Partakers of Grace through Joyful Thanksgiving

Steve Viars October 25, 2015 Philippians 4:10-23

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Strengthening Others – We believe that God is pleased as we seek to strengthen other pastors, missionaries, and key lay leaders.

Psalm 119:105 - Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

3 reasons for joy as we seek to accomplish things together in Christ’s church

I. The Joy of Sharing

Philippians 4:10 - But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly…

Greek “megalos”

Philippians 4:14 - …you have done well to share with me…

Philippians 4:15 - …no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone…

A. The beauty of concern

4:10 - …you have revived your concern for me…

Greek – phronein – think, have in mind, think the thoughts of, have one’s mind controlled by

2:2 - …make my joy complete by being of the same mind…

Philippians 2:5 - Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…

B. The importance of opportunity

4:10 - But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity.

C. Especially in addressing affliction

4:14 - Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.

D. Believing there are eternal consequences

4:17 - Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.

Matthew 6:19-20 - Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal…

E. Believing God is well pleased

Philippians 4:18 - But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.

F. Believing God will supply

Philippians 4:19 - And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

II. The Joy of Contentment

A. A definition from the Puritans

“Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.” (The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Jeremiah Burroughs, p. 19)

B. Emphasized throughout Scripture

Luke 3:14 - Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.”

1 Timothy 6:8 - If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.

Hebrews 13:5 - Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”

2 Corinthians 12:10 - Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

C. Has to be learned

Philippians 4:11–12 - Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.

D. Is only achievable through Christ

Philippians 4:13 - I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

“Stoic doctrine was that man should be sufficient unto himself for all things, and able, by the power of his own will, to resist the force of circumstances.”

III. The Joy of Serving Together

A. For the glory of God

Philippians 4:20 - Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

B. With other brothers and sisters

Philippians 4:21 - Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you.

C. Enjoying spiritual fruit

Philippians 4:22 - All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.

“The significance of this greeting could hardly be lost on the Philippian believers, opposition to whom in part at least stems from the fact that Philippi is a Roman colony, where devotion to Caesar had a long history. Besides having the gospel in common, and now suffering for Christ in common, Paul and the Philippians also have a common source of opposition. While the Philippians suffer at the hands of Roman citizens loyal to Caesar, Paul is an actual prisoner of Caesar. But in making him a prisoner at the heart of the empire, Rome has brought in a member of the ‘opposition’ who is in the process of creating a ‘fifth column’ within the very walls of the emperor’s domicile. Paul either has found or has made disciples of the ‘Lord’ Jesus among members of the imperial household, who are thus on the Philippians’ side in the struggle against those who proclaim Caesar as Lord!”

“Paul is an indomitable apostle of Christ Jesus. Let him loose and he will be among those ‘who turn the world upside down’ (Acts 17:6; a charge of sedition!) for his Christ; incarcerate him too close to home and he will ‘turn Caesar’s household upside down’ as well. Thus, here is a word of encouragement to the Philippians in the midst of their present struggle. The ‘word of life’ to which they hold firm in the midst of their ‘crooked and perverse generation’ (2:15–16) has already penetrated the heart of the empire. They have brothers and sisters in Caesar’s own household, who are on their side and now send them greetings; and therefore the Savior whom they await (3:20) in the midst of their present struggle will gather some from Caesar’s household as well as from Caesar’s Philippi when he comes.” (Gordon Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, p. 459-60)

D. Beginning and ending at the throne of grace

 

Philippians 1:2 - Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

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

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One of the great privileges we have a church family is the joy of accomplishing things together. I realize it's a worn out expression in sports, for sure, but it really is often the case when somebody says, "This was a team win. It's sweeter because everybody contributed." That's certainly true when it comes to the church of Jesus Christ. We're a team doing things together. The very word "church" communicates that, ekklesia. Ek, out of, kaleo, to call. We are a group of people who are called out to do things together. Jesus promised. The first time you find that word used in the Bible, Matthew 16, that on the foundation of his pending death and burial and resurrection, a group of people would be called out to admit their need and repent of their sin and place their faith and trust in Christ, but it would be a group from every conceivable ethnic group, every conceivable economic and cultural group, even Jews and Gentiles would become one in Christ and then serve and worship and grow together. Together. That promise began to be fulfilled in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost when the apostles were actually able to proclaim the Gospel in a way that in a variety of different ethnic groups are able to actually hear the word of God in their own language and, on that day, the Scripture tells us 3,000 persons repented and believed in Christ and were baptized as an outward symbol of what had just occurred in their hearts. It was a family. It was a group. It was a team of people chosen to accomplish God's will together. Together.

As you can imagine, I receive a fair amount of email, often from pastors and key laypeople who have come here for some kind of ministry training program. This week, I heard from a pastor in Georgia whose church is located in a university town, Carollton, Georgia, the University of Western Georgia. Several years ago they were looking for a way to have a greater impact on their campus, a greater way to have an impact on their community. They were also especially interested in finding ways to help their own church family grow deeper in their walk with Christ, especially from the perspective of applying the Scripture to everyday practical areas of life. His wife, this pastor, his wife had some interest in counseling and so as a busy pastor of a growing church, he said something to her like, "Honey, can you do some research and find a place where we can get some more training to do this?" So she goes on the internet and she came across our Biblical Counseling Training Conference in February, so she told him, "There's a church up in Indiana that believes God's word is sufficient, that churches can train people to sit down with others and compassionately find direction from the Bible together."

He told me later he was a bit skeptical but he and his wife and few laypersons decided to come to our Biblical Counseling Training Conference in February just a couple of years ago. I have the opportunity of teaching the very first session of Track 1 and, you know, you never know. You just never know what the Holy Spirit is doing in the life of somebody else. Some of these lectures I have taught so many times it's almost like being on autopilot. I can be thinking about something entirely different while I’m delivering some of those lectures, if you just want to know the truth. But you never know how God might use just one of those comments to really connect with that person's heart. He told me later that when we affirmed that all we were talking about here was concentrated discipleship and just having resources available to help men and women be drawn closer to Christ and then take practical steps to please God in key areas of everyday life, it wasn't something weird, it wasn't something strange, it wasn't something particularly new, he said that was the light bulb moment for him that God has called and God has equipped the church to make life changing resources available to people in our congregation and in our community. That's what we're supposed to be and that's what we've been equipped to do.

In the providence of God, after that session I went out into the foyer and many of you have been here for the Biblical Counseling Training Conference either because you took one of the tracks or because you were serving in some way and you know the sea of humanity after that first night's lecture because it is six different tracks and so people are coming in from all the tracks and trying to get connected back with the people in their group. The old man, honestly, tends to go long and so a lot of times all the other people in the other tracks are, "When is the old man going to get done in track 1?" It's ah-ha, I’ll own that.

So it's just a sea of humanity when you walk out into that foyer. I did that and in the providence of God, guess who I run into? This particular pastor who had just heard that presentation from the word and he asked me, he said, "Is there any way that I and this key layperson could get any time with you this week? I really need to talk with you more about what I just heard." At that point, I only had one meal left that wasn't already committed for the entire week and so we made a plan to meet down at Chili's and so later on that week, I met with him at Chili's and the more we talked about their passion and their vision, what they really believed God wanted them to accomplish in their university town, I’m thinking in the back of my mind, "They're describing Faith West." By God's grace, we've already done that together that they're describing, Faith West.

So that was actually the first February that Faith West was open and I asked him at some point in the conversation if they had ever heard of it and they said, "Well, no. I haven't heard about that yet." So I said, "Do you want to see it?" They said, "When can we see it?" "Well, how about right now because this is the only time I’ve got left in my schedule the entire week? How about right now?" So we jumped in our cars and headed over. I wish you could have seen their faces as we walked through Faith West. Here's what it was like: "God has been reading our mail. God has been reading our mail. This is exactly what we've been discussing. This is exactly what we've been dreaming about." Well, in the back of my mind, I was thinking about all the people on our team who had to come together to make that project a reality. Do you remember all that? The prayer walk. Do you remember that afternoon? All the discussions. All the design work. The public hearings. The media. The incredibly sacrificial giving. Even the opposition. And now here's a church from another state saying, "This is an unbelievable blessing to us that God already led you to do this. Will you help us now do this in our town?"

Well, advance the calendar now a year and a half or so to me receiving the email this week. You see, one of our church's core values is strengthening others. We've stated publicly, "We believe that God is pleased as we seek to strengthen other pastors, other missionaries, other key lay leaders, other churches, other ministries." And what that means is we're happy to make our pastors and our deacons and our key laymen and women available to consult with other ministries and try to help them accomplish their God-given dreams around the world. Well now, a year and a half later, I’ve been able to be down with them at their church in Georgia and survey their university campus and go and look at a whole bunch of possible sites for a new community center and a new church plant. They eventually flew a team up here including the mayor of their town, including the president of that university, several other community and church leaders. Both Mayor Roswarski and Mayor Dennis actually took the time to meet with them along with Dan H., the head of Purdue Research Foundation, communicating with that group and what I’m suggesting is none of that would have happened humanly speaking were it not for the faithful and sacrificial service of our church family just seeking to serve the Lord together and there share whatever we have learned freely with others.

Well, back to the email. He told me this week, he said, "1. We jumped all in on this biblical counseling front." He said, "We currently have 15 people going through biblical counseling training. They've all read their 1,000 pages. They've each observed ten hours of counseling. They've spent the last 13 weeks doing this together. They'll begin working on their certification exams next week." He said, "It's all very exciting. They're hoping to turn in their exams and begin supervised counseling next summer." Then he said in the middle of all that, they're currently unofficially counseling around 25 people from the town. Over the course of this calendar year, he said, they have met with over 50 people. Then he said it's been absolutely amazing to watch God work in the lives of both the counselors and those being counseled. Then he said this to us, he said, "I can't thank you enough for the time and the energy and the prayers that you give to biblical counseling and teaching others to do the same." Then he said, "We're planning to bring 50 people, both first time and return students, up to the conference this February," from Georgia to beautiful Lafayette in February to get a break from their terrible weather. He said, I think I added that, he said, "Our people are chomping at the bit to get back up there with you guys."

Then he said, "In the middle of all this City Station," that's their Faith West-like project, "is moving forward quickly. It's a little overwhelming," he said, "as a pastor, how God is orchestrating his will in our little town. It's crazy but I feel like we're almost leading two churches as we lead our current campus and situation while simultaneously planning for what God has prepared for us two years down the line." Then he said, all caps, "I definitely do not feel qualified, but I think that's when God likes to work the best," he said. Then he said, "We just signed the paperwork for the closing on the land this week. That was exciting. Now we're shifting gears to finding at least $5 million by next fall. I'm beginning to have those conversations with individuals so please keep me in your prayers. I'm definitely WAY out of my comfort zone on this one." Really? He said, "I know the resources are there, it's just a matter of trying to listen to God and his timing on how to find those resources." Then he said, "Well, we're also meeting with the architects and beginning to design more specifics of the building. We have the overall picture and plan and it's exciting to begin to think about the details. Overwhelming but exciting." Friends, what that means is it's highly likely that there is going to be a Faith West-like ministry near the campus of the University of West Georgia.

Now, please think back to all the people from our church who played some role in that project. What you realize is practically everybody from this church family. And then consider not just the way it has been a blessing to us in our ministry in West Lafayette and Purdue, but now a blessing to people that most of us will probably never meet. Here's the bottom line: I think I can speak for all of us when I say that gives our hearts tremendous joy to be able to attempt to bring glory to our risen Savior by accomplishing things together.

With that in mind, I want to invite you to open your Bible now to Philippians 4. That's on page 156 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you.

This morning we're landing the plane on our verse-by-verse study of this delightful book of the Bible. I hope you have enjoyed this as much as your pastors have. It really is our great delight and privilege to prepare and then teach God's word to our church family Sunday after Sunday. We would say with the Psalmist, would we not, "Your word is a lamp to my feet." That's how we get to these projects. That's how we get to serving together. "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." And I realize some of you might be new to this study. We pointed it out throughout but the book of Philippians is a thank you note written to a literal church in the city of Philippi by one of their missionaries or partners in the Gospel, the Apostle Paul, who is in prison in Rome for his faith and proclamation of Christ.

This morning we're going to focus on the final verses in the book which describe both Paul and this church family as partakers of grace through joyful thanksgiving. Through joyful thanksgiving. Follow along, please, as I read, beginning in Philippians 4:10. Paul said, "But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity." Now, I just want to suggest to you that there are some crucial theological nuggets right there so I hope when I started reading the Bible you were listening up even more than when I was reading from an email. Is that right? So just in case you were planning lunch, let me try one more time, or planning to celebrate the Colt's victory or whatever you were planning to do later on today.

"But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly," greatly, notice that, megalos, "that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed," I wonder what that means? "Indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret," wow. "I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Nevertheless, you have done well to," note this word, "share with me in my affliction. You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared," notice that, "with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. Not," here you go, "Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account. But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent," what was it? "A fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God." I wonder what God smells when he sniffs us? "And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially," hear this, "those of Caesar's household." Don't be putting Paul in jail. "Especially those of Caesar's household." By the way, how did this book begin? With grace. How do you think it's going to end? "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit."

Partakers of grace through joyful thanksgiving and with the time we have left, let's look for three reasons for joy. Are you happy this morning? You ought to be. Tell that mug of yours you are. Three reasons for joy as we seek to accomplish things together in Christ's church.

I. The Joy of Sharing

First of all, there is the joy of sharing. You probably noticed the repetitive use, I tried to point it out as we were reading, of that word "sharing," at key points in Paul's logic. Both of those themes are prominently on display in this passage. The relationship between joy and sharing. He said in chapter 4, verse 10, "But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly." Let's just stop there for a minute. Think about that word at the end of that phrase, it's the Greek word, megalos. That's the kind of joy that we're talking about here. Not hard to figure out what English word derives from that term, huh? That's the kind of joy we're talking about. It's like going to Sam's and getting your joy. It's going to be a mega sized container, probably a lot more than you need, but that's in the context of Philippians. Do you want some megalos joy? You've got to do some sharing.

"You have done well to share with me." No church shared with me, Paul said, in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone. That's what happens when God's people work together to meet needs and I realize it is counter-intuitive in a world that many times believes that he who dies with the most stuff wins. Nope! Nope. Nope. Nope. No. There is greater joy in sharing, especially when there are eternal issues at stake. Could I get an ah-ha on that? That might be right. There is greater joy in sharing, especially when there are eternal issues at stake.

Now, let's break these verses down a little bit. Paul talks about the beauty of concern. What does that mean? He says, "you have revived your concern," lock onto that for a minute, "for me." That's the Greek word phronein from the verb phronew which means to think. That's what concern is: think; have in mind; think the thoughts of; have one's mind controlled by. You see, that's what the Philippians had done here. They had trained their minds to care about Paul's needs as he continued to seek to minister the Gospel even while he was in chains. And it wasn't just something they talked about, this concern, it affected their checkbooks. No, that's probably not true because I’m not sure they had checkbooks and I'm not sure that metaphor works anymore in this culture because God's people don't use checkbooks anymore so it affected their online spending habits. Maybe I need to say that. By the way, you say, "Why are you talking about money this morning?" Because it's in the text. Some of you would fuss at me if I didn't preach from the Bible and then you fuss at me when I preach from the Bible. Well, maybe not, but that's why I’m talking about this this morning. That's what this book is about and certainly what this section is about. We refer to that around here as the beauty of math. Don't you love math? Love it because it's so precise. You can't hide from your math. You can't hide from your math, boys and girls. You can look at the way we spend or invest or give our money and tell really quickly what we're concerned about, what we are phronewing. What we have trained our minds to be controlled by.

Now, if you're trying to connect the dots in this entire series, which is good, you might say, "Hey, is that the same word form as when Paul has said repeatedly throughout this book, 'Make my joy complete by being of the same mind'? Concern. 'Make my joy complete by being of the same mind.' Is that the same word?" You'd better believe it. Key principle from that: cultivating similar concerns draws a group of men and women together. That's how you become of the same mind. Not because you look the same. Not because you have the same past. No, no, no, you are cultivating the same godly spiritual concerns together.

That's what's motivating this church in Georgia to do what they're doing. Honestly, they're a good sized church now. I've been to their campus. They have a beautiful rural campus. They could just sit around and serve themselves the rest of their days but their concern, phronew, their concern is the students at that university and the people in their city and so they're ramping up for this incredible stretch of their faith because of the concern for others they have cultivated in their hearts. Amen. Amen. Amen and amen. And the reason that's such a beautiful thing, think about that verb for a minute, it's because in so doing they're adopting the mind of Christ. "Let this mind be in you," the King James. I can't get that out of my brain, probably you can't either. NASB, "have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus." Would it surprise anybody to learn that the word "attitude" or the word "mind" is the exact same root that we're studying this morning? And this church that I’m talking about this morning is developing the mind of Christ by having a shared concern.

Of course that leads to the question, doesn't it, "What are you concerned about?" That's a good question, isn't it? It comes right out of the text. What are you concerned about? What do you think the thoughts of? What's your mind controlled by? Now, hang onto that but there is a very important development in the logic as you think also about the importance of opportunity. You've got to have both. You see, you have to have both. Paul says, "I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your," phronein, "your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you, oh, you lacked opportunity." By the way, it's interesting that Paul doesn't explain that statement. There are all sorts of views out there; I could spend the rest of the morning. Some people think that's what expository preaching is, getting off on all sorts of little tangents. I could spend the rest of the morning talking about all the ideas that possibly explain Paul's statement that he didn't have the opportunity. No one knows for sure, but we know this: they have the opportunity now and they seized it. In fact, what Paul says is "you revived." Do you see that word "revived"? That's a horticultural term. You had concern but now because of the opportunity, it has revived. It's like a beautiful flower blooming again.

This part of the study makes me chuckle because even while I was preparing this message, I mentioned I get email constantly and I love it, okay? I do love it when people are talking with me as long as they don't mind me talking back. Could I get an ah-huh on that? That's a two way street. While I was preparing this message I actually received multiple emails from people about possible ministry opportunities. I love that. Opportunities. They were saying, in essence, here's what I’m concerned about and here's an opportunity to meet that need and here's how I’m willing to be involved. I love that. I've always said I’d rather rope in wild stallions than try to drag dead horses and we have a church family filled with stallions for sure. For that I am profoundly grateful. There is concern, phronein, looking for opportunity.

Now, bring in the emphasis from verses 14 to 15, especially in addressing affliction. Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh. He says, "Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction." Now listen, some people are happy to get on board when things are going well, but they run like wildfire when the affliction comes. "I don't want to be part of that affliction." It's a difference between running out of the burning building and running into it.

It was interesting as I was traveling with these friends from Georgia. They were taking me around town. They were showing me where their campus used to be and where they want to put it. Guess what? They're going closer into their city. They're going to have a smaller piece of land, a more expensive piece of land, and in a place that's not nearly as nice. What are they thinking? They're running into the burning building instead of running out of it. You see, you want phronein concern, you want opportunity looking for affliction.

Speaking of affliction, that's why we're so excited about the Hartford Hub project, replacing the Cooler Keg. There is some affliction, that hot mess. It's replacing the Cooler Keg Bar with a community resource center. In fact, there it is right there. Isn't that beautiful? Absolutely. A neighborhood park. Housing for several seminary couples. Here's what that means: we're not concerned about the best place in town because that ain't it. We're not concerned about the most trendy place in town or the easy place in town. We're glad for the suburban campuses we have, but we're now proactively marshaling suburban resources to meet urban need where poverty is most pronounced. That's it. Where ethnic diversity is most concentrated. That's it. Where drug and alcohol abuse and criminal activity is most prevalent. That's it. That's it. That's it. And here's what we believe: we believe the Gospel is powerful enough to make a positive difference in the north end of Lafayette and by God's grace we're going there because of our growing concern, our phronein, where the affliction is most pronounced. And I love when Laurie Walters was asked, our Director of our Faith Community Development Corporation, was asked in a television interview why there, here's what she said simply, "That's where our heart is." That's where our heart is exactly.

By the way, I know you're thinking about this but let me just remind the person or two who might have forgotten. I hope you're praying about a year in gift or a special financial commitment between now and next summer to help make that project a reality. You'd want to, huh? You would be mad at me if I didn't offer the opportunity. I don't want you mad at me this close to Christmas. You say, "Boy, that's great news to be able to do that together." You'd better believe it is, but listen to this: I’m finally able to publicly announce to you that we are hiring two young men to lead a downtown church plant. You say, "Who are you entrusting that to?" There you go right there. There you go. The hope of the church, Joey R., Stephan N., two of our seminary graduates; two fine young men and their families to begin leading us in planting a church downtown. It's highly likely that that church plant will begin, anybody want to guess where? Right there at the Hartford Hub. Right there at the Hartford Hub in one of the worst places in our town.

Think about this. Back up for a second. A number of you men were with us in Men of Faith Saturday before last and we had a fabulous time. In fact, every guy who was there I know would say, "That was solid gold. That was a great challenge. That was a great encouragement to each of us men." Well, you start talking about what are the greatest needs in the north end to the people who actually live there, before long you'll start hearing this refrain, "Where are the principled men? Where are the principled men around here? We know where the deadbeat men are. We know where the drug dealing men are. We know where the discouraged men are. But where are the principled men?" Well, what would stop us from having a version of Men of Faith like we just enjoyed a week and a half ago, yes, on a bit smaller scale, right there at the Hartford Hub for men in those neighborhoods? Followed by the same kind of ladies' ministry? I know that the ladies had something later on that same day. I did not go. I really don't know what they did. I assume it's not illegal or immoral, but I heard it was good, although I did not hear about the details. I shouldn't have said that. But what would stop us from having that exact kind of a ministry right there in the north end? What would stop us? Here is the answer: nothing. Nothing would stop us as long as we're cultivating what is it? Concern. Concern because the opportunity is right there, huh? Believing there are eternal consequences here.

Paul says, "Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account." Paul made no apologies about encouraging the Philippians to live this way because he believed at the core of his being – he believed this, do you? – that  organizing your concerns around those of the God of heaven, his concerns, brings great joy and great reward. Do you believe that? Here's what I want to do: I want to find out what God is concerned about in this town and I want to get on that. How about you? I want to find out what God cares about in this town and in this world and I want to be all over that, don't you? In fact, I want to say to him, I hope you pray like this all the time, "Lord, give me the lion's share of that one in order to bring glory to you. If you want us to do that, we're on it."

Jesus said this, he said, "Don't store up for yourselves treasures on earth." Lame. Why? "Where moth and rust destroy." Lame. "Where thieves break in and steal." Good. "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal." You see, that's what this church in Georgia is fixing to do. By the way, that's exactly the way they would say it. That's what they're fixing to do in part, do you know why humanly speaking? In part because they saw you do it. You went first on that one. They saw you do it and that brings you, I hope, tremendous joy. By the way, you might say, "Hey, Christmas, that might mean that my kiddies are going to have to get a little less for Christmas. That might mean my wife and I are going...." Good. Good. The last thing most of your kids need is another pair of expensive tennis shoes. If you spent $150 on their last pair of tennis shoes, that ought to last them until they go to college. What in the world are we thinking? By the way, every kid who hears me say that today better say amen or I’m coming to your house this week. I'd better not say it, but it just came next to my brain. I'm not even going to say it because I don't want to be reported to CPS but I’m just saying. I hope a lot of our families say, "Let's reduce down the whole Christmas thing." And listen, I hope you're giving your kids something to live for, something that's going to bring them genuine biblical joy because they're concerned about something else other than themselves.

"I sought a flag to follow,

A cause for which to stand.

I sought a valiant leader,

Who could my will command.

I found them all in Jesus,

The life, the truth, the way.

Beneath his flag I’ll take my stand,

And follow him today."

You want your kids to say that and the day your kids can say that out of the joy of their own heart because they're watching momma and daddy cultivate the right kind of phronein, the right kind of concern, and then seizing opportunities and they want in on that, that's the day you got the job done with your kids.

Believing God is well-pleased by all of this. "But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice," what? What's the last part of this? "Well-pleasing to God." The Sunday night before Thanksgiving, we're going to gather for our stewardship celebration over at the Faith East Community Center gym. Last year, we had the largest group ever assembled for that event. We're hoping to see that again. I just want to encourage you right now, put that on your calendar the Sunday night before Thanksgiving for our stewardship celebration. You know, one of the things that we're going to be celebrating is the completion of our Senior Living Community. In fact, a couple Thursday nights ago, our pastors and deacons had our monthly meeting but we had it over there at the Senior Living Clubhouse. It was marvelous to walk in there and the seniors were having dinner together. One of the reasons we built the thing. They were enjoying dinner together and all the pastors and deacons were able to interact with them before they went over to the other side of that building and had their meeting. But it was just a marvelous time of fellowship and celebration.

Well, why did we do that together? Because we wanted to make a statement about what the Lord thinks about those who are older and when we get together, Lord willing in just a couple of weeks at our stewardship celebration, we're going to be able to offer that up as a sweet smelling savor to our Lord, praising him for the privilege of serving him in that way together. And I would just ask you this morning: does it bring joy to your heart to know that when your Savior sniffs you he likes what he smells?

Believing then that God will supply. Paul said, "And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." You see, we decided long ago around here we're not a pond, we're a stream. This place is not a bank. Thank God for banks. We're not that. That makes all the difference in the world and I just want to say to you this morning, you never want your life to become so well insulated that God could stop blessing you and you'd be fine anyway. One of our former deacons used to like to say about his family's finances, "We believe we can get along better on 90% of our income with God's blessing than 100% of our income without it." That is exactly what the Philippians believed. Can I ask you this morning, do the words "joy" and "sharing" go together well in your heart and mind? Do they? Are you developing the mind of Christ in this matter and are you transitioning that mindset into specific and powerful action?

II. The Joy of Contentment

So there is the joy of sharing. There is also the joy of contentment. Paul made it clear that while he was thankful for what they had done, he had learned what he terms here as "the secret of contentment." What does that mean? Here's a definition from one of the Puritans: "Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and Fatherly disposal in every condition." It's kind of how the Puritans would say it, but it's good for us to think about it that way. Paul said, "That's what God allowed me to develop. Whether I had humble means, when I was living in prosperity." Either way, because ultimately, here's the secret,  his joy and his satisfaction were in the Gospel, his security, his identity in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, and as long as he had that, he had enough.

And when you have a whole group of people who are growing in contentment together like the Philippians were and like this church in Georgia is, it's amazing what can be accomplished by contented people which is why this is emphasized throughout the Scriptures. It's interesting how you see this. For example, in Luke 3, John the Baptist was talking to some soldiers and he said, "Don't take money from anyone by force, accuse anyone falsely, and by the way, be content with your wages." Be content with what God has given you. Or 1 Timothy 6:8, "If we have food and covering," and we all have that, right? Some of us had to haul some extra food into the church house today. On us. "If we have food and covering, with these we should be content." Hebrews 13:5, "Make sure your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have, for he himself has said, 'I'll never desert you nor will I ever forsake you.'" 2 Corinthians 12:10, "Therefore I am well content even with weakness, with insult, distress, persecution, difficulties, for Christ's sake for when I am weak, then I am strong."

Please note also that Paul said, "I had to learn this. I had to learn this." He said, "Not that I speak from want but I’ve learned. I've learned to be content." He said, "I've learned the secret of being filled and going hungry." Here's what that means and I hope this doesn't sound offensive because that's not my way, but you did not come out of the womb a contented person. Could I get an uh-huh on that? You did not come out. Now, I did. I came out, my mom would tell you, with a three piece suit on, King James Bible in my hand, thanking her for carrying me the last nine months and asking if I could serve her in any way. Well, maybe not exactly. You came out, we came out bawling and screaming and demanding as if we were the only people on the face of the earth, right? You little sinner, you. The sad thing is some people of aged 10 or 20 or 30 or more years and they're still behaving in about the same fashion. There's not a lick of contentment in their heart because at some point this has to be learned. It just does. You have to get to the place of knowing how. Not intellectually but experientially.

Well, that leads to a question, doesn't it? How are you doing at the matter of contentment and what would have to occur for you to grow in this area? Now, connect the dots. How are these ideas of contentment and sharing connected? Here's the answer: the more you're finding your joy and your contentment in Christ, the more you're going to want to share that news with others and do whatever is necessary to shine the light of the Gospel as far and wide as you possibly can. Well, that's only achievable through Christ. That's where this great verse, Philippians 4:13, fits into all of this. "I can do all things through him who strengthens me."

You know, some people actually accused Paul here of borrowing from the Stoics talking about contentment. That's not true. Commentator Peter O'Brien said, "Stoic doctrine was that man should be sufficient unto himself." That's what contentment was. "Enabled by the power of his own will to resist the force of circumstances." That's not biblical contentment at all. We're not talking about finding sufficiency in yourself apart from other people or circumstances, it's the polar opposite. It's finding your joy and satisfaction in Christ, the one for whose fellowship and dependency you were created.

III. The Joy of Serving Together

So there is the joy of sharing and the joy of contentment and lastly, there is the joy of serving together. That's how this book ends, serving for the glory of God. "Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen." What the Philippians had done brought great glory to God. What this church in Georgia is planning and hoping and striving to do, it will bring great glory to God.

With other brothers and sisters. "Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you." It's great when God's people work together. We actually got the initial numbers on the Hartford Hub project this week or the end of last week, and we were looking at that and it came out a bit higher. I've never had a building project yet that didn't have the sticker shock day. It came out a bit higher and so the contractor had done such a great job of putting all the numbers together and helping us see what the plan was going to cost and then Joe Blake, our long time chairman of deacons, looked at that and a number of us looked at that and we started talking and saying, "What if we did this? What if we did this?" and we were actually able to find a way to adjust the project and save $90,000 and actually make it a whole lot better. Well, that's because you have a whole group of people coming together and striving together, other brothers and sisters.

Enjoying spiritual fruit. You have this statement right at the end, "All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar's household," which means their generous support of Paul was resulting in people coming to know even while Paul was in chains. I'm not sure we recognize the significance of that. Listen to what this particular commentator, Gordon Fee, said about that, "The significance of this greeting could hardly be lost on the Philippian believers, opposition to whom in part at least stems from the fact that Philippi is a Roman colony who devotion to Caesar had a long history. Besides having the Gospel in common and now suffering for Christ, Paul and the Philippians also have a common source of opposition. While the Philippians suffer at the hands of Roman citizens loyal to Caesar, Paul's an actual prisoner of Caesar. But in making him a prisoner at the heart of the empire, Rome has brought in a member of the opposition, Paul, who is in the process of creating a fifth column within the very walls of the emperor's domicile. Paul either had found or has made disciples of the Lord Jesus among members of the imperial household who are thus on the Philippians' side in the struggle against those who proclaim Christ Jesus as Lord. Paul is an indomitable apostle of Christ Jesus. Let him loose, he'll be among those who turn the world upside down for Christ. Incarcerate him too close to home, he'll turn Caesar's household upside down as well."

It's amazing when you come together, when you have a heart of concern and you're willing to share in order to seize opportunities. You might have people in Caesar's household come to place their faith and trust in Christ and isn't it interesting, the whole book began, the whole book ends at the throne of grace. Chapter 1, verse 2, "Grace to you and peace from God." That's how it all started. Chapter 4, verse 23, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit."

Hey friends, if Christ tarries his coming, what's going to happen in February of next year? There is going to be another group of men and women here from around the country from a number of different countries. They're going to want to see the Senior Living Community. They're going to want to talk about the Hartford Hub. They're going to want to talk about ministry to victims of human trafficking. They're going to want to talk about what's going on at Bethany Farms, etc. etc. etc. Isn't it marvelous? Does it bring your heart joy this morning to be able to find grace to develop concern and then seize ministry opportunities together?

Let's stand together for prayer, shall we?

Father in heaven, thank you. Thank you for the church. Thank you that we are a called out group of people. And, Lord, thank you that we can develop common concerns. We can train our minds, not just to have more stuff for us, but we can train our minds for the greatest places of affliction and then we can marshal our resources to go there. Thank you that the Philippians did that. Thank you for so many other churches that do that. Thank you for those in this congregation who have that heart as well. We don't say that to bring glory to us, we say that to point out the transforming grace of our God. We pray this in Christ's name. Amen.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987.  He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and they have three children. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church.  He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of Vision of Hope and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video