Devotion: Philippians 4:18-20
The Apostle Paul understood the financial support he received from the Philippians via Epaphroditus to be an offering to God and, though it benefited the Apostle, completely for God's glory. As we have traced our way through this letter over the last several months, these ideas should be familiar.
"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. " -Philippians 4:18-20 ESVIn the end, the Apostle is claiming that God provides. After all, the Apostle can now count among the mighty acts of God in history his own reception of funds crucial to his ongoing survival. Paul realizes that even if the Lord had not provided, he would still give glory to God, just like the three young men about to be tossed into the furnace (see Daniel 3:16-18). Like those three young men, the Apostle had seen Christ with him in his most trying time (in his case, the Christ came in the form of the Philippians generosity). The Apostle sees that God has worked to provide for him through the Philippians and, in the end, this is Christ at work.
Now it may seem that the Apostle then shifts in tone in the following verse. Torn out of context we could mistakenly conclude that Paul is promising the Philippians a reciprocal blessing, giving credence to the heretical prosperity gospel. Yet, this is not the Apostle's point. Paul is giving witness to 'God's provision and in giving witness he is assuring the Philippians that God will also provide for their needs--needs not wants--out his great riches in glory in Christ Jesus. What we need most is relationship with this God, a relationship that is alive, maturing and growing. The Philippians had demonstrated by their generosity that just such a relationship existed and the Apostle is now assuring them that God will provide more of Himself in that relationship to meet the growing need.
And that is how every relationship with God is shaped. As we grow in our relationship with God we come to realize just how dependent we are on God and in realizing this dependence, we already have the provision of the infinite God to meet our growing sense of dependence. God is always more than we could need, yet we need infinitely more of him as we grow in faith.
The Apostle concludes, appropriately enough, with a doxology. We sometimes can read these prayers of praise and not really fit the prayer into the wider context. Here, in this doxology the Apostle is assuring the Philippians that they share the same God and Father, and this one is to receive all the glory. The same God who came to the Apostle's aid through the Philippians is the very same God who can met the Philippians' need through the proclamation of the Gospel by the Apostle Paul. Indeed, a God who can weave together people who can supply the needs of each other is to be glorified forever.
When I return in a week we will conclude our time in Philippians. In the meantime, think how God has supplied for your need and how God, through you, has supplied the needs of others.