Philippians 4:14 "Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. 15 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. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. 18 Indeed 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. 19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. 20 Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen."
Now Paul thanks them for their gifts to him but again not in the way we would expect. He essentially says "I am thankful for your help not because I needed it but because of what it says about your character. It tells me you are becoming more like Jesus".
There are two points I want to make today that are connected and sum up the essence of this short letter.
The first is that despite their doubts and struggles the believers in Philippi really are believers. It is evidenced not only by their concern for Paul and their generosity, but by the kind of generosity they demonstrated. Paul said when he left Macedonia to minister elsewhere they were the only ones who aided him. You see often even our giving is territorial and selfish. We give only if we see it as a local benefit that will come back to us. Not the Philippians. They saw beyond their own church and their own town and their own region. They grasped the Jesus who declared "This good news about My kingdom will be preached in Jerusalem (my town), in Judea (my country), in Samaria (my neighboring country that I don't even like), and to the very ends of the earth. (my far off out of sight and mind places filled with heathen enemies)".
They were not only willing to let Paul their beloved teacher go to strangers but funded his travels. This is the heart of a mission minded church. This is the heart of Christ Jesus. It was rare then and it remains rare today.
My last point is a critical one. It is an insight the Lord has placed on my mind that feels heavy because of how deceptive it is. The church in Philippi were not bad people but they were going through a bad time. They were down and depressed and it was causing angst and division. Often in groups, be it a family, a work team, a church, a sports team, anywhere where a group are working together to seek success or achieve a goal, stress comes. When that goal is not met or seems unlikely to be met the pressure often causes family/team members to turn on each other. The blame game starts with finger pointing and accusations. In the case of the Philippians they are in trouble because their hero is in prison and their God is silent.
Here is the point God showed me. The root of the trouble in Philippi was their love for Paul coupled with an immature picture of God and what it looks like to follow Him. Think about it. If they didn't really care about others (in this case Paul) there would have been no problem. If they had been less like Jesus in their compassion they wouldn't have been so upset. Satan used the good in them to his advantage! He took their compassion and turned it into misguided passion fueled by false expectations.
In their Christian immaturity they expected, miracles, deliverance, and every battle won. They saw Paul in prison as the Hebrew boys in the furnace or Daniel in the den of lions. God should be doing something heroic like He used to do. So through stress their Godly compassion and love turned to misguided passion which was causing them to turn on each other and on God.
Parents lose a child and their love for their lost child often turns to hatred for their spouse and they lose not only their child but their marriage too. How many times in epic stories of good versus evil does the evil character find a weakness in the good guy based on his love? A lover or a child is kidnapped in order to make the good guy surrender. Where do you think this story line originates?
No one knows better than God that the path to ultimate victory goes through the valley of crushing defeat. We all want to follow Jesus into heaven forgetting that His path was through Calvary and the grave.
"In this world you will have trouble but don't be afraid because I have overcome the world". - Jesus
Satan will attempt to use our love to make us lose our minds. We must always remember that there is nothing Satan can take away or destroy that is anything more than a temporary victory in a war he has already lost. God will restore to us more than we can imagine. The same Jesus who was "left in the lurch" by His own Father is now sitting beside Him in the Home they are preparing for us. Trust that every heart ache and tear is a necessity designed to get us all Home.