In the Brandon household, one of the difficult tasks that we have is the task of writing Thank You notes. After Christmas or birthdays, our children have some notes to write. It takes a bit of organization to get them seated with paper in front of them to write to their grandparents and aunts and uncles and friends who happened to give them anything.
I know that this isn't unique to us. We have received Thank You notes for gifts that we gave months before, usually for weddings. The newlyweds are sometimes busy enjoying their new life together. In the busyness of life, it is hard to take the time to sit down and write Thank You notes. But, I always appreciate a thank you note, even if it is months later. It makes giving a gift (of any size) worth it to know that the one receiving the gift is thankful for it.
Well, this morning, as we come to Philippians 4, we are coming to Paul's "Thank You Note." In fact, the reason why Paul wrote the book of Philippians was because of a gift that he received from them. Paul was under house arrest in Rome, awaiting trial. The church in Philippi had heard about his arrest. And so, they sent him a financial gift to help him in his distress. They sent it through a man named Epaphroditus, who made the long and dangerous journey to Rome to deliver the money to Paul. In verse 18, Paul acknowledges the gift, "Having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent."
The book of Philippians is a letter that Paul sent to the church in Philippi in response to the gift that they had sent. He begins his word of thanks begins in chapter 4 and verse 10 (our text this morning). Let me read it for you now. Paul writes, ...
But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.
If you are observant, you will notice that Paul never explicitly says, "Thank you for your gift." Yet, his joy and appreciation for the gift comes shining through. And it can pass as a "Thank You" note.
These words have much to teach us this morning about giving and receiving. Indeed, this is the title of my message this morning, "Giving and Receiving." Let's first look at ...
But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity.
Lesson #1: Giving brings joy.
As you all know, Philippians is all about joy. The noun, "joy," is used seven times in these four chapters. The verb, "rejoice," is used nine times in these four chapters. By far, the densest use of this word in all of the New Testament.
We see this verb, "rejoice," used here in verse 10. Look at the joy of Paul. He says, "I rejoiced in the Lord." But, he didn't simply leave it at that. He added the superlative, "greatly." "I rejoiced in the Lord greatly."
This is the only place in all of the New Testament that this expression is used. Oh, joy is talked about. Rejoicing is talked about. But, never with this superlative, "I rejoiced in the Lord greatly." Giving brings joy.
But notice why Paul is so thrilled at receiving this gift. It's not because of the gift. It's not because it met some great need in his life. You will look in vain throughout this passage to look for Paul talking of how much the gift was needed or appreciated. Because, that's not what gave him this joy. Paul was rejoicing in the Lord greatly because of the love that the Philippians were showing him.
Notice the last half of verse 10, "that now at last you have revived your concern for me." Paul was rejoicing in their thoughtful love more than in the gift itself. This is often what stirs Paul to praise. You read other epistles and you often hear of how Paul was thankful to God because of the love of the saints. In Ephesians: "For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers;" (Ephesians 1:15-16). In Colossians: "We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints;" (Colossians 1:3-4). In First Thessalonians: "We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love" (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3).
Paul gets it. What delights him most is when he sees the love of others in action. Perhaps you have heard it said, "It's not the gift that matters. It's the thought that counts." That's exactly what Paul was saying here.
But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me.
We have no idea of the size of the gift that the Philippians sent Paul, because Paul doesn't talk about how much they sent. He only talks about how joyful he is that the Philippians loved him enough to send him a gift. That's because the gift itself isn't the issue. Rather, it's their heart to give that's the issue.
Now, you need to understand that it was ten years in coming. If you trace the clues that we have in the book of Acts, we can guess that Paul planted the church in Philippi somewhere around 50 A. D. As Paul continued on from Philippi to Thessalonica, some 100 miles down the road, they sent a few financial gifts to help him in his ministry (Phil. 4:16). But, they have been quiet for quite some time. He wrote this epistle somewhere around 60 A. D., some 10 years after first planting the church.
Paul ascribed the silence to circumstances, "indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity" (Phil 4:10). We don't know what these circumstances were. It may have been their genuine poverty -- that they really had no money to spare. Perhaps they were engaged in giving to the cause of helping the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem that Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 8-9. Or, maybe there were some internal conflicts at the church that prevented them from giving to Paul. But, now, after ten years, they were able to give. And they sent their gift to Paul who rejoiced greatly in their heart of concern for him.
And may I say that Paul's heart is my heart as well. Over the years, church family, my exhortation to you has always been to be "givers." I've not been too concerned about how much you give or about how you give or about to whom you give. I haven't been much concerned with whether you give to the church or whether you give to missionaries or whether you give of your time or whether you give of your resources.
I have never sought to put a percentage of what you should give or how you should give it. My fear is this: In establishing some sort of standard of giving, you could easily turn your giving into a duty. "I've given my 10%. I'm a giver! I don't need to give any more. I've met the requirement of the law." How is this a fulfillment of "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength"? (Mark 12:30) Isn't there always more to love? Isn't there always more to give?
God understands our weaknesses. God understands when we are tired. God understands that we have financial responsibilities. God understands when we are genuinely out of funds, and can't give another penny. I simply think that it goes against the thrust of New Testament ethics to place some percentage of giving as what pleases God. The New Testament calls us to examine everything that we would spend and evaluate it to see if we should spend it on ourselves or give it away somehow.
It is not that I'm against the 10% tithe. I simply believe that a tenth is a good starting point. And as the Lord blesses you, you will be able to give more to His work.
God has always provided for us as a church. And I trust that He will continue to provide in the future (that's the promise of Philippians 4:19 that we will look at next week: "And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.") God will provide. I guess, here's the question: Will you be the means to that provision? Will you demonstrate your love to Christ by giving of what you have to others?
That's my heart as a pastor. I want for us to be a giving church. That's why I have continued to push us to give away half of our income to missions. In other words, giving it away to those doing the work of the ministry away from this body
I want for the church to model how it is that you ought to live. Give off the top. Save for the future (that's why we have a church growth fund). Live on the rest (that's why some of the improvements around here take some time as we wait for our funds to grow).
Similarly, I want for you to give, save, and live as well. Give to the work of the Lord. Save for your upcoming future expenses. Live wisely on the rest.
And I would love to see your giving continue to increase. As Randy Alcorn says in his fine little book, The Treasure Principle, "God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving."  And oh, that God may bless some of you to be able to give away half of your income, and then some.
Dear church family, I want you all to demonstrate your love toward others in being generous and being people who give, because giving is a good thing. This is the second lesson that we learn about giving. The first is that giving brings joy.
Lesson #2: Giving is a good thing.
Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.
Paul says here that the Philippians have "done well." That is, they have done a good thing in giving to Paul. They saw his "affliction," and they sent a gift to help him during his imprisonment. Notice how Paul sees this. Paul doesn't see their gift as something that now belongs to him to help him in his imprisonment. No, Paul sees it as something that he and the Philippians are sharing. That's what verse 14 says. "You have done well to share with me in my affliction."
This comes from the Greek word, "koinonia," which we have seen a few other times in Philippians. Turn back to chapter 1.
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.
There it is, "participation" (in verse 5). The ESV says, "partnership." The KJV says, "fellowship." The idea here is that Paul was "in partnership" with those in Philippi. Paul was playing his role as apostle and preacher and evangelist. Those in Philippi were playing their role as supporting cast. They gave and supported and prayed for Paul's ministry. This is how Paul sees the gift. He sees it as a "sharing."
Now, it's not that Paul has it for a little bit, and then he's going to return it to those in Philippi when he's done using it. Nor is it that those in Philippi are ever expecting their gift to be returned to them. No, a gift is given to be used, not to be given back. Paul will use their financial help on food or clothing or fuel to keep the house warm. He's going to use it to help him survive his imprisonment. Nevertheless, he sees their financial help as something they will "share" together.
There is great application here. Whenever you give to someone else, there is always a sharing that's going on. For those of you who have supported Bekah financially, a part of you will be going to Costa Rica as well. For those of you who have supported Carissa or Grace financially, a part of you will be with them this summer as well in Czech or Honduras. As a church, we have supported Marcie during her year in Japan. A part of us will be in Japan this next year.
As we support the children's homes in Nepal and India, a part of us is there. As we have supported Leadership Resources in training pastors, a part of us is there as well.
What a blessing this is. Recently, I was on my computer and checking Facebook. And the man who leads the children's home in Bhakunde was online, and so, he instant messaged me. We went back and forth asking the same questions we always ask of each other. "How are things with you?" "How are things with the children?" "How are things at church?"
I then asked about his father, the pastor of the church in Bhakunde where all of the children go to church. He said, "He's getting older, but he is as strong as ever." And then, he said this, ... "Whenever my father tells of the history of our church, he always talks about you." Because, we were a big help to get the church in Bhakunde started.
When I first met them in Bhakunde, they were meeting in a rental facility, with a handful of people. We purchased land for them, upon which the children's home was built. We later purchased land for their church building. We then helped them put up a shell of a building, so that they could begin meeting there. Since then, they have continued to add onto the church building. It is serving them well, and the church is continuing to grow and prosper. We all had a part in it.
And what I love so much about the work in Bhakunde is that this church is the only church in that region. If you live in Bhakunde and go to church, you go to that church. If you live in Bhakunde and came to know Christ, you came to know Christ through the witness of that church. It is rare to find such places like this on the planet. What a privilege God has given Rock Valley Bible Church to be a part of a work in Nepal!!! Part of us is there in Bhakunde!
And if you want to share in the work of God, open your finances and give to the Lord's work. Let's move onto my second point. We have seen Giving (verses 10, 14). Now, let's look at ...
We find this in verses 11-13.
Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Here again, Paul is clarifying why he is rejoicing in the Lord for the gift that they sent. It wasn't because he was in such great need before Epaphroditus came and his coming was just what they needed. Though, I do love hearing those stories about missionaries down to their last dollar. When the cupboards are empty, they are on their knees praying, and along comes a knock at the door or a letter in the mail with exactly what they need, whether that be food for the day or money for rent. Read men like Hudson Taylor or George Mueller if you want to hear some stories like this.
But that's not what happened to the apostle Paul. He wasn't in great need. That's what we see in verse 11, "Not that I speak from want." Paul wasn't in a desperate situation. Now, that's not to say that the gift from Philippi wasn't appreciated. It was. That's the point of verse 14, "Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction." Paul was simply pointing out that his situation wasn't desperate. And the reason was because Paul's situation was never desperate. He said, ...
Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.
And what verse 11 says in general, verse 12 says in particular.
I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.
In other words, regardless of the situations surrounding Paul's life, he was content. If Paul found himself in humble circumstances, he was content. If Paul found himself in affluent circumstances, he was content. If Paul had just eaten a seven-course meal at the buffet, he was content. If Paul hadn't eaten for three days, he was content. If Paul was living in a mansion of 20 rooms, he was content. If Paul was living in a shack with one room, shared with a few farm animals, Paul was content.
You say, "What does it mean to be content?" Let's begin with the meaning of the Greek Word. The word is autarkhV (autarkes). It comes from two words, the first is "self." That's the aut- part. It is as in "auto-mobile," a self-driving vehicle (as opposed to a vehicle pulled by horses). The second is -arkhV (-arkes), which comes from a word meaning, "sufficient" or "satisfied." You put them together and this word has the idea of being "self-sufficient" or "self-satisfied. You might say, "independent" of external circumstances, or "self-reliant" or "self-contained." In other words, at peace with one's lot in life.
Thayer's definition of contentment is, "A perfect condition of life, in which no aid or support is needed." It is a condition being strong enough or of possessing enough to need no aid or support. In other words, "my joy and satisfaction doesn't come from the circumstances surrounding me. Rather, my joy comes from within--from my being, and not from my current living conditions." There were times in Paul's life when his every need was met. His housing was comfortable. He had enough food on the table. Things were going well in his ministry. And there were times in Paul's life when his circumstances were just the opposite. He went through many "sleepless nights." He was "in hunger and thirst, often without food." He was opposed by "false brethren" (2 Cor. 11:26-27).
But, regardless of the circumstances surrounding him, Paul was content. He was "self-sufficient." He was "self-satisfied." When going without, he wasn't seeking to obtain. When facing ease, he wasn't seeking hardship. He was content. He had an inner peace about him. He was not worried, never fretting.
Being content means that you are "not anxious," but rather, "the peace of God guards you and dwells with you." This pulls us back in the context of Philippians 4. Go back to verse 4, ...
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
All of these verses are describing the contented person. They describe the one who rejoices in the Lord (verse 4); the one who is gentle in all things, not demanding what he lacks or wants (verse 5), turning every anxious thought to the Lord for help (verse 6) and setting his mind on the good, not on all of the bad things surrounding life at the time (verse 8).
And did you notice the peace of God in verse 7? It will "guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." What does this mean, but that your heart will be calm and composed in all anxious moments when you but pray to the Lord? Did you notice the peace of God in verse 9? "The God of peace will be with you." What does this mean, but that the very presence of God will be with you to carry you through the ups and downs of life.
This is Psalm 23:1, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." Like Paul, David also faced the ups and downs of life. He was the king, who knew all of the pleasures of the palace and the glories of ruling a nation. But, under Absalom's revolt, he was living in caves in the wilderness running for his life with a few of his faithful followers. And through it all, David never lacked. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want" (Psalm 23:1).
Job is the picture of contentment. Though abounding with riches, he was seeking the Lord (Job 1:8). And after everything he had was taken away, he said, "Naked I came from my mothers' womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD" (Job. 1:21).
So important is this topic of contentment that two books have survived the Puritan era (1600's) on this topic. First is entitled, "The Art of Divine Contentment," by Thomas Watson. The second is entitled, "The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment," by Jeremiah Burroughs. If you struggle in the area of contentment, both of them are freely available on the internet. I would commend the reading to you. You can download them, read them on your electronic device or print them out. You can find both links below. 
Both of these books begin in Philippians 4:11 and expand from there. Watson's book is some 70 pages. Burroughs' book is some 150 pages. Listen to Thomas Watson's assessment of the apostle Paul: "Here is a rare pattern for us to imitate. Paul, in regard of his faith and courage, was like a cedar, he could not be stirred; but for his outward condition, he was like a reed bending every way with the wind of providence. When a prosperous gale did blow upon him, he could bend with that, 'I know how to be full;' and when a boisterous gust of affliction did blow, he could bend in humility with that, 'I know how to be hungry.' St Paul was, as Aristotle speaks, like a die that hath four squares; throw it which way you will, it falls upon a bottom: let God throw the apostle which way he would, he fell upon this bottom of contentment."
Indeed, the apostle Paul is "a rare pattern for us to imitate." Jeremiah Burroughs called contentment "a rare jewel," that is, like a precious diamond that is brought from afar and is lovely to behold. Listen to how he describes contentment. "Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal in every condition." Can you picture that "rare jewel"? It is sweet and lovely and attractive. And all of us struggle to be content.
Listen to the poem entitled, "Present Tense," written by Jason Lehman.
It was Spring.
But it was Summer I wanted,
The warm days,
And the great outdoors.
It was summer.
But it was fall I wanted,
The colorful leaves,
And the cool, dry air.
It was Fall.
But it was Winter I wanted,
The beautiful snow,
And the joy of the holiday season.
It was Winter.
But it was Spring I wanted,
And the blossoming of nature.
I was a child.
But it was adulthood I wanted,
And the respect.
I was twenty.
But it was thirty I wanted,
To be mature,
I was middle-aged.
But it was twenty I wanted,
And the free spirit.
I was retired.
But it was middle-age I wanted,
The presence of mind,
My life was over.
But I never got what I wanted.
How true this is. We spend our lives, always looking for something more, rather than saying (and I quote Jeremiah Burroughs), "This is the hand of God, and is what is suitable to my condition or best for me. Although I do not see the reason for the thing, yet I am satisfied in my judgment about it."
Contentment comes when you embrace the sovereignty of God and that He has you exactly where He wants you to be at this moment in time. And you say to yourself, "This is God's plan. I'm OK with that." Burroughs again says, ...
We are usually apt to think that any condition is better than that condition in which God has placed us. God, it may be, strikes you in your child. "Oh, if it had been in my possessions" you say, "I would be content!" Perhaps he strikes you in your marriage. "Oh," you say, "I would rather have been stricken in my health." And if he had struck you in your health -- "Oh, then, if it had been in my trading, I would not have cared." But we must not be our own carvers. Whatever particular afflictions God may place us in, we must be content in them.
Now, when we think of contentment, we often look forward to better days when we will have the bigger house or the better paying job or the kinder boss or the longer vacation or the calm at home when the kids are gone or the days when we can retire and move to Arizona. Listen carefully, church family: winning the world doesn't buy contentment. Let me ask you, "Are the rich and famous happy?" They are living the dream, with enough resources to do anything they want and enough fame to make their faces a house-hold symbol. And are they happy?
When John D. Rockefeller was asked how much more money he needed before he would feel satisfied, he famously replied, "Just a little more." He confessed, "I have made many millions, but they have brought me no happiness."  Thomas Watson wrote, "Rich men, if we may suppose them to be content with their estates, which is seldom; yet, though they have estate enough, they have not honour enough: if their barns are full enough, yet their turrets are not high enough. ... One would think Haman had as much as his proud heart could desire; he was set above all the princes, advanced upon the pinnacle of honour, to be the second man in the kingdom; (Esther 3:1) yet in the midst of all his pomp, because Mordecai would not uncover and kneel, he is discontented, and full of wrath, and there was no way to assuage this pleurisy of revenge, but by letting all the Jews' blood, and offering them up in sacrifice."
Luke 12:15 says, "Even when one has an abundance, [life does not] consist of his possessions." I do not believe that it was an accident that Paul spoke of how he was content even in times of plenty in Philippians 4:12: "I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need." Even Socrates, that ancient Greek philosopher had it exactly right when he said, "He who is not contented with what he has, will not be contented with what he doesn't have." 
In his autobiography, Billy Graham shared a great story illustrating how the rich are especially prone to discontent.
Some years ago Ruth and I had a vivid illustration of this on an island in the Caribbean. One of the wealthiest men in the world had asked us to come to his lavish home for lunch. He was 75 years old, and throughout the entire meal he seemed close to tears. "I am the most miserable man in the world," he said. "Out there is my yacht. I can go anywhere I want to. I have my private plane, my helicopters. I have everything I want to make my life happy, yet I am as miserable as hell." We talked to him and prayed with him, trying to point him to Christ, who alone gives lasting meaning to life.
Then we went down the hill to a small cottage where we were staying. That afternoon the pastor of the local Baptist church came to call. He was an Englishman, and he too was 75 -- a widower who spent most of his time taking care of his two invalid sisters. He was full of enthusiasm and love for Christ and others.
"I don't have two pounds to my name," he said with a smile, "but I am the happiest man on this island.'"
Billy Graham then relates how he asked his wife Ruth after they left, "Who do you think is the richer man?" She didn't have to reply because they both already knew the answer. 
And so, I ask you, are you content? Has God so filled your heart that you are self-reliant? Or, are the circumstances of life driving your joy? I have good news for you this morning! Contentment can be learned. In verse 11, Paul wrote, "I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am." In verse 12, he wrote, "I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need." So, what is the secret? It comes in verse 13, ...
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Normally, we see this verse on some athletic poster. This athlete seeking to do great things in his sport, and they use Philippians 4:13 as if to say, "I can do it! I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." But that's not what this verse is talking about. This verse isn't talking about taking some dream that you have, and if you believe in it enough, Christ will empower you to do it. "You can to all things!!!."
This verse is talking about the ability to be content through all circumstances of life. If God has brought the circumstance (and He has), then God has the strength to carry you through the circumstance as well. We see this truth in Romans 8:32: "He who did not spare His own son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?"
1 Corinthians 4:7 asks, "What do you have that you did not receive?" Such an attitude will lead us to contentment.
This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church
on June 1, 2014 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.
 Thomas Watson, "The Art of Divine Contentment:" http://grace-ebooks.com/library/Thomas%20Watson/TW_The%20Art%20of%20Divine%20Contentment.pdf. Jeremiah Burrows, "The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment:" http://www.preachtheword.com/bookstore/contentment.pdf.