the interesting thing was that the generous spirit that became an integral part of our holidays. We were trying to beat each other to do the washing up first, or get up early and make breakfast. The generosity was infectious and make for a wonderful holiday – except for being stuck in that fully enclosed toilet cubicle, but that is a story for another time.
I have often thought about that holiday. You see, it highlights one of the truths that I have learnt about God – as much as I try, I cannot out give God. It is almost like, we give because God first gave to us. But even as we give, God continues to give to us. We cannot out give God.
But it also highlights the point which our bible reading was making today … that there is joy to be found in giving.
I explained in the first week that the church in Philippi was known for their generosity. When Paul was doing his missionary work, the church in Philippi was one of the main groups of people who were financially supporting him. It is interesting to note that they were not particularly rich, but rather they gave sacrificially. And Paul is thankful for it.
You see, at the time of writing Philippians Paul is under house arrest in Rome and has no opportunity to earn any money … so when Epaphroditus (epa-fro-ditus) came from Philippi with gifts for Paul … he was rejoicing. Listen in verse 10. “I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me.”
If you keep reading you will see that Paul gets himself a little caught here between two points that he is trying to make. On one hand he doesn’t want to try and guilt the church in Philippians into supporting him financially by telling them how much he needs it. Paul makes comments like: Whether I am hungry or well feed, have plenty or in want, I am content (v12). I can do everything through Jesus who gives me strength (v13).
But on the other hand Paul wants to acknowledge the reality that he is only able to survive and do the ministry he is doing through their support. V14 – “It is good that you share with me” and in verse 15 he basically says he would not have been able to minister to the Thessalonians without the financial backing of the Philippian church.
Can you see his struggle to hold the two points together. Yes God will provide all his needs, but at that point God was providing his needs through the church at Philippi.
We are not too much different today. As a church we don’t like to talk too much about money. Some people get uncomfortable by it. We don’t want the reputation of being a church that is always asking for more cash. God will provide our needs, we say.
But the reality is that we can only do ministry because of the money you put in the plate on a Sunday. It is only through your generosity in your giving that I am able to be set apart to work for Jesus in this church and community. I want to acknowledge that and say that I am very thankful for it. I just hope that I can be faithful to the money invested in me.
So, just like Paul we are torn between these two points. We don’t want to highlight money issues in case it looks like we are using guilt tactics to make people give more … yet we need to be honest when we have money issues and say, just like Paul did, we can only do ministry because of your generosity.
The bible reading touches on this point, but financial giving is not actually the focus of the Philippians chapter 4. The passage is actually about Christian living. Paul encourages us to give because it is part of what it means to be a Christians … and the amazing part about God is that we can’t outgive God.
Remember the story I shared at the beginning of the sermon … we might try to be really, really generous … but God seems to always give us more back. I’m not talking prosperity doctrine here. I talking about the reality that God loves to give to us and we can’t outgive God. Look at the first part of the passage and see all the wonderful things that God gives to us.
Verse 5 – give a gift of gentleness to the people around you and God will be near to you.
Verse 6,7 – If you are anxious then pray, bring your request to God with a spirit of thanksgiving and then God will give you his peace which passes all understanding AND he will guard your hearts and minds.
Verse 8,9 – “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things … put them into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
Verse 10-19 Give to the ministry of Jesus and “my God will provide all your needs, according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus”
Can you see – we can’t out give God. God gives generously to us, so if we want to be like God, we too are called to give, actually we are called to give generously because God first gave to us. And I am talking about more than just money. We are called to give our time, our money, our commitment, our forgiveness and our love to God and to others.
And the best thing that God gives to us when we give is .. a sense of joy. There is joy in giving. We feel joy when we see that our giving makes a difference, when people’s lives are changed by our giving. When we share in supporting people who are going through difficult times, there is joy in seeing the difference our prayer, our care, our support makes.
And when we give we also stir within people around you a sense of generosity. Remember my bakery story? The more you give, the more you encourage others around you to give.
As Paul affirms, our giving … whether that is financial, or giving of our time, our prayers, our care … Paul affirms that when we give it is like a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.
May God will meet all our needs according to the riches of God’s glory in Christ Jesus so that we can in turn, share those blessings with others.