Summary: Philippians gives us four examples of faithfulness to follow. Jesus, Timothy, Epaphroditus, and Paul. We all need leaders, fellow followers and others we lead to Christ.
How many of you know what a bear trap is? I looked on youtube and found several videos of bear traps. One actually showed a guy intentionally punch his fist into a set, toothed bear trap and it did what a bear trap will do when the trigger is hit, it clamped shut on his arm. There were some friends standing around cheering him on until he did it. Nice friends.
Here's another video of the same kind of trap snapping shut on a 2x4. (Show video).
The reason I chose to show you this is to illustrate a very important message that we must learn and practice and not forget.
Imagine that wherever you go, there are traps hidden all around. But, there is a path you can walk that is safe. It is narrow and sometimes hard or even boring. The safe path has many obstacles on it and there are lots of people who seem to be doing just fine who are off the path going their own way. They call to you to leave the path and join them. What will you do?
One time I went to this Christian conference and the speaker illustrated this for us using a bunch of bear traps and a father and son.
The Son was on one side of the stage and the Father was on the other. The traps were all set and live and the son had on a blindfold and was supposed to walk across the stage through the bear trap field to his father. As the son started to take a step the dad yelled out: STOP! The boy stopped and the Dad came to him through the bear traps and led his son safely to the other side of the stage.
The speaker asked, "Who is leading your children through their daily lives?" Then he went on to tell of the dangers our kids face every day, and the places where they are most likely to fall and how many are falling prey to the traps that are all around them because those they are following are untrustworthy leaders. Most of the time, they follow one or more of their own peers into spiritual death.
Today I want to talk with you about the power of examples, role models or mentors in our lives.
When Paul wrote to the Philippian church he names four leaders whose examples they should consider, look to and follow. The first and foremost is Christ Jesus himself. We will look at this on December 25, Lord willing. The second example Paul gives is Timothy. His life and example are noteworthy in the New Testament and his is the example we will get a glimpse at in today's lesson.
Paul met Timothy in Lystra he was while on a mission trip. Timothy was a young man with a strong faith in Christ and a good reputation with the churches in Lystra and Derbe. Acts 16:1 is where we first hear of Timothy. He spent the rest of his life serving Christ with Paul as his mentor, teacher, father figure. He was with Paul when the church was established in Philippi. We even have two letters to Timothy that were written by Paul giving us quite a bit of information to help us get to know him and his relationships - with the Lord, the churches and the apostle Paul. His name occurs 28 times in the New Testament and is found in 12 different books: Acts, Romans, 1&2 Cor., Philippians, Colossians, 1&2 Thess., 1&2 Timothy, Philemon and the book of Hebrews. That means Timothy's name is mentioned in more books than any other Christian except Paul, but Timothy didn't write any of the New Testament. Therefore, his name occurs far more often than any other non-writer of the New Testament except God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. And actually, you would have to credit them with writing the New Testament.
So what is said about this young Christian?
Listen to this bit from 1 Corinthians and note what it says about both Paul and Timothy.
1 Cor. 4: 15 Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.
Also, from Philippians 2 again:
19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. 20 I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. 21 For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. 23 I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. 24 And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.