By David Prairie
(Note: This is a loose transcript of a message I preached to our Spanish-speaking members at Grace Baptist Church on June 18, 2017).
I have been a youth pastor since 2011. My primary tasks in that role are to teach and disciple students, so they can do the same for others. God is leading our family to teach and disciple students in Eastern Europe. We have joined a mission organization (ABWE) and we are raising financial support. We hope to move to Eastern Europe sometime in the next 1-2 years. Our work will not change, but our location will. We are glad that our God is in control of all people and places on the planet.
As missionaries, we need regular financial support from churches and individuals. My goal for today is to show you that this need for partnership is from the Bible. I would not ask you to do something that is not from Scripture. God’s plan for the spread of the gospel to the entire world involves all of his people. Some will go and some will send, but all must obey.
Philippians is a letter written by Paul, a missionary, to a church in a Roman colony. Paul had visited Philippi as a missionary, made disciples there, and started a church. You can read about his first visit to Philippi in Acts 16. The church there then sent him and supported him so he could minister in other places. He is writing this letter to them to update his ministry and to thank them for their support. Paul was in a Roman prison at the time that he wrote this letter.
Today we want to ask, “What happens when churches send and support missionaries?” To answer that question, we’re going to look at the end of this letter, 4:10-23. This section gives six answers to that question. I hope that seeing these answers will help us to obey God’s plan to make him known. And I hope that if you do not yet know God, you will see all that he has done for you.
- The missionary rejoices because of the care of the church.
“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity” (Philippians 4:10).
Paul rejoiced that the Philippian church had cared for him. Does this mean that Paul only was glad because they gave to him? No! Paul was joyful about much more than just their generosity.
- He prayed for them with joy (1:4).
- He rejoiced that Christ is preached even if his reputation suffered (1:18).
- He worked alongside them for their joy in the faith (1:25).
- His joy would be fulfilled by their unity (2:2).
- He rejoiced because he could sacrificially serve them (2:17-18).
- He sent Epaphroditus, another church leader, to them for their joy (2:28).
- He commanded them to “Rejoice in the Lord” (3:1; 4:4).
- He rejoiced in Christ, not in the flesh (3:3).
- He said that the church is his joy (4:1).
So their support and care of him added to his joy, but it wasn’t his only joy.
- The missionary and the church learn contentment in Christ.
“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (4:11-13).
If you read from Acts and Paul’s other letters, you know what he’s talking about. There were times when Paul had much, and there were times when he had little. But how much he had did not determine his joy. He remained content in Christ. He understood that sometimes the church could not send their support. When that happened, he learned to be content and to find strength in Christ. When the church did send support, it meant that they would also not have much. In that case, they also would learn how to be content with Christ alone. Paul knew that even if no one supported him, Christ was sufficient.
- The church shares in the distress of the missionary.
“Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent once and again for my necessities” (4:14-16).
Partnering with missionaries is sometimes joyful and sometimes distressing. When no other churches were supporting Paul, he would have been distressed. Missionaries can be content and distressed at the same time. But their distress can be relieved when it is shared with churches. The Philippian church shared with Paul in his distress when no one else would. Not just once, but they repeatedly gave so that his needs would be met.
- The fruit of the missionary abounds to the account of the church.
“Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account” (4:17).
Jesus had commanded his apostles to bear fruit (John 15:16). This is one way of telling them to make disciples, just as he had done for them. Missionaries are to be sent so that disciples can be made in all people groups. When missionaries make disciples, that fruit is credited to the sending churches. Paul wasn’t just seeking fruit for himself but for the churches who supported him. If you want to obey Jesus’ command to bear fruit, send and support missionaries.
- God supplies the needs of the church and the missionary for his eternal glory.
“I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. And my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen” (4:18-20).
Paul was confident that God would meet his needs with or without this church. He wanted them to be certain that God would meet their needs even if they gave. Even in prison, Paul could say, “I am full” because of the gifts from the church. When God meets the needs of his people, it is for his glory and not ours.
- The saving grace of God extends to every saint in all the families of the earth.
“Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those who are of Caesar’s household. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” (4:21-23).
As Paul concludes his letter, he sends greetings from other believers with him. There are even saints in Caesar’s household. Imagine that! The gospel of Jesus had reached the highest ranking family in Rome. God had used the missionary and the church to accomplish this. He is fulfilling the promise that he made to Abraham back in Genesis 12. All the families of the earth will be blessed through the Savior who would come. The Savior did come, and now he is enlisting all of his people to bless the nations.
God exists, and he is the reason you and I have breath in our lungs. Yet we have sinned by rebelling against him, and we are worthy of his judgment. But God loves us and pursued us by sending his Son, Jesus to live and die for our sins. God raised him from the dead, and all who follow Jesus have eternal life in him. Our response now is to turn away from our sins and trust completely in Christ. Those who know Christ must make him known. We can either go to the nations, or we can send others to go, but we must not disobey. We can be confident that God will accomplish his purposes and provide for his people.
To help our family get to Eastern Europe, please prayerfully consider visiting abwe.org/work/support and search by our last name (“Prairie”) or our account number (0170413).