Received with Thanks
God is not mean; He provides abundantly. That is His nature. He is a giving God. Indeed, without Him giving of Himself, there would be no creation, no beautiful world, human beings, no compassion for us in our sin, no Saviour, no indwelling Holy Spirit and no hope of heaven. If God has graciously given us so much to meet out spiritual need, will He not also give us our daily bread and all we need in abundance? (Ephesians 3:20) Romans 8:32 puts it like this: “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?” Obviously He will!
Paul trusted God. The apostle never felt neglected when he had little, but neither was he ungrateful when his needs were met (Philippians 4:10-13). We do not know what Epaphroditus brought from Philippi, but Paul wanted to make the point that the gift provided even more than he needed, and he is truly thankful. He did not assume that the gifts were a right for him to demand, the duty of a church towards their apostle; nor does he presume that they will send more. He is simply grateful.
But Paul was also their pastor. He wanted to teach the church that their generosity was more special than they may have thought, because their physical gifts to him were also a spiritual sacrifice to God. Doubtless, the presents were costly and therefore a sacrifice for the believers; but giving them to the apostle was to give to God Himself. In Matthew 10:40-44 Jesus says "Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward."
God sees beyond even our best intentions, to His own purpose in stimulating us to give. He wants us to participate in His reward when we see Him one day. He wants our lives to count now, in blessing others, but to do it for His sake. The nature of that reward is not defined; however, it includes a more-than-adequate provision now and all the blessings of eternal life to come (Mark 10:29-30). God sees each sacrifice we make as a costly offering (the same word is used of the sufferings of Jesus in Ephesians 5:2) which greatly pleases the Lord. The Macedonian church was not wealthy (2 Corinthians 8:1-4), so even more importantly than Paul's gratitude for the gifts, the Lord accepted them as an offering to Himself. As Hebrews 6:10 says, "God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them." So, it is time to ask the Lord to prompt your heart to give!
© Dr Paul Adams