A. One day a man went to the doctor because he was concerned about his lessening level of energy.
1. He told his doctor that he wasn't able to do all the things around the house that he used to do.
2. When the examination was complete, the man said to the doctor, “Now, Doc, I can take it. Tell me in plain English what is wrong with me.”
3. “Okay,” the doctor replied, “In plain English, you’re just lazy.”
4. “That’s a relief,” said the man, “Now give me the medical term so I can tell my wife.”
B. In the early years of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln became so frustrated with the inactivity of the Union general George McClellan that he wrote him this one sentence letter.
1. The letter said, “Dear General McClellan, If you don’t want to use the army, I should like to borrow it for a while. Respectfully, A. Lincoln.”
2. Isn’t that amazing, here was the general of an army, with vast resources of men and ammunition, and he was doing nothing with his resources.
C. How often do we see the same thing in the church?
1. Do we sometimes see people with the diagnosis the man received when he went to the doctor – you’re just lazy?
2. Do we sometimes see people who are highly gifted and equipped with resources, but are doing little or nothing with those resources for the cause of Christ?
3. Like Abraham Lincoln, I feel like sending them a note that says, “If you don’t want to use those abilities and resources, I should like to borrow them for a while.”
D. Why is it that more people don’t get involved in serving or giving in the church?
1. Well, I’m sure there are many reasons, and some of those reasons are legitimate and some reasons are better than others.
2. Sometimes, however, I notice that people don’t get involved because they think it is someone else’s responsibility.
3. They are like the two shipwrecked men in a leaky lifeboat.
a. From their end of the boat, the pair watched as those at the other end bailed frantically to keep the boat afloat.
b. Then one of the two said to the other, “I’m so thankful the hole is not in our end of the boat!”
4. Brothers and sisters, we are all in the same boat.
a. When and if there is a hole in our congregation it affects us all and it’s solution becomes the responsibility of us all.
E. As we continue our examination of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we come to a point in the letter where Paul appeared to suddenly change the subject as he passed on some travel plans of two of his co-workers, Timothy and Epaphroditus.
1. Perhaps, however, Paul was not being side-tracked at all, but was deliberately holding up these two men as living examples of what he has been teaching the Philippians in this letter.
2. We have seen that Paul had been challenging them to live a life worthy of the gospel, to face persecution with joy, and to be humble servants who put the needs of others ahead of their own.
3. Paul had already used both Jesus and himself as examples of these principles.
4. Perhaps Paul understood the inclination of people to discount their ability to follow such examples.
a. Perhaps he was aware of people saying something like: “It is impossible for us to follow the example of Paul and Jesus. After all, Jesus is the very Son of God, and Paul is a special apostle given great power and spiritual experiences. Who am I? I can’t be like them!”
5. Perhaps to counter that, Paul held up two very ordinary servants as examples.
a. Timothy and Epaphroditus were obviously not divine, nor were they apostles.
b. Timothy and Epaphroditus were ordinary people who served in extraordinary ways.
F. In the church, there has always been and there will always be a need for more people who are willing to serve and sacrifice to accomplish God’s mission.
1. My aim today is for all of us to be encouraged by the example of this priceless pair.
2. I hope that we will be inspired and challenged to follow their example of service to the Lord.
G. Before we look more closely at the service of Timothy and Epaphroditus, let’s reconstruct the situation that Paul was in at the time.
1. Paul was under house arrest in Rome awaiting an opportunity to bring his case before Caesar.
2. Depending on the outcome of Paul’s appeal, he hoped to return to Philippi.
3. In the meantime, Paul had wanted to send Timothy to Philippi with this letter so that Timothy could return to Paul with news of the well-being of the congregation at Philippi.
4. Paul wanted to wait to send Timothy until he knew the outcome of his appeal.
5. But Paul decided not to wait to send the letter with Timothy, but rather decided to send Epaphroditus immediately with this letter to the Philippians.
6. As Paul explained these plans, he commended the godly characteristics of these two men so that they might be an example for the Philippians.
7. Let’s examine the specific things that Paul said about this priceless pair.
I. Timothy, Paul’s Son in the Faith
A. Allow me to give you a brief synopsis of Paul’s relationship with Timothy.
1. Paul probably met Timothy when he came to Lystra during his first missionary journey (Acts 14:6ff), and Timothy likely became a Christian at that time.
2. Timothy’s mother and grandmother had been religious Jews, and they became Christians.
3. Timothy’s father was a Gentile, but for whatever reason was not involved in the biblical account at all.
4. Several years later, when Paul returned to Lystra on his second missionary journey, he enlisted young Timothy to join him as a co-worker on the missionary tour.
5. From then on, Paul and Timothy enjoyed a wonderful, spiritual friendship, which was like a father/son relationship.
B. Let’s look at how Paul described Timothy to the Philippians.
1. First, Paul described Timothy as a sympathetic man.
a. Paul wrote: “I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare.” (Phil. 2:20).
b. Timothy cared about the people of Philippi and was concerned about their needs.
c. Timothy was genuinely interested in others, he wasn’t just playing a role, or seeking some personal benefit, he truly cared about them.
d. Paul said that he had no one like him – which is high praise, indeed!
e. Wouldn’t we like that to be said of us and for it to be true?
f. How genuine is your interest in the welfare of others – the people in your community, the people in your family, and people in our church family?
g. True servants of God are sympathetic and caring toward others.
2. Second, Paul described Timothy as a selfless man.
a. Paul wrote: “For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” (2:21)
b. Most of us look out for our own interests, and we should do that to some degree (2:4), but unfortunately, many look no further than for their own interests.
c. However, Timothy’s primary interest was Jesus Christ, his second interest was others, and his last interest was himself.
d. That is the J.O.Y. acronym we have talked about – Jesus first, others second, yourself last.
e. It appears that Timothy embraced and embodied that principle and so should we.
3. Third, Paul described Timothy as a seasoned man.
a. Paul wrote: “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.” (Phil. 2:22)
b. It is a wonderful thing when someone has been tested and proved faithful in ministry, and Timothy had done that.
c. Timothy began just like all people begin in any area of service – he was a novice, then a rookie, but he stuck with the work and saw it through.
d. Now Timothy had become a seasoned veteran and was worthy of greater responsibility.
e. Where is each of us in our service to the Lord – are we still just rookies or have we become veterans?
f. The more seasoned we become the more useful we become to the Lord.
g. That’s why Paul told us to work out our salvation – to work toward maturity and completeness – we need to keep on growing and becoming more experienced.
h. And when it comes to spiritual things, we never retire from our Christian service – our roles may change as we age, but we must continue to do our part.
4. Timothy was a great example for them and for us, because he was sympathetic, selfless and seasoned.
II. Epaphroditus, Paul’s Brother and Fellow Soldier
A. Before we look at what Paul said about the example of Epaphroditus, we need to realize that we know almost nothing about Epaphroditus, except that he was a member of the Philippian church who had become a servant to Paul.
1. When the Philippians heard that Paul was in prison in Rome, their hearts were moved to action.
2. They decided to send a financial gift to Paul by the hand of Epaphroditus.
3. But in addition to being the bearer of the financial gift, the Philippians also intended for Epaphroditus to stay in Rome and serve Paul as his personal aid.
5. Clearly this says a number of things about Epaphroditus.
a. It says that he was a trustworthy person – someone who can be trusted to travel a long distance with someone else’s money.
b. It also says that Epaphroditus was a brave person – it took courage to travel anywhere back in that day and it took courage to be associated with someone in prison – what if Paul was condemned and he somehow got sucked into guilt by association?
6. So the trustworthy and courageous Epaphroditus traveled to Paul with the gift, but he became seriously ill and nearly died – we don’t know if that happened on the way or after he arrived.
a. The news of his illness had gotten back to the church at Philippi and they were concerned, not only for Epaphroditus’ life, but for other things as well.
7. There may have been some whispering among the Christians at Philippi:
a. “We wanted to help Paul, but our helper became a burden.”
b. “Maybe we should have sent someone else.”
c. “I wonder if he was really that sick or it was just an exaggeration.”
8. If anyone in Philippi were thinking any of those things, Paul certainly dispelled those notions with his remarkable statement of commendation for Epaphroditus.
B. Let’s notice how Paul described Epaphroditus.
1. First, Paul described Epaphroditus as a serving man.
a. Paul wrote: “But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs.” (Phil. 2:25)
b. Epaphroditus was an active servant – in relation to Paul, he was a brother, in relation to the ministry, he was a busy worker, and in relation to the spiritual war, he was a soldier in the trenches.
c. Additionally, Epaphroditus was a messenger and minister for the Philippians.
d. That is quite an assortment of job titles, which means he was quite a man.
e. If someone were to describe the ways you serve, what would the list be like?
f. Hopefully, the ways that you and I serve is a long list with significant roles.
g. Hopefully, we are great servants just like Epaphroditus.
2. Second, Paul described Epaphroditus as a sensitive man.
a. Paul wrote: “For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill.” (Phil 2:26)
b. Just like Timothy, Epaphroditus was concerned about others.
c. Epaphroditus had been the one who was sick and nearly died, and yet he was concerned about the fact that others were worried about him.
d. How many times have you been distressed because others were worried about you?
e. The word Paul used to describe Epaphroditus’ distress for the Philippians refers to great anxiety and the only other time the word is used in the NT is in reference to Jesus’ distress in the garden of Gethsemane before his arrest and crucifixion.
f. So Epaphroditus is a man who is sensitive to the feelings and needs of others.
g. Christianity is a religion of the heart and godly men and women are to have sensitive hearts that are burdened for others.
3. Third, Paul described Epaphroditus as a sacrificial man.
a. Paul wrote: “Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.” (Phil. 2:29-30)
b. As I already mentioned, for Epaphroditus to leave Philippi and go serve Paul in Rome included a lot of danger and called for a lot of sacrifice.
c. When Paul said that Epaphroditus “risked his life,” he used a gambling term (a term that only occurs here in the NT) which means to stake everything on the turn of a dice.
d. What Paul was trying to say was that Epaphroditus put his life on the line for the sake of Christ.
e. It wasn’t a gamble in the sense of going to the casino, but it displayed the kind of reckless courage that we should have in serving the Lord, it is an “all in” of our whole lives even if it requires the loss of our lives in death.
f. There are many ways to sacrifice ourselves in service to the Lord – it could include the sacrifice of our time and effort, the sacrifice of shouldering responsibility, and the sacrifice of our money and possessions, but whatever the sacrifice, it is always worth it.
g. Epaphroditus is to be commended and imitated for his sacrificial service.
A. There is a great need for the people of God to serve and sacrifice for the Lord.
1. I hope that all of us have been encouraged by the examples of Timothy and Epaphroditus.
2. Those two men were ordinary people just like us and yet they strove to be sympathetic and sensitive; selfless and serving; sacrificial and seasoned servants of God.
3. Because of their commitment, God was able to work through them to His glory and for the good of the church.
4. Let’s follow their example!
B. I want to share with you a devotional thought, written by an anonymous person, that I find challenging and clarifying: When a boy or girl gets up at 4 o’clock in the morning to deliver newspapers or go to swim practice, most people say they are a “go-getter.” But if the church should ask that same boy or girl to get up at 4 o’clock in the morning to do some work for the Lord, they would say, “That’s asking too much!”
If a man or woman spends 8 hours working a job or working in their garden, then they are called “energetic” and “responsible.” If, however, he or she is willing to do the same thing for the Lord, then people say, “They are taking religion too far.”
If someone ties themselves down to making payments of $500 a month for an item of personal enjoyment, like a car, boat, or camper, then people say they are making a good investment. But if that same person placed that much in the offering plate, then many people would call them crazy.
This a crazy world indeed, where first things come last and last things come first.
C. When King David was looking to purchase from Araunah a piece of land to give for the site of the temple of God that his son, Solomon would build, Aranuah offered to give it to David for free.
1. But King David replied to Araunah: “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.” (1 Chron. 21:24)
2. John Henry Jowett drew these words from King David’s commitment: “Ministry that costs nothing, accomplishes nothing.”
3. In accordance with that, Charles Swindol wrote: For too long God’s people have drifted along passively dreaming for things to change. It’s time to act. It’s time to make things change. And while we’re at it, I suggest we have the time of our lives. Let’s do it with gusto!
4. I wholeheartedly agree – Let’s have the time of our lives serving God with gusto – that’s what I have been trying to do in my life, and I highly recommend it!
5. People like Bill and Joyce Perkins and Kathryn Olbricht have been serving with gusto a lot longer than I have, and I believe that they would highly recommend it too!
D. Allow me to close by issuing a challenge for each and every one of us to be involved in using our gifts and abilities to serve the Lord and grow the church.
1. I want to challenge each of us to give a morning, an afternoon, or an evening in service each week – perhaps giving 2 or 3 or 4 hours in specific, concentrated service to the Lord.
2. I realize that some of us are already giving far more than that to the Lord – Praise God – I hope you will keep it up!
3. I realize that some of us have limitations that will make that harder or will limit what we can do, but all of us can do something in service to the Lord.
4. I also realize that some of us may have to change our schedules, or change our priorities to do that, and some may have to give up something in order to do that.
a. Often we fill our schedules with many good things, but they may not be the best things.
b. We may have to cut back on the time we spend at work, or watching TV, playing video games, searching the internet, or doing our hobbies – shopping, hunting, karate, golf, sewing, or whatever, in order to make time for serving the Lord.
5. You might be wondering, but what would I do for the Lord with 3 or 4 hours a week?
a. I’m not sure, but it thrills me to think about it!
b. The list of possibilities is endless– a person could work on our facilities, visit sick people, call shut ins, write letters, make clothes, bake pies, help the elderly, be a substitute dad or mom, pass out fliers, take prayer requests, have people in your home, teach classes, etc.
c. I believe that once we make the time available, God will fill it!
6. How exciting to think about hundreds of us empowered by God to work in His vineyard!
a. Will you accept the challenge? If you need help getting started, then let us know.
b. When we get serving like Timothy and Epaphroditus, then we grow, and the church grows, and God gets the glory!