“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19, ESV).
Imagine with me what our churches would look like if we actually lived out the truth of this verse. Of course, we confess that it is, in fact, true—it’s the Word of God! The tricky thing, though, is allowing this truth to permeate our hearts and minds so that it is thoroughly reflected in our thoughts, attitudes, and actions. This verse, and the earlier verse, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (4:13), are “popular” verses. My wife calls them “coffee mug verses.” We like to be reminded of these positive messages: “God will supply all your needs”; “I can do all things…” But what is the context?
In the previous verses, Paul is telling the Philippian church that he himself has learned how to face “plenty and hunger, abundance and need” and how “in whatever circumstance… to be content,” facing all living situations (doing “all things”) “through him (Christ).” Then he commends the Philippians for their kindness in sharing with him when he was in need, their partnership with him in giving. He recognizes their gifts as a “fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.” And now that he is “well supplied” by their gifts, he tells them, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ.” Imagine their reaction!
The act of selfless and generous giving revitalizes us to understand those words, “My God will supply all your needs.”
How would living by these words change our priorities and commitments? Would we still be striving for the biggest house, the fastest car, or the fanciest boat? What would that look like?
Perhaps, if we lived this verse, we would realize that even the things we need should not consume all our thoughts, energy, time, and resources; that we don’t need to be concerned with hoarding our wealth at the expense of those around us and the needs of ministry.
One of the needs we overlook—because it seems counter-intuitive—is that we need to be generous and sacrificial in our giving. What? You never heard anyone tell you that you need to be generous and give? If all of our needs are met in Christ, and Christ is the very definition of generosity and sacrifice, how can generosity and sacrifice not be things that God knows we need? Would we still think that giving to and serving in ministry is a burden, or would we see it as something that revitalizes us? Would we understand that Christ himself lives out his life through us as we minister to others with the gifts he has given?
One key to revitalization of our congregations is the revitalization of each of us. If we each lived out the truth of Philippians 4:19, not striving for things, but truly satisfied with God’s provisions, if we were generous and sacrificial in giving of our resources and our time for others, trusting in God to supply our needs, do you think our congregations might be healthier and more fruitful? I do.
God wants us to be like Christ so that the world may know him and the power of his resurrection by seeing Christ in us. Do we do this perfectly? No. Will we ever in this life do it perfectly? No. But when the lives we live reflect Christ now, even a little bit more than last week—this is what others need to see, so that in the gospel they may come to know the one who can actually meet all of their needs.
Roy Heggland is Associate for Biblical Stewardship for the Church of the Lutheran Brethren.