Putting Others First – Philippians 4:14-19

Putting Others First

Philippians 4:14 - Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. 15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. 18 Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. 19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

We return to our study of the book of Philippians today and we’re coming back after being away from this study last week to the section in chapter 4 where we’re learning about contentment.

We’ve been gathering the ingredients for contentment in the Christian life and so far I have been, and I hope you have been, greatly encouraged and challenged by what we’ve found in verses 10-13.

We noted in verse 10 that the contented believer will be completely confident in God’s power. Paul knew that though the Philippian believers were unable at times to be of assistance to him that it was never out of God’s hands. God is sovereign. God is completely in control. He will provide. Paul knew this, so he wasn’t concerned about how his needs would be met.

We found in verse 11 that the believer who is content will be completely satisfied with God’s provision. Little or much, Paul knew how to be satisfied with what God provided. That is a lesson we must learn—to be completely satisfied with God’s provision.

We also noted in verse 12 that the believer who knows contentment is one who’s learned to live above their circumstances. Paul lived this truth. We don’t see him complaining that he’s being held captive; that he’s not being fed right and that his mattress is too hard. No, he’s learned to live above his circumstances and not let his circumstances dictate his attitude. He’s at peace and he knows that God is in control.

And our last time together, verse 13 taught us that the believer who is content has learned to live by God’s power. And what we noted was that the contented follower of Christ is one who is strengthened by Christ living in them. If we will depend on Christ for strength in the midst of difficulty He will infuse us with His strength when our strength is gone.

But let’s remember that we must be living in obedience to Christ. He’s not some divine rescue boat that races in and snatches us from the turbulent waters of difficulty if we’re rebelling against his Word and the work of the Holy Spirit in us. He may choose, in His mercy, to spare us from some of the consequences of our rebellion but there is no reason that He must.

And we must be people who poor the Word of God into our lives and communicate with God in prayer throughout our days and we must obediently follow Christ if we truly wish to know the contentment that is found in living by God’s power.

So the ingredients found in our lives as followers of Christ, if we are content, are that we will be (and if you’ve been with us for these studies you should be able to help me complete these thoughts), completely confident in God’s power, we’ll be completely satisfied with God’s provision; we’ll have learned to live above our circumstances and we’ll have learned to live by God’s power

And so with those ingredients found in the life of the contented Christian we come to one more ingredient here in the verses that follow, verses 14-19. What we find is one more ingredient that will be present in the life of the believer who is truly content.

And here it is, I’ll give you the fifth ingredient and then we’ll discover why this is the fifth ingredient to contentment as we work through this passage together.

Here’s the fifth ingredient:

The Content Believer Puts Others First…

The content believer puts others first. Here’s something I think we fail to understand at times. We often think that we’ll be more content if we have our own needs met. We really want contentment and we really think it’s found in meeting our own needs. But what we must learn is that there will be no real contentment unless we are more concerned with the needs of others than with our own needs. The believer who is content will put others first.

Now let’s begin at verse 14 and let’s see how this is made clear in what Paul says in the verses that follow.

Look at verse 14 again.

Philippians 4:14 – Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress.

Previous to verse 14 Paul has told the Philippian church how he’s completely satisfied and content. If he wasn’t careful he might lead them to believe that he was ungrateful for their support or that they had gone to a lot of trouble for nothing. That wouldn’t be good. These believers weren’t that well off when it came to earthly goods. They’re giving to Paul was sacrificial. They gave out of the little that they had.

So he says here in verse 14, nevertheless, “in spite of my lack of need or want”. Paul is quick to add here in verse 14 that he does appreciate the support and care they’re giving him. He’s not taking the risk of having them think that he didn’t need or appreciate their support. He did need their support; he did need their encouragement. The Lord has used the generosity and concern stirred in the hearts of the Philippian believers for Paul to provide for his needs.

So he says, “you have done well that you shared in my distress—you’ve done a good thing—this is good—this is helpful—it was necessary.” He’s saying, “Yes I have confidence in God’s power; yes I am satisfied with God’s provision; yes I’m living above my circumstances and yes I’m living by God’s power through the work of the Holy Spirit in me—but thank you—this is a good thing you have done—thank you for your much needed support and encouragement in my time of distress—my time of trouble—my time of pain and difficulty. Thank you!”

We know that he had needs by what we see in the next two verses. And we can see that he hadn’t taken their giving to him for granted. Look again at verse 15 & 16.

Philippians 4:15 – Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only.  16 For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities.

They were the only ones who gave aid to him as he departed for Macedonia and then again they supported him when he was in Thessalonica. And he remembers and is grateful and thanks them now for their generosity to him.

But why is he so grateful? What’s he so thankful about? Look at verse 17. You are I might be most grateful for the gift given to us—Paul’s perspective is different.

Philippians 4:17 – Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.

Now remember back in verse 10 when he says,

Philippians 4:10 – But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again…

Paul is satisfied and content in where the Lord has him. So his real joy is in the fact that what they are doing for him is for their own benefit. He’s saying here in verse 17, “It’s not that I was looking for your support—I wasn’t looking for your help, because I was trusting God to meet my needs—but I’m most thankful and grateful that the Lord is meeting my needs through you and what you are doing for me is really a spiritual benefit to you.”

And this is where we find that the contented believer will put others first.

The contented believer puts others first

Paul is more concerned with their spiritual benefit than with his own needs being met. We’ve been learning about this kind of spiritual benefit in the adult Sunday School hour as we’ve been going through the studies on The Treasure Principle.

(Several copies of the book, The Treasure Principle, have been made available and are making their way around. If you haven’t read the book yet, you should, it will only take you about an hour or so to read. If you have one of those copies of the book I encourage you to read it and bring it back to share with someone else as soon as possible.)

In our studies of The Treasure Principle we’ve been learning what that spiritual benefit is. It’s what Jesus called laying up treasure in heaven.

Matthew 6:19 – “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Paul knows that there is more spiritual gain in giving than in receiving. That’s why he says here in verse 17, not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.

Putting others first involves giving and this fruit that abounds to your account is treasure in heaven. And God’s Word makes it very clear that it is much better to give than to receive.

Giving is better than receiving…

Putting others first involves giving. (I want you to see that clearly so I’m going to point out some basic scriptural principles of giving.) Giving is better than receiving. Putting others first means that we give to God’s work to advance his purposes. Putting others first means that we give to support the advancement of the Gospel. But it also means that we are attentive to those in need and give to help those in need.

It’s important to understand what God teaches in His Word about putting others first. Let’s think about what God says about giving and receiving for a moment. Let’s see what God thinks of those who give willingly, obediently.

Proverbs 13:7 – There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing; And one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches.

The one who keeps for himself really has nothing, he will be spiritually poor—spiritually bankrupt. But the one who gives what he has, has far more, he will be spiritually rich.

Proverbs 19:17 – He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, And He will pay back what he has given.

Lending to the Lord is a pretty safe investment. Those who give lend to the Lord. There’s no risk involved when lending to the Lord. There is great spiritual reward for the one who gives generously.

Hebrews 13:16 – But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

Thos who share do what pleases the Lord. We may believe we’re better off to think of ourselves and keep for ourselves, but it is much better to please the Lord than to try to please ourselves. And when we give to please God that’s a sign of our spiritual maturity. Generous giving, with no hidden agenda, is a mark of your spiritual growth. That’s another principle of giving.

How we give is a mark of our spiritual maturity…

Are we giving willingly or reluctantly? Are we giving so that others will think much of us? Are we giving with a hidden agenda? Are we giving so that God will give back more than we’ve given?

The Philippian believers gave for the right reasons. That’s why Paul was so happy with them—to see their generous giving even out of their meager circumstances. It was evidence of their spiritual growth and maturity.

This is the kind of giving that is so pleasing to God. That’s what we see in verse 18 where Paul calls their giving to the Lord’s work, by giving to meet his needs, a sweet smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.

Philippians 4:18 – Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.

What the Philippians had given him by way of Epaphroditus has completely met his needs. And he considers it an offering to God—an acceptable sacrifice. And this kind of sacrifice is so pleasing to God because it comes from an obedient heart—a willing heart.

And that’s another principle of giving.

Real giving is from a willing heart…

Real giving—giving that pleases God—is done out of obedience, from a willing heart. There may be times we’ve given reluctantly, grudgingly. That’s not the attitude that pleases God. It’s the one who gives as an act of worship to God—giving to God’s work—giving to advance the cause of Christ, and giving so God will get the glory not the one who gives.

And there’s something wonderful that happens when we give with willing hearts—with the right attitude.

Let’s look at the wonderful promise in Luke 6:38.

Luke 6:38 – Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Let’s understand that God is always generous to those who give. That’s another basic principle of giving.

God is always generous to those who give…

When we live by faith and put others first God is always faithful and gives liberally to us in return. Does that mean that if I give $1000, God will see that I get back $2000 in return? Is giving to God a better investment than stocks and bonds and retirement accounts?

Let me make this clear. I don’t believe you will ever be able to out-give God. God will never owe you. He certainly expects us to provide for our families. But he also desires for us that we would be generous toward His work and those in need rather than hoard for ourselves. And when we are faithful to give He is faithful to provide for all of our needs.

The Lord may choose to bless you with more than you have given—He certainly can and has for many. But that isn’t why you should give. If you give with the attitude that you are hoping to double your money then you are giving with wrong motives. And I don’t believe you’ll find contentment in that.

But when you give out of obedience, willingly, cheerfully, when you give to God’s work—when you share with those in need—then I believe, God will bless you with heavenly reward. God may choose to bless you with more of this world’s goods, but the real blessing is the eternal blessing. The return the Lord gives is eternal—that’s laying up treasure in heaven.

But there’s also reason to believe that when you are faithful to give God will give to you to meet your needs.

Paul states it in verse 19.

Philippians 4:19 – And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Paul says, “I may not be able to return to you the kind of generosity you’ve shown to me but I know who will. It is my God who will supply all of your needs.” And I believe he means physical needs here.

By Paul’s statement we get the idea that the Philippian believers had given sacrificially—they had given from the little they had, even what they may have needed. But Paul makes it clear that God will supply all of their needs. And remember that God knows our needs—my real needs may be different than what I think—God knows my needs.

And I think the words, according to His riches, are informative here.

Paul is saying that they will be provided for according to God’s riches, not out of his riches but according to. If a wealthy person comes and gives you one dollar he has given to you “out of” his riches. But if he buys you a home on the lake he has done so “according to” his riches.

You see, God’s riches are glorious and it is according to his glorious riches that he provides. I don’t believe that those who give willingly to advance God’s kingdom will die in poverty. As Paul says, my God will supply all your needs according to His riches. Let’s look at some of the evidence of this in the proverbs.

Proverbs 3:9,10 – Honor the Lord with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all your increase; 10 So your barns will be filled with plenty, And your vats will overflow with new wine.

Proverbs 11:25 – A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. (NIV)

And we looked at this earlier.

Proverbs 13:7 There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing; And one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches.

You can’t out-give God. God will provide for your needs and your eternal reward will be great.

And when you give with the right motives then you will know contentment. But when you think only of yourselves you will never know contentment.

What we’ve seen here is that the Philippians where more concerned for Paul’s needs being met than they were for their own needs. And Paul was more concerned for their spiritual benefit than having his needs met.

Paul knew that there was great spiritual gain in putting others first. This is why he was so pleased with them over their gifts. And putting others first is a crucial ingredient to knowing contentment in the life lived for Christ.

Let’s learn and live the lessons Paul shares here in verses 10-19. Let’s be certain we have the ingredients of contentment present in our lives. Let’s be certain that we are living with complete confidence in God’s power; completely satisfied with God’s provision; living above our circumstances; living by God’s power; and putting others first.


Philippians 4:14-19
Kevin A. Pierpont
Higgins Lake Baptist Church
6/5/05

Photo by: Kt Ann (Creative Commons)