Dear Members in Christ,
God Supplies All Our Needs (Phil 4:19)
The Bible teaches us that God is our provider, and God supplies all our needs. The Apostle Paul in His epistle to the Philippian Church sums this up in one verse, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippian 4:19). Under what circumstances did the Apostle Paul write these words?
The epistle to the Philippian Christians is one of several letters penned by the Apostle Paul to the churches whilst he was imprisoned. These epistles are often referred to as the “Prison Epistles” of Paul. During the course of the Apostle Paul’s missionary journeys, the Bible records that he was imprisoned. Often, he was in the dire situation of great need, such as being shipwrecked or having to flee pursuers bent on taking his life. Whatever the circumstances, Paul was able to testify that by God’s grace he is content whether he is in want or whether he has an abundance. His testimony is expressed in his doctrine, that God will supply all the Christian’s needs. In today’s exhortation, we will learn how the Apostle is able to draw spiritual strength to bear with the experience of dire need. We will also learn how we can respond to the needs of others.
The Apostle Paul’s Frequent State of Want
In the epistle to the Philippian church, the Apostle Paul clearly expresses that he is imprisoned. He refers to his condition as “my bonds in Christ,” (Philippian 1:13) and he tells them that he has to undergo this suffering for the sake of “the furtherance of the Gospel.” (Philippian 1:12, 13). Paul was imprisoned several times. Sometimes his incarceration was a short period; in today’s context, it is like a temporary detention in a police lockup. At other times, we see Paul held for a longer-term, such as his time of custody where he writes, that despite having committed no wrong, “yet was I delivered a prisoner from Jerusalem to the hands of the Romans.” (Acts 28:17).
How hard was it for prisoners in those times? Now, prisoners in the first century were often badly treated. Of course, Roman citizens had some limited privileges, but non-citizens were given harsh treatment. A Bible commentator remarked that they often had to depend on friends or family to provide them with food and necessities. An example was when Paul wrote to Timothy to bring his cloak which he had left at Troas with Carpus (2 Tim 4:13). It would have been a clothing item that is much needed by a prisoner on those cold wintry nights.
On his missionary journey recorded in Acts 27:33, we read of how Paul was on a ship, and with all on board, he endured the perils of bad weather and fourteen days of fasting. The Apostle Paul as the Lord’s servant was certainly no stranger to suffering and to being in great need. Whatever the scenario, be it hunger, the lack of necessities, the need for provisions, all these are situations not unfamiliar to Paul. Christians, whilst we still live in times of relative ease, let us not be discouraged when we do have to suffer need. The Bible by Paul’s example encourages us to draw strength from God who provides all things. Let us continue to trust in God as Paul has shown us by His example.
Being Content in Want or Plenty
Why is the Apostle Paul able to testify of contentment despite being frequently in a state of need and want? We find the answer in his exhortation to the Philippian church, in which he says, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” (Philippian 4:17). For a man who has undergone much in the way of travail and afflictions, these are words of courage and confidence. No matter what the state may be, Paul says that he is content. This is an important lesson we can learn and apply in our lives.
Note that this is not the contentment often portrayed as a kind of fatalistic resignation to one’s circumstances. Rather, it is contentment that comes from knowing God’s infinite power and riches. In this verse, the apostle Paul speaks of the deep spiritual strength which comes from knowing God. He writes, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippian 4:13). This is the spiritual strength that Paul draws from God whatever situation he is in, whether he has plenty or he is in want. Whether he has an abundance or he is suffering hunger, God gives him the strength to be content. Remember, in this verse, the Apostle Paul does not deny or dismiss his suffering. Undoubtedly, he would know the gnawing pain of hunger pangs, he would have experienced the bitter cold which afflicts a bare body, and many other sufferings arising from the lack of necessities. But in all this, whether in plenty or when things are lacking, Paul is content, because he says, it is “through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
Beloved, contentment in need comes from knowing God who is our provider. Being content is knowing that God is sovereign and that He will provide in His time according to His will. Therefore, the Apostle is able to draw comfort and strength, because He knows that it is God who provides. Let us be content whatever our situation, knowing that the sovereign God is our provider.
The Philippian Christian’s Example of Readiness – Our response
This passage about God’s supply of all the needs of His beloved children would be incomplete without a lesson from Paul’s commendation to the Philippians, saying, “For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.” (Philippian 4:16, 17). The Philippian church was commended by Paul for their generous help, for they were the only ones who communicated with Paul “as concerning giving and receiving.” The Philippian church was obviously an obedient church when it comes to giving and to works of charity.
This is a worthy example to follow. Let us respond to this lesson by being generous and helpful to those in need for this is good Christian testimony.
The Apostle Paul ends his epistle with a blessing, “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” God’s blessings and riches in Christ Jesus far exceeds all notions of earthly riches. It is a deep and inexhaustible spiritual well of living waters, it is eternal, it is incorruptible. Paul’s reminder and exhortation to the Philippians and us is this – that God will provide all our needs, both physical and spiritual. In whatever circumstances, we need not be anxious, for He who can give us eternal life and salvation can surely provide for all temporal needs. It is our response then to trust in Him and to rely on His providence and provision for all our physical and spiritual needs. May God help us to walk close to Him and glorify Him. Amen.
Dn. Ben Lim Seh Beng