A man was talking to his friends about their last child leaving home and coping with the empty-nest syndrome. He said, “The worst part about it is, that since the children left, my wife started treating me like a child.
He complained, “When we go to the grocery store and I reach for cereal, she slaps my hand and says, ‘We don't need that this week.’ Then I reach for the ice cream, and she slaps my hand, saying, ‘We don't need that this week.’ I reach for the potato chips, and again she slaps my hand and says, ‘We don't need that this week.’ I finally get so frustrated I hop out of the basket and go to the car!” (Van Morris, Mt. Washington, Kentucky)
What did he expect? When a man behaves like a child, he gets treated like a child. So how does one get treated like an adult? How do we get the respect we’re looking for? How do we gain true honor not only in our families, but also in the community? Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Philippians 2, Philippians 2, where God describes two honorable men.
Philippians 2:19-21 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. (ESV)
Timothy was a selfless man. When Paul asked for volunteers to travel to Philippi, Timothy was the only one willing to go. Everyone else was too busy with their own interests (vs.21). Timothy, alone, was willing to set his own interests aside to serve Christ.
Why? Because he genuinely cared for people. Verse 20 says, He “was genuinely concerned. It’s the same word used in Philippians 4:6, where it says, “Do not be ANXIOUS about anything.” Timothy was ANXIOUS about the Philippian Believers. His concerns about them distracted him from his own work. When he tried to take care of his own affairs, his mind was drawn in a different direction to Philippi. In fact, the word literally means, to be drawn in different directions (VINE).
Timothy was a selfless man, who couldn’t stop thinking about the needs of others. He put others’ interests above his own. And if we want to gain true honor, if we want to earn real respect, then we too must
We must be unselfish in our daily pursuits. We must put the interests of others above our own, even to the point of self-distraction.
A couple of years ago (2014), Ravi Zacharias contrasted two events in the news. First, he talked about a fire that broke out during an Air Canada flight from Dallas to Toronto a few years previously. The pilot began a dramatic and sudden descent, knowing he had but a few moments to land if any were to survive. As soon as they opened the door for rescue, the whole aircraft, sucking in the oxygen, turned into an inferno. There were some fatalities and some suffered burns, but because of the captain’s skill and the crew's commitment, many were rescued. The captain was the last one to leave the burning airplane. He was pulled through the window with his uniform one fire, but he deserved the tearful and heart-filled commendation he received as someone who put others before himself.
Contrast that with what happened in April of that year (2014). Then, a ferry in Seoul, South Korea, capsized, killing hundreds. Most of the passengers were high school students who ultimately drowned while waiting for instructions to abandon ship. The captain himself had fled the sinking ship and made sure he was safe on dry ground, prompting a chorus of condemnation from the loved ones of those lost. The teacher who had organized the trip took his own life, feeling that he had no right to be alive while most of his students perished. Even the prime minister of South Korea offered to resign because of the tragedy. No celebration here, no commendation of a brave man; just a series of wrong decisions that resulted in the ultimate wrong decision of a man who put himself first. (Ravi Zacharias, "Fatherhood's Call to Duty," Christianity Today, 6-13-14; www.PreachingToday.com)
The captain who acted selfishly only brought shame upon himself and others. The captain who acted selflessly was rightly commended for his actions.
It’s really the only way any of us gain respect and honor wherever we are – in the home, on the job, or at school. It comes when we put the needs of others before ourselves. Do you want to find true honor? Then be selfless. More than that…
BE A SERVANT.
Serve others and help wherever you can. That’s what Timothy did.
Philippians 2:22-24 But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also. (ESV)
Timothy served “as a son with a father.” He served gladly, not grudgingly – like a son who delights to be with his dad, and he served humbly, not haughtily – like a son admiring his father.
And that’s exactly what we must do. We must serve people with a glad humility. We must help others, not with an attitude that says, “I’m better than you – more capable than you.” NO! We must serve people with an attitude that says, “It’s a privilege to serve you. You are important to me, and I’m glad to do all I can to help.”
I like the way Timothy Keller put it in the Journal of Biblical Counseling. He says, “Jesus called us to be the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13). Now, the job of salt is to make food taste good. I love a lot of butter and salt on my corn-on-the-cob. But when I bite into that corn, with the juice dribbling down my chin, I don’t say, “That’s great salt.” No, I say, “That’s great corn on the cob.” Why? Because the job of the salt is NOT to make you think how great the salt is, but how great the food is.
So it is when you and I are salt in our circles of influence. For example, if you are salt in your small group Bible study, people don’t go away thinking, “That person really knows the Bible and has all the answers. Showed me up!” No. When you are truly salt, people go away thinking, “That’s a great group. I really learned a lot today.”
When we are salt in our families, our family members feel blessed to be a part of the family, not condemned by us as “holier than thou.” And when we are salt in our community, people become impressed by the friendly atmosphere of the town, not by us as individuals. We make this a better place to live, because that’s what salt does. Salt makes people feel better about life. (Timothy Keller, The Journal of Biblical Counseling, Volume 19, Winter 2001)
And that’s what Christ calls us to. Christ calls us to make people feel better, not worse. Christ calls us to lift people up, not put them down.
Imagine the kind of impact we could have for Christ if we served people with that kind of attitude, if we served people like salt, if we served people with a glad humility – like a son serving with his father. If you want to gain real respect from people, if you want to earn true honor, then be a selfless servant, like Timothy.
Now, just in case the example of Timothy is not enough for us, we also have the example of another man, Epaphroditus, who’s name literally means, “Charming.” Epaphroditus was winsome. He had an attractive character, which earned him a lot of respect, as well. How so? Well, let’s take a look.
Philippians 2:25 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… (ESV)
Epaphroditus, like Timothy, was a real servant. He was like a brother to Paul, his fellow-worker and fellow soldier, working and fighting with Paul to share the good news of Jesus Christ.
More than that, he was special to the Philippian Believers, as well. He was their messenger – lit., their apostle, their representative, sent with a special message of cheer for Paul. And he was their minister – their servant, their priest (if you will), sent to do sacred service by ministering to Paul’s needs.
The word, translated “minister,” in vs.25, is the word, leitourgon, from which we get our word “liturgy.” Ephaproditus’ service to Paul in prison was actually a liturgy. It was an act of worship! In other words, Epaphroditus served the Lord by serving others. And really, that’s what God wants us to do. He wants us to serve Him by serving others. He wants us to…
BE A SERVANT like Epaphroditus, considering our service to others as an act of worship to Him.
1 John 4 says, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20, ESV).
We demonstrate our love for God by the way we love each other.
(illus.) In his book, When a Nation Forgets God, Erwin Lutzer records the words of a man, who lived in Hitler’s Germany. The man wrote:
I lived in Germany during the Nazi Holocaust. I considered myself a Christian. We heard stories of what was happening to the Jews, but we tried to distance ourselves from it, because what could anyone do to stop it?
A railroad track ran behind our small church, and each Sunday morning we could hear the whistle in the distance and then the wheels coming over the tracks. We became disturbed when we heard the cries coming from the train as it passed by. We realized that it was carrying Jews like cattle in the cars!
Week after week the whistle would blow. We dreaded to hear the sound of those wheels because we knew that we would hear the cries of the Jews en route to a death camp. Their screams tormented us.
We knew the time the train was coming, and when we heard the whistle blow we began singing hymns. By the time the train came past our church, we were singing at the top of our voices. If we heard the screams, we sang more loudly and soon we heard them no more.
Years have passed, and no one talks about it anymore. But I still hear that train whistle in my sleep. God forgive me; forgive all of us who called ourselves Christians yet did nothing to intervene. (Erwin W. Lutzer, When a Nation Forgets God, Moody Press, 2010, p. 22; www.PreachingToday.com)
You see, true worship is NOT singing hymns on a Sunday morning, no matter how loud we sing them. No! True worship is loving and serving our brothers and sisters every day of the week. For when we serve people, we serve the Lord.
Do you want to gain true respect? Then be a servant like Epaphroditus. More than that …
BE SELFLESS, as well.
Be more concerned about how others feel than how you feel yourself. Paul tells the Philippian believers, “I’m sending Epaphroditus back to you…”
Philippians 2:26 …for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. (ESV)
Notice, he was not distressed because HE was ill. He was distressed because THEY HEARD he was ill. He was more concerned about THEM feeling bad about his illness than he was about his own feelings.
Epaphroditus was a selfless person, and that’s what we must be, if we want to gain the true respect of those around us, if we want to be attractive and winsome like him.
On December 2, 2012, a Spanish long-distance runner named Ivan Fernandez Anaya was competing in a cross-country race in the Spanish countryside. Anaya was running in second-place, well behind the race leader, the Kenyan runner and Olympic medalist Abel Mutai. As they entered the final stretch, Mutai, the certain winner of the race, suddenly stopped running. Apparently, he thought he had already crossed the finish line. Take a look at what happens next. (Show Video: Iván Fernández Anaya, act of sportsmanship)
Instead of exploiting Mutai’s mistake, Fernández Anaya stayed behind the Kenyan runner and, using gestures, guided the Kenyan to the finish line and let him cross first.
When asked what motivated this kind deed, Anaya said, “He was the rightful winner. He created a gap that I couldn't have closed if he hadn't made a mistake. As soon as I saw he was stopping, I knew I wasn't going to pass him.”
Anaya's coach, the famous Spanish runner Martin Fiz, was disappointed with Anaya's display of sportsmanship. Fiz said, “He has wasted an occasion. Winning always makes you more of an athlete. You have to go out to win.”
But Anaya stood by his decision. He told reporters, “Even if they had told me that winning would have earned me a place in the Spanish team for the European championships, I wouldn't have done it either… because today, with the way things are in all circles, in soccer, in society, in politics, where it seems anything goes, a gesture of honesty goes down well.” (Carlos Arribas, “Honesty of the long-distance runner,” El Pais, 12-19-12; www. PreachingToday.com)
Let me tell you: Anaya’s selfless act gains my respect much more than just winning the race. It’s like Jesus said, “The last will be first, and the first last” (Matthew 20:16).
Do you want to gain real respect? Then be a servant like Epaphroditus. Be selfless. And…
Forfeit your own comfort for the sake of God and others. Give up some of your own rights, so others can benefit. That’s what Epaphroditus did.
Philippians 2:27-29 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. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men… (ESV)
Philippians 2:30 …for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me. (ESV)
Epaphroditus was willing to sacrifice his life to serve Paul, and that’s the kind of sacrifice it’s going to take for you and me if we want to be truly winsome and attractive to others. In other words, if you want to gain real respect from those around you, then…
GIVE YOURSELF IN SELFLES, SACRIFICIAL SERVICE.
When Augustine first became a Christian, his only ambition in life was to live a quiet life, focusing on prayer and the contemplation of God’s Word. However, leaders in the church noticed the depth of his spiritual life and asked him to serve as a bishop. So much for the quiet life. From that point on, Augustine focused on overseeing a number of churches in North Africa.
Then, in 427, the Arian Vandals advanced into North Africa. Genserik, the Vandal King, went specifically after the Christians, so refugees poured into Hippo, the city where Augustine lived. Soon, Genserik laid siege to Augustine's city.
Well, the refugees not only brought more responsibility for Augustine, they also brought disease. In the fifth century, so many people packed into so tight a space inevitably created a sick environment. At that point, Augustine had three choices: He could flee, he could stay isolated in his palace and ignore the needs of his people but perhaps preserve his own health, or he could get his hands dirty and risk becoming sick himself.
Augustine didn't know how to serve from a distance, so he kept up his active schedule. He got close to the people and paid dearly for his service. During the third month of the siege, in August of 430, Augustine developed a high fever from which he never recovered. Today, Augustine is considered one of the greatest Christian theologians of all time, but this powerful man of God, whose books Christians still read, gave his last hours ministering to the most basic needs of a frightened flock. (Gary Thomas, Authentic Faith, Zondervan, 2001, pp. 25-26; www.PreachingToday.com)
Augustine reminds me of Jesus, who, instead of staying secluded in a Heavenly palace, got close to you and me. Jesus, who is God Himself, became one of us. Then He took on our sin and died in our place.
However, unlike Augustine, Jesus’ death brought life to the people He served. Augustine died and so did many people with Him. Jesus died and many find eternal life to this day when they put their trust in Him.
“Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:9).
Real respect comes not in the palace, but in the place of selfless, sacrificial service. Where is that place for you today?