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Right Choices, Choose to Invest in the Kingdom
Now if you would, please take out your Bible and turn in them to the book of Philippians. Chapter 4 in the book of Philippians. If you don’t have a Bible, there should be one under a chair in front of you. You can take that Bible and turn to page 156 in the back, and you will be at Philippians 4. Now as we come to this section today in Philippians 4, we come to a section that addresses the issue of money. It addresses the issue of giving.
A lot of times even in a church setting what happens is the moment you bring up the subject matter of money and giving, people get uptight. It’s almost as if we’re thinking on the inside, Well, Bruce, cover any subject but that subject. Maybe that subject is just a little too convicting for me. So, what I want you to do is I just want you to relax, alright? Let’s have a little bit of fun as we look at these verses today.
I want to tell you a very quick story about a hog farmer. This hog farmer called the church office one day. The receptionist answered the phone, and here is what he said. He said, “I want to speak to the head hog at the trough.” Well the receptionist was a little taken back. She says, “Well, sir, now if you’re talking about our beloved minister, I mean you would want to call him pastor or call him reverend. But I just don’t think it’s really proper to call him the head hog at the trough.” Well the farmer said, “Well, that’s okay.” But he said, “Here is really why I was calling.” He said, “I just sold several of my prize sows, and I’d like to take that money…$20,000…and invest it in the building fund.” The receptionist said, “Just a minute, sir. I think the big pig just walked in.”
Somehow money can get our attention. Yet, you know, we all need to pay attention to our money. We need to listen to God’s perspective and God’s counsel. So I really do want you to relax because I’m not trying to drive you [force in a particular direction] anywhere. We want the Word of God to talk to us today. Again, I want to encourage you…don’t psych yourself out [jump to a conclusion]. Maybe you are retired, and you say, “I don’t have very much money.” Maybe you are younger, and you say, “I don’t have very much money. What is this about? How can this apply to me?” Maybe you’re just like a lot of us, and you say, “Well, my budget…it just doesn’t seem to go far enough. I don’t really know that I need to listen to this message.” I want you to know that this message is for all of us no matter what our situation may be or how old we are.
Now we live in a culture where there is a consensus and that is that it’s good for everybody to be investment oriented. That’s what our culture says. Even we would teach that to our kids when they’re young. “You need to start saving money.” Here is the question I want you to ask yourself. How is your investment doing? I just checked with my bank about our savings accounts we have there. Here is what our savings account is currently earning at our bank…one-quarter of a percent interest quarterly. Not exactly spectacular. Some of us who are older have maybe a mutual fund, or we have a 401(k), or we have an IRA. How is your investment doing? Many of us would say, “Well, not as well as it has in the past.”
But I want to ask you a bigger question than that. The bigger question is this…How is your investment in the kingdom of God doing? As we come to chapter 4, we have been looking at the fact that in chapter 4, the thrust of the chapter is this…maintaining right choices is vital to the spiritual life. If you want to have a joy-full life, you will make right choices. We have been sharing with you a number of quotes about choices. I want to share with you another one this morning. It’s from Gary Collins. He says this: “We can try to avoid making choices by doing nothing, but even that is a decision.”
We have seen a number of choices Paul recommends to us already in chapter 4. In verses 2 to 5, he says, “Choose to diffuse disharmony.” Then in verses 6 and 7, he says, “Choose prayer over anxiety.” In verses 8 and 9, he says, “Choose to focus wisely.” In verses 10 to 13, he says, “Choose contentment daily.” Now we come down to verses 14 to 19, and he is going to say to you and to me, “Choose to invest in the kingdom.”
If you have your Bible open to Philippians 4, I would like to read verses 14 to 19 and invite you to follow along in your Bible as I read these verses. This is the message God has for us today. “Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction. You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account. But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
Now if we were going to outline these verses, I think they would break into two parts. In verses 14 to 16, Paul applauds their generosity. Then in verses 17 to 19, Paul assures their blessing. So, we want to look at these two sections…how Paul applauds their generosity, and how Paul assures their blessing. Now I want to remind you the backdrop of all of this is found in verse 18. See what had happened is, the church at Philippi had collected a gift, a financial gift, for Paul, and Epaphroditus had brought it to where Paul was in prison. You remember that in verses 10 to 13, he stressed the idea of contentment. He says, “I know how to get along with humble means. I know how to live in prosperity.” Here is the idea ultimately that he wants to stress, though, that “God used a gift from you to encourage me.”
He says in verse 15, “You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone.” Now if you have accounting in your background, you love accounting, if you have accounting training…you need to know that in these verses, there are a lot of accounting terms. He is using everyday accounting terms like giving and receiving. But to me, what is most significant is what he says there in verse 15. He says, “After I left Macedonia (that is the area where the church of Philippi was),” he says, “no church shared with me in financial investments apart from you.” We know that when Paul (we know this from verse 16) was in Thessalonica, here came a financial gift from those in Philippi. We know from 2 Corinthians 11:9, when Paul was in the city of Corinth, here came a financial gift from the church at Philippi.
It’s really fascinating to me what he has to say there in verse 16 when he says, “…even in Thessalonica you sent a gift.” Well what’s significant about that? Well Thessalonica was so much wealthier than Philippi. “Even when I was in this wealthy place, you sent a gift.” He said, “You did it more than once.” Very interesting phraseology in the original. Literally it says this: “Once, twice, you did this” which was really an idiom in that day for “several times you made this investment.” But he says, “You were the only group that did that.”
Reminds me of when we travel to Latvia, and we have an opportunity to interact with those at Latvian Christian Radio. Talis Talbergs, the president, this last time I was there was introducing me to some of the newer employees at the radio station. He was just sharing with them. He said, “You know, Wildwood Community Church is the only church anywhere in Europe or in America who regularly supports the ministry of Latvian Christian Radio.” When you’re the only one, there is just a special affinity, a special relationship, that exists. So, Paul felt that between him and the Philippians.
Now I want to share with you two observations about the Philippians that I think are very important for us to understand. Okay? First observation is this…
1. They were not rolling in resources. Turn with me to 2 Corinthians, chapter 8. These were people who were making investments in the gospel and investments in the kingdom, but they were not rolling in resources. That’s why I don’t want you to just blank out on me if you say, “Well, I’m not rolling in resources.” They weren’t rolling in resources. Second Corinthians, chapter 8, verse 1, “Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia (and Philippi was one of those), that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty (see you’re learning something about the kind of resources they had) overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord.”
Their arm wasn’t twisted to give. But they were “begging us (verse 4) with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.” The Philippians were not rolling in resources. Do you see some of the phrases here? “Their deep poverty” and yet at the same “the wealth of their liberality.” “They gave,” he says, “according to their ability.” He says, “They gave beyond their ability.” They were not people rolling in resources. That’s why I don’t want you to psych yourself out and say, “Well, my resources are too small. I don’t really know if I have anything to give that’s…” Listen, it is significant with God. They were not rolling in resources, so why did they give?
Well that leads to the second observation I have to make, and that is this…
2. They embraced the principle of eternal investment. I want you to turn to another passage. We’ll be back in Philippians 4 in a moment, but it’s the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6, because Jesus talks about this principle of eternal investment. He directs this counsel to the disciples, which would include, of course, you and me. In Matthew 6, verse 19, He says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But (by contrast) store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal.”
Now I just want you to put on your imagination cap for a moment, and I want to share with you a very classic illustration of how we need to really think about the principle of eternal investment. Imagine, if you would, that it is the end of the Civil War. You are living in the South, but your real home is in the North. While you are living in the South, you will have in your hands an amount of Confederate currency.
Now the North is going to win the war, and the Confederacy is going to end. What would a wise people do with their Confederate currency? Well the answer would be you would utilize some of it to meet the needs you have in order to live. But if you were really wise, you would exchange as much of the Confederate currency as you could for U.S. currency because only the U.S. currency is going to have value after the war.
See here is the analogy. We live here on this planet, but our real home is to the far north in heaven. We know that this world is going to end. While we are here, we have a certain amount of currency of this world in our hands. How should we handle that? Well, if we’re going to be wise, we obviously need to utilize that currency to meet our needs in order to live. But if we’re really wise, we’re going to exchange as much of it as we can to buy heavenly currency, which will be the only currency after this world is over. Naked we came into the world. Anybody not come into the world naked? We all came in naked. We brought nothing in. Guess what? It’s naked that we leave. Oh, we leave an earth tent behind, but we leave without anything. We don’t carry anything with us when we leave the world. We need to remember that.
You see, when we have the opportunity to invest in the gospel…we participate in the work of the gospel…we have an opportunity to make an investment for eternity with some of the funds God has given to us. I love what A.W. Tozer said. He said this: “Any temporal possession can be turned into everlasting wealth. Whatever is given to Christ is immediately touched with immortality.”
Here is the way this works. If you think about this for a moment, if you focus on building your treasure on earth, every day as you move closer to death, you are moving further away from your treasure. But if you build treasure in heaven, every day you are moving toward your treasure. If your treasure is on earth…and so every day you’re moving further away from it…if you really think about that, it can be discouraging. In fact, it causes some people to panic! But if you have treasure in heaven and every day you’re moving toward it that means it encourages you. In fact, it will motivate you in a great way. Don’t store up treasures on earth but store up treasures in heaven.
Then in Matthew 6, verse 21, Jesus makes a very interesting statement. He says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” As sure as a compass needle follows north, so our hearts will follow our treasure. So, one of the questions I was wrestling with when I was looking at this passage is, Where is my heart pointed? Where is your heart pointed today? You know, it’s amazing how much our culture is always trying to get our focus here, right? Keep your focus here, here, here, here. This is what’s important. Here is what’s important. The now, the now, the now, the now. We just get slammed with that.
I’ll give you an illustration of it. There was a USA Today article that talked about the new American dream home, the new way of building a dream home. So it gives several illustrations. For example, the illustration of Keith and Angela Burns from Chester, New Jersey. In their home, they invested $200,000 in redecorating their basement. They redecorated it in a Starship Enterprise theater mode. They had 17 seats on two different tiers. They did that complete, you know, mega-movie theater snack bar deal where they had all the candy there. You know? They had the big giant popcorn machine with the butter thing working and even the hot dogs that they could cook. Two hundred thousand dollars just into their basement.
Then there was Woody and Barbara who spent $750,000…three-quarters of a million dollars…on their backyard in their home that is next to the Bighorn Golf Club. They built there a giant pool, and they built this beautiful fire pit. They had a complete pizza oven there and multiple fountains everywhere and incredible trees and landscaping. Then there is another couple who spent $400,000 remodeling their kitchen. You’re saying, “Well, silly people. You know, I don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars to, you know, invest in those kind of things.” But I want you to see is…what’s the orientation? Where is the needle pointed? See our society says, “Point it to treasures on earth. Point it to treasures on earth.”
By the way, when I share those examples, I’m not saying it’s wrong to have a nice house. I’m not saying it’s wrong to have a nice apartment. I’m not saying it’s wrong to remodel something. I mean, we remodeled in our own home. We remodeled our kitchen area. But the question is for even these people…Where is the focus? Where is their heart? I think we would all say we know where it’s pointed. It’s pointed here rather than up there. If you are building your treasure on earth, every day you’re moving further from it.
But if you build your treasure in heaven, every day you’re moving toward it. You know, I don’t know how much money we ever have go through our hands in our lives. It will vary amongst us. But here is what’s interesting. You know the only money you’re ever going to see again is the money you invest in the kingdom of God. So the question is…Where is your heart? Where is your focus? How is your investment in the kingdom doing?
We see in Philippians 4 that Paul applauds their generosity. But secondly, we need to see Paul assures their blessing. Notice again verse 17. He says, “Not that I seek the gift itself.” “Sure it’s helpful you invest and meet my needs spiritually as I am promoting the gospel.” But he says, “Ultimately, I seek for the profit which increases to your account.” Do you see the words here…the accounting terms he is still continuing on with them? “I’m interested in your profit,” he says. I think the New Living Translation says, “Your well-earned reward.” “I’m interested in what increases to your account.” He is saying you and I…we all have a heavenly, eternal account. Did you realize you have one? You do! What are we doing with it? What is interesting to me is that God cares about this. God is watching this. God takes careful note of what we’re doing.
Do you remember the story of Jesus and the treasury in the temple and how He was standing back…or actually He was sitting even…watching what people were giving? Then after He watched that, He sat down with the disciples and taught them. God is watching, men and women. Even if it’s a small amount, He notices. He notices that. Hebrews 6:10 says, “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.” He doesn’t forget. He notices; He sees. He sees what we give and how we invest.
He says in verse 18, “But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied.” “I have more really than I need because of your gift.” Then he has some very interesting phrases at the end of verse 18. Did you notice them? Look at them again. He talks about their gift to the kingdom. He says it is “a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.”
Now you have to have some Old Testament background because this is Old Testament imagery. The background out of the Old Testament was a practice called the burnt-offering practice. Burnt offerings in the Old Testament were voluntary offerings. They were offerings of devotion to God. When you would take that animal, and then the burnt offering means you would cook it. When you cooked it, there was this roast-like aroma that would fill that part of the temple. Think about the last time maybe you had a roast on, and there is just this “Wow! That smells good.” aroma. It’s very pleasing.
Really what he is saying is, is that there are… We don’t do those kind of sacrifices anymore in this part of the economy of God, but there are spiritual sacrifices in the New Testament era. There are! First Peter 2:5 tells us there are spiritual sacrifices. What are some of them? I want to give you some passages; you can go look at them. But Romans 12: 1 and 2 tells us a spiritual sacrifice we can do and that is we present our bodies to Him as a living sacrifice. Another spiritual sacrifice in the New Testament…Hebrews 13:5, when our lips speak thanksgiving to His name that is a spiritual sacrifice. Hebrews 13:16…when we are going around doing good that is a spiritual sacrifice.
Here in Philippians 4 investing in the gospel and investing in eternity is a spiritual sacrifice. You notice he says, “It is a fragrant aroma.” To whom? To God! It is well pleasing to God. You know what that means? That means God is watching. When we take some of our funds and we invest them in eternity, it brings a smile to God’s face. Have you ever thought about that even on a Sunday morning? Remember Jesus was there in the temple gathering. He was watching what everyone was giving. I think the same thing is true here. He is watching what we’re giving and watching what we’re investing. It brings a smile to His face. Is God smiling when He looks at how you and I invest His resources for eternity?
Then I want you to see there is a promise in verse 19. Notice the promise. It’s a verse that’s often memorized, but usually out of context. “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Nothing wrong with memorizing Scripture, but so often we pull it out of context. Do you know that contextually this promise is a promise for those who invest in the gospel? This is a promise for those who invest in the kingdom. This is a promise for generous people. This is a promise for eternal investors.
I like the way the Message translates verse 19. It says this: “You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, His generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus.” The promise is as we invest in eternity, He will meet all our needs…not all our wants. He says, “He will meet your need, not your greed.” What we don’t obtain from Him if we’re investing in eternity is something we therefore don’t require from His perspective. What a great promise that if we will invest in eternity, He will meet all of our needs.
Now I want to turn to one more passage that I want us to look at. It’s in the book of Acts, chapter 20. So if you would, turn with me to Acts, chapter 20. I want to look there at Acts, chapter 20, verse 35, which contains the only direct quote from Jesus outside of the four Gospels. The only direct quote from Jesus outside of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is in chapter 20, verse 35. It’s at the end of the verse where it says, “Jesus Himself said this, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” Do you believe that? I mean, really…do you believe that? It is more blessed to give than to receive.
Let’s just actually repeat that out loud as a group, alright? Let’s just say that: “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.” Are you ready? It is more blessed to give than to receive. Let’s say it again. It is more blessed to give than to receive. One more time. It is more blessed to give than to receive. Do we believe that? Do you know there is a four-fold blessing that is involved? You see, when we give and when we invest in eternity and when we invest in the gospel…
1. The recipients are blessed. All you have to do is talk to the people at Latvian Christian Radio, and they will tell you that they are blessed because we invest funds in them for the kingdom of God. So the recipients are blessed. The second part of the four-fold blessing is…
2. God is blessed. Often we don’t think about that. It’s a fragrant aroma to Him. Oh wow – that’s great! It’s well pleasing to Him. The third part of the four-fold blessing is…
3. We are blessed now. You know that if you’ve ever given to meet needs, and you’ve ever heard the story of what’s come out of that, or you get… You just know you experienced joy from that. It’s fulfilling to know we’re giving to something God is honoring and God is at work. Then the fourth part of the four-fold blessing is…
4. We are blessed in the future because we end up with treasure in heaven. It is more blessed to give than to receive. Four-fold blessing that comes out of that.
I was just thinking about it this week when I was thinking about the seeds that have been sown in the past by believers who preceded many of us. I think about those who were around in 1966 when it first started out to be a college Bible study. I know there were some funds that had to be invested to make that thing work. Then in 1968, the church is incorporated. There were people who invested in Wildwood and in doing things. Then you had 1973 when the church bought its first land. That was an investment. Then in 1976, they built their first building. In 1986 when money was invested so we could move to this site and be in this facility.
It’s not just talking about buildings. It’s talking about investing and sowing seeds. I think about the people who gave in the past. They had no idea what was coming in the future from all of that. They had no idea about the ministry to Latvia. They had no idea about the ministry in Mexico. They had no idea there would be couples at marriage conferences who would be blessed by Wildwood because of investments in the kingdom, you see.
They had no idea that there would one day be an Awana ministry [special children’s program] at Wildwood. They would be one of the largest ones in the state. There would be multiple, multiple kids who would hear the gospel message proclaimed. Many of them would grow up and even go on to be involved in vocational ministry. I mean, it just goes on and on and on.
Now you know what…we’re doing some investments in the Pass It On campaign where we’re building a new children’s ministry building because we believe children are wet cement. We’re going to be dealing with, in this facility, future spiritual leaders who will make all kinds of an impact. I’m just giving you some illustrations of it all. The seeds that have been sown we have no idea. The money…the money…we give who knows the ramifications of it all. Only God does.
You know, the greatest opportunity you will ever have in your life will be to invest in the gospel. The greatest opportunity you and I will ever have while we breathe is to invest in eternity. The greatest opportunity we will ever have put before us is to invest in the kingdom of God. Too often, men and women, we’re merely tipping God. “Awww…just what’s the least little bit I can give to Him to sort of meet the minimum…” rather than investing with Him. It’s something we need to remember. You know, you cannot out give God.
Let me read to you Luke 6:38. Luke 6:38 says this: “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure – pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” Give, and it will be given back to you. You cannot out give God. It’s impossible. Cannot happen. You want to have a joy-full life? Choose to invest in the kingdom. Choose to invest in the kingdom.
Now having looked at these verses, we want to talk about some life response. The life response I want to talk about revolves around two questions. Here is the first one. How much of your money each month is kingdom bound? Anybody go, “I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it that much.” Or, “I know it’s kind of erratic.” Or, “I really haven’t gotten around to it yet.” Remember the Collins’ quote? “We can try to avoid making choices by doing nothing, but even that is a decision.” I want to encourage you to go home and actually calculate out how much of your money is kingdom bound. Just to remember…now with God, the amount isn’t important. What’s important is that we are regularly and generously and joyously investing for eternity.
Then I have a second question in terms of some life response, and that is this. Is He your God? Is Jesus your God? See, ultimately what we’ve been looking at today is a whole lot more than talking about finances. Some of you who may not know Jesus Christ personally say, “Well, this just sounds like churches are just in it. They talk about money, money, money, money.” No, no, no. That’s not the most important thing. It all goes back to one thing, and that is knowing the living God personally.
Are you here today, and you need forgiveness? Do you need to be rescued from sin and judgment? There is a Person who will do that for you whose name is Jesus Christ. Do you need strength to face adversity? He can be a stronghold of peace and comfort when life happens, and life will happen. Most important thing you can do is to trust in the Person of Christ.
Let’s pray together. Father, we thank You again for the Bible and how real it is and for this reminder of how important it is that we choose to invest…oh that we choose to invest in eternity and in the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Father, for any who may be here that may hear my voice who don’t know Jesus Christ personally, may they realize He has His arms open wide to them. All they need to do is come and admit they’ve been living life their way. But Jesus Christ came to this planet and bled and died for them. What He wants them to do is by faith turn to Him and to call upon His name, and He will rescue them. He will introduce them to a life that will blow their mind [surpass their expectations] because to know God is to know life eternal. Thank You for what You’re doing. Continue to work on our hearts, we pray. We pray these things in Jesus’ name, Amen.