Recently, I had a surgery that required six weeks of rest. For almost anyone, six weeks of semi-bed rest while also being conscious would be difficult. It was six weeks during the summer with two busy children and a long list of deadlines. What was I going to do? I never had the opportunity to become anxious because before I knew it friends were pouring in to help. I’m grateful beyond words for their swift care. I never said no to a single offer of help. From playdates for my kids to dinners to our dinner table, I said yes to it all.
But I haven’t always been this way. I used to think that accepting the gifts, time, and generosity of others was unnecessary. I had to grow in my understanding of weakness and need. I needed to learn the beauty of humility. The gospel is all about receiving, why would I not want to also receive from others?
The Bible has a great deal to say about giving. But the church in Philippi is a wonderful example of how our gifts affect others and, in their case, how their partnership in the gospel assisted the Apostle Paul on his mission (Phil 4:14-20). Here are three ways the Lord has helped me learn to receive through the example of this generous church and the Apostle Paul.
1. It is a gift to others to give.
Paul realized what a gift it was for others to be able to give. He wrote, “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit” (4:17). Paul had been well supplied by the Philippians but it wasn’t their gifts that he wanted to acknowledge alone. He wanted their character to be highlighted and credited—their generosity was evidence of spiritual maturity and growth (2 Corinthians 9:5). It was their gain to give even more than it was Paul’s to receive their gift.
Similarly, when someone asks you or me if they might be able to serve us, it is his or her gain to give. The giver has a chance to exercise humility, practice hospitality, and/or give generously. It also enables the giver to trust the Lord for their own provision (Philippians 4:19) just as we are trusting the Lord to provide for us. We shouldn’t make it difficult for others to grow in this way by refusing to be served. It’s often a greater joy and blessing to the person who gives so let’s make it easy.
2. Weakness and need are good
Paul, who was suffering and in prison, wrote that he can do all things through Jesus who strengthens him (4:13) but then he shared, “Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble” (4:14). Paul was weak, he was needy, and he knew where to ultimately run. But God used people as an extension of His grace to Paul in his time of need.
You and I might be tempted not to receive the gifts of others because of self-sufficiency. We can be tempted to think we can or should be able to do it all on our own or we may be tempted to not want to appear weak. Either way, we must preach truth to our hearts—when we are weak then we are strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-11). We don’t need to try to be the hero in our own story. God is the hero—we need only receive. And often God will use others as His hands and feet to provide exactly what we need. Receive from others and you might as well be receiving from the Lord.
3. Receiving is a reflection of the gospel
Paul compares the gifts he received as “fragrant offerings” and a sacrifice acceptable and “pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18). References such as a fragrant offering or pleasing aroma are drawn from the Old Testament (Genesis 8:21, Exodus 29:18, etc.). Their sacrifices were pleasing to God just as the generous gifts of the Philippian church were pleasing to the Lord. As we know, the ultimate sacrifice pleasing to the Lord was Jesus Christ. Jesus made a way that we will never have to sacrifice anything for our salvation.
Nevertheless, when we do give cheerfully and generously it is a reflection of that ultimate gift and it is pleasing to the Lord. And consequently, all we do in the gospel is receive the free gift given by God. What an amazing exchange! As we give and receive we are reflecting the gospel, which is all about the work of Jesus who gave His life for us so that we might receive eternal life.
Next time you are given the opportunity to receive a gift from others whether it’s a meal, a gift card, a ride, or an offer to pay for something huge, whatever it is, receive it. Receive it gladly. There are few exceptions to this rule—pray for wisdom, and then receive. Don’t allow pride to hinder you from the gift of receiving. God will supply all your needs and he may use your neighbor to do so.