The Hopeful Church
The concluding section of Paul’s letter to the Philippians is largely about money. In this passage Paul describes his joy in the Lord in response to the financial contributions he received from the people of Philippi.
Paul also describes how he was able to get on in ministry regardless of whether he had an abundance of resources or was lacking. Paul commends the Philippians for their gift and then explains how they will ultimately benefit from their generosity.
Paul then ends the letter by pointing to God. Paul’s benediction to the people of Philippi is, “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).
Philippians chapter 4 is largely concerned with the subject money. This sermon is not. This morning I would like us to spend some time looking at the principles outlined by Paul when speaking about money. These principles are readily transferable into other aspects of our lives. Paul presents us with principles that will assist us in our walk with the Lord, and these principles will aid our work as a local congregation.
Beginning at verse 10, the first principle I see is the need to praise God for Christian cooperation.
Paul writes, “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” (4:10).
In this instance, the cooperation being celebrated is financial. Paul notes that while he was in Thessalonica, the Philippian Church sent a gift more than once for (his) needs (4:16).
Financial support becomes a primary means of cooperation when the Christian parties involved are separated by distance. For example, it is a rare thing for St. Giles Kingsway to send people to remote locations for the purpose of advancing the gospel. It is common, however, for St. Giles Kingsway to send money to benefit ministries far away from here.
Though Paul is speaking here of financial partnership, I do not think it wrong for us to widen the expectations for Christian cooperation.
The leaders of St. Giles Kingsway are not physically separated from the members of St. Giles Kingsway. And those we hope to bless with the gospel are not far away, but are figuratively at our doorstep in the surrounding community of Etobicoke.
Our particular context for ministry then, allows for a much deeper level of cooperation for the gospel. Yes, financial partnership is an important aspect, but it is just one way for the members of St. Giles Kingsway to cooperate.
As you know we host many events and programs throughout the year. Some of these events explicitly promote the gospel of Christ and are out-reaching in character. Other events promote Christian fellowship and are more in-reaching in character. All of our programs depend upon people. All of our events require Christians to cooperate.
I’ll use Kingsway Adventure Camp as an example—one, because it is only two weeks away, but secondly, because I regard this program to be one of the best ways we promote the gospel within our community.
Kingsway Adventure Camp, as you might imagine, depends hugely upon Christian cooperation.
To run our program, we need a team of bible teachers, a team teaching crafts, a team leading games, a hospitality team, a team teaching music, a team of greeters and a team of administrators.
Collectively, these teams represent more than 30 volunteers. Our volunteers are generously donating their time, and they are utilizing their God-given abilities for the benefit of others.
In short, the program needs money, the program needs people, and the program requires our people to work hard and to cooperate with one another.
I am pleased to report that K.A.C. is a program that, year after year, has enough money, has enough volunteers, and has enough coordination from those volunteers to accomplish our objective of demonstrating the love of Christ to the children of our community.
I can safely site the example of K.A.C. because I regard it to be an exemplary microcosm of what is required from St. Giles Kingsway as a whole.
We need money for programs yes, but more than that we need committed Christian people cooperating with committed Christian people.
When this happens, Paul’s example calls us to rejoice in the Lord. You see, Paul recognizes that the cooperation he has received from the Philippians is a function of the Philippian Church’s love for the Lord Jesus Christ.
In other words, we need to confess that behind every good program is a group of committed people, and behind every group of committed people, is a merciful and loving God who has called them and equipped them for service. For this reason, we rejoice in the Lord!
But what happens when we don’t get enough volunteers? What happens if the required support is not there?
I would suggest that we need to consider two things: First, if we lack the necessary financial and human resources to run a program, we need to consider the possibility that the Lord is wanting us to discontinue such a program.
The biblical testimony and our common experience teach us that the Lord often speaks to us through the providence of circumstances. And so it may be the case that it is by Divine purpose that we lack the necessary people and resources to run a particular ministry.
However, if it can be confidently said that the Lord is behind a program that is lacking volunteers, then what is likely the case is that the Lord is drawing us into a closer dependence on Him. This is what happened to Paul. Paul said that he learned to get on in whatever circumstances, declaring, “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity” (4:11, 12).
In other words, if our ministry programs are God-ordained, we may find ourselves confessing, “We know how to get along with a just a few volunteers and we know how to live with a surplus of volunteers.” Of course, I would prefer that latter, but I recognize that it is rare for a congregation to reach a saturation point with regard volunteers.
At any rate, the principle to be gleaned here is that we must depend upon the Lord in order to gain the necessary resources for ministry.
The third, and final, principle is a product of the former: when we depend upon the Lord for help, He sufficiently strengthens us and meets our needs and the ministry needs of others.
Paul declares triumphantly, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (4:13).
‘Paul, what do you mean by “all things”?’
‘I mean to say that God will strengthen me to do all that He requires of me.’
Or, as someone has well put it, God does not call the qualified, but He qualifies those whom He calls.
‘That’s great for you Paul—you’re an apostle, you’re a special person in God’s plan. God may supply what you need, but we’re a congregation, and our needs are many and complex.’
And how does Paul reply, “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory” (4:19).
Friends, this is why we can be, and why we ought to be, a hopeful church.
At the end of the day, once we have volunteered, once we have committed ourselves to cooperate as Christians wanting to promote the gospel, the result is left the Lord.
I think it is human nature to want to do things we can succeed at. We’re not interested in things where a positive outcome is in doubt.
On a personal note, I think this is why I play less and less golf these days. I am fascinated by the sport, and I do enjoy myself when I’m on the golf course, but I have noticed that my hunger to play the game of golf has greatly diminished. I think that might be because I am doubtful of having any measure of success on the golf course.
By contrast, I now find that whenever I am near a lake, I am eager to get out my fishing rod and get a line in the water. I think that is because I have had great success catching fish this summer.
Now, I realize there isn’t tremendous skill required for fishing, but that’s not my point—my point is that human beings naturally want to participate in things where we expect to see advancement and success.
And I wonder if the reason why some people drop out of assisting church ministries is because they have prevailing doubts about whether the ministry has any hope of flourishing.
In my limited experience, I have witnessed many backwards steps in congregational ministry. And while every backward step concerns me, I must say that very few backward steps alarm me. That’s because the Bible teaches we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
I am entirely hopeful for ministry at St. Giles Kingsway because our God shall supply all our needs according to His riches in glory.
Admittedly, forward progress may come slowly. Our volunteerism may be required for a long journey, but eventually, progress will come. If we lean on the Lord Jesus Christ in all that we do, progress will come.
Jesus promises us that. Jesus promises, “I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not overpower it” (Mt. 16:18).
For those who have been faithful partners in gospel ministry here—I say to you, ‘Well done!’
I also say to you: Stay the course. The journey is long, and our dependence upon the Lord must be sustained.
And as we continue to labour together for the gospel, let us be marked by great hopefulness. Amen.