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The Importance of Supporting Missions

As we approach the Christmas season, we all know someone who already has everything they need. How do I buy a gift for someone like that? Especially in a petrol station at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve!

The Apostle Paul had a different quandary as he wrote his letter to the Philippian church. His quandary seems to be more along the lines of “How do I thank someone for a gift while at the same time teaching them that I have everything I already need and don’t really need it?"

In the final verses of the letter to the Philippians, Paul is thanking the church for the financial gift they have sent with Epaphroditus to him as he languishes in prison. He thanks them, but at the same time, he is at pains to point out that there is more going on than just one group giving another a financial digout. Yes, of course Paul benefits from the gift, but others benefit too.

Paul, as the Philippian church’s mission partner, describes how many benefit from such a gift and such an expression of love and support as the church has given him.


1. When we supporting churches give to our mission partners they benefit

Paul starts out by saying that he rejoiced greatly in the Lord that the church in Philippi had sent him a gift, but he seems to flip flop between thanking them for the gift and saying he doesn’t need it. We write:

  • I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. v. 10
  • I am not saying this because I am in need v. 11
  • Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles v. 14
  • Not that I desire your gifts v. 17
  • I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied v. 18

Is Paul just someone who struggles to receive gifts and love? Is he ungrateful?

No, I don’t think so. Paul wants to thank the Philippian church, but he wants them to realise an important truth. He wasn’t stuck if they didn’t come through for him because he has a God who provides everything he needs. And if the Philippian church hadn’t come through for him, he is confident that God would have provided for him in some other way, and if he hadn't, well, that meant God had something else for him.

He is thankful for their gift, but he wasn’t stuck and hopeless if they didn’t send it, but he really appreciates it.


As I was reflecting on this, it reminded me of the Bible character Esther.

The extermination of the Jews was imminent, and Mordechai, her uncle, went to her and asked her to use her influence as queen to plead the Jewish people’s case to her husband, the king. Esther is initially hesitant to do so because going to the king without him initiating the audience could mean death for her.

So Mordechai says to her, "Look, I want you to go to the king, but if you don’t go to him, God will save his people by some other means, but you will miss out on the blessing of being used by God in this.


For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

~Esther 4:14


What does this show us? God cares for his people, and nothing can get in the way of that.

Mordechai says something along the lines of “Esther, you have an opportunity to get in what God is doing here but don’t think your hesitancy to get involved will thwart the plans of God. God provides for his people, God watches over and cares for his people – those who have the Lord as their shepherd lack nothing.”

And so Paul thanks the Philippian church, but he also says:


I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 


Paul’s point is that we may be going through extremely difficult circumstances in our lives, but at the same time, we can continue to have a deep contentedness in the Lord. He is not talking about happiness, an emotion of being jolly and upbeat that belies our situation; he is talking about Christian joy. We can have great sadness, but at the same time a deep assurance or joy that no matter what comes my way, I am held safe in the hands of a loving God, made possible through what Jesus achieved on the cross for me.

It’s interesting that Paul says he has learned this.

It is not something that just happens when we first put our trust in Jesus. Our contentment in Jesus takes time to develop, and the reality is that, more often than not, we best learn that God is enough when we lose everything else and have nothing but God to rely on. Paul had learned to be content, just as he had learned to trust.

Question. Is there a situation in your life at the moment that you might start to see differently if you saw it as something God is allowing so that you might learn that He is enough?

And Paul says, I can do all this through him who gives me strength”. I cannot do anything I put my mind to—not win a football game or scale a mountain—through him who gives me strength, but I can have a deep contentedness in my spirit even when difficult or affluent times come—through my trust in Jesus.

So yes, the mission partners who we support benefit from what we give (it is good to give to support them), but ultimately, God is sovereign and will provide for their needs.


2. When we supporting churches give to mission – we benefit

Paul goes on in our passage today to thank the Philippian church by letting them know that he has not forgotten how they alone of all the churches cared for him. He says, "You, Philippian Church, have been with me all the way in this journey, this adventure." Twice, he uses the word "share." 

  • it was good of you to share in my troubles v 14
  • not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; v15

Paul has a sense that the Philippian church has been sharing with him in his ministry as they have invested in him over the years. They have not only given financial aid, but they have also been partnering with him in what God has called him to. Their generosity has been a means of fellowship.

Then he says, “as you have supported me, I am grateful, but I don’t ultimately desire your gifts, what I really want is that more be accredited to your account.”

Yes, the Philippian Church has blessed me, but I realise you are also blessed when you give to me!

Jesus spoke about this also in the gospels: when we are generous with our stuff—our money, our time, and our energy—we store up treasure in heaven. In Matthew 6, we read Jesus’ words.


19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 


As we invest in the kingdom of God, there is a principle that it accumulates blessings for the giver in the heavenly realms. We add to our “portfolio” in heaven.

When we give, we bless the recipients, but we also get in on what God is doing; we get to partner with those on mission in different contexts. There is also a sense that we will enjoy a future blessing from heaven.

So we also benefit when we give to support our mission partners.


3. When we give to mission we please our Father in heaven

Up to now, we have used the language of “benefit” in that our giving to missions benefits the mission partners we support and it benefits us, the givers. Our giving doesn’t benefit God, but Paul says God is pleased when we are generous. In verse 18 of chapter 4, he says the Philippian’s gifts

are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 

Is it going too far to say that our support of those on mission is a form of worship that we undertake?

In Romans 12, Paul urges us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God." All of life can be worshipped. Worship is not just singing songs in church. It is offering what we have and who we are to honour the worth of God. Paul even goes on to say

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Does Paul say God will meet some of our needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus? Is that right? No, he will meet all our needs, and he will do so out of the abundance of the riches of his glory, which are unending. Here is a promise to keep coming back this week.


Closing words

Paul then closes out his letter by sending greetings from all the believers who are with him, especially (wink, wink) those who belong to Caesar’s household. Those who have come to faith, presumably through his interaction with them during his time of imprisonment, soldiers, guards, and officials. There is a subtle reminder here that things are progressing just fine here at the prison.

He finishes then, as he started, pointing to the grace of the Lord Jesus.


23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen



Let me just sum up what Paul has been saying here.

  1. There is a call for us to support churches to be generous to those in ministry and in other contexts where we can’t go ourselves. We are called to be generous with our financial support, our prayers, our interest, our support, and our love.
  2. There is a call for us supporting churches to see ourselves as partners in mission with those who serve in other contexts. We are in this together. It cannot or should not be a “them and us” view of our mission partners.
  3. There is a call to see our support of mission partners as part of our worship. We serve the Lord by wisely using the resources he has entrusted to us. We want to honour the Lord and please Him as we give towards the work of advancing his kingdom.
  4. And finally, perhaps most importantly, there is a call for us to trust God and, as a result, be content in our own lives with how he is making his kingdom come—on earth as it is in heaven. In seasons of abundance and dryness, God holds us still—in the palm of his hand. He meets and will continue to meet all our needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.