Phil. 1:3-5 and 4:10, 14-16 “We Are Partners in the Gospel Mission”
October 8, 2017
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
On the occasion of receiving John and Theresa Haruna into church membership, and praying for/ laying hands on John, as he leaves for Northern Nigeria for seven weeks.
It’s really hard when you have to do everything be yourself, isn’t it? It can be very discouraging to deal with a house that has suffered damage, and to do it all be yourself. Single parenting is hard. Running a one person business is tough.
Being a single missionary in a foreign culture is extremely hard. Think of the Apostle Paul: he faced so many difficulties and trials as he brought the good news of Jesus Christ to others. But he wasn’t alone, for he had a special partnership with one of his supporting churches, namely, the congregation at Philippi! Listen to what Paul wrote to them:
Phil. 1:3-6 “I thank my God every time I remember you. (4) In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy (5) because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, (6) 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.”
Phil. 4:10, 14-16 “I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it…. 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 in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need.”
Paul and the saints in Philippi were partners in the mission of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ! They had each other’s backs. They enjoyed a sweet communion and fellowship in the advancement of the Good News of Jesus to the nations!
And this is the kind of gospel partnership that I think we are beginning to enjoy with John and Theresa Haruna, in the spread of the Gospel in Northern Nigeria. This is the gospel partnership we already enjoy with David and Rebecca Riddell in France; with Chuck and Nancy Snyder and the deaf community; with Bruce and Heather Beal in Bible Translation; with Jill Page and Every Good Gift in Glenside; and with Mark Sanders and Harvest USA right here!
I want you to see four truths about gospel mission partnerships from Philippians:
First, Gospel partnerships are both financial and relational.
The believers in Philippi contributed monetarily to Paul’s support, in “giving and receiving.” (4:15). They gave not only generously, but sacrificially (2 Cor. 8), of their resources to assist Paul’s gospel ministry. Now when you write a check to help support a missionary or Christian worker, it may not mean that much to you. But let me tell you: it means a lot to the missionary who is on the receiving end of your gift! It helps that person know that a whole team of people are giving and praying for him or her.
But that’s not all the Philippians sent to Paul: they also sent one of their own people to visit Paul! In 2:25 we read that they had sent Epaphroditus with the money they were giving him. Why? In order to give Paul some much needed personal care and help, while he was in prison. What a joy it was for Paul to see this familiar face, to hear of fresh news from this church he loved, and to receive their gift! And he in turn wrote this letter to encourage the church in Philippi, still pastoring them and praying for them. Perhaps a few of us will visit John and Theresa in Nigeria in the future. (I know, you want to visit the Riddells in Paris!) A few of you have visited the Snyders in York, and the Beals plan on being in the area over Christmas, so you could have them over for a meal.
May our partnership with our missionaries grow and become dearer to us!
Second, Gospel partnerships are enduring. (1:5, 4:15) “From the first day until now…” the saints at Philippi had been committed to Paul and his gospel ministry. This band of believers had stuck with Paul for perhaps 10 years or more, since he first brought the gospel to them (Acts 16), and by God’s grace, they were remaining faithful to him.
In 4:15 we understand why this partnership is so enduring. We read there that “No church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only…” That phrase means to be a shareholder in a joint venture; to participate with because of being closely identified with that person. In other words it’s talking about a partnership in Christ and in the Holy Spirit. It’s talking about the three-fold cord of Ecc. 4:9, which cannot be broken. By God’s grace we have been enduring partners in the gospel ministry with the Riddells and Snyders for about years… and now we are entering into a partnership with the Harunas!
Third, Gospel partnerships are enriching. (4:10) As Paul received the Philippians’ financial gift to him, it showed him their concern for him: “You have renewed your concern for me.” (v. 10) They were thinking of him and praying for him. My friends, never underestimate that kind of affirmation, especially for someone who is on the front lines of ministry. Those missionaries and Christian workers desperately need encouragement and affirmation from you on the home front! Why? Because Satan is shooting flaming arrows of doubt and discouragement at them, and the best defense you can give them is to remind them that you are praying for them, thinking of them, writing to them, and even caring for their physical or financial needs! We all need such enriching partnerships! So make time regularly to enrich a brother or sister who is on the front lines for Jesus! E-mail; call; write a letter; send a gift; volunteer to help them. You will be blessed as well.
Fourth, Gospel partnerships are believers suffering together (4:14) Note in v. 14 that the church shared with Paul in His troubles. We might say that the Philippians’ financial gifts were a means of involving them in Paul’s troubles. They had responded to his need, and Paul was truly grateful–not so much for what the gift did for him, as for their willingness to share with him. They had accepted his affliction as their own and had done something about it.
Therefore, as we partner with John and Theresa, we are sharing in their sufferings as those who were persecuted as Christian in northern Nigeria. And the same hold true as we partner with Jill Page and the ladies of Every Good Gift, and with the Pastors in Kenya through the Pastoral Scholarship Initiative (PSI), and as we partner with our suffering brothers and sisters in the world, as we use prayer guides from Barnabas Aid and ICC and other ministries. We have been praying for the persecuted church for over two years now, and this year, the Lord brought the persecuted church to us, in the persons of the Harunas! This is a vital part of a partnership in the gospel!
So we can see that Paul and the Philippians enjoyed a special relationship, whereby each partner contributed to the other. Their giving and receiving was a two-way street: material blessing passed from the church to the apostle, while spiritual blessings flows the other way. (See 1 Cor. 9:11 and Rom. 15:27.)
The Philippians were not merely Paul’s financial supporters; they were his partners, joined together with him in his ministry, sharing with him in his sufferings, and in the relief of them. They were prepared to suffer poverty to minister to Paul in his need.
Paul was on the frontlines, getting the headlines and the headaches; while the Philippians were on the sidelines, cheering, supporting, and upholding. They needed each other without being jealous of each other’s positions.
And so for us today, this kind of gospel partnership involves prayer and thanksgiving, love and sacrifice, helping one another, contributing to each other’s needs, and ultimately it results in mutual joy and blessing! Our congregation will be stronger because of it, and the people such as John and Theresa, and Mark and Jungmin, and Jill Page, and all the others whom we support will be encouraged and built up for greater ministry!
Finally, we see in this letter to the Philippians that all of this points us to Jesus Christ. Look at Phil. 2:1-11. At the core of all this gospel partnership is the person and redemptive work of God’s Son, our Lord Jesus. Our hearts are challenged and transformed as we look onto Jesus and what He did for us, especially on the cross. Are you looking to Him for your hope, your strength, and your love? Is He alone the source of your love, your work, and your giving? Look to Him in faith. Humble yourself beneath the cross. Trust in Him with heart, mind, soul and strength.
Through the indwelling power of God the Holy Spirit, we have the great privilege of being partners in the mission of the glorious gospel of Christ!