A New Year Blessing
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, January 5, 2003
Copyright © 2003, P. G. Mathew
And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19 is God's promise of blessing to us through his apostle. God guarantees to take care of us and meet our every need, and, thus, we have nothing to worry about. We are God's people, the people of his covenant of grace. As the Israel of God, we are blessed and cannot be cursed. We have a glorious future in God! On this first Sabbath of the new year, I want to give you a New Year's benediction, that you may go home as a blessed people.
The apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians from prison where he was in chains. Though he was a Roman citizen, Paul was suffering affliction for the sake of the gospel and in great need of food, clothing, and friends. However, Paul was not complaining; in fact, he was rejoicing in the Lord.
One day Epaphroditus from Philippi, whom Paul called his brother in the Lord, fellow soldier, and fellow minister, visited Paul in prison, bringing with him a care package from the saints of the church in Philippi. We are told by Paul himself that this was the only church which had supported this great apostle continually. It was a very poor church, as we read in 2 Corinthians 8, yet it sent gifts to Paul again and again throughout his ministry.
When Paul received this care package, he had nothing to give to the poor Philippian church in return, so he wrote this promise to them, telling them how God would supply all their needs. He assured them that the gift they were giving to him as an apostle was really being given to God as an acceptable sacrifice, and that God would surely bless them in return. God is not a debtor to any man. As Jesus Christ said, "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap" (Luke 6:38).
The Great Supplier
Let us, then, examine this great promise Paul wrote in Philippians 4:19: "And my God will fill to the full all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." Who is the supplier? Paul says, "And my God. . . ."
First, we must say that this promise is not made to every religious person. It is not made to an idol worshiper, a Mohammedan, or even to one who practices Judaism. There is a popular idea today that says the three major monotheistic religions-Christianity, Judaism, and Islam-all serve the same God, but that idea is a lie. Paul uses the phrase "my God." The god of Hinduism, the god of Mohammedanism, and even the god of Judaism, is not the God of the apostle Paul, nor is he our God. How can we make such a stupendous statement? We can do so because the Scripture tells us it is true. So this promise of blessing is only for those who are in Jesus Christ. It is for those who worship and serve the only true and living God, the God of glory, the Creator of the ends of the earth, the infinite and personal God. He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the triune God that we confess in the Nicene Creed and affirm in the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 2.
This God was no stranger to the apostle Paul. Notice, he calls him, "my God." This God will not bless you and keep you unless you call him "my God," worshiping and serving him only all the days of your life.
How does this God become our God and heavenly Father? By our repentance and faith. We must believe in this great God by trusting in his Son, Jesus Christ, who alone died for our sins and was raised for our justification. He is not the God of Mohammedans nor those who practice Judaism, because they do not trust in Jesus Christ. But he is my God, and he chose me from all eternity, gave me existence, and called me effectually into his kingdom. He forgave all my sins and justified me. He loved me and gave his Son as an atoning sacrifice for my complete and everlasting salvation. He is my God, and I am his. I am his responsibility and he will supply all my needs always. If you are a Christian, he is your God and will meet all your needs also.
In Psalm 63:1,3 David declared, "O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. . . . Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you." My God is the supplier. My God is the source. My God is the blessor and he will bless.
All Our Needs Supplied
Second, this promise speaks about "all your needs." In the Greek it is pasan chreian. Man is body, so he needs food, clothing, medicine, and shelter. The promise here tells us that he who gave us the body will also meet every need of it as he sees fit. In other words, man lives by bread, and here we are assured by God that he will give us everything that we need for our sustenance. That is why Jesus himself taught us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread."
But man also is spirit and has spiritual needs. He needs forgiveness and justification. He needs the Holy Spirit and his gifts. He needs the grace of God in abundance. He needs enlightenment and the knowledge of God. He needs the ministry of ministers of the gospel and a true church to belong to. Additionally, he needs trials to purify his faith, as we read in Philippians 1:29, where Paul says, "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him." In other words, not only has God given us the ability to believe, but he also gives us grace to suffer for him. Perhaps we did not figure suffering in. But God knows all our needs; thus, he gives us tribulations and pain to purify us and produce the fruit of patience in us, as we read in Deuteronomy 8 and Genesis 22.
A Christian needs to grow in faith and humility. He needs grace to resist the devil and the power of the Holy Spirit to obey God. He needs grace to love God and God's people. He needs grace to resist temptation on a daily basis and to pray always. He needs grace to give thanks for everything. He needs grace to love his wife as Christ loved the church, and the wife needs grace to respect her husband. He needs grace to bear spiritual fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, and so on. He needs grace to live and grace to die. A Christian has material needs and spiritual needs. God promises in this verse to meet every single need.
The Abundance of God's Supply
Third, Paul says, "My God will fill to the full" as he meets our needs. In the Greek the idea is that God "will fill the empty vessels of all your needs." He is speaking about God giving us abounding grace sufficient to deal with any exigency we may encounter. Though Paul was in chains in prison when he wrote these words, yet he affirmed that God fully met all his needs. In Philippians 4:11 he said, "I am not saying this because I am in need." How could Paul say this? God was supplying all his needs.
As a result of his Christian experience, Paul had learned the secret of being content no matter what his circumstances. In 1 Timothy 6 Paul says that if we have food and clothing, we should be content with it. In other words, Paul was not a materialist. He learned contentment. On the other hand, he was also not a stoic in the sense of feeling he was independent of all circumstances as a result of self-reliance, self-sufficiency, and confidence in himself. No, Paul learned to be content in all circumstances-in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow. He learned to live a balanced Christian life in all sorts of circumstances because of his dependence on God.
We find several references to the circumstances God let Paul experience. In 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 he wrote, "We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body."
In 2 Corinthians 6:4-10 Paul wrote again of his trials:
Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown, dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed, sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 Paul wrote:
Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.
Paul learned the secret of contentment, not in self-sufficiency, but in Christ-sufficiency. Without Christ we can do nothing, but with him we can do all things. Paul knew he was in Christ by faith and he knew Christ was with him and in him. He knew that his Lord, who has all authority in heaven and earth, would never leave him nor forsake him.
The secret of contentment and happiness is a life of faith in Jesus Christ. If your faith is empty and false, your life will reflect that. You will be just like a pagan, without hope, always worrying, always miserable, always complaining, always shaken up.
Because Paul learned the secret of utter dependence on Jesus Christ and therefore upon all his resources, he could write in Philippians 4:13, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." In the Greek it is, "I am able for all things," or "I am able to do all things," or "I can do all things by him who continually pours into me his divine strength." That is the secret of contentment. It means that in every circumstance we can be content, whether we abound or are abased, whether we experience sorrow or joy, whether we are facing life or death, affliction or martyrdom. We can have confidence, knowing that God ordains all things and works in all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose.
How can we have such great confidence in God? Because Jesus Christ is the fullness from which we draw. He said of his fullness we receive one grace after another. Of his grace he giveth and giveth and giveth again. The grace of God is inexhaustible. So the secret of dependency upon Christ is to have a living, not phony, faith. He is the vine, and we realize that we are just branches. We can do nothing by ourselves individually or corporately. The sum of a million zeroes is still zero. Yet if we are vitally united with Jesus Christ by living faith, his life flows into us so we can live highly productive lives for God's glory.
We find an illustration of this utter dependency of Paul upon Christ in 2 Timothy 4:16 and 17. Speaking about the situation for which he was put in prison and from which prison he was writing, Paul said, "At my first defense, no one came to my support." That is what happens when we depend on people. When we need them most, they may not be there. If this happens, we may become confused and we may lose our faith. If we do so, that is good, because such faith is false faith. It would indicate that we have been trusting in people, not God.
So Paul wrote, "At my first defense no one came to my support," and then he continued, "but everyone abandoned me." But that is not the end of the story. In verse 17 he continues, "But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it." That is Paul's secret-this profound understanding that the Lord Jesus Christ was with him. Then Paul concluded, "and I was delivered from the lion's mouth." Everyone abandoned Paul, but the Lord stood with him and helped him, pouring out into him grace and strength to be his witness.
This is the secret of contentment: that we can derive all our sufficiency from Jesus Christ. And this secret is based on the greatest of all doctrines, our union with him. It is impossible for a believer to be separated from the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, Jesus himself said of his followers, "I give them eternal life; they shall never perish, and no one is able to snatch them out of my hand. No one is able to snatch them out of my Father's hand." Paul also wrote that nothing in all creation "will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:39).
Paul's every need was fully met by his Lord and so he could rejoice, even when he was in prison. Thus, in Philippians 1:18-19 he could write, "But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance." Paul said that he received help from the Spirit of Jesus Christ even while he was in the damp prison. Whatever our situation is, the Spirit of Jesus Christ is also with us, and his supply will come to us to help us.
The Measure of God's Supply
What is the measure of this supply? In the Greek we read, kata tou ploutos autou, "according to his riches." This is speaking about the glorious riches of God, not of us. Because God is infinite, his riches are infinite and inexhaustible. The Bible says all things are possible with God. It tells us, "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof." Did you eat any fish yesterday? It came from his ocean. He is the one who owns the cattle on a thousand hills and provides his people with grain. He is the God of creation, the God of providence, and the God of redemption. His measure has no measure.
Listen to Annie Johnson Flint: "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." God's riches are those inherent in his being God the Creator and the Lord of all. He spoke, and the universe came into existence. He sustains all things by his will.
This love of God is beyond our understanding. In Ephesians 3 Paul speaks of his desire that we understand the love of God, and then he said we cannot understand it. "Go ahead, try," he says, "but you cannot understand it. Keep on trying, but you can never exhaust it. Why? His love is infinite." And in Philippians Paul speaks of the peace of God "which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." God's love is beyond measure, his peace is beyond measure, and his joy, Peter says, is inexpressible.
Jesus said that when we come and drink of his salvation, out of our innermost being will flow rivers of living water. I suppose that means he meets our every need and goes way beyond it. Christ meets our every need in proportion to his infinite wealth, in a way that befits his glory.
In Paul's prayer of Ephesians 3:16-21 we get a little flavor of this idea of the measureless riches of God. There Paul wrote:
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.
All our needs will be fully supplied In Christ Jesus
How are our needs supplied? En Christí´ Iíªsou-in Christ Jesus. In other words, Jesus Christ is the depository of this rich supply. That is why, if you do not believe in Jesus Christ, you cannot have any supply. That is the problem with all other religions. Those who do not believe in Jesus Christ are outside of God's supply. They receive nothing but his common grace.
God meets our every need only in Christ Jesus. Anyone who does not call Jesus Christ "my Lord and my God" can receive nothing of his special grace because God's special grace of salvation flows to us only from his Son, Jesus Christ. He alone is the source of every grace that we need. He alone is given all authority in heaven and on earth. He alone is the Savior of the world. He who has the Son has life, but he who does not have the Son does not have life. But he who possesses Jesus Christ by faith possesses all.
Just as Abraham gave everything he owned to his son Isaac, so the heavenly Father has given his eternal Son everything. We read about this in John 3:35, "The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands." Everything we need is in his hands. Do you hate him, reject him, and refuse to believe in him? You will get nothing, and the wrath of God is abiding upon you. But he who is in Christ by faith is in possession of everything. Such a person can say, "Out of his fullness we receive grace upon grace." As we read in Ephesians 1:22-23, "And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way." In other words, from Christ who is the head of the church, flows to the church everything.
The late Professor John Murray of Westminster Theological Seminary stated:
There is no need of ours, no exigency arising from the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, no demand flowing from membership in his body, no office which we are called upon to discharge in the service of Christ and the church, that is not supplied out of the fullness that resides in Christ. It is an affront to Christ as the one in whom dwells all the fulness to doubt the sufficiency of his grace for the discharge of every demand which the goal of sanctification entails. (John Murray, Collected Writings of John Murray, Volume 2: Systematic Theology [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1977], 304)
This is real Christianity-a Christianity that is persecuted, yes, but a Christianity that also rejoices even in tribulations. We can receive grace for everything. Whether it is washing dishes, changing diapers, or praying for our enemies, God will give us grace if we ask for it.
In 2 Corinthians 9:8 we read, "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." Just look at this amazing language! "God is able (or mighty) to abound to you all grace . . ." (author's translation). We need grace to live in this world in its varied relationships, whether at work or home or church or in the nation. God is mighty to abound all grace toward us so that, whether in joy or in sorrow, in plenty or in poverty, "in all things always, having all sufficiency, you may abound to all good works." We will never run out of grace. We will have all sufficiency of grace-overflowing grace, grace that exceeds the need. What is the final purpose of all this grace? That we may abound in good works.
God wants us to live for him in this world. So Paul is saying that our God is mighty to abound all grace to us that we may do our work, doing all the tasks God has given us to do. In Philippians 2:13 we read that God works in us both "to will and to act according to his good purpose." He empowers us so we can do all things: to live and to die.
I cannot say that life will always be full of plenty, health, or joy. It is never that way. There will be joy and there will be sorrow. There will be plenty and there will be poverty. You will be young and you will get old. There will be times of sickness and times of health. Throughout our lives, situations will change, but one thing will never change: Christ will be with us and will always give us his abounding grace. You will be the husband and father God wants you to be. You will be the wife and mother God wants you to be. You will be the vice-president God wants you to be. You will be the student God wants you to be. God is mighty to abound all grace toward us so that, in all situations at all times having all sufficiency we may do all that God wants us to do.
A Blessing for the New Year
That is the blessing for this year and all the years to come. What is Paul's counsel to us? Be not anxious in anything, but in everything with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving make your requests known, not to other human beings, but to God. He is the supplier. When we do this, the peace of God that passes all human understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. The peace of God is the smile of God registered in our spirit. We will be able to rise from prayer and say with confidence, "Everything is all right; I saw God smiling at me. He is going to take care of me. He will strengthen me and abound his grace toward me. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; God is with me. His rod and thy staff, they comfort me."
Therefore, I tell you: Do not panic or fear at what is ahead of us this year. Pray for grace, and God will give it to you-sufficient, abounding, and overflowing grace for your every need. Jesus Christ does not want us to live a minimal life. PGM He said, "I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly." God will supply our every need according to his immeasurable riches in Christ Jesus. We can live joyful, peaceful, vibrant lives with God's help and blessing.
Illustrations of God's Provision
Throughout the Scriptures we find illustrations of this truth that the Lord will provide for our every need. First, in his great prayer of Nehemiah 9, Nehemiah recounted God's provision for his people in the desolate wilderness. In verses 19-21 we read:
Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the desert. By day the pillar of cloud did not cease to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take. You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. For forty years you sustained them in the desert; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen.
For forty years the Lord provided every day for his people. Even when they sinned by murmuring and complaining, the manna was there, the water was there, the pillar of cloud and fire was there. God could have abandoned his people, but he did not; instead, he provided for all their needs. What a gracious, compassionate God!
Next, look at the life of Joseph. He was put into a pit by his own brothers. But God was with him and sustained him. Though they were planning to kill him, all of a sudden the brothers changed their mind and said, "Wait a minute. We can sell him and make some money." Thus, God saved him from death, and he was sold as a slave in Egypt. The Bible tells us that God was with Joseph and blessed him and Potiphar, his Egyptian master. Then, for no reason, Joseph was accused of immorality and put into prison. But there again God was with him and provided for him. And if you continue reading in Genesis, you learn that in due time God exalted Joseph to second only to Pharaoh in the land of Egypt and provided not only for him but for his entire family for the rest of their lives.
In 1 Kings 17:2-3 we read that God directed his prophet Elijah to go to the east of Jordan and hide himself in the Kerith Ravine: "Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: 'Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there.'" Elijah obeyed the Lord, and the ravens came with meat and bread in the morning and evening. What provision! When we go in the way of God, he will provide for us; we don't have to be anxious about it at all.
But after some time, the brook dried up, so God directed Elijah to go to a widow in Zarephath. There was a famine in the land, and this widow and her little son were getting ready to make two cakes from their last flour and oil. They planned to eat them and then die. But Elijah came and told the woman to give him water, and also a little cake, first, to him, before they ate. Then the word of the Lord came: "For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: 'The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.'" God was giving his promise to provide for the widow, her son, and the prophet sufficient bread and water. And there was plenty for Elijah and the family until the famine ended.
In 1 Kings 19 we read that Elijah was depressed. Many ministers of the gospel have experienced severe depression in their ministry, including Spurgeon himself. Here we find Elijah wanting to give up and die. Running away into the desert, he said to God, "I have had enough, Lord. Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors." In verses 5-8 we read, "Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep." This prophet had no food, no water, and just wanted to die. But then we read, "All at once an angel touched him and said, 'Get up and eat.' He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread, baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, 'Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.' So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God."
This time there was no raven, no brook, and no widow. But God sent an angel to take care of the needs of his prophet. The Lord will provide whatever we need. His supply is more than sufficient.
In 2 Kings 4 we find the story of the wife of a minister without any retirement plan. This couple had two sons. The minister died, apparently owing quite a bit of money to his creditor, but when the creditor came to collect their money, there was none, and the creditor decided to take the two boys instead. The woman appealed to Elisha for help, and in verses 2-7 we read:
Elisha replied to her, "How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?" "Your servant has nothing there at all," she replied, "except a little oil." Elisha said, "Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don't ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jar, and as each is filled, put it to one side." She left him and afterward shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, "Bring me another one." But he replied, "There is not a jar left." Then the oil stopped flowing. She went and told the man of God, and he said, "Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left."
What a provision of our Lord! Our God is mighty and abounds in all grace to us. He performs miracles, not only in the past, but even to the present.
In John 21 we read, "Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 'I'm going out to fish,' Simon Peter told them, and they said, 'We'll go with you.'" Like Elijah, these disciples were thinking of getting out of the ministry. "Let's go back to our fishing business," Peter was saying. But after fishing all night, they caught nothing until Jesus came.
In verse 9 we read, "When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread." And in verse 12 we read, "Come and have breakfast," Jesus said to them. Here again we see that God provides for his people. He makes a way where there is no way.
In Genesis 22 Isaac said, "Father, the fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" Abraham told him, "Jehovah Jireh; the Lord will provide," and the truth is, as you study the history of redemption, God has provided his Son as the Lamb of God. He who has the Son by faith has everything-everything we need for body and soul. He giveth and giveth and giveth again.
Receiving God's Grace by Faith
So let us ask the practical question: How do we receive God's abounding grace? First, we must believe in Jesus Christ, because, as the Scriptures tell us, he who has the Son has life. Jesus is the depository of God's grace because God the Father has given him everything. So without faith in him, and trusting in him, we can receive nothing of his special grace. Whatever our need is, we can receive from him through faith in him. This faith is not what we do at the beginning of our Christian life. We live by repentance and faith daily.
This also means that we affirm that God is true and cannot lie; that his promises are sure; and that when we read God's word, which is his promise to us, we believe it. When we read "Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened to you," it is a promise the eternal God is making to us, and we must believe it.
In 2 Corinthians 1:18 we read, "But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not 'Yes' and 'No.'" The truth is, God is always faithful, reliable, and dependable, and the message of God is not double-talk. Paul continues in verse 19: "For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy, was not 'Yes' and 'No,' but in him it has always been 'Yes.' For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ. And so through him the 'Amen' is spoken by us to the glory of God." What does this mean? That when we see a promise, we say "Amen," or "I believe it."
This is how we should read the word of God. We should realize that it is God's promise to us to believe. That is the first way we will receive God's abounding grace.
Receiving God's Grace through Prayer
The second means by which we receive God's grace is prayer. In Philippians 4:6-7 we read, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Have you believed that? It tells us, first, not to be anxious about any matter, whether temporal or spiritual. A believer should say, "Lord, I believe that. I refuse to be anxious about anything." Second, it tells us, "in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." So we should say, "God, I refuse to be anxious. I'm a child of God, linked to your Son, who is filled with all grace for me. So I present to you all my requests, because you are the God who has promised and told us to pray."
When we do this, we shall surely experience God's grace. In the midst of the storm, when we feel as though we are going to sink and die, here comes someone saying, "Quiet! Be still," and everything becomes calm. There is a fourth man like unto the Son of Man in our midst, as we read in Daniel 3. This is not theory; it is the reality of growing in grace. All of a sudden, when we see God is with us, we say, "O God, I was anxious, but I have stopped, and now I believe in God. I am going to exercise my mind and present to you, with prayer and petition with thanksgiving, these specific needs I have." We must bring everything before God because, just as a father has compassion on his children, our heavenly Father has great compassion for us.
What happens when we do this? In verse 7 we read, "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." When we pray in this manner, all of a sudden the smile of God will register in our soul, and we will be able to say, "Everything is all right." In other words, I know that God heard my prayer and he will come through. He will give me grace.
When we pray like this, God will turn his face toward us and gives us peace. We will experience the blessing God told Aaron to give to the Israelites: "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace" (Numbers 6:24-26).
Receiving Grace through Giving and Serving
The third way in which we receive God's grace is when we learn to give and serve. In the biblical order, if we want to receive, we must give. In fact, the Bible says it is more blessed to give than to receive. We want to sow not sparingly, but generously.
These are all areas where we fail as Christians: in the matter of faith, prayer, and giving and serving. But God tells us, "Give, and it shall be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap."
The late Dr. James Montgomery Boice said that when it comes to giving, we should give a large chunk of our savings. In fact, he said, try giving fifty percent. When we do that, our savings will be depleted and we will have to rely on God. Just look at the mathematics of it. Suppose we have one thousand dollars, but we decide we have to work hard and get two thousand and then three thousand. We do this thinking that our security is directly proportional to the amount of money we have. The problem is that the more we amass in this way, the less we depend on God. Faith seems to be inversely proportional to our material wealth. In fact, when we put increasing trust in money, God becomes more or less expendable. But suppose we take a chunk of our wealth and give it away. All of a sudden our material resources will be depleted and we will have to depend more on God. Now, I am not asking you to do that, but I could understand what Dr. Boice is trying to say, especially about this sinful human tendency to rely on things. So in God's own providence we sometimes face certain troubles and deficiencies for the purpose of driving us to faith in God.
God wants us to give and serve others that we may receive grace from him. In fact, this idea that our God will supply all our need was written in the context of the Philippian church's giving. So I encourage you to try giving, and don't hide behind the excuse that you don't have much to give. In 2 Corinthians 8 we read that the Philippian church was pretty poor, yet it was this poor Philippian church, not the prosperous Corinthian church, that was constantly caring for the apostles. In 2 Corinthians 8:1, "And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability." In fact, though Paul did not want to ask them for anything because of their poverty, the Philippian Christians were begging Paul to include them in the matter of giving, and they gave, time and again.
This is speaking about the grace of giving. Let me tell you, you are not going to give anything unless God gives you grace to do it. You cannot love your wife unless you are given grace to do so. We need grace for everything. We need grace for washing dishes. We need grace to take care of five children. We need grace.
In Luke 21 we read the story of the poor widow. Two copper coins were all that she had on earth. As Professor Edmund Clowney used to say, this widow had three options. First, she could take the rational position and say, "I am poor and have practically nothing. I am sure God doesn't expect me to give anything." Second, she could say, "I have two coins. I will give one to God, which is fifty percent." What was the third option? "I can give all I have: two copper coins," and that is what she did. Instead of giving zero percent or fifty percent, this poor widow gave one hundred percent of what she had to God. That is the grace of giving. I am sure that God took care of her.
What, then, is the blessing God has for us this first Sabbath of the year? "My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." How do we receive this blessing? We must have faith in God and his promises, we must pray, and we must give and serve, whether from our material resources or by using our bodies to serve. As we sow generously, we will reap a great harvest of grace sufficient to meet our every need. Amen.
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Copyright © 2003, P. G. Mathew
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