Summary: Message looks at quality friends and how Paul coveted his ministry with Timothy and Ephraditus
How to work together in ministry
We have been studying the book of Philippians the last two months. The theme of Philippians is a joy filled life. The word joy is mentioned 17 times in this book. In Philippians Paul gives examples of what it means to be a humble joy filled servant. First he gives us the example of Jesus ‘who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.’ Then he places before them his own life. He is writing from prison and chained to a Roman guard. Yet he still writes ‘rejoice in the Lord always.’ He next example is his Christian co-workers Timothy and Ephraditus, his dear friends in the ministry.
This week on one website for pastors they asked this question ‘Do you have more joy than you did ten years ago?’ 82% of pastors who responded said they did. This is in spite of the fact that a recent survey about pastors concluded:
“Being a spiritual leader of other people creates unusual relational dynamics and expectations. One of those areas is often a lost sense of connection with others. A majority of pastors (61%) admit that they "have few close friends." Also, one-sixth of today’s pastors feel under-appreciated. Pastors also deal with family problems: one in every five contends that they are currently "dealing with a very difficult family situation."
This is 100% accurate. Just three weeks ago one pastor after publicly sharing told me he felt like a failure. He has trouble praying and feels like resigning. I have found that to be the case with just about every pastor I ever served under. The last one lay on the floor and wept in his office. He often thought I had more joy being a pilot.
What is the secret? The secret, whether a pastor or not, is that the joy of the Lord be your strength.
Paul knew that he was passing on. People like Timothy saw that. Their focus was not to sit-back and watch the super-saints serve everyone else. They stepped up to the plate. They were - arm-in-arm with Paul - doing the work of enhancing people’s lives for God’s glory." They were quality friends.
As you have read this passage this week I wonder if you thought about ‘what is the quality of a good friend.’ It is a serious question. One survey I read said that 90% of men say they do not have even one close friend. So quality friendships are important.
Why did the Apostle Paul single out these two friends? What qualities did they have?
Paul was a church planter. There were few people he spent long periods of time with. In fact as far as I can tell Paul only discipled one person in his life and that was Timothy.
Before I look at the lives of Paul’s companions I want to make a fundamental assertion about ministry.
1. Your first loyalty is to Jesus and the leading of the Holy Spirit, not to me
When were praying together, loving Jesus first and seeking the direction of the Holy Spirit there will be no disputes about the direction of the ministry.
When we pray first, and then work together Christ will give us one heart and mind to follow Him together. That is why the most important ministry of the church is prayer. From prayer God reveals who the leaders should be. Without prayer and godly leaders no church will make it. Without prayer together we will be divided.
God is able to provide for us if we trust him and pray. I listed about twenty prayer requests for this church. One is for Teen Challenge to come and do a Hip Hop Concert in the community. Within one day Teen Challenge called. They said we want to do an outreach concert in your area.
I thought great, when God opens the door he will provide the resources, Fresh I.E. is coming. They usually charge in excess of $5,000 but said ‘count it as a gift.’ That is how the Spirit directs through prayer.
So our first loyalty is to Jesus, prayer and the direction of the Holy Spirit.
My first loyalty is not to you, it is to Jesus. Do not become so possessive of your companions or demand that their first loyalty be to you above all else. That is blasphemy. I desire you to be loyal to me; that is in the Bible. But I am not your first loyalty. Jesus is.
Before we look more in depth at this passage let me give you a scriptural example of what I am talking about.
Let’s take the example of Apollos. Apollos was a preacher Paul had met. Paul had wanted him to go to Corinth, but Apollos said no. He said it is not the right time (1st Co. 16:12). Apollos first loyalty was to Christ and the direction of the Holy Spirit in his life, not to Paul.