Philippians 4:10-23

When the issue of money and giving is raised in the context of the Christian Faith a particular picture often comes to mind. Perhaps of the money grabbing TV evangelists. I heard of one such who had wires connected to the seats in his church. ‘Stand up if you’re willing to give $100 to God, he shouted’ as he said this, he pressed a button and electricity surged through the seats. There was a tremendous response, but later the sidesman found three dead Scotsmen clinging to their pews! 

The picture Saint Paul paints here is quite different from this. He writes to thank this group of Christians at Philippi that who have generously sent him money via Epaphroditus. In A purple passage which includes two of the most wonderful promises in the Bible he outlines the threefold blessing of generous giving. He doesn’t have to bully us or guilt trip us to give generously. Giving, he says is a blessing! It’s such a great thing ..get involved. The first part of the threefold blessing: 

1. Generous giving brings blessing to others. 

Paul  thanks the Philiipians for making him so happy. He writes 10 I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.’ 

Then, In the next verses he, Paul, reveals his attitude to money.

On the one hand, he writes, that in some ways he does not need the money. ’11 I am not saying this because I am in need’

why has he no need? Because, he tells us, he has learned something very important. Before he was a Christian Paul tells us in Ro 7:8 that he used to be envious of others and to covet others wealth and possesions. Now he has v11 ‘learned to be content whatever the circumstances.’ 

Look at what he says: v12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.’ 

Martin luther, the craft beer drinking german monk and architect of the protestant reformation once said, ‘contentment is a rare bird, but it sings sweetly in the breast.’ Who doesn’t want to be deeply content?

What is the secret of contentment? Many think that the secret is to have everything they want. They say to themselves if only I had a better house, a bigger car, more money then I would be content.’ Others think the secret lies in human relationships or in looking beautiful.  

But experience tells us that these thing do not bring contentment, in fact on the contrary they can make us more unsettled and thirsty, we tend to need more amd more of the same. John D rockerfeller, founder of the standard oil company, who made 100s of millions of dollar's was once asked, ‘how much money does it take to make a man happy? To which He answered ‘just a little bit more.’  

Paul has learned to be content in any and every situation. He’s not saying there is anything wrong with having food  and posessions, but these cannot be the primary source of our contentment. that is to make these things idols, gods - to look to them, uncertain, fragile created things for our life. That’s very foolish. We’re destined to be disappointed to remain discontented.

For Paul the secret of real contentment is the transforming friendship of Jesus Christ. He writes, ‘13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.’ See, He’s learned to live not on his outer resources, but on his inner resources. Knowing Jesus. Trusting Jesus. The person who has learned this secret is truly rich. Jeremiah Burrows. The rare jewel of Christian contentment. Benjamin Franklin, the American statesman, once said, ‘content makes poor men rich; discontent makes Rich men poor.’ Paul was always rich because, in Christ, he had found the secret of contentment. For this reason he was able to write to the Philippians that in some ways he just did not need their money. 

However, in some ways he did need the money. He writes: 14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me(NB) in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. 

Paul had ‘troubles’ v14 and had been ‘in need’ v16. The Philippians had shared in his troubles and had generously sent him money again and again. The word used for ‘share’ is a word derived from the Greek word koinonia which means fellowship, communion close relationship,. Its a favourite expression for the marital relationship as the most intimate between human beings. Sharing is a vital part of life with those with whom we have a close relationship. 

In the NT the church is likened to a family. a close family. Christians are brothers and sisters. Amd In the church, sharing should take place spontaneously or in planned ways in order to meet all its needs. Everyone’s involved so that the entire burden does not fall on a few, and so that the needs of the less well off can be met. This is the way of bringing blessing to individuals who, like Paul, are in need, and blessing to the church which has its needs met also.

Very expensive city. Pressure of housing pushes some of our members out from being to live here. How do we act as a sharing fellowship? Are there ways in which we as a church can bear each other’s burdens? bless and provide for one another? 

Generous giving brings blessing to others.

2. Generous giving brings blessing to the lives of those who give

Paul does not want the Philippians to think that he's only asking them for money. In fact, he's more concerned that they should be blessed. 

All through the passage, Paul uses technical banking and accounting terms. In verse 15 where he speaks about this matter of giving and receiving literally he’s speaking about credit and debit, income and outgoings, the two sides of an accountants ledger. In v17 he writes about profit and interest. The word ‘credited’ was a word used in banking for financial growth. Finally, in v18 when he says, ‘I have received full payment’ he uses another commercial term, apparently meaning to ‘receive a sum in full and give a receipt for it’

Put in commercial terms, Paul is saying that giving is an investment of Capital. Elsewhere (2 cor 9) to speak about generous giving Paul uses the picture of a farmer sowing seed: ‘remember this who ever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and who ever sows generously  will also reap generously.’. Giving is planting seed. The farmer knows he is investing for the future, for he knows that he will reap far more than he has sown.

Generous giving brings blessing to the lives of those who give

Hudson Taylor founded the china inland mission in the 19th C. Thousands became christians through him and it’s said that the he laid the foundations for the current revival of christian faith in china where millions are turning to Jesus. At the age of 27 he was preparing for one of his earliest trips to china he was working v hard and living a very frugal life. He ate a bowl of porridge in the morning and a bowl of gruel on alternate nights. He was asked to go and pray for a very poor family where the mother was dying. He was appalled by their poverty. the only money he had was his weeks wages of half a crown. as he prayed for them he agonised about how much he could spare to give them. Every proprtion he settled on felt too little. In the end he gave all he had. and returned home penniless but joyful. that night he reminded God of proverbs 19v17 ‘he that gives to the poor lends to the lord’ he asked the lord to not let the loan be a long one and he slept soundly. The following day an unexpected letter arrived - a pair of gloves and half a sovereign! a 400% return on his loan in the space of 12 hours! The incident was a turning point in his life. he came back to it again and again. Learning to trust God in small things prepares us for the serious trials of life.

Now God doesn’t promise to make us financially rich when we give. He absolutely doesn’t. But this spiritual principle applies to everything in life. Whatever we give to God, he multiplies, Whether it is our time, home, gifts, ambitions, or money. The return on our investment is not usually financial, (though we can trust God to provide for our needs as we will see). Rather, as we invest in people  we receive the blessing of seeing lives changed, people coming into the kingdom of God, the hungry being fed, and naked clothed, drug addicts set free, marriages restored and the sick healed. Everytime we hear a report back from a work in which we have invested, we are reaping the reward for our investment. For the most part we will have to wait til heaven to see the harvest, but we get occasional glimpses of It here and now, as a foretaste. 

The NT principle is that if we want treasure in heaven, we have to send it on in advance. What will the reward in heaven be for using our wealth generously? I don't know, but I suspect we will see the faces of those we have unknowingly helped. we will hear them, say I became a xian as a result of your gift, or my marriage was restored, or, I was healed. Not only will we see their faces, but we will see the face of Jesus. We get a foretaste of this now,which is why in giving generously it is not only the recipients who are blessed: we also are blessed. In fact it’s more blessed to give than to receive.

3. Generous giving brings blessing to God

Paul now turns from the commercial world of banking to the language of the Temple. He writes that such a mundane matter as a material gift is first of all v18 a fragrant offering. This language is borrowed from the old Testament offerings of incense in worship in the temple. It means literally the odour of a sweet smell. It's also the expression used for Christ's offering of himself for us on the cross (eph 5:2) speaks of something very beautiful, an act of great love. That’s what our giving is before God. (the perfume on his feet, the widows mite) 

Secondly, generous giving is v18 ‘an acceptable sacrifice.’ Now we don’t bring sacrifices to God in order to appease him or earn his favour. No, the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross was ‘a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice.’ We cannot add to something which is already full perfect and sufficient. no, our sacrifice is a repsone, it’s about Thanksgiving and praise, and part of that should be a generosity in our giving. Sacrifices are not easy to give. There is a cost: it is hard to give; It goes against the grain, we go without something else when we give away and Yet again there is blessing here because it is an act which, more than anything else, liberates us from the hold money might otherwise have on our lives. 

Thirdly, Paul says that generous giving is ‘pleasing to God.’ It is an extraordinary and wonderful assertion of the new Testament generally - and in particular of Paul in this passage - that what we do here can please God. If we give Generously, God is pleased.

We were praying this last wednesday for the plight of christians and other religious minorities in iraq and syria. sometimes we feel powerless in such complex situations but we can pray, we can put pressure on our government to respond with compassion and generosrity and we do can give. (CofE website) 

Throughout the new Testament we're encouraged to give generously 

1 co 16v2 giving should be planned and regular and proportionate to our income 

‘on the first day of the week each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income’.

Many Christians believe it is right to give a tenth of their income away to their church to those in need on the basis of matthew 23:23). I don;t know …These are guidelines, generosity is the only rule in the new testament. As we give generously, Paul says v19 ‘My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.’ 

My God - see how personal God is. He’s our God. You can trust him. He will meet your needs. Many Christians who give, say, 10% of their income, have found the 90 % left more than covers what the hundred percent did before they started giving. God promises to meet all your needs. Which must include our material needs (though not necessarily all our material wants). Our needs will be met ‘according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.’ Not merely from his wealth, but in a manner that befits his wealth. We cannot out give God. 

which brings me to the last thing to say.. 

our generosity stems from god’s generosity to us. it is no coincidence that the book of philippians ends as it began with grace. That’s the theme of this letter. Grace is one of the most important words in the NT. It summarises the essence of Christianity. It describes all the riches of God’s freely given, undeserved love for us made possible through the sacrificial gift of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through Jesus, God makes us his own, gifts us everything that is Jesus’ - eternal life, adoption, the security of his love. In Christ you are given more than you could ever have wanted and therfore out of that abundance of riches we are to generously give.  

Philippians 2:12-18




Letter of encouragement to the church plant in Philippi. You can see the city’s ancient ruins in modern Greece. At the time of Paul’s writing of this letter from prison in Rome (1:7), Philippi was a bustling, strategic, cosmopolitan centre - the fledgling church (you can read about its founder members in Acts 16) was a very diverse but tiny minority. Pressure from an unbelieveing society was causing a little bit of discouragement and disagreement within. They needed encouragement. The church always needs encouragement. 

And in our passage this week, Paul encourages the church to, despite everything, BE OUTGOING. 

Would you see yourself as an outgoing person?  Paul says that the Christian church is always outgoing. No matter what the range of personalities within all of whuch are vital. If you become a Christian you become part of a people, the church. And that people are an outgoing people! 

See it in the text. 

Paul says in v12 that we are to WORK OUT our salvation

in v15, that we are to SHINE OUT like stars in the night sky 

as we v16 HOLD OUT the word of life 

finally in v17 we’re to follow Paul who’s life was being POURED OUT for others 

do you see this OUTGOINGness? 



Now, if they’re our action points we’ll come back to them in more detail. 

But this idea of moving out towards others as examples - stars shining out; as messengers - holding out the word of life, the message of the bible; as servants - pouring out yourself for others…

this idea of being commissioned by God to be OUTGOING for the sake of others raises a whole host of immediate questions and, frankly, immediate fears. 

  • consider for a start the sheer level of need in our world, the tragedies this week. the sheer level of need  in our local area. UPA with some of the highest levels of deprivation in the country. even a stones throw circumference from this building. the gaping level of need in people’s lives is enormous. what are the boundaries and limits? if we are to pour out our lives for these people - how long before we’re all completely empty?

  • or consider the sheer numbers of people who have no knowledge of Jesus Christ. We’re told that our city is more secular than it has ever been. Census stats, Hackney  - 50%+ no religion. Hordes on London Fields on a hot weekend. How do we hold out the word of life to them? And If we don’t hold out the word of life to them - does it mean death for them? That feels like an enormous burden to bear. We can be paralysed by the sheer overwhelming size of the responsibility. We’re out of our depth.. 

How are we to do this? Our reaction could to be - What’s practical? Shouldn’t we just huddle together for energy and then on a few considered occasions - a social project, a mission week.. be outgoing? BE OUTGOING for a few hours a week or a few weeks a year?

And what about God? 

Why does God place such heavy burdens upon us? 

Why does he sit in heaven unmoved while we are the ones who are told to be outgoing? 


Well this is where the encouragement comes in..

See, there are reasons why we are to be an outgoing people - constantly outgoing, not just occasionally, a MISSIONAL people, people on mission. There’s a reason why… that is also the means for how we are to be that people. 

Notice the therefore in v12 

Paul tells us in vv12-18 to be an OUTGOING PEOPLE 

because in vv1-11 he has told us about our OUTGOING GOD 

here’s the vital truth to learn: we are to be and we can be OUTGOING because Jesus has moved out towards us!  we become outgoing because God is originally and eternally the outgoing one.  

we’ve looked at vv1-11 recently but let’s remind ourselves. It’s one of the greatest sections in the whole Bible. Look at verse 6.  Here we see the eternal nature of God on show.  This is about Jesus Christ, the son of God, the eternal Creator making a decision in eternity. Notice how Jesus makes a decision before He was born.  Jesus decided to get born.  You and I don’t decide to get born do we, that’s not our decision, Jesus did.  And if you could choose to be born, would you have chosen what Jesus chose?  I don’t think so.  Read with me from verse 6:

6 Christ Jesus, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself …nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross!

What does it mean to be outgoing?

Space exploration. Crossing the great divide in search of life on other planets. To boldly go where no man has gone before. 

Or the King who longs to commune with his subjectes before a great war and so disguises himself as a commoner in order to walk among his people 

Or the servant to the poor, who gives up her life to serve the suffering 

What does it mean to be outgoing? 

From eternity, Jesus Christ wills to pour Himself out.  It is His eternal glory to GO OUT from Himself.  First, crossing the great divide from heaven to earth.  From the Divine to the human - He, the eternal God, becomes a single cell in Mary’s womb and is born as a wriggling helpless baby, laid in a feeding trough.  Grows up, but not to be a King but a servant.  He humbles Himself further and dies.  God the Son dies!  And not any old death – a godforsaken death on a cross.  The eternal God pours Himself out.  That’s what He’s like.

And do you notice in verse 10 that wonderful word again “Therefore.”  Therefore – because He poured Himself out so completely, He is crowned as King.  Because He is the greatest servant, so He is declared LORD.

Here is the deepest truth.  I don’t know anything as profound or mind-blowing as this:  When Jesus came and stooped and served and suffered and was shamed and bled and died that was NOT a departure from His divine glory.  He wasn’t taking a day off from being God.  THAT WAS THE EXPRESSION of His glory. The cross is the MOST GOD-LIKE THING IMAGINABLE.  Because GOD’s life is a life of OUTGOING, OUTPOURING, SACRIFICIAL, LIFE-GIVING LOVE.

The Father sees Christ poured out to death… and Therefore (v9) God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,

a name that one day ALL the world will confess.. vv10-11 

One day when Jesus returns ALL will see him. and we will see His SCARS, the wounds of His crucifixion, the marks of his outgoing love and THAT will make every mouth spontaneously cry “You are Lord, You are Lord,”

Jesus will be worshipped by the whole world, not just because He is big but because He made Himself small. 

Here’s the encouragement to be an OUTGOING, serving, missional people. 

We don’t do mission because normally we’re inward looking and once in a while we turn our hand to being outgoing.  And we don’t do mission because we have to do God’s job for Him.  It’s not like He stays in heaven and we have to go out.  NO!

Mission IS our ongoing life because mission is God’s outgoing life.

As Jesus says in John 20:21: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”  We stand in a torrent of sending love – from the Father to the Son, from the Son to us and out on into the world.  We don’t become outgoing because every now and again we feel we ought to.  We ARE an outgoing people because Christ has adopted us into HIS kind of outgoing life.

Jesus is the great missionary.  And even though he has ascended to heaven Jesus continues to be outgoing! Jesus is ever going out, going out, going out.

The book of Acts in the NT tells the story of the explosion of Christianity, the growth of the early church after Jesus returned to heaven.  The acts of the apostles. BUt the book is not really about the acts of the apostles, or the early church. Luke, having written his gospel begins this book by saying Acts 1v1 in my former book i wrote about all that Jesus began to do and teach before he was taken up into heaven’ Hear that - the gospels is just the beginning - implication = the book of Acts is the continuing acts of Jesus by his Holy Spirit who is in the world. the Spirit goes ahead of us. the outgoing God. If you want to be where Jesus is if you want fellowship with him, if you want to know Him who loved you to death..  go out and be with Him.  We know Christ best as we join Him in HIS outgoing Life. So mission is our ongoing life because mission is God’s outgoing life.

Let’s look at the ways we work out, shine out, hold out and pour out.

First – work out.  That’s verses 12 and 13:

12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-- not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-- continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

Now a lot of rubbish gets talked about verse 12.  People sometimes read it as though Paul says “work FOR your salvation.”  But of course if Paul said we need to work “FOR” our salvation it would be a contradiction of everything he’s ever written.  Paul’s doesn’t say work FOR your salvation, he says work OUT your salvation.  Because, v13, God has worked it IN you.  Do you see that?  In v12 we work OUT, because in v13 God works IN.  The Father has given us Christ.  He’s said “Here have my Son, in Him is life and forgiveness and peace and a cosmic inheritance – have Him.”  And we say thank you and are given the life of Christ.  But what kind of life does Christ have?  An outgoing life.  A life of obedience, of suffering servant-hearted love.  And you can’t have Christ worked into you without His life working out of you.  Your salvation is an outgoing thing and it will out. 

If you say “I am saved but I keep my salvation to myself” what do you say about verse 12?  Because v12 says your salvation is to be worked OUT.  Salvation IS a secure possession to be enjoyed forever.  But it is NOT a private possession to be enjoyed by individuals.  It’s designed to be worked out of you which is a fearful and trembling thing, but it’s also a divinely helped thing.  God will help you to will and to act in this outgoing way. WORK OUT ..

The thing is it will make you stick out a mile.  Look from v14 SHINE OUT:

14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.

Stars attract the gaze only because they are different to the blackness of space around them.  No-one goes space-gazing, we go star-gazing, because the light is what’s attractive not the darkness.  And Paul says the Christian is to stick out.  Not like a sore thumb, but like a star shining in the darkness. 

And what is it that’s going to really stand out about Christians?  They don’t complain or argue. Do you want to stick out in a godless crooked and depraved generation? – don’t complain, don’t argue.  We never think of ourselves as complaining – we always think our grievances are legitimate.  We never think of ourselves as argumentative – we’re just standing for the truth.  Paul says, Please, please, please, think again.  Are you complaining?  Are you argumentative?  If so …  The lights go out when you complain or argue. All the distinctiveness is lost and you’ll be as dark as the surrounding world.  Stand out, shine out.  

And, v16, HOLD OUT 

16 as you hold out the word of life--in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labour for nothing.

What would someone else say about your words?  How would they describe the kind of words you use?  Always griping?  Always moaning?  Always making light of everything?  Always talking about yourself?  No, says Paul, hold out the word… of life!

Notice he doesn’t say “hold to certain values”. Or “hold up a certain world view.”  He says hold out the word of life.  We do need to put words to our Christian hope.  The mission of the church is a word-y mission.  It’s about delivering a message to a world that will meet Jesus.  Social and creation care and political action and justice all encapsulate the gospel hope and yet spiritual life comes through hearing the word of Christ. The word of life. Look at who he is we say - the servant Lord of glory, trust him now, love him, bow the knee of your heart to him, live for him. And God grants life through that word.  That’s our mission holding out the word of life. [find that difficult - open to question. amazed at the power of the word of life]

And then finally, POUR OUT 

here’s how we do it – we do it like Paul, v17:

17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

Poured out like a drink offering.  Every day, morning and evening at the temple, the priests would pour out a drink offering before the Lord.  It was a grateful response to the Lord’s salvation.  And Paul says “I AM a drink offering, poured out.”

Let me close with this... How do you think of life?  Many people think of life like it’s a cup where we need to hold on to every drop we can.  And we’re nervous in case we spill any of it.  We might lose money, or comfort, or reputation, or personal space, or whatever.  And so we move through life very carefully lest we spill a drop.  Paul says “I pour it all out.  It hasn’t been poured into me for me to hold onto it.  It’s been worked into me so I can work it out, so I can shine it out, hold it out, pour it out.”  Which means he’s free.  He’s not scared of spilling any – he considers it all to be expended in Christ’s service.  And while we tip-toe around, nervous and furtive Paul walks boldly through life pouring himself out.

Philippians 2v1-11

The crucial importance of Unity. 

What are you pursuing to make yourself happy? Career trajectory? Dream of a family? 

Look at the apostle Paul. We know from reading the letter that he is in prison in Rome, he is chained up and facing possible execution. But incredibly he says (v..) that his joy is almost complete. He is almost full of joy. How wonderful. And, there is someting, he says, that would make his joy complete.. this is his immediate priority, his main prayer, this is what will give him happiness, satisfaction, peace. Not release from prison, Not relief of his circumstances.. that’s not what will complete his joy. The thing Paul longs for is deep unity in the church.. in Philipi and presumably everywhere. That’s Paul’s passion. 

When you read the whole letter it doesn’t seem like there were huge fall outs, factions or warfare in the Philippian church plant. A bit of grumbling and arguing 2v14 A few disagreements 4v1, But Paul isn’t just looking to merely stop negative behaviour he’s longing to see deep authentic comm-unity. 

Look at what he says in v2 ‘make my joy complete by being likeminded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.’ There’s a depth of relationship here that goes way beyond being part of the same club, or recognising a familiar face or knowing someone’s name. Paul is talking about a unity of minds and emotions and wills. Thinking together, loving one another deeply, pursuing a common purpose together.. 

We’ve been saying that this book Philippians constantly challenges us with the Question what is the life worth living? what’s primary? what’s best? what really counts? Well this is Paul’s absolute priority. His happiness hangs on this. It’s more important than his freedom. 

What about you and I? If you are a christian. Is the deep relational unity of the church your supreme goal? 

Why is it so important? Here’s why ..

[70th anniversary of DDay] Our daily news is scarred with the disunity of our world. At very scale, environmental, global, national, local, personal we encounter broken relationships. 

But the message of Christianity is that through Jesus Christ God has put a plan in motion that will one day heal the disunity of the world completely. In his death on the cross, Jesus Christ bore the consequences of all our brokenness. Jesus resurrection is the absolute proof of a future hope for the entire world and the church is the beginnings of that future reality. The church - people who’ve been brought back into friendship with God. Imperfect as we are, we are the sign to the world of that future reality, unity. We are the advert, the sign post! 

Look at how Paul seeks to persuade the Philippian church to be who they are. 

v1 Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit  then make my joy complete by being ONE 

it’s wonderful to share common interest or common history with friends - shared love of a particular kind of music or sport; shared memories. But these things do not come close to what it means to be part of the church - if you are united with Christ and so am I, If you’ve experienced his love and so have I, If his Holy Spirit dwells in you as he does in me. The you and I are inextricably bound up with one another. We are brothers and sisters. 

God has a good plan for this world. One day he will put it right. He will bring harmony, peace, life. Now we may question God’s wisdom on this but the church is the foretaste of that future.

It’s the show home for the estate that is yet to be built. This is why Paul is so concerned that the church lives up to her calling. 

Well how are we doing here in Dalston? 

Do we love each other deeply? Do we even know each other deeply?

We need help to do this don’t we? 

God knows that. Paul knows it. And that’s why for the rest of the passage he will talk about the pride that stands in the way and the humility that comes from Jesus. 

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves, 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.

It’s worth being aware at this point that our current cultural ethos of ‘expressive individualism’ is very negative about concepts of humility. low self esteem is the cause of all our social ills.

here is a place where the bible flys in the face of our culture by talking about the prison of pride and the freedom of humility.. 

The prison of Pride

let’s think first about pride. and we could talk for hours but we’ll limit ourselves to just a few ideas that arise out of the text.. rivalry, emptiness and self centredness.  

Paul says ‘do nothing out of selfish ambition.’ The word carries the idea of rivalry or competitiveness and shows us how pride robs us of life. It is summed up in the brutal honesty of the american writer Gore Vidal who once said, 

‘It is not enough to succeed, others must fail. 

Whenever a friend succeeds a little something in me dies.’ 

Here’s CS Lewis: ‘Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next person.’ 

Many of you know that I used to be an actor. And people sometimes ask me  ‘oh so do you enjoy going to the theatre?’ and I sometimes say, I don’t really because i find it too painful because I’d love to be doing what they’re doing. It’s struck me.. Isn’t that sad? - that pride robs me of that pleasure! - Rivalry 

what about emptiness?

Paul’s second phrase, ‘vain conceit’.. alludes perhaps to the source of our prideful strivings. In the greek its a conflation of two words keno (from kenosis: to empty) and doxia meaning glory. So in the KJV this is translated ‘vain-glory’ - it could mean bringing glory to yourself - that’s pride. But it actually points to our human condition. We are glory empty. We’re hungry.. for honour, respect, assurance because we sense deeply that we are people of importance and yet we don’t feel it. We feel lost. We’re hungry but we’re empty and so we’re striving..

We’re like this, the Bible says because we were made to live forever but we have turned away from God and therefore we’re fading. We were made never to be forgotten, to stand in the presence of God and to get his favour. We were made to last. But turned away from God we know we’re, fading, dying, we’re going to be forgotten. And so we desperately look to everyone we can to get them to say ‘you’re good, you’re worthwhile, you’re important, you’re significant.’  There’s emptiness so We use people to bolster our fragile sense of self. 

and that’s the last of our threefold characteristics - self centredness

The essence of pride is the self. self absorption, self importance even self pity. It’s a crucial insight that the pride that stands in the way of community can manifest itself in inferiority as much as superiority in low self esteem, fear and self pity as much as in arrogance and haughtiness. Because at the heart of pride is love of self. And the fearful person is just as absorbed in themselves as the self righteous person!

You know when you’re going about your daily life you’re not constantly aware of your body are you..? You don’t keep thinking - hey my elbow is so cool. or hey check out my knees the way they bend like that! You only become conscious of your body when something’s broken; not right. When you’ve broken your toe - you’re suddenly regularly aware, in a way that you were not before, of your toe. You’re painfully aware of it. That’s how it is with our bodies. The parts of our bodies only draw attention to themselves when there is something is wrong. What about our egos? Our sense of self? I’m constantly thinking about myself. Aren’t you? ‘How am i doing? How am i looking? I really like myself.. I really hate myself.. what does he think of me? I really wish I had that. why did she say that.? She hurt my feelings.’ The ego is constanly drawing attention to itself because there is something unbelievably wrong with it! the prison of pride

rivalry, emptiness, self importance

what’s the cure? 

the freedom of humility 

v3 in humility consider others better than yourselves, 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.

what is humility according to the Bible? 

and how do you get it?

Well here’s what it isn’t? 

Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself.. -‘everyone’s better than me.’ that’s not humility that’s just another form of pride.. self concern, self pity. 

No -  Humility is not thinking less of yourself. Humility is  thinking of yourself less.. Humility is the freedom of self forgetfulness. 

[wouldn’t you want to know the freedom of humility? pp34-5 keller] 

Wouldn’t you want to be a person who considered others better than yourself, looked to the interests of others, with honour and love?

How do you get that? How do you get Humility?

Here’s Paul’s answer. vv5-11 

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. And then Paul breaks into song. It’s a hymn - a hymn of praise to Jesus Christ..

Here’s what I think Paul is not doing here: 

He’s not just telling us to follow Jesus example of humility. He’s not telling us to work on our humility. Because … You can’t! You can’t work on humility directly. If true humility is self forgetfulness as soon as you start thinking.. ‘now am i humble? i’d really like to be humble. Was i humble just then. yeah i think i was.. Doh!’ Humility is the shyest of virtues. You can’t talk to humility without it going away.. 

No, You can’t work on humility. It has to be a bi-product of something else. 

The answer is you look away from yourself at another: Jesus Christ. And not to analyse and compare. This is not a list of Jesus’ qualities to imitate. Paul gives us a hymn of Jesus’ love to sing to our souls. It’s music to capture your heart. See that’s what we need - to have the emptiness of our hearts filled with true glory. The glory of Jesus Christ. We need to see him!

And there’s a word in v7 that captures Jesus glory. It’s that little phrase ‘he made himself nothing’ for us! You know what that word is? Kenosis. Sounds familiar “He emptied himself.’ That you and I might be filled. 

I don’t know the tune - and i’d feel a bit embarassed singing a solo anyway so i’ll read it: Notice the into 3 great movements 

Movement 1 vv6-7 The incarnation Jesus the eternal glorious God chose to become human 

Movement 2 The atonenment v8 Jesus came to serve by suffering and dying on a cross 

Movement 3 The exaltation vv9-11 In response to this glorious act of loving service God the father raised Jesus and exalted him to the highest place! 



Here is the glory of Jesus you see. The glory of God - is in humility.  

He emptied himself so we could be full. 

He did this because incredibly in humility he considers us more important than himself. 

He says of us ‘you to me are more valuable than all the jewells in the earth.’ 

When his love fills our hearts. We are set free from the desperate self centred search to fill our own emptiness. We are able to discover the freedom of humilty  

the way up is down 

the way to be truly rich is to become pure. 

the way to become inflintely happy is to pursue the happiness of others 

Philippians 1:1-11

Philippians 1:11 and Acts 16:11-40


Beginning a series in the NT book of Philippians 

A letter written about 60AD by Paul (the great apostle to the Gentiles) and Timothy, ‘servants of Christ Jesus.’ To the fledgling christian church in Philippi which Paul had planted in the city 10 years earlier.. 

Paul’s church planting strategy always had an urban focus - Cities were and remain places of openness and influence. (the womb of culture). Philippi, though it is now a ruin in North Eastern Greece, in the ancient world was just such a stragegic city.

Its gold and silver mines - exhausted by the time of the Christian era, and it’s situation on the Egnatian way - the great highway which connected Rome with the East had made Philippi an important cultural and economic centre.  

The city’s name came from the father of Alexander the Great, Philip II of Macedon who founded the city in 356BC. 200 years later the whole region had come under the rule of the Roman empire. And in 42BC, following military victories of Caesar Augustus close by, the city became a Roman colony endowing it’s populace with Roman citizenship. Roman war veterans settled in Philippi. It was an outpost of Rome and Empire in Northern Greece. 

Philippians is a wonderful little letter. Many people’s favourite NT book. It is primarily a letter of Christ-centred encouragement. I encourage you to read it in one sitting this week. It’s so short but it includes some of the greatest lines in the Bible: ‘For to me, to live is Christ, to die is gain.’; ‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice.’; Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation ..present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.’


At heart the letter begs a question: 

Is there anything really worth living for? (and dying for?) 

What really counts in life? What’s the best way to live? The most worthwhile?

Scientists tell us that it might be possible to prolong average life expectancy to 115 years old but will it be a life worth living?

What are you giving your life, your time and energy to?


Now, Read between the lines and you get the sense that this 10 year old church plant to whom Paul writes - they’re feeling pressure. The hard work of building a church community has taken it’s toll. There’s pressure within and without. From the outside there’s opposition (1:28) they live as a christian minority in an unbelieving city… and on the inside there’s unrest (4:2):complaint and hurts and disagreements. It feels like it’s just costing too much - this church lark.

But Paul writes to encourage. 

To encourage them and any who would listen in that this IS the life worth living and rather than pulling away from God’s ways and God’s church .. to discover joy and to live for what really counts, the Philippians and we should press in to God’s ways and his church..

  1. vv3-6 Be confident in the power of God

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now,

Partnership in the gospel doesn’t refer to a shared love of a certain kind of music. The gospel is one of those rich bible expressions. It refers to the whole story of what God, in love, has done and is doing to repair this world and us through his son Jesus Christ who died for us and rose again. Paul and the Philippians and all Christians are partners in the gospel in the sense that we are called to share this story with others but also in the sense that we are recipients together of its blessings. We have come to know God through hearing the gospel, seeing its reality - the power of God. 

The church at Philippi (like any church) was founded by an extraordinary display of God’s power. You can read all about it in Acts 16. There we read that Paul and his companion Silas had arrived in Philippi in AD52 following the prompting of a vision. On the first saturday they were there they went down to the river where there was a group or women praying. (They were probably gathered there because there were not the necessary ten Jewish men in Philippi to form a synagogue (lack of committed men in the church was a problem even then!)) As Paul shared the gospel, someone called Lydia, a rich merchant woman, an Asian from Thyatira, a spiritual seeker, became a christian and persuaded Paul to come and stay in her home. While he was staying there, he was followed around town by a girl. a greek, a native of the town, she’s a slave, spiritually she is out of control - lit. it says she is a pythonist, she is possessed with some kind of spirit through her involvement in the occult - she can tell fortunes (for real, not horroscopes). She follows Paul and Silas around mocking and Paul finally has enough and in an encounter of spiritual power he commands the spirit to come out of her. This young girl set free by Jesus is added to the fledgling church. The problem is that this young girl was a slave and her owners were furious that she had lost her supernatural powers. They seized Paul and Silas start a riot and Paul and Silas are flogged and thrown into prison. 

In prison with their feet in stocks - which means they were being tortured - Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns to God. Tortured and singing! Some of us have trouble singing because we’re still trying to digest lunch. Tortured but singing? Because they had seen God’s power to change the direction of Lydia’s life and bring her whole family to faith. They had seen God’s power to set free a girl afflicted by an evil spirit. Now they saw God’s power at work in another miraculous way: an earthquake shook the prison and every door flew open. The prison officer in charge. He’s a Roman, ex-military, working class, spiritually he’s probably disinterested and hardened, he’s killed people, he tortures people. - he’s about to kill himself, thinking all the prisoners have escaped, knowing he will face court martial for this. But Paul shouts out ‘wait! nobody’s going anywhere!’ And through this whole experience, this rough military guy’s heart is won for Christ and later his whole family are baptised. 

This is how the church in Philipi was founded. It’s easy to forget the power of God so Paul reminds the Philippians.

It’s easy for us to forget God’s gracious power in the founding of our church - SBD.  We started out with 40 adults and a dozen kids. In 8 years over 200 adults and 50 children have been part of the SBD story. a dozen people have  come to faith one through the earthquake of terminal cancer one through a power encounter with Jesus; others through hearing the powerful message of the gospel week by week. It’s easy to forget the sacrificial generosity that has made this church possible. Remain and Be confident in the power of God. 

Paul writes 

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. 

If God’s power can start a church in Philippi or Dalston, can kickstart faith in the souls of men and women then with Paul we can have confidence that what God has begun … he will complete.. 

‘The day of Christ Jesus’ refers to the day when Jesus will return. That’s the part of the story that is still to come: ’Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.’ Not this time as a baby come to save but as a King come to bring his eternal kingdom. The work God has begun in you, if you’re a Christian, is eternal life and He promises to complete that work. He will raise us to life, he will make all things well; We’re going to live forever.. Let it sink in. How then should we live? What counts? What’s worth living for? Live in the light of that day. In the light of an eternal future. Give yourself to the work of God’s gospel - God’s transforming power. 

Of course, It’s not always easy to just do that. It’s an act of faith. In a moment we’ll see what is fundamental to helping us live in the light of the day of Christ.. But there’s a hint in the text.. God will bring to completion the work he has begun in you… Be confident in the power of God. 

Second thing - if you want to give your life to what really matters..

2. Be joyful in Christian friendship

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

Paul writes this letter from prison in Rome. The imminent threat of execution hangs over him 1:20, 2:17. Paul is in chains… but his heart roams free. The apostle had probably only spent a matter of weeks or months establishing the church in Philippi, many of the newer Christians there he hasn’t even met - he knows them through others but the letter demonstrates this wonderful network of loving christian friendships..

Throughout the letter you have Paul praying for the Philippians, articulating his affection, They’re his joy and crown, he longs to see him. And we learn that the Philippians pray for Paul and have provided for his needs. Just turn to chapter 2 v19 and you see others who are part of this network of Christian friendship. 2:19 Paul wants to send Timothy to them soon so he, Paul, can get concrete news about them. v20 ‘I have no one else like him, who will show genuine care for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.” See all these relationships? Read on v25 here’s another guy: “I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger whom you sent to care for my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill and almost died but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. So then welcome him in the Lord with great joy…” 

Be joyful in Christian friendship. 

Our shared faith - as Paul says ‘all of you share God’s grace with me’                                             and our shared mission - defending and confirming the gospel can bring about the most profound love and friendship. Many of you tell me about dear Christian friends. These are friendships that are not known in other spheres of life.. 

Christian friendships can be profound but they are not not straightforward; they are not a given. All relationships need work. In part, Paul is having to write to the Philippians to remind them to think right about and work at their Christian friendships 1:27, 2:2 Be united - ‘Be of one mind’  Don’t let bad feeling, or disagreement or bitterness get in the way.. 

You know the church is a bit like a human family in many respects - we are brothers and sisters - we are brought together by something more than just shared interests something that unites very different people. they say don’t they: ’you can choose your friends you can’t choose your family.’ This means that just as in families you can take one another for granted and make more effort with people outside the family than within. So it is with God’s church. It’s more effort - so we don’t bother. But then we miss out on the joy that could be ours. 

Paul will urge us in this letter to put on our gospel glasses. Have a gospel perspective. sense the people sitting around you. That person you’re sitting next to is a child of God, their life purchased with the blood of Christ. There is no imagining what one day they will be. Honour one another. Give thanks for one another. Look to the interests of others before your own. 

Paul will urge us into gospel partnership. you philippians might be a roman colony an outpost of Rome in the city of Philippi. But the church of JC - are citizens of heaven; an outpost of heaven in the earthly city. Have you forgotten your missionary call that is at the heart of christian friendship?                                                    do hard things together. pray for healing, pray for holiness, pray for your friends and then go out and be good news together. 

But how?

brings us to third point..

how are we to be confident in God’s power? live for the day of Christ?                                             how are we to be joyful in Christian friendships? look to the interests of others before ourselves?

3. Be prayerful in pursuing what really counts 

Paul prays. So often we do not have because we do not ask. We find it hard to pray. 

What does Paul pray for the Philippians? We should pray it for ourselves and one another.. 

First verse x he prays that our love would abound more and more. That our love for God and for one another and for everyone would grow. Good thing to pray. But notice that it’s not any kind of love it’s a love that is shaped by the knowledge and moral insight that comes from the gospel. It’s a wise love that comes about through reading the bible and through wise counsel with one another. Because this love isn’t just a feeling it needs to show itself forth in action, in the best way of living and using our gifts - which is why Paul says v10 that we need to be brought to a place where we can ‘discern or ‘approve of’ what is best..’ That is - brought to a place where we can see what counts, what’s the best way for me to live .. and have the will to put that into practice.. 

Notice that Paul refuses to give blanket commands for what the best kind of Christian life looks like. How many hours should you give to church, care of your neighbour, sharing the gospel with your friends. No, life is far more complex than that. We have different lives and commitments and time and situation gifts and capacities and personalities and so Paul simply prays that your love would abound in knowledge and depth of insight so that you will be able to approve and pursue what is best. The life worth living. 

Do you see what this is saying? 

Do you want to be pure and blameless for the day of Christ? They’re words that refer to an inner consistency and and an outward goodness of life. Do you want that? Do you want to be v11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God? 

Do you want your life to be lived to the glory of God? 

If we want these things for ourselves, for one another, for our church then we have only to ask. 

Be prayerful in pursuing what really counts..

We don’t know what a life worth living is? But God does. We should ask him. 

We can’t manufacture love, wisdom, righteousness in our lives. But God can. We should ask him. 

he will change our hearts..

why not pray this prayer this week?