How to blossom into a transformed participant?
According to Phil 4:10, the participation of the Philippian church in the gospel-work turned dormant for a short period of time (Phil 4:10b). For about 11 years they had become stagnant, which is strange! They did not take care of the needs of the missionaries or participate in the advancement of the gospel, but had turned dormant. The church was established in AD 52 and this letter was written in AD 63. We can see for a few years that they were in full throttle to support and actively take part in gospel work and suddenly stagnation sets in. Like a lot of people today, when it comes to the great commission, we tend to postpone it. We say things like, “let me think about it when I go to church or it is not my responsibility and let someone else take care of the needs, etc.” We don’t prioritize and therefore the urgency is not there. People probably have an amateurish attitude about taking care of missionaries.
If you take some time to look at the track record of the Philippi church, they have some amazing traits:
1. Lydia had an open house – In Acts 16:15 we see that Lydia persuaded apostle Paul, Timothy, Silas and Luke to stay at her house.
2. The jailor was hospitable – In Acts 16:33-34, the jailor brought them into his house and set a meal before them.
3. Their fellowship in the gospel – In Phil 1:5, the word “participation” in Greek is “Koinonia,” meaning having the same goal in their mind. They all had the same goal in mind.
4. The hardworking co-workers – In Phil 4:3, Euodia and Syntyche along with Clement and other co-workers were working together for the gospel.
5. They supported missionaries – In Phil 4:15, no one had shared in giving except the Philippians. When Paul left Macedonia and went to Achaia and Athens (Acts 18), until Timothy and Silas joined him, Paul was working. Later he didn’t have to because they brought sufficient money for Paul to be supported.
6. Their partnership in ministry – In II Cor 8:1-5, they gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God to others.
As I look at these qualities, I am moved to ask this question: How did this church stand out as a generous, hospitable, and giving church?
1. They probably understood that their restored relationship with God has two components: continuous receiving from Him and generous reciprocity towards Him (Phil 4:15). It is not just one-way of receiving from God, but it involved receiving and giving.
2. The gospel converted them from being transactional givers to transformed participants. The gospel not only transforms lives from sin to righteousness, but brings about complete transformation. Many churches have members that are transactional givers and after Sunday, it is completely forgotten. But the Philippian church transitioned from transactional givers to transformed participants.
3. The generosity of the people demonstrates that their hearts were completely transformed, that they believed in the power of the gospel and they wanted to advance it. They did not say only the leaders and the team are responsible for the gospel work. It is not just the responsibility of the fulltime workers who can go to Thessalonica and Achaia, but everyone needs to participate in it. Having been a pastor for a long time now, I have seen it is the people who have understood the power of the gospel that become transformed givers and others are only transactional givers.
4. It demonstrates that their hearts were rich towards God that participating financially was worship to them (Phil 4:18). Their giving was a sweet-smelling aroma to God. The great commission in Matt 28:19-20 is not an option for an individual or a local church, but it is a mandate. The strength of a church is not in the number of people in the pew but in its conviction towards the great commission. At Crossroad church, whenever we think of our budget, the great commission is given the number one priority. We have many missionaries and we like to set aside 20% to 30% towards missions.
5. A well-known scholar, Walter Hanson said, “God initiates giving, empowers givers, supplies gifts, and meets needs.” If the church in Philippi gave, it was because God initiated that work in them, to move them from transactional givers to transformed participants. Chuck Swindoll used to call transformed givers as hilarious givers. It is God who empowers and supplies givers.
I have heard some people tell me let the resources come, and then we will give. It is like the question of whether the egg came first or the chicken? When it comes to generosity, I have to ask, did they get the resources first and then became generous or they were generous and got the resources? I believe it is the latter.
So, we see here after being in a brief period of dormancy or inactivity in the matters of giving and receiving, the Philippians renewed their commitment towards Paul and his ministry (Phil 4:10b). What are some things we can notice in their growth?
# Blossom again – Paul uses a botanical term “blossom” for renewal of their commitment to him (Phil 4:10b). The Greek word is “anathallo,” meaning to renew, refresh, bloom again. You plant a seed in the ground, and for a period of time you don’t see anything happening and suddenly, you see a plant sprouting up. Paul is very glad that they have once again blossomed into supporting God’s work. How did they blossom again?
# Ministry is a team sport – In ministry everyone has a role to play and there is no place for apathy. Some might have little and some might have more, yet they have a relative role to play. Ultimately it is not the amount, but the heart that matters. It was not Paul’s ministry in Thessalonica or Corinth, but it was God’s ministry. God supplies the needs of the workers through His people. What triggered this renewal?
# God renews faithful stewards – God renews those who have a track record of stewardship (Phil 4:10). There are many who hold tight to their wealth and continue to maintain an amateurish attitude toward the great commission. But some of them although they have gone through a season of stagnation, God renews them because God sees a track record of stewardship. God stirred the Philippian believers to do what they are good at: receiving and giving (Phil 4:15, 17).
Let’s look at Paul’s attitude in the midst of lack of support. When the support system stops what are some different ways to stay encouraged and be sustained? Paul lists three factors that sustained him (Phil 4:11-14).
1. Contentment (verse 11 cf. 4:18). Paul learned contentment. Many times, these verses are used out of context. But we see here from Paul’s life that it is under the circumstances of lack of support from the Philippian church, he learned an important lesson, contentment.
2. Adaptability (verse 12). Paul says, he knows what it is to be in need and what it is to be in plenty. He had learned to adapt to the situation. While in Philippi he was staying in a wealthy place, in the house of Lydia. When he went to Thessalonica, and was ministering in Corinth, they supplied his needs. Then they stopped the support and what did Paul do? He adapted to the situation.
3. Dependency on Christ (verse 13). Instead of quoting this verse in a triumphant way, we need to understand the context here. For Paul, ultimately Christ is all in all and all that he needed was in Christ.
Sadly, when the givers stop giving, they don’t understand that it is the ministry that is affected. It may be a season of stagnation or taking it easy or not properly prioritizing giving or even having some kind of an amateurish attitude toward giving. God’s work is affected. But we have such a great example in apostle Paul. His ultimate dependency was not in people, but in God who supplies all our needs.
Paul is very happy about the Philippian church’s renewal, not because of the gift, but after 10 years of dormancy, they have renewed their commitment to support the work of the gospel and he is acknowledging the gift. Materially, it demonstrated their partnership and friendship, theologically, it demonstrated spiritual maturity and growth and spiritually, it is an act of worship to God, which is a fragrance, acceptable and pleasing to God.
When I counsel people regarding relationships and financial issues, I ask them how are they spending their money? Where is God in their giving? Is He the most important person in their life? Is He the motivator of their hard work? We can ask ourselves this question, “why should God answer our prayer regarding employment, promotion or financial prosperity if we are a bystander in God’s ministry?” God gives so you can be a generous giver.
Let’s blossom again and become a transformed participant in God’s work.
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