By: Clint Watkins
Giving to missions is our joyful privilege as believers—but it can often feel like a burden, obligation, or impossibility. Philippians 4:10-23 reorients us to the joy of missional generosity. This passage is all about giving and receiving—the Philippians gave to Paul’s ministry, and Paul received their much-needed support with joy and gratitude. It reminds us of what we’ve been given in Christ and how we can steward our resources for the sake of gospel advancement. We are supplied by God’s means in order to give to God’s mission.
We are supplied by God’s means…
And in order to understand our call to give, we first need to realize what we’ve been given. In verse 19, Paul acknowledges that the Lord is the supplier of all our needs. And God is not operating on a tight budget. Paul says that God supplies us out of his riches. He owns everything—so anything we have is a generous gift from above, blessings to be grateful for and stewarded well.
But this provision from God is just a blank check from the Lord. As Paul explains in his own life, financial security is not guaranteed. There will be seasons of plenty and hunger, abundance and need (v11-12). That’s why he expresses his need to rely on God’s strength for contentment, no matter our financial circumstance (v13). This God-dependent contentment is crucial to a life of generosity. If I don’t think I have enough, I won’t be willing to give up what I have for the sake of the mission. Or if I am willing to be generous, but I’m discontent with God’s provision, my giving will tend to be joyless, or even begrudging. But when we rely on the Lord for contentment in what he’s given us, we can give freely and joyfully.
And our recognition of and contentment in God’s provision is fueled by the grace we have in Christ. In verse 19 Paul reminds us that God will supply all our needs “in Christ Jesus.” Paul is reminding believers of the incredible news of the gospel. Jesus gave up his riches, he became poor for our sake, so that we might become rich. In Jesus, we have been given an eternal inheritance.
This, the grace of God, is a powerful motivator for our generosity. Your standing before the throne of God does not depend on your performance, your obedience, or your generosity. If you are in Christ, you possess a treasure that will never fade away. You serve a king who gave up everything to bring you in. We’re not generous because we want to be better people or we want to please others or earn our way to heaven—we’re generous because we have a generous God who didn’t merely open up his wallet, he opened up his arms on the cross for our sake. Our giving is a response to his grace.
…to give to God’s mission.
God’s provision is not meant to terminate on our needs—it’s meant to overflow into missional generosity. And Paul points to several ways that our giving makes an impact.
Your giving provides for missionaries. It first provides for missionaries’ practical needs. In verses 16 and 18 Paul mentions that the Philippians repeatedly provided his needs, to the point
that he had more than enough and was well supplied. When we give to missions, we take care of those who have devoted their careers to the advancement of the gospel. Paul also mentions the provision for personal needs. In verse 15, he says that no one else entered into partnership other than the Philippians. He expresses his heartfelt gratitude as he shares, “it was kind of you to share my trouble” (v14). Ministry can be lonely and difficult. But when we give to missions, we express our solidarity with the ministers we support. We’re not just helping to finance the operation—we’re fellowshipping with missionaries in their struggles.
Your giving produces kingdom fruit. Paul says in verse 17 that he doesn’t “seek the gift.” In other words, he’s not ultimately concerned about his own provision. What is he after, then? He’s looking for the “fruit that increases to your credit.” Paul may be out on the frontlines—but the fruit that’s happening on the mission field is getting credited to their account. They are getting credit for the ways that the gospel is advancing. Here’s the beautiful economy of God’s kingdom—the return on investment is an eternal revenue. Lives are being changed and souls being saved. When you give, you participate in what God is doing all over the world.
Your giving pleases the Lord. Paul mentions that the Philippian’s gift is “a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and please to God” (v18). Paul has in mind the priestly service of the Old Testament, recognizing missional generosity as a profound ministry of its own. He also acknowledges that giving is a sacrifice. Giving to missions is costly—we’re expected to give in a way that we feel it in our pockets. But this sacrificial ministry of generosity pleases the Lord. Many people will never know how much we give. Most of the world would not applaud us for giving the mission of the gospel. But there is a heavenly audience paying attention with attentiveness and applause, cheering with joy when you give to the work of God. The Lord is watching—and it pleases him to see you sacrificially give.
Here are three practical suggestions to cultivate the joy of missional generosity:
Remember your missionaries. Because missional giving is not just about the finances, but fellowship, find ways to keep your missionaries on your mind. Read their newsletters. Reach out to them and ask how they’re doing. Pray for them often and let them know you’re thinking of them.
Share their burdens. Seek ways to understand their difficulties and see if there are specific ways you can help. Sometimes that might mean additional practical and financial help. Other times, it may just be a listening ear. It might be a phone call, a visit if possible, or a hand-written note to communicate your care.
Celebrate God’s work. When you hear of what God is doing, whether through newsletters or personally hearing from someone you support, rejoice in the work that’s happening. Praise God and celebrate with your missionary. These stories are beautiful reminders that our God is powerfully at work all over the world. Just as he has pursued and purchased you, he is seeking and saving men and women all around the world. Through your investment, the work of missionaries, and the power of his Spirit, God is reaching the nations and making all things new.