My God Shall Supply All Your Needs: The Condition Behind Philippians 4:19

Coffee cup commentary


Read Philippians 4:10-20

According to Philippians 1:13, Paul was in prison with the location probably being Rome c. AD 60-62.  In Acts 28, we see that Paul was in a rented house, able to receive visitors with a single soldier serving as a guard, probably on a rotating basis. This would be a great place from which to write the Philippians and the house arrest would afford him much time to focus on writing.

The passage in Philippians 4 makes it obvious that the Philippians had provided for Paul’s provisions repeatedly (v. 10). This latest generosity on their part was in Paul’s “distress” (v. 14), an apparent reference to his house arrest in Rome which may have included some initial deprivations (vs. 10, 12). However, their giving to Paul and his ministry began much earlier, from the time when he departed Macedonia (15) and again and again while he was spreading the gospel in Thessalonica (16).

Evidently, the Philippians were concerned about Paul’s welfare. Their gifts sent to him and Paul’s correspondence back makes that obvious. Knowing everything that he had gone through, Paul’s Philippian brothers and sisters needed assurance that the apostle was going to be okay. To this, he assured them that he had learned to be content in any circumstance (v.11). That though sometimes going through hunger or lack of daily necessities, he was able to get through it with the daily strength that Christ supplied (vs. 12-13).

Paul’s attitude while suffering for Christ was an important model for the Philippian believers but also for us today. While “health and wealth” proponents would have you and I believe that those who follow Christ deeply enough will not suffer any ill, Paul’s experience demonstrates the foolishness of such doctrine. Would anyone seriously doubt Paul’s spirituality? If the prosperity preachers were correct, wouldn’t Paul be among the most successful and wealthy Christian of his time?

What Paul’s example does is show us that those who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12). As Jesus warned, those who persecuted Him would turn on His followers too (John 15:20). In addition to this is the fact that living for Christ involves personal sacrifice. Even among the followers of our Lord, those who are willing to sacrifice some in order to provide for God’s servants are among the minority (v. 15). This means that those who choose to follow Christ the most will at times suffer hunger and/or have what all of us would consider needs unmet (v.12).

However, on the positive side, much distress produces much joy. Lest you think I’m insane, allow me to explain. If it weren’t for the Philippians providing while others did not, if it weren’t for Paul’s experiences of doing without, if it weren’t for the Philippians “lacking opportunity” and Paul needing to rely on the strength of Christ, then the joy of the times of abundance (12) and ability to be content (11) wouldn’t have been as sharp a contrast.

Indeed, much distress produces much joy. When do you and I most appreciate a drink of water? A meal is never as enjoyable as when you and I are the hungriest. Contentment is not a condition enjoyed by the rich but rather by those who have little and know what it is like to go without.

Many like to quote verse 19: “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Have they and have you noticed the context, though? The Apostle Paul promised the Philippians this provision for a reason. It was because they had consistently looked after Paul’s needs, both personal and ministerial, that he gave this assurance to them. Because of them, he was full, not hungry; he was abounding, not suffering need. Paul let them know that God sees and rewards such sacrifice and care for God’s servant. It was a sweet-smelling sacrifice, the aroma of which reached the nostrils of God, brought a smile to His face and a determination to reward those who offered it.

How is your pastor doing? How about your missionaries? Is there a dedicated worker in your church giving much while suffering need? What does your checkbook and savings account look like and who has provided any abundance therein? You may say, “Now wait a minute, I saved and sacrificed and invested wisely and worked hard to get that surplus.” Yet, who gave you the strength, the talent and the ability to do that? Now, did God give you what He has given so that you can have it for yourself? Or, is this a divine stewardship, a test, to see what you will do with what God has amply supplied while bringing to your attention the needs of His servants. What will you do? What would He have you do?

Now don’t get me wrong. Nobody is saying that abundance is wrong. Being a good steward involves being prepared for emergencies, saving for contingencies and even providing for your children’s future. While the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, the Bible doesn’t call being rich evil. Nevertheless, is there a servant of God who rejoices in God’s provision through you? Is God promising you verse nineteen because you, like the Philippians, are involved in verses fourteen to eighteen?

I pray that this look at Philippians 4 stirs someone to the ministry of giving for one of God’s servants who need it. In fact, I pray that many will be moved to look for opportunities to be a supporter of one of God’s servants on an ongoing basis. And by this I mean beyond one’s giving to his or her local church. God bless all of you who meet the condition of verse 19. May you see in this life your offerings reach the nostrils of God, bringing a smile to His face and a desire to reward you according to the promise of verse 19. I know that if you do this, you will bring a smile to the face of a servant of God, resulting in much thanksgiving and praise being given to God for you. Now what earthly investment can beat that?

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