Who Do You Wanna Be When You Grow Up?
Today's message and recap brings us to the end of the second chapter of Philippians. It's a lengthier portion of Scripture about two men: Timothy and Epaphroditus. To hear the message in its entirety, CLICK HERE. (If prompted, it's totally safe to download and install Music Player for Google Drive.)
19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know Timothy's proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.23 I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, 24 and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also. 25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me. Philippians 2:19-30
What did you want to be when you grew up? A better question might be: who did you want to be when you grew up? Some childhood idols - and even grown up ones! - aren't worth emulating, but today's Scripture features two men who lived exemplary lives and serve as role models for any believer.
Timothy and Epaphroditus exhibit all the good qualities that Paul has been talking about so far in his letter. These are good, Christlike men. And so in this way, what might appear to be a rather mundane portion of Scripture "lays claim on our lives" in the words of Tony Merida. There is a Spirit-inspired challenge here. As we go forward, let's keep in mind that others are only worth imitating if they are modeling Christ. Paul himself said in 1 Corinthians 11, "Follow me . . . as I follow the example of Christ."
So let's have a look at Timothy. Paul says there is “no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.” Timothy stands out in his selfless service to the saints and looks a lot like Jesus as he is trustworthy, dependable, and truly loving. He’s a good shepherd! Here’s a prayer for us right here as we read this passage: "God, help me to be genuinely concerned for the welfare of others.”
Paul also says he has “proven worth . . . he has served with me in the gospel.” I understand from this that Timothy would be the guy you’d reflexively think of when someone would ask, “Who can handle this, who can we depend on, who has the maturity and wisdom for this?” Answer: Timothy!
Over time, and through a close relationship in the trenches of ministry, Timothy had proven himself. It doesn't mean he was perfect. Paul’s letters to Timothy seem to imply that he struggled with his confidence, was maybe slow to launch and possibly struggled to grow in maturity. But he was good-hearted servant and over time became like a son to Paul and indispensable to the early church. So here’s another prayer for us: “Lord, help me to be someone’s Timothy – a person that can be counted on, a person that can be trusted, a person who partners in this Gospel work with my brothers and sisters.”
Now what about Epaphroditus? Paul uses five terms to describe him. First of all we see, “brother." Epaphroditus was a brother in Christ, a true Christian. When we are saved, we are adopted by the Father, and we not only have a new relationship with God, but with each other. Our identity is changed and we become family.
Next, Epaphroditus is called a “fellow worker.” Take note that Paul in his humility didn’t assume a position of superiority here. He calls Epaphroditus his equal. That’s good Jesus-humility happening there! Like Paul, let’s be humble in the Lord’s work. Like Epaphroditus, let’s give it all we’ve got and quit thinking that we've got to be somebody before we can do something (That sentence is worth reading again!).
Epaphroditus is also called a “fellow soldier.” This is one of Paul’s favorite images of the Christian life. So, don’t forget that you’re in a battle, and that you struggle side by side (Phil 1:27) Somebody needs you to fight alongside them (there's another repeatable sentence). Be an Epaphroditus for them. Pray this way: “Lord, show me who and where and how.”
Finally we have two descriptors in one breath. Paul says Epaphroditus was “your messenger and minister to my need.” He was an envoy from the Philippians to Paul - he was their vital connection. Even in the face of serious health issues, he stuck it out. He was faithful to finish the work he’d been given, which, among other things, was to bring news from Philippi and financial help for Paul. Devotion like this makes us not want to shirk our duties because of silly little excuses. And because Epaphroditus filled the dual role of messenger and minister, he refreshed Paul's Spirit and in this way was a partner in the Gospel.
Timothy and Epaphroditus were men like any other man. They were born in sin, and dead in trespasses, but they had been rescued by Jesus. They weren’t born exemplary and full of the Spirit. It was the grace of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, applied by God’s Spirit that made these men what they were. For this reason, we can seek after and pray for the character traits they showed. This glorifies Jesus, because the end result is that we look more like him.
(For the full audio of this message, and a really neat way to think about how we give our lives away in the service of Christ, CLICK HERE.)