Summary: A person may have many acquaintances and several casual connections, but good friends are hard to find. This sermon continues our look at the book of Philippians and highlights two of Paul’s faithful friends - Timothy and Epaphroditus.
At the age of twenty-one, I left Memphis and moved to the mountains of North Carolina. I spent the next year reading, studying, and praying that my new found faith would grow. Two things occurred to me at that time. First, I did not make a very good “mountain man.” Roughing it, to me, is a Holiday Inn without a pool. Second, I didn’t have many friends. Actually, it became clear that I did not know how to make friends.
Most of the friends I had were from school, church, or some activity I was involved in. But now, in a different culture, in the middle of nowhere, I found it harder to make friends. I spent a lot of time alone and it started to get to me. I decided to learn how to make friends and influence people. So I bought a book.
The book had a simple title, “Friendship.” Each chapter had assignments and I began to “practice” on the people around me. I decided to try “active listening” with my next door neighbor and, by golly, it worked. Then I started trying to think of my next door neighbor’s needs above my own. Their trash got taken out to the curb with mine. This really worked well. I tried to talk about subjects that my neighbor was interested in. Lo and behold, we became very good friends. In fact, we became best friends. Actually, fourteen years later we are still best friends! [Picture of Maxine and I]
Now I’m not saying if you buy a book on friendship you will automatically find your wife. Many of the high school students were looking for pens to write down the name of this magical book. My point this morning is that friendship is important and we could all use some homework assignments to help us grow in this area.
I get by with a little help from my friends
It has been said that an individual is fortunate if they have five good friends in their life time. George Barna, in his book, “What Americans Believe,” wrote, “Americans are among the loneliest people on earth.” Maybe it is because of our fast-paced society or it is due to our rugged American individualism but many of us struggle to find friends. We saw this phenomena clearly in the 1990s when the two most popular television shows were both about groups of friends trying to find their way together – “Seinfeld” and “Friends.” Friendships can be based on a common goal like catching bad guys [Scooby Do and Shaggy], or trying new careers [Paris and Nicole], or trying to win an election [Napoleon Dynamite and Pedro]. A friend can encourage, affirm, and even rebuke. You can trust a friend with your secrets and with your valuables. A person may have many acquaintances and several casual connections, but good friends are hard to find. We were created for community and function more fully when flanked by faithful friends.
No name tags needed
I love that many of the local high school’s jackets come with the student’s names on the back. If I can just ease around enough to see the lettering I am able to address a student I don’t know by name. There were several girls who figured this out and would switch jackets to see if I actually knew their names or if I was faking them out. Thank goodness I finally learned their names!
The Apostle Paul did not need lettering on the back of jackets or name tags. He knew people’s names and people knew him. Paul was a pal to many. In the sixteenth chapter of Romans, he lists thirty-five friends by name. In fact, in many his letters he mentions by name individuals that he has built relationships with through ministry. He highlights two of his friends in the book we have been studying for the past month, Philippians. Please turn with me to Philippians 2:12.
If you read the passage for this week ahead of time, you may have been a little confused. Chapter two begins with the beautiful “Christ Hymn” then moves on to encourage us to “shine like stars.” Paul then starts going into his travel plans. Why would he do that? In chapter one and two of Philippians Paul is making a point. Paul encourages the Christians at the church in Philippi to “…conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.” (Philippians 1:27) In chapter two, Paul gives four extreme examples of Christian conduct – Jesus Christ (2:5-11), Paul himself (2:17-18), Timothy (2:19-24), and Epaphroditus (2:25-30). His “travel plans” include these two friends. Let’s turn our attention to them this morning.
Timothy – A Short Bio
Would you please stand for the reading of this section of God’s Word: