I'm taking up this almost final study in Philippians under the title 'The Conditions and Confidence of God's Provision For Us' as believers. Now I would guess that there's hardly a Christian here this morning, or indeed anywhere in the whole of the world, who is not in some kind of need - whatever that particular need might be. It may be material need, it may be a mental need or spiritual need, but it's a need of some kind. Praise God, as believers, New Testament Christians, the need that there has been to meet our sinfulness and our guilt before God has been utterly completed and finished and finalised, final redemption has been met for us in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ - and we praise God and worship Him for that. We have already been doing that today around the Lord's Table, the fact that the exceeding greatness of His grace has met our need in our awful depravity and sinfulness, in the person and redemption of the Lord Jesus Christ - but yet, after we are saved and are converted and become Christians, our need doesn't finish there. We don't just have everything on a plate while we wait in the Christian life, but we're still subject to trials, to testings, temptations, and we often still need guidance, we need to hear the voice of God day by day in our lives. At times when we face challenges and difficulties, we need fresh courage from the hand and strength of God.
Regardless of whatever our need may be, Paul tells us in this text which is so famous and so often is framed on our walls - and I have a painting in the house with this on it - but how often is it really entered into by our hearts: that our God, yes He has conditions to have our needs supplied, but if those conditions are met, that we can have the confidence that whatever our particular need is, God can and will meet that need. Maybe it's a physical need that you have here today, or a social, relational need, or an intellectual need in your mind, or spiritual need in your heart, soul and spirit - every need, God says to us, and it is God's word, that need will be met.
But it would be remiss of us not to note today, as we look at this so oft-quoted and claimed text, to see that there are certain conditions upon which this promise is fulfilled from God to us. Maybe the reason why you aren't experiencing the joy, the contentment, the peace, the freedom and the liberty and release that you can know from God providing for your every need, it's maybe because you're not fulfilling the conditions of this verse. We learn the conditions by looking at the context, where we find it - you'll remember from our reading, chapter 4, we looked at verses 14, 15 and 16 - he's talking about how the Philippian Christians had met his need financially. In other words, when Paul was in need they filled the gap financially for the apostle. Now Paul is coming to them and saying: 'Because you by your sacrificial giving met my need, I am absolutely confident that God will meet your need'.
I hope you see the connection here: because these Philippians met Paul's need, he could tell them: 'Now God is going to meet your need'. So we're beginning to see the foundation of the conditions of how we can know this confidence and God's provision, even in our own individual lives. Here's the first condition - condition number one: it must be a need that is created by meeting another person's need. God will provide our every need when our need has come because we are sacrificially giving to the Lord. Now it mightn't be directly related, but as long as we are sacrificially giving to the Lord and His work we can be sure that God will meet our need. Listen to what J.H. Pickford said, he puts it in words that I couldn't put it, so I'll just quote it to you - he asks the question: 'What grounds have we to lay hold of this promise to supply our needs, if we have refused to supply the needs of God's work and we have had the means? With what confidence can we pray for the Lord to honour us with substance, if we have not honoured Him with substance that He has already given? This is the ageless principle in the economy of God: what we withhold withers, what we lay aside is spoiled, but what we release returns - if we fill full another's needs, God will fill full our needs'.
Please don't miss this, and we may only get through these conditions this morning and have to look next week at the promise, but it's vitally important if we're to enter into the joy and fullness and the release of this promise that we understand that it's not just willy-nilly given carte blanche to everybody who just prays it in the prayer meeting. There are conditions, and the first condition is this: you should have a need in your life because it has been created by giving to someone else's need, by filling another's need. In other words, their need was not created by extravagance. They weren't spending left, right and centre and that's why they were in need. It wasn't a need created by slothfulness - in other words, they weren't deciding: 'I'll just sit on my backside and not go out to work, and I'll take all the dole money that the society and government will give to me, and God will provide my need'. If you're doing that, God forgive you, that is presumption of the highest order and testing God! It's not a need given by overambition or unwise investments, or foolish and unnecessary spending, but the claim that we have upon this promise - verse 19 - is solely legitimate when it is because we have poured our resources into someone else's need, and only then can we know God's provision to our need - the gap that has been left by our sacrifice for others.
Don't ever take up verses like this and say: 'Well, here we are, this is an easy way to live, isn't it? Let's live like George Mueller', and not see that George Mueller and men of God like George Mueller, and lesser men, have known this promise fulfilled - but they have also known in their life a sacrificial secret giving to others needs, even out of their own poverty. That's what the Philippians did - we remember it in the Acts - God will meet our need when it is a need that is created when we've met the needs of others. This isn't a ticket to carefree ease, it's not some kind of - as some scholars said - an 'open sesame' to slothful plenty. There's a principle here: that God will provide for you when you meet the needs of others.
Now we'll tease that out a little bit more, and there's a second condition that outflows from that, and it's this: God's promises to meet human needs are always for a purpose. God will not supply your need to live it up, to get more comfortable, but God provides your need for a purpose - and God's purpose is never ever to relieve an individual of his responsibility, but rather He gives us a responsibility in stewardship. That's what the whole word and concept means, that when God gives us something, He gives us with the gift a responsibility to discharge that gift as He has ordained. Do you see it? It's not only has the gap and the poverty been made by giving to another, but the implication is that after we have given to the other, and the space and the emptiness is left, that when God provides the need that is there that that need is also provided to give on again and again and again!
Is that not what Paul meant when he said in 2 Corinthians 9:8: 'And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work'? Paul again is commending another church that gave to him, and he's saying: 'God is going to make you abound' - in other words, what you have given to me, He's going to give you much more back, but the reason why He's giving you that back is so that you can abound more and more in good works, doing the same as you've already done. So you see that this promise has the first condition that the need that you have ought to be some need in your life that has been created by meeting another's need, but secondly: when your need is met, it is met for a purpose, that you might abound more and more in doing good to others. It's not: 'I've done my good turn, and God has supplied my need again, and that's it'.
Here's the third condition: it has to be a gift, it has to be a gift. Now let me say that this is very contemporary, and as you know I have not engineered this this morning, because we've been going through this book of Philippians for many weeks now, and we're coming up very soon to a building project that, God willing, will be realised in the weeks that lie ahead. We will be looking to God through His people to supply the financial need necessary. God will supply that need, but I believe that it has to be a gift from God's people. In other words, we'll not be having jumble sales or church raffles, because to buy a ticket in a church raffle or daffodil tea or whatever you want to call it, or to get a bargain at a jumble sale, it's not a gift - it's not a gift! It's a financial transaction for which you have exchanged money for a commodity, whether it be food or clothing or something else. It's not giving sacrificially to God, it's an exchange, it's a business deal if you like. One author, and I think he's right, said: 'This is a depraved and a disgraceful form of church finance which robs the church giving of its significance. It prostitutes stewardship, it degrades ethics, it robs people of the inestimable privilege and God of the perfume of Christian devotion, because it cannot become an odour of sweet smell or a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God'.
Look at verse 18: 'I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God'. Now I do not adhere to the health and wealth doctrine within the church. I believe that God is no man's debtor, and I believe that if you're giving you will abound in your reception to give even more - but let me tell you this: it has to be a gift. One thing that the health and wealth movement does is it robs of the believer the inestimable privilege of giving sacrificially and worshipping the Lord through your financial devotion to God, and it not only robs the Christian of that privilege of stewardship but it robs the God of heaven of the sweet smelling odour and savour of giving to Him financially. Now if you're getting something back in return it can't be seen as a gift, can it? That scholar that I quoted said: 'A return to basic New Testament stewardship would produce one of the greatest revivals of spiritual life ever known in the church', and I believe him!
The first condition: it has to be a need that has been created by meeting another person's need like the Philippians. Secondly: the human need, when it is met, has been met for a purpose - to continue doing good for others. Number three: it has to be a gift - there can't be something in it for you, and you shouldn't just give to the Lord because you know He's going to give you back an awful lot more. Number four, and this is important also: it is personal benevolence. It's personal benevolence, rather than an institutional benevolence. You see, if we were to suddenly set up an Iron Hall Social Office, where you would come and give whatever need that you had, and allow the agencies - whether they be big denominational ones - to distribute your benevolence, you lose the effect of personal contact with the need and the needy one. You're not personally supplying the need, and you're not coming personally in contact with the one who has the need, and there's a tremendous ministry, there's a great thrill not only in the heart of God as a sweet smelling savour, but in the heart of the giver for it is more blessed to give than to receive, and also in the heart of the receiver to know that their brethren care enough for them to meet their need.
I hope I haven't given you too many conditions, but they're what I find within this passage. It has to be a need that is created by giving to the need of another; it has to be a need that has been given into your lap in order for the purpose of helping other people; it should be a gift; and it should be by personal benevolence. Let me say this to all of us as we enter into the great financial challenges of the days that lie ahead of us: Hudson Taylor, a man of God, one of the pioneer missionaries to China who knew God supernaturally providing for him all along his life, said this: 'When God's work is done in God's way for God's glory, it will not lack for God's supply'.
Now if we take it individually to each of us, and we want to know how we can enter into the fulfilment of this verse: do God's work! And if you're not doing any work for God, and if you're not seeking God's supply for His work, and if you're not doing God's work in God's way, and not doing it for the glory of God, you will not know God's supply. Maybe that's why you're in poverty today, and I'm not just talking about financial poverty, I'm talking about all of those material, physical and spiritual needs - that could be the reason! But what a blessing if, like the Philippians, you fill Paul's cup to overflowing, out of your own poverty you meet his need sacrificially, you can then depend on - as you put your cup out to God - that He will fill it to overflowing!
Now let's begin dissecting this verse that we may learn. Once those conditions are fulfilled you can know many things, four of which I'm going to share with you. One: the source of the supply. Two: the surety of the supply. Three: the sufficiency of the supply. And four: the standard of the supply - and Leeman Strauss, I borrowed those titles from him. The first is the source of the supply, and it's just found in the first three words of verse 19: 'But my God shall supply all your need' - there is the source of it! All earthly wealth, there's nothing intrinsically evil in it, it is the love of money that is the root of all evil - but we must remember that it is transient, it is temporary, and the wealth and fashion of this world - as John says in 1 John 2:17 - 'it passeth away'. It disappears, and therefore to put our faith in financial terms and the monetary societies of this world is fatal, for depressions will come - and it can wipe out, overnight, our fortunes. Thieves can break in, as the Lord said in the Sermon on the Mount, and steal our entire life savings away. Time even deteriorates the wonderful edifices and buildings that we have erected to man's pride and strength. But isn't it wonderful to know the source where our supply is coming from and where our need is met - and it is none other than Almighty God! It is the God of heaven, the God of the universe from whom no one and nothing can impoverish Him and take His wealth away from Him. He is the one who accumulated, He created the wealth in every mine, He created the cattle on thousand hills, and because He is the one who has accumulated all the wealth that there is in existence, He is the God who allocates it, and He is the source of that supply.
Riches are safe with Him, and that's why the Lord Jesus told us not to build up treasures on the earth but in heaven. Now, therefore it's important to realise where we ought to go to get whatever supply we need, whatever is our specific lack - it is to God! That's the importance of knowing the source, and because it is God - and it's not just the God in heaven, or a God, but isn't it wonderful to be able to say like Paul: 'My God' - my God! My God...surely doesn't that reveal His proximity to us in our need, that He is nearby, near to our need, He knows our need, He knows how our need can be met. He is more than just a distant impersonal Deity, but He's actually in the very depths of our experience - He is our personal heavenly Father who takes note of the little sparrow that falls, who clothes the lily of the field, and He is in our midst - He is available to be the supply and the source of that supply. When we can't see our way in life, you can say: 'I don't know what the direction is, but my God knows!'. When you don't know where the money is coming from to pay the bills, you can say: 'I don't know, but my God knows, He is my support!'. You don't know how you're going to get through this sickness, the ailment, the trial in your home with your children and all the rest - whatever the need is, isn't it wonderful to be able to turn to a source that is heavenly and say: 'My God! I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil. The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore'.
In Psalm 121 and Psalm 122 he said: 'As a servant looks to the hand of his master, so I look to you O God. As a maid looks to the hand of her mistress, I will look to God for my need'. Who is this God? Ephesians 1, turn with me for a moment, our brother Hugh quoted from this passage in the Breaking of Bread service - but let's just see who this God is, and I want to take time over these things because they really thrilled my heart this morning, even as I'm preaching, and I believe they'll do you good too if you let them into your heart. Verse 19, this is the God of the risen Christ, the God who has exceeding greatness of power to us who believe, 'according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead'. My God, who is He? He is the God who raised Christ from the grave! Go on: 'and set him at the right hand of God in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come'. He's the God of the risen Christ, and He's the God of the ascended Christ!
My friend, if you just for one moment consider that this is the God who does the impossible, the God that raises the dead, the God that exalts a human being - and He is the Christ of course, but remember that it is human flesh that sits at the right hand of God! Should you not ask the question: 'Well, if He can do all that, can He not meet my need? Can He not help me?'. Think of how He's the great intercessor, He's not just risen and exalted and ascended, but He's at the right hand of God, and the Bible says He is there for us as our advocate, as our representative, our friend. He's the one who hears our petitions and presents them to God; He is the one who dispenses the need that we have from the throne of God; He is there with our Father! That gives me great help today, because He is there we have the right of constant intervention with God, and efficient aid from the hand of God. He is the Great High Priest touched with the feelings of our infirmities, because He was tested in all points like as we are yet without sin - and because of that we can come with boldness unto the throne of grace to find mercy and help in time of our need.
What a great intercessor, such a friend as that - could the need that you have ever fail to come? I love Robert Murray M'Cheyne, and one thing that he said, I stuck it in my Bible, is this: 'If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear one million enemies - yet distant makes no difference, He is praying for me and He is the God of heaven'. We don't have time to go through the book of Revelation, but what do we know about heaven? Well we know it needs no sun, we know that it's walls are of jewels, and its pavements are of gold, and the glorious new Jerusalem has countless streets that stretch right throughout it 1,500 miles north, south, east and west - and then moves as high up as it goes long in its area. It goes to mid-heaven, for the length and breadth and height of it are equal - and we're asking ourselves: 'Now this is the supply for my need, and if this is the kind of place God can create and build, can He meet my need?'. We have so little faith at times, don't we? This is a source of our supply: 'My God'!
Secondly is the surety of that supply: 'My God shall supply all your need'. Now if anything should cast all the doubts and fears out of our minds, it should be that word 'shall'. He's saying there's never an occasion when this will fail, as long as we've fulfilled the conditions of course. We should never fear that God will never honour us whenever we honour Him. The reason why Paul was so sure is because he was aware of the source, and when you get a grasp of the source you can know the assurance of it because you know that this God is the one who supplies your need and He cannot fail to do so because of who He is. When others fail to come to your rescue, my God shall. When the well runs dry, when the barrel is empty, when you cannot, my God shall. When there seems to be no way of reaching your needs at all, humanly speaking, what a blessing to know even when you can't see it, but by faith my God shall!
It is this law that when you give you will receive from the Lord, it's a constant law of the word of God and in His world. Jesus said: 'Give, and it shall be given to you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over shall be given into your bosom. For with what measure ye meet it shall be measured to you again'. It's not health and wealth, but it is this: God is no man's debtor! If you lend your boat for a whole afternoon to the Christ of God that He might make a floating pulpit out of it, by the end of the night your boat will be filled with fish. If you lend your Upper Room to the Lord Jesus Christ at His disposal for a Passover meal, not too long will transpire until that whole room is filled by the pentecostal power of the Holy Ghost - in fact the whole house is shaken! He will not only satisfy hunger if you place in His hands the barley loaves and the fish, but He will add 12 baskets full on top of it all!
This is the surety of supply, and what a supply it is! It is God's return to us! You remember when the good Samaritan was leaving the village inn on the morning after the memorable rescue of the wounded traveller, what did he say to the host? 'Take care of him, and what thou spendest more, when I come I will repay'. You have to give cheerfully of course, and we've covered all that, let's move on swiftly and we may have time. There is the sufficiency of His supply. There's the source: my God; the surety: He shall; the sufficiency: all your need.
His experience, Paul said in these verses: 'I have received full payment' - verse 18: 'I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus'. Now we don't know how much Epaphroditus sent from the church at Philippi, but he is able to cry: 'I am amply supplied'. Now have you ever seen such a paradox and seeming contradiction as this: this little man, bow-legged they say and with a big nose and bald, sitting in this prison absolutely poor, impoverished, not a penny to his name, chained to a Roman soldier at the behest and will of a Roman tyrant, almost perhaps persuaded at the beginning that he was going to his death, inevitably would under Nero - yet he said: 'I am amply supplied'.
He said not so long ago in chapter 3: 'I have suffered the loss of all things'. He said in Corinthians that he was hated, persecuted, an outcast to Judaism. He awaited trial many times, on occasions he hung by a thread, by the capricious will of Roman tyrants and governors. He was a man who, he said, bore in his body the dying marks of the Lord Jesus with scars and beatings and scourgings and shipwrecks, privations of every kind - and only a few days before he received, it could have been a couple of pence from this church in Philippi, maybe a bit of clothing or a barley roll - I don't know, but I'm sure it wasn't thousands or millions! Was he mad in the head? Had the damp in the cell rotted his brains out, that he could say: 'I am amply supplied'? No! He measured his wealth in a higher sense than this world can understand.
He said in 1 Timothy 1:14: 'the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus'. He had a hope of which he could boast. Listen to this hope: 'I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord'. What a hope! What a love he had! He could say: 'So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have, and expend myself as well. If I love you more, will you love me less?'. What a love! What a victory he experienced! He could say: 'Nay, in all these things - I am killed almost every day, like a lamb sent to the slaughter, but in all these things I am more than conqueror through Him that loved me'. In His many sacrifices he could say: 'Nay, in all these things, but even if I'm being poured out like a drink offering in the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you' - and in his sufferings he was so little disturbed, because he could say: 'I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me, however I consider my life worth nothing to me if only I may finish the race, complete the task the Lord has given me: the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace'. Because he fulfilled God's will for his life, God filled his life full of His supply.
That is the sufficiency of the supply, and then fourthly and finally the standard of the supply: according to His riches in glory. Now I'm not able to tell you what that means. His riches in glory - I know it includes the vast wealth that there is in the universe, I know it's a great deal to do with the gospel that we've entered into, but all that I could tell you this morning is just a mere drop in the bucket of God's riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Here of course it means financial and physical needs, but we read in other places where Paul says that he knew the riches of God's goodness. He says in Romans that he knows the riches of the wisdom of God; he says in Ephesians 1:7 he knew the riches of the grace of God; Ephesians 3:16 the riches of God's glory - and the standard of what God gives us is not out of His riches, the way you and I would do - 'Here's a tenner or 20 pounds' - but He gives you according to His riches, to the standard and extent of it. That's the standard of the supply.
What are His riches? I'll tell you what they are: in Him, in Christ dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and we are complete in Him. If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Isn't that wonderful? Ask yourself, dear child in need, if He give up His Son, will He not meet my need? Imagine going into a jewellers and buying a diamond ring for the wife, costing you thousands, almost bankrupt, and then you say: 'Could I have a wee brown paper bag to wrap that up in please?', and they say: 'No, no, we can't afford that'. He gave His only Son, do you not think that He could meet any need, every need, when He has given to that extent He is able to do exceeding abundantly more than we ask or think! Christ is God's answer to our need, He's been the answer to every question we've asked going through this Philippian epistle, hasn't He? To desire, to satisfaction in life, and now the provision and the supply and the standard of that supply is according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus, for in Him are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden, and it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell. In that divine human person there is everything that any of us need!
He filleth all in all, Paul said. He is the compliment for our need, or you could say He's the completeness for our need. Whatever our deficiency is, the greater it is, the greater His supply and the larger the extent of it. But do you know what is needed? What is needed that we, as we often do, don't go through life as if we can meet the demands of our life, and we can supply our needs? But rather that we reckon these promises as our own, we avail ourselves of all of the treasures that are prepared for us in the person of our risen, exalted and glorified Lord. The reason why we don't often enter into this truth is because we limit the exchequer of the Holy One of God.
Let me tell you a story as I close. There was a man, and this story was told by Dr Richard Newton, of an old and poverty stricken Red Indian in the States, who many years ago made his way into the Western settlement in search of food to keep him from starving. A bright coloured ribbon was seen around his neck from which there hung a little small dirty pouch or money purse. On being asked what it was, the illiterate Indian said: 'I think it's a charm that was given to me in my younger days, and he opened it'. The man that took it out saw a bit of worn paper, crumpled and torn, and when it was read it was found on inspection to be a regular discharge from the federal army. The signature that was on it was none other than George Washington himself. What it was was entitling that Red Indian, who had fought in the war, to a pension for the rest of his life. Here was a man with a promise duly signed, sealed and delivered, and if it had been presented into the right source and hand and place it would have secured him ample provision for all of his life - yet he wandered around the desert hungry, helpless, forlorn, and begging bread to keep him from starving.
Is that not like us at times? When there's a heavenly Father spoken of in this benediction: 'Now unto God and our Father', a Father who has His eye on His children, and a Father whose hand is outstretched to provide their relief, whatever that may be. D. L. Moody, the great evangelist, preached on verse 19 on one occasion better than me. His outline was this, he called his sermon: 'God's Cheque'. He said: ''My God', that is the name of the firm on the cheque, 'My God'. 'Shall supply', that is the promise to pay. 'All your need', that is the amount to be paid. 'His riches', that is the deposit in the account against which the cheque is drawn. 'In glory', that is the address of the bank. 'By Christ Jesus', that is the signature that appears on the cheque. This cheque needs but one thing to make it a practical and valuable thing, and that is the endorsement of your faith on the reverse side' - and then, whatever your need, God will abundantly supply it.
We have finished Philippians, and may God receive the glory due in verses 20 and 22 and 23. Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the twenty-fourth tape in his Philippians series, titled "The Conditions and Confidence of God's Provision For Us" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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