Harbor Presbyterian - Uptown
When I Get Enough
When Will I Be Happy with Myself?
When I Get Enough
We’re finishing the book of Philippians today. As Paul has dealt with things in his life and the things affecting the church, above all else we’ve seen his own personal joy, his happiness spill out into everything.
But if we’re honest, our experience of this happiness fluctuates radically. If you’re here today and you’re not a Christian, you need to know that this is something that both Chrisitans and non-Christians struggle with. Sometimes, our greatest issues with being happy in life is wrong expectations. In our pursuit of happiness, we think that it’s just a little more of something away: a little more money, a little better relationship, a little better career, a little more time. We think we’ll be happy when we get enough.
This week I read this from a woman describing her fall into an affair: “And we met to talk and have lunch. We talked about our spouses and our growing need for each other as friends. [By this time I’d become a skilled enough liar that not only was I lying to pretty much everyone I knew, but I was also telling myself I needed this man. I obsessed that only with him in my life would I be happy. The harder I tried to hold on to my own sanity, the more I felt like I was losing the grip on myself.]… She was looking for a little more understanding, a little more support, a little more… something. But it wasn’t working.
And this is where so many of us are right now. We’re waiting for something more before we’ll be happy. For Paul, the key to his happiness is that all of his thinking has been turned upside down. This passage shows three ideas that have made Paul unshakeably happy.
Paul describes his relationship with this church as a partnership, v15. They were partners in giving and receiving. Paul gave them the gospel, they gave him financial support. V14—they shared in his trouble. Relationship and support. V15-16—they were unique—no other church supported Paul in this way.
Paul brags about them to another church: 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord.
Paul’s giving of the gospel to Philippians means that he is participating in all the good that they do in the city.
But Paul goes further. Their gift to him, their partnership has met his needs once and again. His work goes forward because of them. So they have participated in all that he does. That is the joy of the partnership! WE see this when we support missionaries, but we must also recognize that the same is true with giving to the church. If you are in partnership with the church, if you support it with your finances, but also your prayers, your service, your love—then all that happens here in this church is in part because of you. “to love Paul is to love the gospel.”
Partnership: this kind of commitment to meeting others’ needs brings real happiness because it’s not focused on us and what we get. It’s focused on those we care for and what God is doing in their lives.
This year for my birthday, I was given among some presents a nice amount of money. Usually I take this money to my “wish list,” either literally on Amazon or from the list of things I want—and I just buy from that list until the money is gone.
This year, things were a little tight, and there were things we needed to buy for other people that we really didn’t have the money for. So I used my birthday money to buy things for other people.
Let me tell you something. Over the last 10 years I couldn’t tell you one thing I’ve used my birthday money to buy for myself. Every year I buy something, use it, and eventually it gets thrown or given away.
But I know exactly what I did with it this year. And every time I think about it, I get excited and I’m filled with happiness because I feel good about helping the people I did. This is the genius of why the bible says, “It’s better to give than to receive.” That happiness can never be taken away.
Because of the gospel, even the thank you of Paul is transformed from routine to something that shows the gospel. Jesus changes everything—even thank you’s. Even how you see the gifts that other people give you. By saying “not that I seek the gift,” Paul wants to make sure they don’t misunderstand.
He’s not using them for their money. He’s not trying to fleece them. There were many wandering teachers during Paul’s time who would go from place to place selling their ideas, and many of them were regarded as crooks and cheats. 2 Corinthians 12:14 And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you.
Paul wants their hearts more than their money. He’s excited about the gift because it shows the gospel is at work in their lives.
When we think about “Getting Enough” we’re focused on what we’re getting. But Paul’s attitude is to look at gifts as examples of the gospel in others. That is his focus.
This week, this hit me. Is this my heart? As the pastor, am I thinking about finances like Paul does? I admit that I’ve read this passage probably 30 times at least, and I’ve never thought about it until this week. I don’t think about church finances a whole lot, but when I do, I admit I’ve never thought about them this way.
Typically, I think about the finances of the church just as necessary to keep the church going—supporting the ministry, expanding our outreach, etc… this week, I’ve been confronted with Paul’s heart that he saw the money not in terms of what he was receiving, but he saw it as expressing the Philippians’ heart commitment to the gospel, to wanting to see it advance in the Roman Empire.
Paul is genuinely thankful, he in happy because he knows that their gift to him is fruit that increasing their account. He’s excited about the blessing that they are going to receive from God. This is a backwards perspective. I’ve tried to pray this as a prayer this week—it’s challenging to think like this, but this is the kind of love that the gospel produces in us.
Their gift was fruit that increased the balance of their account. This was a good work that will be rewarded by God (v17), and Paul is excited about that. The Philippians are storing up treasure in heaven.
This perspective brings happiness. Again, it’s not about you getting, but it’s about thinking about what others are going to get for their generosity.
V19—God will supply every need of your in glory in Christ Jesus
Paul is confident—God will pay the Philippians back. Seems a bit silly to say God will pay back, but that’s the image.
Gordon Fee—Paul’s reciprocity will come from God, who will “fill them up. God himself will pick up Paul’s end of the reciprocity by meeting all their needs.
God will supply every need you have. This looks one of two ways:
- Either God will provide by giving you the thing or things that you’re asking for, and your needs will be met…
- God will supply you with the grace you need to get through without it. And he will fill you with contentment and happiness in the midst of it.
Let me ask you a question: Which would you rather have? The thing you’re praying for? Or a full measure of the grace of God in your life?
Paul says God will supply you according to his riches. Let’s say you were to ask a billionaire for financial support to help build a community center to serve the underprivileged poor in city heights. He thought it was a great idea and wrote you a check for $100, you would say that he gave to the community center out of his riches.
But if he were to ask the cost of the project, and you told him it would be $2.5 million, and he said, “Here’s a check for $2.75 million—please make sure that the Community Center reflects an aesthetic beauty that gives people hope.” You would say that he gave to the community center according to his riches.
That is how God gives to us.
He’ll supply you according to the riches of his wealth “in glory.” This means that the riches of God, his wealth that he shares with us is the wealth that comes from where he is “in glory.” This is a reference to God’s dwelling in heaven. There, life is perfect.
What do you think when you imagine a perfected life? When you think about heaven, what do you think about? Is it the end of suffering? Is it the end of uncertainty about finances? Is it being rejoined with loved ones? Is it seeing the things that are broken in your life become beautiful? Healed relationships? Is it psychological healing?
God has this incredible wealth of blessings that will ultimately bring about a completely perfected existence in the world.
Part of what it means to be “saved” is that God brings these blessings of heaven to earth. God wants to show people what heaven will be like.
What would it mean for heaven to come to earth? To answer this, we need to remember that God has shown this at least twice already in history: Heaven has come down at least twice in history. It happened in the Incarnation—Jesus leaving heaven to come as God in the flesh. And it happened again at Pentecost. In Acts 2, heaven was opened again and the Holy Spirit was poured out on the church and into the world, bringing heaven down.
And what did these 2 things bring from heaven? Well, the fruit of the Spirit is in Galatians 5:22—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-control. These are aspects of life in heaven.
People get a little frustrated sometimes, thinking—why God, why not just give me the money I need? Why not just give me the relationship I need? Or why can’t I have both?!?! Why does it have to be either what I want OR your grace? Why can’t I have both? If you give according to your riches, you certainly have enough to give both! Why wouldn’t you do that?
I honestly think that this is how God replies: “Well, what I’m doing is bringing heaven to earth. And heaven will come into your life more if you can experience the blessings that I bring. It’s not money that will make you happy, not relationships, it’s me that you really need.
“And there are times when I have to make tough decisions, when I have to say no to your requests, so that I can say yes to helping you experience what you really need.
“There are times when I have to say no to your requests because if I were to say yes, it would take you farther away from me, and farther away from experiencing heaven. ”
If you’re a Christian and you’re not experiencing this foretaste of heaven in your life, it might be that you simply didn’t know that this is what God was doing in your life. Remember this, think about this, believe it—and you’ll begin to see it in your life. You’ll begin to see the heaven that God is trying to bring into your life. You’ll see that he is bringing heavenly love into your life, he’s bringing heavenly patience, heavenly respect for others, a heavenly perspective on relationships. When you see it, you’ll be encouraged, and strengthened to keep going.
But how can you know that this is really what God is doing? How can you know that God is really doing this in your life?
It’s the last three words of v19: God gives according to his wealth in glory “in Christ Jesus”— it’s all about Jesus. Jesus shows you the heart of God, how God feels about you.
Annie Johnson Flint’s
His love has no limit,
His grace has no measure,
His power has no boundary known unto men,
For out of his infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth and giveth and giveth again.
Romans 8:32—He who did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
PARTNERSHIP—It’s Jesus’ gift that meets OUR needs. He didn’t just give his finances, he gave his own life. It’s the cross that shows us how far he’ll go to meet our deepest need.
PERSPECTIVE—Paul’s perspective tells the story of Jesus, who cared nothing for himself, but came caring only for your needs on the cross.
PROVISION—HE is the provision of God. He gave himself for us.
This is why Paul says, “To live is Christ.” To live means to know him more, to experience him in both good times and bad. This is what we need.
And this is the happiness that changed the world. It was so strong, so powerful in Paul’s life, that it was affecting everyone—even those in the halls of government power. V22—Those in Caesar’s household!
Marva Dawn, 546—“Those who belong to Caesar’s household” would have included officials and servants of all kinds who were employed in the service of the emperor, in particular, what we would term as civil servants.”
“especially those from Caesar’s household.” It’s almost as if Paul was savoring this morsel and waiting to drop it at the end of this letter.
Paul hinted in chapter 1 that the whole of Caesar’s guard had heard the gospel. Here we find that it’s not just that all the guard have heard, but there are members of Caesar’s own household who have come to believe that Jesus is Lord, and Caesar isn’t!
Paul’s Roman imprisonment by the authority of Caesar may have caused the Philippians to wonder: what’s the deal? If Jesus is really Lord, then why does Caesar have Jesus’ ambassador locked up? Paul resets their expectations—yes Jesus is Lord, yes he is powerful, but in this life Jesus was called to suffer in order to overcome Caesar and his bad leadership. The Philippians have been called to follow Jesus, suffering in this life, waiting for exaltation in the next life. But here we see that we don’t have to wait to see progress. Caesar is already being overthrown. His own household—slaves, guards, people who work for him, maybe family members—are admitting that Jesus is Lord, Caesar isn’t!
Paul’s happiness and his boldness was affecting the people around him, and bringing them to faith. This same thing continues to happen today.
While working as a journalist for the Chicago Tribune, Lee Strobel was assigned to report on the struggles of an impoverished, inner-city family during the weeks leading up to Christmas. A devout atheist at the time, Strobel was mildly surprised by the family's attitude in spite of their circumstances:
The Delgados—60-year-old Perfecta and her granddaughters, Lydia and Jenny—had been burned out of their roach-infested tenement and were now living in a tiny, two-room apartment on the West Side. As I walked in, I couldn't believe how empty it was. There was no furniture, no rugs, nothing on the walls—only a small kitchen table and one handful of rice. That's it. They were virtually devoid of possessions.
In fact, 11-year-old Lydia and 13-year-old Jenny owned only one short-sleeved dress each, plus one thin, gray sweater between them. When they walked the half-mile to school through the biting cold, Lydia would wear the sweater for part of the distance and then hand it to her shivering sister, who would wear it the rest of the way.
But despite their poverty and the painful arthritis that kept Perfecta from working, she still talked confidently about her faith in Jesus. She was convinced he had not abandoned them. I never sensed despair or self-pity in her home; instead, there was a gentle feeling of hope and peace.
Strobel completed his article, then moved on to more high-profile assignments. But when Christmas Eve arrived, he found his thoughts drifting back to the Delgados and their unflinching belief in God's providence. In his words: "I continued to wrestle with the irony of the situation. Here was a family that had nothing but faith, and yet seemed happy, while I had everything I needed materially, but lacked faith—and inside I felt as empty and barren as their apartment."
In the middle of a slow news day, Strobel decided to pay a visit to the Delgados. When he arrived, he was amazed at what he saw. Readers of his article had responded to the family's need in overwhelming fashion, filling the small apartment with donations. Once inside, Strobel encountered new furniture, appliances, and rugs; a large Christmas tree and stacks of wrapped presents; bags of food; and a large selection of warm winter clothing. Readers had even donated a generous amount of cash.
But it wasn't the gifts that shocked Lee Strobel, an atheist in the middle of Christmas generosity. It was the family's response to those gifts. In his words:
As surprised as I was by this outpouring, I was even more astonished by what my visit was interrupting: Perfecta and her granddaughters were getting ready to give away much of their newfound wealth. When I asked Perfecta why, she replied in halting English: "Our neighbors are still in need. We cannot have plenty while they have nothing. This is what Jesus would want us to do."
That blew me away! If I had been in their position at that time in my life, I would have been hoarding everything. I asked Perfecta what she thought about the generosity of the people who had sent all of these goodies, and again her response amazed me. "This is wonderful; this is very good," she said, gesturing toward the largess. "We did nothing to deserve this—it's a gift from God. But," she added, "It is not his greatest gift. No, we celebrate that tomorrow. That is Jesus."
To her, this child in the manger was the undeserved gift that meant everything—more than material possessions, more than comfort, more than security. And at that moment, something inside of me wanted desperately to know this Jesus—because, in a sense, I saw him in Perfecta and her granddaughters.
They had peace despite poverty, while I had anxiety despite plenty; they knew the joy of generosity, while I only knew the loneliness of ambition; they looked heavenward for hope, while I only looked out for myself; they experienced the wonder of the spiritual, while I was shackled to the shallowness of the material—and something made me long for what they had.
Or, more accurately, for the One they knew.
Do you know this one? Do you want to know him?
You can begin a relationship with him simply by praying this prayer with me:
Jesus, I haven’t been living for you as I should. I want to. Please forgive me for my sins. I believe that you died to take my punishment, and you rose again, so I could be forgiven. I need you. Amen.
If you prayed that prayer today, talk to me or tell the person who brought you. We’d like to rejoice with you.
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