Philippians 4:18-20, “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. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
I’ve lived in plenty, and I’ve lived with what I felt was less than plenty. I’m not sure I’ve been fully content in either situation. The latter, however, has taught me gratitude.
When we first emigrated from Venezuela, a country in deep economic crisis for the last decade, I almost shed happy tears when I perused the dairy section of my local grocery store here in Canada. I had not seen that kind of abundance since living in the US years earlier.
When we think well-supplied, we tend to have a specific idea of what that looks like. The image of a typical supermarket in the US comes to mind with long and wide aisles showing wall-sized stacks of whatever products are needed to feed and keep a household in North American culture. Even the smaller, urban version here in Montreal offers a plethora of choices. I think of the wide range of milk options, ranging from cow’s milk with various percentages of fat, lactose-free, coconut, soy, almond, or cashew milk.
Paul commends the Philippian church for keeping him well-supplied. As he thanks them for their gifts, he says God is pleased by their offering. The kindness shown to him is kindness received by God. There is divine involvement in the choice to act to send him resources. God is part of the action. Paul considers himself “well supplied” (v.18), and he encourages them, affirming that “..God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
While the letter does not give a detailed account of the gifts he received, we can assume these gifts covered particular needs for a certain amount of time. In other words, the supply was neither boundless nor endless. The time would come when Paul would need again to be supplied with resources to sustain him and his ministry.
We know from the Scriptures that Paul faced many hardships. Yet, the fact that more than two thousand years later, we continue to read and study his letters is a testament to how God supplied for his needs and enabled the seeds of his ministry to grow.
As a child of divorce from an early age, I longed for the stability of a mother and father under one roof. In its place, I had a room in my grandparents’ home, and weekends and vacations were spread between either my mom or my father.
I needed a family. I needed parents. Those needs were supplied in a different way than most of my peers. However, I did have the stability of parental figures who loved me. This need was supplied through willing grandparents, who generously chose to step in and invest their afternoon years in a small girl rather than rest and retirement.
I think the key to Paul’s words is the closing of the sentence. He assures his readers that God will supply all their needs – how? “…according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” There is a wisdom, a mystery, here that we can’t comprehend. Yet it is a promise we can hold on to. Supply for our needs will come, and not necessarily according to our own understanding, agenda, or timetable. But God is able to meet our needs and always will. And when He does, God provides according to an abundance of knowledge and wealth worthy of the King of the Kings.
Though I longed for something that never was, God saw it fit to meet my need another way.
Their gift made all the difference in my life. My grandmother was the first person to talk to me about Jesus. Even though I would profess faith many years later in my adulthood, I never forgot where I first heard about a personal God. It was under my own imperfect roof. Although I will never know this side of heaven what it’s like to have a “normal” family history, the imperfect one God provided gave me something He knew I would need more.
Many years after my grandmother talked to me about Jesus, it was the body of Christ through mentors, friends, and friends’ parents, who provided guidance and much needed spiritual parenting when I gave my life to Jesus at the age of 19. Our affictions can make the weight of scarcity feel heavy and final. We may see no way to meet our deepest needs left by suffering. But God’s economy operates in such a way, that by His grace, suffering becomes the gateway through which His supply is made manifest.