Philippians 4:14-20 ‘My God will supply’

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Reading: Philippians 4:14-20

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. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

One of the first effects of the arrival of coronavirus was panic buying.  Suddenly supermarket shelves were cleared of a range of goods, sometimes the obvious, sometimes the unexpected.  Whoever thought that toilet rolls would be so valuable? The results were unnecessary shortages and unfair pressure put on the vulnerable.  Most stores have had to introduce some form of rationing to ensure that all customers are provided with the basics.

Uncertainty is hard for most people to live with.  Fear of not having the essentials can be paralysing.  Concern for survival would crowd out most other thoughts.  For the Christian in such circumstances the temptation may be to focus on those needs to the exclusion of spiritual matters.  Our proper Bible-based perspective can be lost and our outlook becomes very like that of the world around us. Paul in prison faced great uncertainties, yet his focus was on the Lord and he was confident God would provide whatever he needed.  In Philippians 4:14-20 Paul shows where our trust is to be placed.

1. Thanksgiving for God’s provision

Sometimes the pressure of trying circumstances makes us forget God’s goodness to us in the past.  Paul does not fall into that trap. He recognises that gratitude for past blessings and past answered prayers stimulates us to depend more fully on the Lord’s provision now and in the future.

‘It was good of you to share in my troubles’ (v14), he writes.  Paul’s certainty that God will supply the strength he requires (v13) does not lead him to despise material help sent from Philippi during his time in prison.  In fact, it is clear this is one of the ways in which God supplied his need. The God who provided manna (Exodus 16) can equally well provide by means of his people’s actions – ‘I am amply supplied’ (v18).  The provision is viewed from three points of view:

(i) Paul.  Their generosity relieved his material needs (v18), but even more important was the expression of fellowship the gifts represented.  Note ‘share in my troubles … shared with me’ (v15) – they expressed love and unity in Christ. That explains Paul’s joyful spirit despite hardships.  Fellowship should be expressed in all kinds of caring actions.

(ii) The Philippians.  They were enriched by their giving – how is that possible?  Note ‘what may be credited to your account’ (v17) – as if by giving to Paul they made an investment of material things that would produce a spiritual dividend.  This is not a crude ‘payoff’ mentality, yet God does bless generosity (Proverbs 11:25). Giving is not to be done for profit yet God blesses the generous.

(iii) The Lord.  The giving of the Philippians pleased God.  Note the very striking words ‘They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God’ (v18).  The act of giving and its motivation delighted the Lord. This emphasises the God-ward dimension of giving – it is to be done as service to him, for his glory.

2. Trust in God’s promise

The Philippians’ gifts are but one example of a general principle stated in the promise of verse 19 ‘my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus’. These words are full of encouragement for God’s people.  They help us face difficult and challenging times, such as those in which we are now living. There are several things here to notice:

(i) The Scope.  We need to be careful, of course, that we do not try to make the verse say something that it does not say.  This is not a promise that Christians will receive from God absolutely anything that they request. There are varieties of supposedly ‘Christian’ teaching that suggest we can ‘name it and claim it’ – that if we have enough faith, God will give whatever we ask.  That is not what the Lord promises. He does not offer us a blank cheque that we can fill in however we wish. Often we do not know what would be best for us – we ask amiss or with selfish motives. No good parent will give his child everything he asks for, and our perfect heavenly Father will certainly not do so.  The promise relates to ‘all your needs’ – the things we need in order to live for his glory and to serve him as he has planned.  We are assured unequivocally that these things will be provided, and we can rest content with not having things we think we need or would like.

(ii) The Author.  Paul speaks of ‘My God’ – the God who loves him, who has saved him and who will provide for him.  This is the God who accepted the ‘fragrant offering’ of the gifts made to Paul by the Philippians (v18).  Our God is concerned for both bodily and spiritual needs. The physical is not beneath the notice of the Creator (see Psalm 145:16 ‘You satisfy the desires of every living thing’).  More than that, as Ephesians 1:3 reminds us, God has ‘blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ’. Have we not proved his ability to provide many times?  People make promises that often they are not able to keep, but God is able to supply our needs. Paul says that [literally] God will ‘fulfil all your need’.  His infinite love and wisdom decide what is a need and what is a desire, and he makes no mistakes.  Desires are sometimes granted: needs always are.

(iii) The Source.  Problems have arisen in shops recently when demand has outstripped supply, sometimes by a considerable margin.  The resources of the Lord, however, are unlimited. Paul refers to [literally] ‘his riches in glory’. The resources are infinite and can never run out.  The key to blessing is made clear – the riches are ‘in Christ Jesus’. All God’s provision flows to us through Christ. How is that so? The answer is that his saving work secured every blessing that his people will ever require.  By his death and resurrection, Christ has secured not only forgiveness of sin (wonderful as that is). He has also secured all that we require to live the Christian life, to face every trial that he permits to come to us and to reach final glory.  Christ is now ‘head over everything for the benefit of the church’ (Ephesians 1:22). Our Father has already given the greatest gift – Christ himself as our Saviour – and so all other gifts will certainly follow. Listen to Paul’s assurance in Romans 8:32 ‘He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?’  United to Christ, we are in the place to receive God’s infinite provision.

(iv) The Supply.  It is abundant, not just the bare minimum for survival.  Notice that God supplies ‘according to his riches’.  It is not merely ‘out of his riches’, but ‘according to his riches’.  The Lord supplies in proportion to his infinite resources. He is not like a millionaire throwing a few coins to a beggar – that would be ‘out of his riches’.  To those who themselves give generously, God will give ‘A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over’ (Luke 6:38).

Note also the certainty of the supply.  Paul does not use the language of possibility.  He does not suggest that God ‘might’ or even ‘probably will’ meet all our needs.  He simply states that he will meet them. This is not an arrogant statement since it expresses the very opposite of self-confidence.  Our confidence rests on the nature of the God who promises and on the full the provision made in Christ once for all. You can share Paul’s confidence when you look to the Lord and trust in him.

In view of such a promise, Paul bursts out in praise in the doxology of verse 20 ‘To our God and Father be glory forever and ever’.  He ascribes ‘glory’ to ‘our God and Father’ because this is his doing, from start to finish, and all the glory is his.  Evidence of our Father’s provision should fuel worship and praise from his people, even when they are called to endure hardships and trials.  Sitting in prison, writing this letter, Paul knew what it was to practise what he preached. Let us do likewise.

David Mckay

Psalm 46 ‘God is our Refuge and Strength’

Once it seemed that the greatest threat to the world was nuclear war.  To some extent this threat has receded, yet the world is still threatened by e.g. war, terrorism and ecological disaster.  Now suddenly we have been confronted with the threat of disaster in the form of the coronavirus which has changed life for all of us in many ways.  On a personal level in the coming days we may face crises of various sorts – sickness, bereavement, unemployment, strained relationships. The people of God also face the threat of spiritual enemies.  How can we cope? Psalm 46 turns our thoughts to God, the one on whom we can rely in every crisis.

1. Strength in time of trouble (v.1-3)

The psalmist begins with an affirmation of faith – ‘God is our refuge and strength’.  This perspective runs through the whole psalm.  He begins with certainties, before looking at the turmoil around him.  ‘Refuge’ speaks of an unchanging God who provides shelter for his people (see also John 10:30).  ‘Strength’ reminds us of a God who indwells the weak to give strength for action. We are not to sit inactive in the midst of a crisis.  Remember Paul’s words in Philippians 4:13 ‘I can do everything through him who gives mw strength.

The rest of v1 reads (literally) ‘very much found to be a help in distress’ – there is personal experience of God’s help in the past which helps us in the present challenges.  To have the help of the Lord in a crisis we must have sought and found him as our Saviour. Jeremiah 29:13 ‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart’.

Verses 2-3 describe the worst imaginable crisis, when the most secure features of life collapse.  Still ‘we will not fear’ – even the seas are under the sovereign control of God (Psalm 93:4). It is good to be able to remind ourselves that even the coronavirus is under the Lord’s sovereign control.  Sometimes the Lord does not spare us such crises, but he is in control, his love never fails (see Habakkuk 3:18). The Lord’s strength will be sufficient to carry us through, whatever he has planned for us (as Paul found – 2 Corinthians 12:9 ‘my grace is sufficient for you… my strength is made perfect in weakness’.).

2. Grace in time of need (v.4-7)

In sudden contrast to the roaring of the waters – ‘There is a river’ (v4) – a picture of calm and serenity.  It is a river ‘whose streams make glad the city of God’. The city is not Jerusalem, which has no river, but the spiritual community of the people of God, the church (see 1 Corinthians 3:16).  Every believer is part of the city, and holy because God dwells there.

This is the river of God’s grace, flowing through the church, refreshing and sustaining all his people.  God is a ‘fountain of life’ (Psalm 36:9). He gives life, physical and spiritual.  He refreshes our souls when we feel dry and weak. He provides for all our needs, not merely for some of them (Philippians 4:19 ‘My God will supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus’).  If we look to God in times of need, he will supply exactly what we require. We may not know exactly what we need, but the Lord knows and makes no mistakes in what he gives.

‘God is within her’ (v5) – that is the secret of the strength and stability of believers.  If we rely on what the world provides, we will be overwhelmed. Regarding the church, however, ‘she will not fall’.  That stands in stark contrast to the falling kingdoms of the world (v6). All the powers that oppose God will come to nothing.  In v7 we have a ringing affirmation of faith and trust in the Lord. His name ‘Lord of hosts’ reminds us of the infinite power of our God, greater than an disease.  ‘God of Jacob’ speaks of the grace of the Lord to undeserving sinners whom he loves with an everlasting love. In him we have everything we need.

3. Peace in time of battle (v.8-11)

The psalm ends with a summons to all to see the evidence for the power of God.  These are ‘the works of the Lord’, the one who is the covenant God who never forsakes his people.  God has stretched his hand against the enemies – the ‘desolations he has brought on the earth’.  The Old Testament provides many examples. These are a foretaste of what he will still do. ‘He makes wars to cease…’ – but in a fallen world perfect peace will not come until the Lord returns and ushers in the new creation, ‘a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness’ (2 Peter 3:13).

It is a glorious prospect, and God’s peace can be enjoyed by his people even in the present.  The turmoil we face at the moment is not war, but a virulent disease, and yet the principle is the same.  The Lord is able to give his peace to his people in the most difficult circumstances. Verse 10 is a command to God’s enemies to ‘Be still and know…’  He rebukes those he has defeated. All will ultimately acknowledge him as God – ‘I will be exalted’. We are assured of the fulfilling of God’s goal that ‘at the name of Jesus every knee should bow’ (Philippians 2:10).  What a joy and privilege to bow willingly by God’s grace.

The psalm ends in an expression of faith and confidence: ‘The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress’ (v11).  God will not fail us. We have all we need to face whatever hardships his providence brings, coronavirus included, and to pass through them in a manner which glorifies his name.  It is a wonderful assurance to have.

David McKay


It’s here!  Covid-19, coronavirus, is here.  We wondered what would fill the headlines and column inches after Brexit – now we know.  Seemingly out of nowhere – in fact probably out of a market in China selling wild animals for meat – a new plague is sweeping the world.  It has moved on from China to its neighbours, especially South Korea, and on to Europe, with Italy worst affected so far, and that hasn’t been the end of the spread.  In many parts of the world, precautions are being taken, and multitudes are taking to wearing (largely ineffective) masks in an attempt to avoid infection.  Who knows where it will appear next or what the consequences will be?

Already in parts of Europe radical steps are being taken.  Badly affected areas such as Italy and neighbouring countries are in virtual ‘lockdown’.  Many sporting and other events are postponed to unspecified future dates.  Anyone who returns from a trip to any infected area who thinks he or she may have been affected is to ‘self-quarantine’ – whatever precisely that means.  Airlines are already being hit by the vast reduction in numbers willing to fly.  Predictions of greater restrictions to come are everywhere, as governments prepare for the ‘worst-case scenario’.  Swathes of the UK population are being confined to their own homes except in very limited circumstances.  Will the infection ‘peak’ in the UK in two or three months, or will coronavirus turn out to be a seasonally recurring infection?  Who can tell?  The production of an effective vaccine by the beginning of next year, it seems, would be a triumph of speed and ingenuity.

As various events are called off, limitations on large gatherings are imposed and other restrictions are put in place, it is clear that not only is the coronavirus a powerful factor – the fear of the coronavirus is equally powerful.  Some international events are being cancelled less because the virus poses a threat and more because fear of the virus makes people unwilling to travel or assemble.  We are living in a climate of fear, fed by daily updates on the number of coronavirus infections in our locality.  Suppose we had similar daily updates on all kinds of other diseases – flu, heart attacks, various cancers?  Could a panic epidemic be far away?

Not all fear is bad, of course.  It can be a valuable motivator to take sensible precautions for ourselves and others.  Those with no fear can be highly dangerous.  We do have to ensure, however, that our fears are directed at appropriate objects.  Notice the Lord’s words in Matthew 10:28 ‘And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.’  Crucial for every man and woman is the ‘fear of the Lord’ that is the fruit of his grace and is also ‘the beginning of wisdom’ (Psalm 111:10), the fear that recognises who the Lord is and submits to him in the repentance and faith that embrace salvation.  In the context of that godly fear, all other fears are to be evaluated.

Even the greatest saints experience a measure of fear on occasion.  Recalling his initial ministry in Corinth Paul can write that ‘I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling’ (1 Corinthians 2:3) – an encouraging thought for any Christian seeking to share the gospel.  Fear, however, is certainly not the dominant force in the life of a child of God.

Notice Peter’s words in 1 Peter 3:6, where he says that believers are children of Sarah, Abraham’s wife, ‘if you do good and do not give way to fear’.  He is not denying for a moment that there are frightening things in the world – there is no naïve ‘let’s pretend’ in Peter’s outlook – and Christians know that in addition to all the perils that every human being faces, they are in the midst of spiritual warfare with an enemy who longs to destroy them.  Nevertheless, we may be delivered from fear if our attention is focussed on the Lord who is almighty, the Lord who loves us with infinite love, the Lord who has promised, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ (Hebrews 13:5).

It is in the light of that promise that the writer to the Hebrews continues, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’ (v.6, an allusion to Psalm 118:6).  We know that, in one sense, man (and disease, and many other things) can do a lot to us.  Christians die as martyrs, Christians die of coronavirus.  We do not live in some protective bubble that others do not have.  Nevertheless, nothing comes to us, whether it is the attacks of Satan or the onslaught of coronavirus, that is outside the control of our sovereign God, whose providence governs all things.  Thus we have a peace that passes human understanding (Philippians 4:7) and are set free from fear.  We are, in truth, ready for anything.

David McKay