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Jul 21, 2019

Living World-Wide Impact

Passage: Philippians 4:14-23

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Philippians--Roots of Joy

Keywords: evangelism, missions, fellowship, support, eternal perspective, sharing

Summary:

Paul ends this amazing book of joy by sharing truths that knit his heart with a whole church--tangible participation in the spread of the Gospel. Living outwardly focused lives like Paul and the Philippians did is certainly a key to daily joy.

Detail:

Living World-Wide Impact

Philippians 4:14-23

July 21, 2019

 

Get Acquainted Question:  Tell someone either

1.)  …your favorite country outside the U.S. that you have visited…and WHY it is your favorite.

OR

2.) …a country you’d like to visit someday but haven’t yet…and WHY.

INTRO

  • How many of us are going to travel out of Spokane this summer (for vacation or business)?
  • Any idea how much just Americans spend on travel each year? ($1.03 trillion!)
  • WHY do you like to travel (if you do)?

We’re in a passage today that has a lot to do with travel…but not for the same reasons virtually any of us are going to travel this summer.  In fact, how many of us would be interested in “travel” if that meant…

  • Our destination was, say, Afghanistan or the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere, Haiti?
  • We would be arrested and put under guard before we got home again?
  • We would be isolated from friends and family…in a foreign country…at the mercy of a hostile political system and people of a hostile religion?

This is where the Apostle Paul found himself when he writes these last words from the “Prison Epistle” of Philippians. 

READ Philippians 4:14-23

14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need.17 Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. 18 I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19 And my God will meet all your needs 

according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Later this morning I’m going to introduce you to a group of people not unlike Paul.  While they are people you may rub shoulders with every week, they are really an extraordinary bunch of people.  They are extraordinary for a number of reasons:

1.)  They have/are investing tens of thousands of dollars to prepare themselves to engage in ministry, often for the rest of their lives, that is more dangerous than most of us will ever engage in.

2.)  They are preparing to do that ministry in countries where it is often far more dangerous to do ministry than here. 

  • They will be exposed to more diseases and illnesses than you and I will. And they will have fewer medical options and poorer medical care than virtually every one of us sitting here today.
  • In some of the places they will be working, some of the national people are utterly dedicated to persecuting and even killing people like them for doing what they are going to do.

So this passage, though it is 2,000 years old, could not be more timely for both these families and for this church. 

So the question before us today is, “What kind of church and what kind of Christ-followers are needed to live out God’s command to each of us to “Go and make disciples of all nations….”? 

      One more thought before we do that…just to help you see what is at stake here.

Answer this question:  Would you be interested in becoming a part of something that…

  • Will change the course of human history?
  • Will set people all over the world free from a life of sin, slavery, guilt, shame, depression, meaninglessness and emptiness?
  • Will change the face of heaven and the increase the number and diversity of people you spend eternity with?
  • Will overcome sickness, disease, poverty, ignorance, prejudice, hatred, slavery and more for thousands of people?
  • Will deepen your relationship with Jesus Christ, grow your heart for God, create greater love for people in you and create blessings that you will get to enjoy both in this life and the next?

Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?  And let me tell you right now, all that comes at a very, very minimal price compared to what this group of people we’re going to hear from today will be paying.  THAT…and dozens of other reasons…is why you and I need this passage and this message today!

God is looking for Christ-followers TODAY who…

1.)  …actually share in the pressures & burdens of His “cross-cultural ambassadors.” 

I said “cross-cultural ambassadors” because, while all of us who are followers of Jesus are called to be “ambassadors” in this “foreign culture” of the world we live in, not all of us will become “cross-cultural ambassadors” in another country.  We know those people by the term “missionaries” in our contemporary church lingo.  Throughout the history of the world-wide church over the last 2 millennia, there have always been Christ-followers who have risen up in churches all over the world with a passion, interest and dedication to taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to other nations and ethnic groups that currently live in spiritual darkness.  Today there are still 2.5 billion people who not only have never heard the name of Jesus Christ; they have no idea whatsoever about how to have their sins forgiven through faith in Jesus.  

      Now back to our text.  Paul says here in vs. 14, “Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.”   

The Greek term for “sharing” here is sunkoinoneo.  Some of you have heard the term koinonia or “fellowship”.  We talk about going to church and enjoying great “fellowship” together.  We talk about “fellowship time” around a cup of dark stuff called “coffee”. 

      Unfortunately many of us may simply equate talking or listening with that term “fellowship.”  That may be a part of what the Bible means when it uses this term, or it may not.  One thing is certain, however.  When the Bible talks about having “fellowship”, it always has a sense of one person sharing something with another person who needs something.  It denotes “having something in common” or a “partnership” in which our resources are shared or put at the disposal of others.

      That meaning is even stronger and more tangible when you add the prefix “sun” to koinonia as we have here.  There is a giving from one who has to one who is in need.

      Just what is that “need” Paul is talking about?  Paul calls it “troubles” in vs. 14.  It means a pressure or pressing, anything which burdens one’s spirit.  God is looking for people and churches who share in the burdens and pressures of one another.  That kind of lifestyle begins right here…every week.

APP:  So when we’ve had a great morning or time of deeper “fellowship” with God’s people, what is it we have been doing? 

  • Finding out where someone is under pressure, has a need that I can help shoulder or alleviate.
  • Doing something about that…whether taking that burden to God with them in prayer, or setting an appointment with them to meet and share some helpful wisdom, or reaching into our pocket and giving them a gift, or getting a work party together to help them tackle some task that seems like too much for them. It may be just listening and crying together or listening and rejoicing together. 

Churches and mature Christ-followers who impact the world start by looking for ways to lift the loads of others.  Immature people and churches are preoccupied with their own wants and problems:  how can we make life easier for ourselves?  What can we do to help ourselves ‘feel better’ about our lives.  Those people and churches are internally focused, expending most of their energies and time and resources on themselves and little if anything on others (near or far away) who could benefit from what they have to offer in terms of wisdom, counsel, aid, compassion, encouragement, or financial help

      Another way of asking the application question is this:  Whose burdens and pressures am I currently helping to shoulder in God’s family? 

      According to this passage, Paul was actually made much more effective and blessed because there was a church that saw to it they shared in his pressures and burdens.  For the Philippian Church that meant raising enough money to…

a.) send Epaphroditus (vs. 18) on a costly, dangerous journey and

b.) send with him gifts and resources that would assist Paul while he was under house arrest in Rome.

      They were helping spread the gospel around the world by supporting short-term and “career” missionaries somewhere else. 

      Do you and I do that?  Are we currently engaged in sending short-term people to help the career missionaries somewhere in the world?  And are we individually involved in sending our resources to help those “career missionaries” do what God has called them (and us) to do? 

      How far does my fellowship/helping reach?  Does it get outside my own personal/household budget? Does it make it to “the church”…God’s people… regularly?  Does it make it to the world of 7.5 billion people outside our city or nation? 

Let’s move on:  Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need.

  1. God is looking for Christ-followers whose involvement in the support of evangelistic outreach is early and often?

      This is another symptom of hallmark of a church that lives an “outward-focus”.  Not only is a maturing church growing in numbers of people affected by the Gospel in their own community; a maturing church is anxious to give of themselves so that other communities, cities and nations might experience the same Gospel transformation

 “EARLY”

The Philippian church was a church that caught the vision of Christ for the world…and they kept growing in that vision as the years went by.  Not only were they the first and only church to support Paul in his missionary activities; according to vs. 16 they did that “…again and again….” OFTEN.

      Mature people and churches don’t give once and forget about someone.  They give quickly to those who have blessed them spiritually and they keep on giving time after time after time.

ILL: Praise in the Parking Lot—BOB and so many of you have done this over and over, year after year. 

  • Donna & Horace—here with their kids…fractured hip…little baby…helping out the entire time.
  • Kenny—working all night to get this place back in order.
  • Bob—after a highly emotional week (more amputation, Tyler’s conversion, all the work and burden of this huge event.)
  • Cooking team…safety team (John, Jarrod, Robert, Anne)…serving team (Gambrell family, ???)…clean-up… chairs & tables…sound, music & testimonies (Benjamoin, Jesse, Micah, Anne, Jessyca, Darla)…etc.

ILL:  It’s a bit like the two fellows who were shipwrecked on this deserted island.  The minute they washed up on shore and crawled out of the surf, one of the fellows started screaming, “We’re going to die!  We’re going to die!  There’s no food, no water.  We’re going to die!”

      The second man just propped himself up against a palm tree, whipped the salt water off his face and sat there relaxed.  It made the first man all the more agitated, so much so that he got in the face of the second man and started yelling even more loudly, “We’re going to die here! Etc.” 

      The second man looked him in the eye and calmly said, “Sir, I make $100,000 a week.  We’re not going to die.” 

      The first man looked at him dumbfounded and asked, “What difference does that make?  We’re on a deserted island with no food and no water and we’re going to die of dehydration and starvation!”

      The second man looked at him again and said, “You just don’t get it, do you?  I make $100,000 a week…and I tithe 10% on that 100K a week.  Wherever I am, I’m sure my pastor is going to find me!” J

      Thank God, we have become a church that, if we stopped existing this week, people all over downtown Spokane would feel it! 

But God isn’t content to build simply a heart big enough in us for one city.  He’s about building a heart big enough for a lost world!

APP-Q:  Are you and I actually supporting God’s evangelists and church planters (missionaries)?  If so, do we do it repeatedly, regularly and often? 

      What are the most frequent responses Christians give as to WHY we don’t support missionaries?

  1. I don’t have enough money right now. (a faith issue)
  2. I don’t know any missionaries needing support? (a relationship issue)
  3. I’m not convinced it’s that important to me or to the world? (maturity issue)

Let’s take each of those reasons.

#1.)  I don’t have enough money right now.

It’s pretty safe to say that 95-97% of us here today received money this past month from some source, right?  It might have been in the form of…

  • Salary/commission/wages we worked for.
  • SSI, EBT, SS or other government payments
  • Donations/gifts from others…whether by panhandling or by inheritance.

So for most of us, we can’t say we don’t have money.  We do.  What are we saying when we say, “I don’t have enough money to share right now”?

  • I won’t live by faith with my finances!
  • God hasn’t given me enough to live on and obey Him.
  • I really don’t think other lost people in the world deserve/are worthy of the same opportunity to know Christ that I’ve had.

ILL: Several years ago, there was a study published in U.S. News and World Report that basically proved something about Americans that impacts our discussion today.  Essentially, whatever income bracket they surveyed about “achieving the American Dream,” people said they needed roughly double what they were currently receiving.  In other words, if you were getting $10,000 in government benefits or money from work, they believed they needed $20,000 to be happy.  If they were receiving a salary of $100,000, they needed $192,000 for their version of the American dream.

      That’s the sad nature of money and wealth when they are our god, not the one, true God.  We will never feel like we have enough. 

      But FAITH trusts God for “enough”, even when it doesn’t look like you have enough.  When Jesus is truly Lord, we will actually live out His realities that what He has given us is more than enough to engage in and obey ALL the commands he has given us including the command to be part of “going…and making disciples” worldwide.

  • So FAITH answers the “money” issue.
  • And getting to know actual missionaries will answer the “relationship” issue…in about 2 minutes.
  • The only thing left is the “maturity issue” of becoming convinced by God and His word that making disciples of all peoples is vital to my maturity and other people’s salvation.

One final observation in this text about the kind of people and churches God uses to impact the world.

3.) God is looking for churches full of Christ-followers who have an eternal perspective on temporal resources (vs. 17). 

The word used here for “account” = logos

  • Most of the time (hundreds of times) it simply means “word” (Jn. 1—the “word”/logos became flesh….) or “saying” or “speech”.
  • Only about 6 times does it mean “account” or “reckoning.” Look at a couple of examples.
  • 12:36 – “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.”
  • Romans 14:10b-12 – “For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written:  ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’  So the, each of us will give an account of himself to God.”

Every one of these uses of logos translated “account” has something to do with ultimate judgment before God for some component of life. 

      So what is Paul saying?  Is he saying that by giving of material resources for the advancement of the Gospel in support of evangelists and church planters, we are producing something that is credited to our eternal account before the judging eye of God in eternity?  YES, that is precisely what I think Paul is talking about. 

      Just as with speech, we have been given the capacity to speak in ways that will somehow be weighed and judged before God, so with material wealth.  Once we have surrendered our life to Christ and call ourselves “Christians”, we assume the role of “steward”, “bookkeeper”, “financial manager” for all the resources God pours into our hands be it by SSI, Disability, our paycheck, our tax rebates, our investments, our portfolios, our inheritances, …everything! 

ILL:  I came across this little piece called “Ten things God won’t ask on the day you die:”   (I’ll read a few of them.)

  • God won’t ask what kind of car you drove; He’ll ask how many people you drove who didn’t have transportation.
  • God won’t ask the square footage of your house; He’ll ask how many people you welcomed into your home.
  • God won’t ask about the clothes you had in your closet; He’ll ask how many you helped to clothe.
  • God won’t ask what your highest salary was; He’ll ask if you compromised your character to obtain it.
  • God won’t ask what your job title was; He’ll ask if you performed your job to the best of your ability.
  • God won’t ask how many friends you had; He’ll ask how many people to whom you were a friend.
  • God won’t ask in what neighborhood you lived; He’ll ask how you treated your neighbors.
  • God won’t ask about the color of your skin; He’ll ask about the content of your character.

For some reason many Christians today seem to recoil at the notion that God will in any way judge US… believers... based upon the way we live our life in Christ. The notion of differences in heaven strikes them as unfair. Many prefer a sort of “socialistic utopia” in heaven where differences are erased and wealth is distributed evenly despite great difference in how life was lived in Christ on earth. 

      That is simply not in the Bible.   Scripture is clear that not all will hear Well done, good and faithful servant” in heaven (Mt. 25:23).  Not all will have treasure in heaven (Mt. 6:19-21).  Not all will have the same positions of authority in heaven (Lk. 19:17-26). Differences will exist in rewards in heaven, but they will not produce the sins of greed, envy, materialism and selfishness in us that those differences do now.

      Randy Alcorn puts it this way.  “Just as heaven will be wonderful for all and even better for some, hell will be terrible for all and even worse for some.” (Ibid, p. 123.)  He goes on to suggest that the nature of the differences will be in the capacity of people to be full of joy.  Everyone will be joy-filled.  The question is, “How much will my capacity for joy be?  Smaller or larger?” 

      ILLdifferent capacity for holding water between a cup you used today for coffee and a swimming pool…or lake!

We do know a few things about our God who judges every person’s work. 

  • He rewards generously (100 times, Mt. 19:29),
  • He rewards fairly – Jeremiah 17:10 – “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.”
  • He rewards according to total knowledge“For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecc. 12:14).

Here’s the question:  Does my handling of all my material resources demonstrate the reality that they can be used to change eternity?

But here are the hard realities of what most people IN CHURCHES TODAY actually do with what God gives us.

  • Among “born-again” adults, guess what percent of “born-again” Christians tithe to their church? 9%!  If you’re under 40 years of age, less than 2% of you and your fellow age millennials tithe.  Now, if less that 9% of Christians are tithing in America to their local churches, how many of them do you think are giving anything regularly or significantly to reaching lost people in other places of the world? 

Some 25 years ago, missiologist Ralph Winter wrote:

“The seven hundred million dollars per year Americans give to mission agencies is no more than they give for chewing gum.  Americans pay as much for pet food every 52 days as they spend annually for foreign missions.”  [Quote by Randy Alcorn in Money, Possessions and Eternity, p. 261.]

Paul ends this description of a maturing church with a promise for every church and every person who lives out the maturing life he has just described.  Vs. 19!

      “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

      How many times have we heard this verse taken out of context, completely divorced from whatever the persons giving practice is at the time?  This isn’t a blanket promise that every Christian can claim.  This is a promise that only those Christians who engage in the experience of aiding other believers who are taking the gospel to lost people can lay claim to.  (If you want confirmation of that principle and promise, check out 2 Corinthians 9:8). 

      Mature Christians and mature churches understand that this is a consistent principle in the working of God with us“Give and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  With the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  (Luke 6:38).

F.B. Meyer put it this way. 

“Lend your boat for a whole afternoon to Christ that it may be His floating pulpit, and He will return it to you laden with fish.  Place your upper room at His disposal for a single meal, and He will fill it and the whole house with the Holy Spirit of Pentecost.  Place in His hands your barley loaves and fish, and He will not only satisfy your hunger, but add twelve baskets full of fragments.  The Philippians sent three or four presents to a suffering and much needing servant of God, and from that moment…every need of theirs would be supplied….We scratch the surface of the soil and insert our few little seeds, and within a few months the acreage is covered by a prolific harvest in which a hundredfold is given for every grain which we seemed to throw away.  God refuses to be in debt to any man.”  [Quoted by David Jeremiah in his commentary on Philippians, p. 198.]

[Call up our aviation families and interview the panel about…

    a.) What has God used in your life to develop a heart for world missions? (1 or 2 short, concisely-given factors)

    b.) How/where/when do you see yourself being involved in world missions in the future (either personally through serving or through supporting others)?]

We just resolved the 2nd excuse many Christians give to why they don’t support missionaries:  “I don’t know any.”  NOW YOU DO!

APP:  Will you start THIS MONTH to set aside something each month to get the Gospel to a world without it? 

APP:  Perhaps you need to receive Christ first—embrace the Gospel of God for you.  [Call to faith in Jesus Christ.]