Recently, I began to visit a neighborhood church during the week. The most noticeable characteristic of these followers of Christ is the way they love. A month later, I am still in awe of the way they love and welcome anyone into their flock. They seem to show compassion well, to their close-knit community. To be honest, this is what keeps me going back. While I love to pursue any opportunity to read and study the Word of God, especially with other believers, their sweet compassion, and heartfelt love is what keeps me going back. I need to be loved like this, even if I am not ready to reveal the disclosure of burdens I have been assigned to carry.
Paul knew the value of contentment in the midst of suffering. If others weren’t available to be present in his sufferings, it was of no concern to him. Not only was Paul content, he was also profoundly loved by the Philippians. No risk was too great to make themselves available to Paul, in the midst of his struggles and ministry.
Living the Gospel
In the book of Philippians, we are reminded of our need to live out the Gospel. As Gospel-Receivers, God has poured out His extravagant love to us. The Good News has been poured into our laps until it overflows and reaches those nearest to us. God is allowing us to not only experience His gospel for ourselves but allows its effect to touch every aspect of our lives. This is why God used Paul to write this important statement in Philippians 1:27, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,”
As we live and love, we are given numerous opportunities to conduct ourselves as citizens of Heaven and receivers of His great gospel. The Philippians were taught by Paul, through this special book, to continue living out the gospel. His letter was composed, through the Holy Spirit on the basis of love. The goal was not to put down the church, but to spur it on with his encouragement. The church was doing well. He invites them to continue on, as they seek Christ in their daily lives. They were making strides, and allowing God to use them to make an impact on others. The way they give is one example of this.
The Testimony of Their Love
Today’s text is Philippians 4:14-23. This passage of Scripture serves as a testimony of the way the Philippians loved. Wholeheartedly, they have joined Paul in his sufferings and provided for his needs – even when no other was around or able to do so. They put their love on display. They made sure Paul knew he wasn’t alone, even though Paul was content to carry these burdens without other believers to help carry the weight of his suffering. Yet, God provided another way to prove His love – through the Philippians and their love. I am most appreciative of learning that the local church body lifted up offerings to help Paul in his struggle. The church didn’t love solely by their words, but with their actions. They willfully gave, as they loved with all they had to offer.
Phil. 4:14, “Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.”
While struggling is a necessary part of life, often it leads others to step aside for a time. This is inevitable. Our relationships, like life, face different seasons; some are more strenuous than others. While suffering is uncomfortable, it serves its purpose. Often, we don’t see the purpose. Even though Paul was suffering, the Philippians continued on in their friendship with Paul. They continued to stay available to Paul and allow him to be served. While he served as an encouragement to them many times, they were given opportunities to serve Paul. They were able to bless Paul, as he blessed them. This is often the way it works. When we give, God will provide opportunities for others to give back to us. We often reap what we sow, which is why we are reminded to “not become tired of doing good.” Paul exhorts us in Galatians 6:10, to make sure we do good to the family of believers. As the family of God, we are required to take care of one another. God’s Word goes so far to say that, carrying each others’ burdens fulfills the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2) – making it amply important to find a way and willingly be there for other believers when God is calling us to act.
Gal. 6:9-10, “9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
For me, the Philippians are showing themselves as an example in this. They are pouring out their lives to be there for Paul, and this is a beautiful picture of the gospel. God has poured out His life for us, and we are invited to join Him in receiving such love and learning to have affection for others in a similar way.
The Truth of Love
Each of us are wired, with the need to be loved. We need to know the love God has for us. We also desire to see it manifested by the love others show us. In our darkest hour, we need to know we are loved and cared for. While they may not walked down the same road as Paul, they proved that they were available to him. However they could be, they set out to display the affection they have for Paul and his missionary work.
As it is today, their ministry of giving took effort. Take a moment to read verse 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.”
Their gifts arrived by Epaphroditus, a co-worker in the Lord. All of the gifts made it safely to Paul, taking care of all his needs. They have shown themselves to go above and beyond the course that others would walk. They chose to love deeply, even if it was risky and cost them their comfort zone. As Paul is filled with thanksgiving, as a result of their offering, he is able to remind them that this is a godly sacrifice. They are not solely giving to Paul, rather they are giving to God Himself.
The Eternal Value of Giving
Paul doesn’t only thank them for their giving. He does something else, choosing to remind them of the deposit they have made into their heavenly account. God promises that nothing we do will go unnoticed. When we step outside of our comfort zone and cheerfully give, God will honor the gift in ways we cannot imagine.
The Way We Love
As I read this passage of Scripture, I am reminded of the way we can love. The Philippians knew how to love, too. We have learned many heartfelt lessons, as we have pursued this blessed opportunity to study this precious book about God’s redemptive work, Paul – God’s missionary, and the people of Philippi who show themselves to be God’s people.
God’s love is tangible in the pages of Philippians. These were people who lived the Gospel not only with their words but in their actions and the way they loved too. The Philippians poured out their love for Paul. Despite his affliction, his friends stayed as near to him as possible. They continued to be prayerful and willing to give whatever they had to offer him.