At this time of year, between Christmas and New Years, I usually do two things: I write thank you notes to everybody I got a gift from, and I get out all of my receipts from the previous year that I've thrown in a box during the year. I try to make sense out of them because in a couple months the IRS may want to look at them.
As I was doing that this week, I was struck by the fact that the Book of Philippians is a thank you letter for a gift Paul was given. Paul wrote a letter to the Philippians because they had sent him numerous offerings, and he wanted to say, "I got the gift you sent through Epaphroditus. Thanks."
In the last passage of Philippians, I want us to look at probably the great promise in the Bible. I say that because it's so that almost any other promise will fit under its umbrella. Philippians 4:19 says, "My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."
God says he will meet all your needs. So then, why do people have needs? We see a lot of people, including Christians, who have tremendous needs. Why aren't their needs being met? God says he'll meet all your needs, and yet I see needs in this church that aren't being met. What's the problem? Is God a liar?
God's promise is based on the premise of giving.
The answer to that question is that this promise does not apply to every person, not even every Christian, because with every promise there is a premise. God says, "If you do this, then I will do that." Many people want to take the promise of verse 19 and apply it to their lives while avoiding the premise of verse 14–18. But you cannot claim verse 19 unless you're doing what verse 18 talks about.
In this letter, Paul thanks the Philippians for their sacrificial gifts and assures them that because they gave sacrificially, God will take care of their needs.
The premise of the passage is this: We must be generous to others. Proverbs 11:25 reiterates this point: "A generous man will prosper, and he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed."
The premise of this promise is we must first be generous with others. God is not obligated to meet our needs if we're not obeying his commands. In fact, we block the flow of God's blessings by being stingy.
Paul gives us three reasons why we should be generous.
First, he says giving is an encouragement to others. In Philippians 4:14–16, Paul says, "It was good of you to share in my troubles. As you Philippians know, in the early days not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving except you only. For even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need."
The Philippian church was not a wealthy church. In fact, it was a poverty stricken church. Yet, they were and generous. Paul says "You gave to me when nobody else did, and it encouraged me."
Did you ever receive a gift that encouraged you? Have you ever given a gift you knew encouraged others? I'm sure you have. Giving is encouraging. Both the giver and the givee are blessed. That's what Paul was saying.
Two things happen when we give. First, our ministry expands. Paul in Philippians 1 says, "You are partners with me in ministry." Even though he was 800 miles away from the Philippians, they were supporting him financially. Not all of us can go to the mission field. Not all of us can preach. Not all of us can teach. But whenever we support others in ministry, we become partners in ministry.
More than that, giving makes us like Christ. The most Christlike thing you can do is give. Jesus was a and sacrificial. The Philippians had a reputation for being generous. In 2 Corinthians 8 Paul says the Philippians are an example to the rest of the world, for they gave more than they could give.
When I read things like that I think, That church had a reputation for giving that lives on 2,000 years later. Will this church have a reputation that will last 2,000 years? What are we going to be known for? How wonderful to be known as a generous church, because it's an encouragement to others.
Paul also says giving is an investment in the future. In Philippians 4:17 he says, "Though I appreciate your gifts, what makes me happiest is the reward you will have because of your kindness."
Paul says giving benefits the giver as well as the receiver, and the giver will receive a reward. The word reward in Greek is a banking term that literally means "accumulated interest." God pays interest. Jesus said a hundredfold will be returned to him who gives for the gospel's sake. A hundredfold is 10,000 percent interest. I don't know a bank in the world that will give you those rates. Jesus says, "I want you to receive the reward for your giving."
In the Good News Translation, it reads, "I want to see profit added to your account." We have an account in heaven with our name on it, and God is recording everything.
The Bible says when you give a cup of cold water in Jesus' name, it's written down. Each time you're generous with your family, friends, church, and unbelievers, it's it's rewarded. Your generosity is an investment, and the bank of heaven pays interest.
Suppose I went to a bank and asked, "How much interest have I accumulated?"
My banker replies, "How much have you deposited?"
I tell him, "Well, nothing."
He responds, "Mr. Warren, the rule is you don't get any interest if you don't make an investment."
That's the rule in the Christian life too. You will store up treasure in heaven by giving to and investing in others.
First Timothy 6:18–19 says, "Give happily to those in need, and always be ready to share whatever God has given you. By doing this you will be storing up real treasure for yourselves in heaven. It is the only safe investment for eternity." God's bank never goes bankrupt. And you're going to spend more time on that side of eternity than on this side.
Paul goes on to say that giving is a sacrifice to God. In Philippians 4:18, Paul writes, "I am amply supplied now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a treasured offering and acceptable sacrifice and pleasing to God."
The most pleasing thing you can do for God is sacrificially give because it is done in faith, and without faith it is impossible to please God.
Jesus Christ was a sacrificial giver. He gave up everything in heaven, came to earth, and died on the cross. When you sacrificially give to others, you are the most like Christ, and it pleases God.
In the Old Testament they would take an offering and lay it on the altar, and they would pour it out and it would create steam that the whole community could smell. In Philippians 4:18, this is what Paul is alluding to. A sacrificial giver is a beautiful person. You love to be around them. They are like a savor. Paul says that giving is an act of worship, just as important as singing, praying, or teaching.
Notice that Paul says, "The gift you sent to me is a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice to God." He's saying the gift he received was equivalent to a gift from God. When the Philippians sent him money, God accepted it as a sacrifice.
Jesus said it like this: "Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you've done it unto me. When you give somebody something to drink, when you cloth the naked, when you feed the hungry, when you visit someone in prison, that's like doing it for God."
Every generous act can be done as a sacrifice to God, even kneeling down and tying your kid's shoestrings. Any time you have a spirit of generosity, it is an encouragement to others; it is an investment in eternity; and it is a sacrifice pleasing to God.
That's why Paul says it is so important to become a giver. There are only two kinds of people in the and takers. And the happiest people are the givers.
Now, that's the premise, which always comes before the promise. You can't claim verse 19 unless you're doing verses 14–18. Jesus said give to others and God will give to you. This is an incredibly important principle.
God, in turn, promises to meet all our needs.
Philippians 4:19 says, "My God will supply all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." I call this verse the believer's insurance policy, for it guarantees God will care for you.
I want to divide this verse into three phrases.
First, notice the source of the promise. It says, "My God." He's talking about a personal God, not some big impersonal force.
Jesus said when you pray, say, "Our Father." He is an intimate heavenly Father. As a result, he is aware of all your needs. He knows your financial, mental, physical, health, and relational needs. He is a caring, consistent, capable Father, and he promises to meet all your needs.
I remember when I was in the delivery room with the birth of our first child, Amy. I experienced two incredible emotions in tandem. Kay had a rough labor, so when I heard my daughter's first screams, I felt incredible joy.
Yet at the same time I was also acutely aware I was now a father, which implied tremendous responsibility. Like it or not, I had just assumed responsibility for another human being. As a father, I was responsible to care for the needs of that child.
In the same way, our heavenly Father assumes responsibility for his children's needs, only he does it in a perfect way. The Bible says those who trust and delight in him and put their faith in him, our heavenly Father will care for.
The scope of the promise is huge. God will not merely meet a few of your needs or many of your needs, he will meet all your needs.
Notice it doesn't say God might meet your needs. It doesn't say God may meet your needs. It says he will meet your needs. It's a guarantee.
Paul is saying if you are a consistent, generous giver, God will take care of your needs. If you've met the premise, you can count on the promise.
There are many people who misuse this verse, though. This verse is not an invitation to be lazy and goof off. You can't sit around with folded hands and assume, "My God will provide; therefore, I'm not going to do anything. I'm trusting the Lord." God expects you to work. We know people who haven't worked for fifteen years who say, "I'm just trusting the Lord." That is not contentment; that is complacency.
God has not promised to meet the needs of those who sit around and do nothing. The Bible says that people who are unwilling to unable or not be given handouts. That says a lot about our welfare system, doesn't it? Second Thessalonians 3:10 says, "Him who does not work should not eat."
In addition, God does not promise to cover all your wants, whims, desires, and cravings; he promises to supply all your needs. There's a big difference between needs and wants. Have your children discovered that? Have you discovered that? "Oh, I want it! I need it!" There's a huge difference between needs and wants.
In 1890, there was a sociologist who asked many Americans what they thought the basic needs of life were. In 1890 the sociological study revealed that Americans believed there were 16 basic things every American needed to survive.
They took that survey a couple of years ago, and now Americans believe they need 98 things to survive. This study shows that our wants have a way of being exaggerated into needs.
James 4:3 says, "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motive. You just want to consume it on your desires." It's just selfishness.
God does not guarantee to provide all your luxuries. There are two fallacies about money that circulate in Christian circles: First, God wants everybody to be a millionaire. Second, God wants everybody to be poor. These are both false. One says God wants everybody to drive around in expensive cars and have gold plated bathroom fixtures, and the other says poverty is next to godliness. They're both wrong. God is interested in your having your needs met. The Bible does not say, "My God shall supply all your greed."
God also doesn't agree to supply your needs when you wasted your money on luxuries. God doesn't bankroll foolishness. He has promised to provide for all legitimate needs. That covers a lot of material.
Do you have a financial need? If you are a faithful giver, you have every right to ask God to meet your financial needs. If you're not a faithful giver, you have no right to ask God to meet your financial needs, because you're not meeting the premise.
How about physical needs? How about health needs? How about relational needs? How about emotional needs? How about any kind of need? It's all there. My God will meet all your needs.
If that's true, what does that leave for me to worry about? Nothing, because God assumes the responsibility of meeting his children's needs. If you're a child of God and you're meeting the premise, you can count on his promise.
Notice here we saw the source, "my God," and the scope, "will supply all your needs."
Now, what's the supply? The supply is according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Paul says God's bank will never go bankrupt. He has unlimited resources, which is exemplified by many of Jesus' miracles. Remember how Jesus took five loaves and two fish and fed five thousand people with it? That's the kind of resources he has at his disposal. There have been times in my life when God took a dollar and made it go further than I thought it would go.
My God will meet all your needs according to his riches. It doesn't say out of his riches; it says according to his riches. There's a big difference. Let me explain.
Sam Walton was one of the wealthiest men in America. He was the billionaire who owned WalMart. If Sam Walton, who had glorious riches, wrote you a check for $1,000 and said, "Here, this is my gift to you," he would be giving to you out of his riches. But if he gave you a blank check and said, "Whatever you need, I've already signed it," that would be according to his riches.
That's what it says here in Philippians 4:19. God will meet your needs according to his riches. That means God gives the faithful believer a blank check that is signed in the name of Jesus Christ. His name is on the dotted line. "My God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." Signed Jesus Christ. And his check never bounces.
If you let the truth of this passage grasp you, your life will be revolutionized. If I had to summarize this premise and the 's that giving guarantees God's provision. I have absolutely no worries about the future in terms of financial needs; God will provide for my needs because I'm meeting the premise.
During the Christmas season, we often hear, "Wouldn't it be great if we could maintain the spirit of Christmas year round?" The spirit of Christmas is giving. God gave. The wise men gave. We give. That's the spirit of Christmas. Generosity.
To maintain the spirit of Christmas year round, become a giver. See a need, find a need, and fill it. Find a hurt, and heal it. God says, "You want to have a giving contest? Let's see who can win." You can't God.
It is not by accident that the book of Philippians has two major and giving. The purpose of the book was to thank the Philippians for their gift. Joy and giving go together. The happiest people are the most generous people. Contrarily, the most miserable people are the people who are stingy. He's saying, "Rejoice." This applies families, businesses, and churches.
Rick Warren is founder of The Encouraging Word ministry and founding pastor of Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest, California. He is author of The Purpose Driven Church. For more information about Rick Warren's resources, contact www.pastors.com.