I have written several in the past couple weeks about supporting missionaries, not only in voice and belief, but monetarily and in spirit. Paul points out in Philippians 4:14-17 several more notable characteristics of the church at Philippi which we can learn a great deal from, when it comes to supporting missionaries. I began my study today with verse 14.
Philippians 4:14 “Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.”
The word “communicate” jumped out at me in this verse. I wondered if it meant that the church wrote letters to Paul, or what else it meant. The Greek word which Paul used for communicate is sugkoinoneo. This Greek word is used three times in the New Testament, including this passage. In the other two passages, it is used as “have fellowship with” and “be partaker of”. The literal meaning of this word means more than talking with or writing a letter. It means to participate in something that someone else is participating in. In Paul’s verse above, he is saying that the church at Philippi took part in his affliction, or tribulations. This is more than just writing a letter or asking how someone is doing. It is learning the needs, the troubles and the rewards that a missionary is experiencing in the foreign land. We draw ourselves close to this missionary not by only sending them money but by being part of their ministry. We uphold them in prayer; we get to know them like they are a close relative (they are Christian brethren). I don’t know of another way that we can be co-participants of a missionaries trials without doing this.
There is something else we can learn from verse 15. This is a great verse.
Philippians 4:15 “Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.”
Again, the word communicated in this verse means the same thing as it did in verse 14: to be a participant in, and to share trials and burdens. We learn in verse 15 that the church at Philippi was the only church who shared in Paul’s tribulations when he left from Macedonia. Doing the right thing does not require a group effort. It is an individual effort that is carried out as the Lord speaks to your heart. Oftentimes we read in the Bible where God chose a single person to carry out His will. When God decided to free Israel from their Egyptian slaves, He called Moses — none other. He told Abraham back in Genesis 12 that He would make a great nation out of Abraham’s seed and His alone. There may be times when God needs something done and calls on you and you alone to do it. Just because others are not joining in is no reason for you not to do what is right. When no one around us is serving the Lord, and as in this case, getting to know the needs of our missionaries, we still need to do the right thing.
Finally, in verse 17, we learn something else which is wonderful.
Philippians 4:17 “Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.”
When we support our missionaries, we are laying up treasures for ourselves in Heaven. When we get to heaven, we’ll have something to show the Lord Jesus Christ of what we did for Him. You don’t want to be empty handed when the Lord asks for things you’ve done for Him. Paul says that when the church at Philippi supported him, they laid up fruit “to their account.”
Their gift did not add to Paul’s account — Paul’s actions did that — their gift added to their account. When can we conclude about those who do not support missions? They are robbing themselves of a great reward. They are hurting the ministry of God, hindering the spread of the gospel, and denying themselves a reward that is eternal.
Matthew 6:20 “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:”
We accomplish this by storing our rewards in Heaven.
So our choice is — do we store up things that are temporal, things that will be lost when we die, things that may be stolen, broken or otherwise ruined; or do we store up rewards in heaven where they last for eternity.