Study Notes

Philippians 4:8-23


For the last nine Sundays, we have examined Paul's epistle to the Philippian church. He has covered many valuable topics and teachings, and today is no exception as we come to our ninth and final study in this New Testament book.

4:8 Finally

Paul says, "Finally," as he did back in chapter three, verse one, but this time it really does mean that he is finishing with his final thoughts. There are just fifteen verses left, in which he will offer some final exhortations, give them thanks, and say goodbye.

Let Your Mind Dwell On These Things

He tells them to focus their minds on what is good, rather than what is bad. This is something that we've got to consiciously do, for we are succeptible to do the opposite.

Setting our minds on the good is a choice that we have to make, because it's not something that's going to come naturally. After all, let's admit it:

Our natural tendency is to focus on a rumor, rather than the truth.

We would rather watch a program about people being dishonorable than showing honor.

We focus on what people do that's wrong, rather than what is right.

We delight in impurity rather than what is pure.

We are fascinated by the abnormal, rather than what is lovely.

We're more likely to tell a story about someone's bad reputation than to speak of what is of good repute.

We think about the substandard qualities of people rather than on their excellence.

We make fun and insult more than we give praise.

So we need to continually ask ourselves, "Is what I'm thinking about glorifying God? Is what I am saying pure? Is what I am doing honorable? Is my mind dwelling on things good and righteous?"

4:9 Practice Christianity

Paul then tells them to practice the Christianity that he did. He had preached the gospel to them, taught them doctrine, and been a living example of what a Christian should be. He reminds them to follow that example, preach that gospel, and know that doctrine.

If they are faithful to do that, he says, "God shall be with you." That really struck me this week. So often, whether it's in morning devotions, or prayers at bedtime or dinner, many Christians say, "God, be with us." But what we need to ask ourselves is, "Are we keeping up our end of this bargain?"

Do I share the gospel? Do I know my doctrine? Am I living a victorious Christian life? If so, the God of peace shall be with me.

4:10-14 Concerned But Without Opportunity

Paul here makes mention of the financial gift that the Philippians sent to him via Epaphroditus, saying that he was rejoicing because they had sent it. Now, he is not saying, "I was miserable before you sent it to me, because I'm really in need. You just don't know how difficult it's been with so little in my pockets. But now that you sent me this check, I'm happy again." No, what he is saying is, "I'm not rejoicing because of what I got. I'm rejoicing because you sent it. As a matter of fact, I learned long ago how to live with much or little."

I wonder how many of us in America truly understand how Paul felt? After all, even the poorest among us has never suffered as Paul did at times. But he learned the secret of living in any difficult circumstance: God gave him strength and enabled him to do anything he was called to do.

Do you believe that today? Do you believe that God is able to supply all your needs? Do you believe that He wants to provide you with everything you need to fulfill His call on your life? Have you figured out yet the truthfulness of what Jesus said,

John 15:5 "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing."

There is another side to what Paul has written. After all, he doesn't just say, "Humble, hungry and suffering." Paul wasn't destitute, starving, and alone during his entire ministry. He also makes mention of the occasional times he was living in prosperity, being filled, and having abundance. But that can be just as much of a trap. When we have what we need, we have a tendency to forget about God. This is the danger that many American Christians have succumbed to.

I pray that no matter what comes our way, we will be found in Christ and strengthened by Him. And in the meantime, may we have the attitude which Aw-GOOR had when he prayed,

Prov. 30:8-9 ...Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, Lest I be full and deny {Thee} and say, "Who is the LORD?" Or lest I be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God.

4:15-19 The Philippians' Giving

Paul again reminds the Philippians that he was not desiring the finances, but to see the heart behind them. He was blessed because of their gift, but more blessed because it was evidence of their heart.

Giving has become an issue in the church over the last twenty years. I blame it mostly on the TV evangelists, but it was problematic even before them.

And I could use this as a springboard to blast those who beg for money and profane the name of God. I could wax eloquent about the fires of hell which certainly await those who have fleeced the flock of God. But I know that the Lord desires us to have hearts that give finances generously. I know that God wants us to be people that give when we see a need.

The Philippians saw Paul's need, and gave generously. I know that many in our church body are the same, but I also know that we are not all there yet.

Am I going to spend an hour in a sermon on giving to others, giving to the church, giving to ministries? No. I see in the Scriptures that people's giving is simply in direct proportion to the amount of grace that they've been given (2Cor. 8:1-5). And so the people who are touchy about the need to give generously are always the people who give sparingly or not at all.

So I will not expound upon all the Scriptural exhortations for giving. I would like to simply share a story with you. When God brought the people out of slavery in Egypt, He said, "I am your God. And you are My people." He gave them His Law, and told them how to worship Him. He told Moses to construct a tabernacle for that purpose.

Exod. 35:4-5 And Moses spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, "This is the thing which the LORD has commanded, saying, ‘Take from among you a contribution to the LORD; whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as the LORDS contribution...

God only wanted what people would give out of a willing heart. What was the result?

Exod. 35:21-24 And everyone whose heart stirred him and everyone whose spirit moved him came {and} brought the LORDS contribution for the work of the tent of meeting and for all its service and for the holy garments. Then all whose hearts moved them, both men and women, came {and} brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and bracelets, all articles of gold; so {did} every man who presented an offering of gold to the LORD. And every man, who had in his possession blue and purple and scarlet {material} and fine linen and goats' {hair} and rams' skins dyed red and porpoise skins, brought them. Everyone who could make a contribution of silver and bronze brought the LORDS contribution; and every man, who had in his possession acacia wood for any work of the service, brought it.

The people who had experienced the power of God in their lives gave generously. They didn't murmur and complain. They didn't roll their eyes. They just gave to God.

Exod. 36:3-7 And they received from Moses all the contributions which the sons of Israel had brought to perform the work in the construction of the sanctuary. And they still {continued} bringing to him freewill offerings every morning. And all the skillful men who were performing all the work of the sanctuary came, each from the work which he was performing, and they said to Moses, "The people are bringing much more than enough for the construction work which the LORD commanded {us} to perform." So Moses issued a command, and a proclamation was circulated throughout the camp, saying, "Let neither man nor woman any longer perform work for the contributions of the sanctuary." Thus the people were restrained from bringing {any more.} For the material they had was sufficient and more than enough for all the work, to perform it.

What an amazing incident! They actually gave too much! Moses actually had to say, "That's enough. We've got plenty to build the house of God!"

As you know, we have purchased land on which to build a permanent building for Calvary Chapel. And I have promised to keep you up to date on where we are in that project, and what the needs will be. But I have also vowed never to beg and plead for your money, never to coerce you, manipulate you, make you feel guilty or obligated.

I hope that you will simply be like the Philippians, who saw a need and provided for it. That you will simply be like the Israelites, who gave generously to build the house of God.

4:20-23 Closing Remarks

And so Paul finishes up the letter with some goodbyes from the Christians working in Caesar's own house and those who were with him. He gives God all of the glory, and gives them the final word,

Phil. 4:23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

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