Do we really get it? I mean, do we really understand "God's riches in glory by Christ Jesus?" (Phil 4:19). Do we really understand Paul's words, "God shall supply all your need...?"
This is something in which I can definitely say I am growing... and in which I can say I definitely don't have all the answers. For years my thoughts have gone back and forth and side to side. Two steps to the left. One step to the right. Nine steps backwards. One and a half steps forwards.
But I'd like to share my current thoughts, and see what anyone else might have to say. In particular, I'd like to focus in on Philippians 4:10-20, Matthew 6:8-15 ("The Lord's prayer" and Jesus' commentary) and Matthew 6:31-34 ("seek first... and all these things shall be added to you"). Ok, really all of Matthew 6, but just these few verses to keep it short. I'll try to be straight up about my thoughts, while remaining open to any and all comments.
Paul tells the Philippians that he rejoiced that their care for him had flourished. He essentially says that he always knew they cared, but they hadn't had the opportunity to show it. As the following verses show, they had cared for Paul by providing for him in some physical/material ways. However... and this is where it gets very interesting for me... Paul tells them that none of what he's about to say really has anything to do with his NEEDS being met (verse 11). He says that he has learned that no matter what state he is in, whether "abased" or "abounding," whether he's "full" or "hungry," and whether he's "abounding" or "suffering need," he's content. His physical "need" is not really need at all. It's not what really matters because... "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Take some time to prayerfully read through Philippians 4:10-13.
The next few verses speak of how the Philippians had also previously provided for him (vss 14-16). But here's the thing that really sticks out to me in regards to Paul's maturity in Christ. His whole point is given in verse 17. "NOT THAT I SEEK THE GIFT, BUT I SEEK THE FRUIT THAT ABOUNDS TO YOUR ACCOUNT." It seems that to Paul, the whole point of the matter is NOT that God has provided for him, but that he was joyful that the fruit of God was abounding through these people.
In other words, for Paul it's not about God providing for him in his need, as seems to always be our mindset when we think of God's supply and provision. It's about God working in and through His people. Paul acknowledges that, having received what they sent him, he was now abounding and full (materially), and that their sacrifice was "a sweet smelling aroma, well pleasing to God." He then adds, "And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (verse 19).
So, about that "supply" thing... can I be blunt? We tend to rip this single verse (verse 19) right out of the Bible, and quote it with confidence, saying that we know that God will always provide all our material needs. But here's my question, in regards to the true meaning of this verse. If it really means what we've always taken it to mean, then WHY didn't Paul simply claim it for himself, starting in verse 11? Why didn't he simply say, "For I have learned that in whatever state I am, God will always provide for all my needs?" He didn't say that. He said that he has learned to be content whether or not all his physical/material needs are met! He has learned to be both abased (lowered, humbled, degraded) and abounding, both full and hungry, both abounding and suffering need.
Again, why didn't Paul say, "For I have learned that in whatever state I am, I can pray the Lord's prayer, 'give us today our daily bread,' and God will always provide for my hungry stomach and all my other physical needs?" Why didn't he simply say, "For I have learned that in whatever state I am, if I simply 'seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, all these things will be added to me?'"
Boy, Paul must've really disregarded Jesus' teachings in a HUGE way! I mean, there's NO WAY that God would let the following words be the testimony of one of his dear children, an apostle no less, who was heeding Jesus' words. "Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness — besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches." (Paul's testimony in 2 Cor 11:25-28). Paul must not have had a proper revelation of God's supply and provision!!!
Or... did he have a revelation of God's supply and provision in a way that we just can't seem to understand here in the modern day western world?
As usual, I've gone long here and I'll have to break this up into more than one post...