10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 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. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
In Philippians 4 Paul gives his final exhortations and encouragements to the Philippian church. At its core his letter has been a reminder for them to rejoice in the Lord in the midst of suffering and temptation. The Philippian church was well known for their spiritual success, which makes sense as to why Paul related their situations so often to his own. At the heart of the letter was a call for joy, humility, and commitment to the gospel. He constantly exhorts them to follow in his footsteps which was truly a call to follow Christ.
In the fourth segment of his letter Paul again uses himself as an example of what he is calling the Philippians to. He acknowledges that they have already showed spiritual maturity by acting like Timothy and others he mentioned in previous chapters in caring for other believers. They have been faithful in providing for Paul’s needs. But while he rejoices in God’s provision for him by way of the church, he notes that he was never truly in need. Paul has learned how to be content in whatever situation. He has learned the secret of being needy, that he can do all things through the strength of Jesus Christ.
He didn’t note this in his letter in order to reject needing support from other Christians, but to highlight the fact that the true source for all of our needs is Jesus. This also was not a statement that God gives provision and strength for our own agendas and plans. The central mission of the church is the sharing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Paul wants to stress that the core of who they are and all of their actions are motivated and powered by that mission. It is not simply for Paul’s sake that they give provisions, it is for the sake of the gospel. And it is not by their own will to provide but God has provided for Paul through them for his own will and purposes.
17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. 18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Their gifts and supplication is part of their worship and offering to God. Paul not only rejoices because he has received something for them, but because their self-less giving is a sign of their spiritual maturity. Paul assures that God will provide for them just as he has provided for Paul- not by worldly riches but by his riches in glory in Jesus Christ.
How can we have the same faith for God’s provision?
Paul claims that he has learned the secret to contentment. Throughout his letter to the Philippians he stresses a lifestyle of self-abandonment and reliance on Jesus Christ. It has been a message of rejoicing amidst certain suffering, denying ourselves for the sake of others, and placing our identity, purpose, and hope in Jesus Christ. Paul used himself over and over again as an example of these things but only because he was following in the steps of Jesus. And just like Jesus he didn’t look to any other source for physical provision than God. He knew that the secret to being content in this life was knowing that, spiritually, we have been well provided for. When we focus our lives on the eternal things, God’s purposes and plans for the world and that the war over sin and death has been won through Jesus, we can have full confidence that he provides for everything that we need. In any and every circumstances we can have faith because the God of peace is with us. He has not forsaken us and we have all we need in Him.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.