A Fragrant Offering

And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19.

 

This is a pivotal life verse for me.  It’s one of the promises most likely to keep me from panicking when things don’t go as expected; and, of course, thwarted expectations are the key to understanding why we panic or get stressed at all.

The context centers on the offering the Philippians sent Paul.  He’s been supplied by them time and again, which tends to make a person grateful after a while.  The promised blessing grows out of their willingness to be a blessing to others, and herein lies the secret to Paul’s declaration of God’s supply.

The discussion of their gift to Paul at various stages of his ministry followed by the promise that God will supply their needs explains how and why this is true.  It isn’t enough that they believe in God or that they have the right understanding of the cross or even that they are nice people.  Where the rubber meets the road for God’s work in their lives is in their generosity.  In one sense, this spirit of giving tells the tale of their transformed hearts and declares their faith in action.  In another sense, it can be viewed as an investment with returns.  As they expend generously for the cause of Christ they open themselves up for the blessing of heaven—not only in goods and services but in connection to the Almighty.

The heavenly rewards are based on works, though eternal life is not.  What I mean is everywhere in the Bible the reward of accepting God/Christ is life, yes, but there are additional medals of honor given to those who stand for Christ through exceptionally harsh circumstances.  1 Corinthians 3 speaks to the house we build on the foundation of Christ and the apostles.  The teacher lays the foundation of Christ as the measuring line for it, of which the apostles make up the rest along with the prophets, then the person building the spiritual house (which can symbolize either an individual or church) must be careful what materials he or she uses.  The materials available are not only the doctrines but the works of Christ lived out and designed to declare who’s house it is.

Some might decry this idea as legalism, but as far as I am concerned, it’s the furthest thing from it.  Salvation is free to all, the rewards of a righteous life are not.  To receive a reward for a righteous life one must live a righteous life.  I know it sounds elementary to some, but the confusion around the teaching of rewards and punishment set off a lot of rabbit trailing ideas meant to clarify the subject which instead just muddy the waters.  The pursuit of righteousness has given us many crazy doctrinal bylaws and denominations.  The monastic design set out to accomplish the unhindered pursuit of God but ended up being something else many times entirely.  Jesus spoke to it when He spoke about the sheep and the goats—the former ministered to widows, orphans and gave generously, the latter ignored the world and its problems.  Both the sheep and goats claimed the name of Jesus as their identity, yet only one was declared a friend of God.

1 John 2:6 Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.

Walking is a physical activity—even spiritually.  Jesus traveled the country blessing others and taking care of His world.  He also taught faithful, earnest passionate pursuit of heavenly things and God; none of which is merely cerebral.  The practical nature of God’s law shouts out how well He designs things.  Sure, the Law couldn’t make us righteous but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t righteous.  Any problems we have with it didn’t come from it but from our sinful natures.

One of the problems I find in my own psyche is that my values in spiritual things are completely backwards.  See if God really is my Father and I’m an heir to everything in Christ, then worrying about supply is crazy.  Again, if God tells us we are His children and He’s gonna’ supply our needs, then anxiety over them is silly.  It would be like my son worrying about whether or not I’ll feed him at lunch time even though he knows full well we have food in the fridge and elsewhere.  We know God promised to feed, water and clothe us what else do we actually need?

In our minds, quite a lot.

It’s futility in the practical aspects of the story when we think somehow our faith is solid yet worry or grow anxious about our needs.  If the God we serve doesn’t come through, then we have something to worry about.  If we see ample evidence He does, then any anxiety on our part comes straight from distrust.  We cannot simultaneously trust and distrust God or anyone else.  Oh we might be able to selectively trust someone but total trust is out.

The big thing for me is following through on the belief that God will supply all my needs, without concerning myself with how.  What I’m finding out about myself tells the tale of someone who believes his “needs” encompass more than God promises.  God never promised a TV in every household nor did He ever promised prosperity beyond the basic needs.  Where all these twists in expectations come from is our own desire for security and prosperity in the here and now.  Remember the story of Lazarus and the rich man?  One sought to be well thought of in the here and now, while the other was poverty stricken and an outcast.

Before anyone thinks I’m condemning wealth or the wealthy, think again.  Paul’s warning to Timothy rings true, however, to the point we need to sober up and recognize our own pursuit of self-fulfillment many times mirrors the attitude of those who run after wealth.

 

But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.  People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.  1 Timothy 6:6-10.

 

The warning here could not be more timely in our study of Philippians for the values of the world infiltrate the church through wolves disguised as sheep and pierce the church with grief the Lord never intended His people to go through.  Rejection by the world is hard enough, being told one’s faith is not enough because we can’t pay the bills is a burden beyond comparison.  But the Word of God is sharper than any two edged sword and divides the truth from lies, light from darkness and reality from fantasy.

When Paul claims God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus, he means just that, nothing more, nothing less.  We need to stop comparing our status, possessions or anything else to the world’s value system.  Our only rule for what is profitable is the Word of God demonstrated in our crucified and risen Lord.  Anything or anyone else who sidesteps this essential monolith of the Christian life and doctrine strips the cross and the resurrection of their power and makes both a lie.

The reward promised to the Philippians was that God would meet all their needs, right?  The reason is their hearts were generous towards Him and the offering they gave to Him through Paul went up to heaven like a fragrant offering.  Our giving to the saints in the pursuit of God’s will smells good to heaven and the rewards are He will meet all our needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.  If you have food and clothing, God has met your needs and you can consider yourself rich.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Responses to “A Fragrant Offering”

  1. Ula Says:

    “It would be like my son worrying about whether or not I’ll feed him at lunch time even though he knows full well we have food in the fridge and elsewhere. We know God promised to feed, water and clothe us what else do we actually need?”
    These words really hit home. It shows how silly we get when we take our eyes off Him and start looking at everyone else around us. Thanks for putting things in their proper perspective with another great post, Jonny 🙂

    • jonnysoundsketch2 Says:

      Ula, I write these things because I need to remember them too. I get so worried about my lack of status financially sometimes because it affects my life—or at least the reactions of some pretty vital people in it. I’m self-employed so my work depends on word of mouth mostly. If the work doesn’t come in, I don’t pay bills or sometimes buy food.

      Two weeks ago, as I wrote this devotion (it took me two weeks to chew on the subject), I went through a pretty hefty crisis. I needed work but nothing was scheduled for that week nor the month of August. I’d only paid 2/3 of my rent and worried that if nothing came in I would have to move out.

      Eleven years ago I told the Lord that if He wanted me to continue being self-employed, He had to bring in the business. I’m in construction and not licensed for it or bonded, which means I can’t advertise and can only work for friends, family or referrals. I’ve been mostly busy ever since, with a few down times.

      Two weeks ago Wednesday I took my faith in hand and applied at a temp agency to supplement the jobs I already knew I had. I believe in proactive faith where we do everything within our scope to obey God by taking the opportunities available—natural or through our endeavors. I got two jobs which barely paid my gas to get to them, but that Thursday I also received two calls for work and the next day another which meant upwards of a months wages in two weeks.

      My fears nearly got the best of me; but experiencing God’s provision over the years slaps me out of my paranoia. So when I write about this stuff, I’m having to put my “money where my mouth is” in a way. God provides for me but I have to remember He never promised a house, car or tv, just the basics. That’s a comfort as strange as that sound…

  2. Ula Says:

    Jonny, thanks for that encouraging testimony of His provision. It comes at such a perfect time for me since I am embarking on a journey of being self-employed in about two months’ time. I am scared, but I know at this point in time it is the right thing to do. By sharing your story, the Lord has made it more clear to me that it is not a job, but Him who provides. The job may just be the means through which He chooses to provide. I think that by providing the basics He is teaching us what He taught Paul: To be content whatever the circumstances…whether in plenty or in want. Paul said he “learnt” it, and if that is so, we too have to “learn” it. It doesn’t happen overnight. I can relate to the fact that being content with the basics is somehow comforting. It takes the pressure of always wanting more off a person.

    I also have the experience that when I write about something, I get tested to, as you said, “put my money where my mouth is.” 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: