A Good Man is Hard to Find
There is a story of a young man in college deciding, along with a friend of his, to start a Bible study in the secular university he was attending. He wrote:
We were both a little nervous and didn’t want to be outnumbered, so we invited only three unbelievers, expecting that not more than one or two, if any, would show up. It was rather distressing when all three put in an appearance. I had never done anything like this before. Within a few weeks, sixteen students squeezed into my little dorm room, and still only two of us were believers. Doubtless some Christian observers thought it was going exceedingly well; as for me, I was exceedingly frightened. The Bible study spawned all kinds of private discussions, and I soon discovered that I was out of my depth.
Mercifully, there was a fellow on campus called Dave, a rather curt graduate student who was known to be wonderfully effective in talking to students about his faith and about elementary biblical Christianity. I was not the only one who on occasion brought friends and contacts for a little chat with Dave.
On the particular occasion I have in mind, I brought two of the undergraduates from the Bible study down the mountain to Dave’s rooms. He was pressed for time and, as usual, a bit abrupt, but he offered us coffee and promptly turned to the first student.
“Why have you come to see me?” he asked
The student replied along these lines: “Well, you know, I’ve been going to this Bible study and I realize I should probably learn a bit more about Christianity. I’d also like to learn something of Buddhism, Islam, and other world religions. I’m sure I should broaden my perspectives, and this period while I am a university student seems like a good time to explore religion a little. If you can help me with some of it, I’d be grateful.”
Dave stared at him for a few seconds and then said, “I’m sorry, I don’t have time for you.”
My jaw dropped. The student thus addressed was equally amazed and blurted out, “I beg your pardon?”
Dave replied, “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude, but I only have so much time. I’m a graduate student with a heavy program myself. If all you have is a dabbler’s interest in Christianity, I’m sure there are people around who could spend a lot of time and energy showing you the ropes. I can introduce you to some of them and give you some books. When you’re really interested in Christ, come and see me again. But under the present circumstances, I don’t have time.”
He turned to the second student. “Why did you come?”
After listening to the rebuff administered to the first student, the second may have been a bit overawed. But gamely he plowed on. “I come from what you people would call a liberal home. We don’t believe the way you do. But it’s a good home, a happy home. My parents loved their children; disciplined us; set a good example; and encouraged us to be courteous, honorable, and hardworking. And for the life of me I can’t see that you people who think of yourselves as Christians are any better. Apart from a whole lot of abstract theology, what have you got that I haven’t?”
This time I held my breath to see what Dave would say. Once again he stared at his interlocutor for a few seconds, and then he simply said, “Watch me.”
I suppose my mouth dropped open again. The student, whose name was Rick, said something like, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”
Dave answered, “Watch me. Come and live with me for a month, if you like. Be my guest. Watch what I do when I get up, what I do when I’m on my own, how I work, how I use my time, how I talk with people, and what my values are. Come with me wherever I go. And at the end of the month, you tell me if there is any difference.”
Rick did not take Dave up on his invitation, at least not in exactly those terms. But he did get to know Dave better; and in due course Rick became a Christian, married a Christian woman, and the two of them—becoming medical doctors—practiced medicine and lived out their faith both in Canada and overseas.
“Watch me.” At the time I worried about the sheer arrogance that such an invitation seemed to capture. At the same time, my mind recalled the words of the apostle Paul: “Be imitators of me, as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Sober observation and reflection assure us that much Christian character is as much caught by us as taught to us—that is, it is picked up by constant association with mature Christians.
The title of our message this evening is . . . . and throughout Scripture we find the very real admonition for us to walk the walk instead of merely talking the talk, don’t we? When the unbelieving world looks at us it must be able to see the image of Christ shining out from within us. If it can’t then our words of evangelism often do more harm to the cause of Christ than they ever do of good. And this is no more obvious a need than in areas of Christian leadership. So in our passage this evening, Paul gives the Philippians two human examples of Christian leadership that he says they can model their lives after. Timothy and a man named Epaphroditus were sent to Philippi with the Apostle Paul’s own stamp of approval on them.
Listen What are people saying about you? When your name comes up in conversation, are people contemptuous of you? Are they dismissive? Is there respect? Might they disagree with you, but grudgingly admit that you are the real deal? Or do they laugh and make fun of you behind your back, saying that instead of being a man of God, you are a big joke for God? A Good Man is Hard to Find. Let’s look at our passage. I. Timothy (Phil. 2:19-24)
(1 Paul was in prison, wanting to send someone to be with the Philippians; wanting to send someone to them who would, not only mimic Paul's submissive and pastoral heart, but would be the real deal himself. And that is so vitally important to all Christians, isn't it? You see, here's the deal: it is very difficult for us to follow the lead of someone we cannot see. And no one alive now has ever physically seen the Lord Jesus Christ, have they? Some say they have, but that is iffy, to say the least. We have the Holy Spirit directing us through the Scriptures, but sometimes, especially for new believers, it is critical for our spiritual growth that we have godly and mature believers to model our lives after. And sometimes that has nothing to do with chronological age either. Although, the longer a person has been a Christian, usually the more mature they are, oftentimes, you find younger believers more mature than older ones. Such was the case with one of the men Paul chose to send to the Philippians. Look again at verses 19-24.
(2 Who was Timothy? He was Paul's protégées, wasn't he? He was born of a mixed marriage; his mother was a Jewess, and eventually converted to Christianity; his father was Greek. He was one of Paul's converts from his first missionary journey. And he and Paul had a special relationship throughout Paul's life. From the time Timothy was saved, he was an integral part of Paul's life. What was it, though, that Paul saw in Timothy? Was there something in Timothy that was special? Was there something in Timothy that elevated him over other men in Paul's eyes? Paul tells us that, yes, indeed, there was something special about this man, right?
(3 Why was Paul sending Timothy to the Philippians? Usually whenever Paul sent a co-worker to a particular church there was something wrong. The church at Corinth and the ones in Galatia come to mind. Paul couldn’t come right then and there was a matter that needed fixing. This time, though, the opposite seems to be the case. It seems that Paul wanted to be encouraged, the word comforted means cheered, by a church that pretty much had its act together. He was in prison, wanting to come to them himself, but couldn’t, so he sent his right hand man, a man that was the real deal. Paul sent a man who reflected his own ideals; who had the same kind of heart the great Apostle had: a genuine pastor’s heart.
(4 But look at verse 20 again. Timothy knew Paul’s mind, thought the same way as he did, loving people with same heart that Paul had. We want that in a pastor, don’t we? God’s people need that in a pastor. The man who doesn’t have that kind of heart ought not to be a pastor. Amen He can preach if God has given him the call, but a pastor, the shepherd of a flock, needs much more than the God-given talent of preaching. Turn with me to 1 Tim. 3:1-7 and let’s look at it briefly. We won’t linger there, but I want us to see something that most of us, I am afraid, miss. What we are going to take a short look at are the qualifications for being a pastor. And if you haven’t read them, or heard of them, they might surprise you. Look at your Bibles, 1 Tim. 3:1-7.
(5 Notice very carefully that all of these qualifications except for one are character-driven, not talent-driven. A pastor must be apt to teach. He should have the gift of rightly dividing God’s Word and be able to deliver that truth to his people in a winsome way, in a way that doesn’t bore them to tears. The rest of the qualities are either directly about his character, or they are the result of his good character, such as being the husband of one wife, not many. This doesn’t mean that we have to call dolts to pastor our churches, but it definitely means that all the talent in the world is not enough reason for a church to hire a man who is less than what God requires of him.
(6 And Paul had that kind of pastor’s heart, didn’t he? And so did Timothy. That is why he sent him to the Philippians, and not someone else. Timothy walked the walk. He was the real deal. Go back to Philippians and look at 2:22 with me again.
(7 There are many ways in which people learn. The classroom setting is a tried and true method, isn’t it? We can learn everything from science to theology in a classroom with a teacher and students. But we really don’t learn how to live by studying books, do we? We learn how to live godly lives by having godly expamples in our lives. And I certainly don’t want to minimize what the Holy Spirit does on a person’s heart from a diligent study of God’s Word; without that influence, there will never even be the desire to live a life that is pleasing to the Lord. But we can know Scripture backwards and forwards and still live hateful lives, right?
(8 Learning by example is one of the primary ways we learn about right and wrong. Our first examples being our parents. If our parents model a loving, firm example to us, reflecting the image of Christ, odds are we will grow up to be just as they are. If our parents, on the other hand, model harshness and an immoral lifestyle to us then chances are that is how our life will turn out as well. And even if we come to Christ later on in life, we will, more than likely, carry with us emotional baggage from the kind of home we sprang from. That is why any type of preaching that doesn’t balance the bottomless riches of God’s grace with a call for holy living is not preaching the whole counsel of God. How you live matters more than I can tell you! Not for your salvation, but for all your relationships: your relationship with the Lord, your family, your friends, the church, in the workplace, everywhere!
(9 In the illustration we began this message with, Dave told that student from the Bible study, “Watch me!” You and I must be able to do the same! Amen! But let’s take this a step further: are we the same when no one is even watching? Because if we are one thing when the world is watching us and another when we are home with our families, or locked in the solitude and darkness of our privacy, eventually that will surface in our relationships.
(10 And listen everything that comes into our lives influences us, either for good or for bad; and will be modeled by us. Nothing that we do occurs in a vacuum. And so it is critical what we allow in our lives. Let’s look at an example that most of you are probably wishing I would shut up about: television! Here is an influence that is so pervasive, so all-encompassing, in all our lives, that it constantly amazes me when I hear people prattle that it has no impact on their lives. If television had no impact, why do so many people spend billions of dollars annually advertising products? Because the numbers tell them that the more they advertise on TV, the more people will buy their product, right? Why then do we assume that the kind of programming we watch will have no impact on us?
(11 If you watch thousands of violent deaths before the age of eighteen, it is bound to affect your personality. If you watch sexual promiscuity day in and day out, then—even if at one level you conclude that promiscuity is immoral—in fact your tolerance level has been subtly altered; you are no longer shocked. The more you watch it, the less shocked you are. For many people, television provides a sort of moral “bottom line”: they have no other dominating reference point. They have no overarching moral imperative balancing what they see on the tube! Multiply such influence by the millions of people who watch, and the effect in society is inevitable: massive moral decline. That is why it is not just a free speech issue when we talk about what Brittany Spears, Madonna, Eddie Murphy, Snoop-dog (or whatever that moral reprobate’s name is), and anybody else does in public; these are issues that affect the behavior of an entire culture. You see, it affects me what others allow into the mainstream. That is why some wise parents, if they have a TV at all, limit how much they and their children watch. They and their children watch! They don’t put the kiddies to bed and then go off and watch just any old thing in the dark. And when they permit their children to watch, they insist that one parent or the other be present, not least so that the content can be talked about and evaluated afterward. It is not just children that are influenced by what is allowed in their lives, it is all of us. Never imagine that viewing programming where Christianity, and Christians values are mocked and made fun of, and immorality is glorified–never imagine that you are not affected! You are! Everyone of us are!
(12 So, Paul sent Timothy, his son in the faith, who labored with Paul in the Gospel, to this good church at Philippi to encourage them, to minister to them, to be an influence on them for the Gospel. The analogy of Timothy working in the Gospel as son would work with his father is one that sort of falls on deaf ears in our world today. In the ancient world, before the industrial revolution, most sons ended up doing vocationally what their fathers did. If your father was a farmer, the chances were very high that you would become a farmer; if your father was a baker, most likely you would become a baker. And your primary apprenticeship was to your father; it was your Dad who taught you the tricks of the trade, who gradually taught you all he knew, and, step by step, increased your load of knowledgeable responsibility. The image is less forceful for us today, not only because most of our children will not follow the vocational path we have followed but because most of our children do not really see us at work. In the ancient world, children observed their parents working and learned the trade by working alongside them. In the ancient, for the most part, the father worked at home, with his sons beside him; in our world, we leave home, and our sons, behind as we go to work. And so listen, when we do get back home, Dads, it is so vital that we model the right kind of life to all our children, but most especially to our sons. If we don’t model manhood to our boy children, somebody else will! And listen again, that influence will, most likely, be coming through the images they see on the television screen.
II. Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25-30)
(1 A Good Man is Hard to Find! Timothy was one such man, though, wasn’t he? There is yet another good man that Paul mentions in this so very important passage on how our behavior is affected by others. And by how that, in turn, affects who are, what we value, and also affects how we model the Christian life to all those we come in contact with . Look at your Bibles, verses 25-30.
(2 Think for a moment on the selflessness of this man, Epaphorditus. And also, think once more on Paul’s being a leader characterized by deep empathy and compassion. From the text it appears that Epaphroditus had been very ill; indeed, he had almost died. And yet his concern was not for himself, but for the believers in this church, this church who had apparently sent him to Paul to begin with. Epaphroditus was distressed because he feared his fellow believers would be distressed on his account. And Paul? He uses Epaphrotitius, along with Timothy, as men who are worthy of being emulated, or copied. He says that Ep. risked his life to finish the mission that the rest of the Philippians could not finish. This risked his very life in the cause of Christ, and was worried that folks back home were worried about him. Paul says to honor such men!
(3 Why? Because: A Good Man is Hard to Find! What do these two men mean to us? What should all of us do when we find such men among us? Number one, we are to be likeminded. Paul wrote of Timothy in verse 20 that he had no man quite like him that would honestly care about them, and for them. And I don’t mean to ignore the ladies present here, a good woman is a rare find as well. But look around you! How men do find who are here, not because they have to be, but because they want to be.
(4 There are many reasons why the church in America is failing, aren’t there? The majority of churches in our country care more about membership rolls than they do about doctrine. Doctrine? I am way so over that! The majority of Christians in America are more concerned about their financial portfolios than they are about being involved in an active and robust ministry to others, by evangelism and service. We are not Gospel soaked men and women, are we? Christ is truly not at the very center of our lives, is He? We say that He is, but our lives give the truth. There are many more reasons why I believe the church is in deep trouble, but another one that is central to our message is the near absence of good men. Where are they? I don’t know. Playing golf, maybe, watching football; many are too tired by their activities on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons to bother much with church. The problem extends beyond the church too, though, doesn’t it?
(5 It used to be that a sober, honest, firm, and loving father was a man looked up to by our culture. A TV show like Father Know Best is not even on the radar of the moral and mental pygmies running our entertainment industry. Now, this model of a good man is ridiculed, made fun of, on stupid TV sitcoms; he is the object of study as an oppressor in silly radical feminist programs on taxpayer funded public universities. The result? He is a vanishing breed! A good man is increasingly hard to find. So, if we find one, we are to be likeminded. We are model our lives after the man who is falling Christ Jesus! Instead, though, we seem to have become infected, all of us to one degree or another, by a dirty old man wandering the halls of mansion in his pajamas. Instead of our wanting to be like a Timothy or an Epahphroditus, we would rather live in a perpetual teen-age fantasy, lusting after blank-faced blonde-haired bimbos, each of them stamped from the same Barbie Doll mold! God have mercy on all of us!
(6 Listen to me! It is not a sin to watch television. But we have missed the boat when we have a discipleship program that seems to be more concerned with entertainment than with becoming disciples. We allow the culture to infect us instead of our becoming genuine disciples of Jesus Christ and going out to influence the culture. And like it, or not, men must be at the center of any movement of God. And this not to say that women do not have a vital role, they do; but the presence of good men in the church is a requirement for success. A Good Man is Hard to Find!
(7 And the second thing we must do when we do find one is similar to being likeminded: we are to honor those men, aren’t we? Look at verse 29. The word reputation here means to be honored, to be prized!
(8 So, the questions to be answered by each one of us here this evening is: What do we honor? What is prized by us? What kind of man, if we are men, do we seek to model our lives after? What kind of man, if we are women, do we honor and prize as being worthy of our affection? Is the Gospel, and the Christ of the Gospel, at the center of our lives? Are we living submitted lives? Are we looking at the eternal, and not the temporary pleasures of this life, for our deepest satisfaction? Does Jesus Christ fulfull our deepest satisfaction? What gives us joy?
(9 And in the final analysis, joy is something that only those with a mental illness are not seeking, right? And what the letter of Philippians is telling us is that true joy can only be found in a particular place, and by a particular kind of person. That place is in the Gospel, and in the Christ of the Gospel. The kind of person is the one seeking Him, and also seeking to live out a life in humble submission to Him, and to others.
(10 The good life is not the Playboy life, is it? The good life is, you know what? The good life is a godly life! Amen! The good life is what we were told it was by all those preachers and teachers of old: it is a righteous life. It is one that in which the Holy Spirit is allowed free rein, isn’t it? It is one in which Jesus Christ shines forth like glory!
(11 And we have a misshapen, fairytale-like idea of what it means to live out the glory of Christ, don’t we? It is shaped more by Hollywood than by Christian principles. Our maleness is not shaped by Scripture, but by movies. The problem with looking to Hollywood for the image of masculinity (even those true-to-life stories of courage) is that it feeds our desire for glory. Our glory, not Christ's glory. Courage isn't only in the big accomplishments. It's in the small acts, too. When we leave the theater, or the shopping mall, and scratch the car door next to us getting into our car, our decisions about whether or not to leave a note admitting our mistake isn't glorious. Nobody will make a movie about our choice. We can hide if we choose to. But situations like this shape our courage and virtue. Or imagine leaving the theater and returning home to a spouse who is sexually unresponsive. Or perpetually angry. Or domineering. Or unkempt. The temptation to find release and fulfillment elsewhere can be overwhelming. And if we are following a dirty old man in PJ's we will find fulfillment elsewhere. You see, escape promises what reality can't provide. Our response in that moment can be just as courageous as what we do when we decide to protect a fallen pilot or storm a cockpit, or perform some other act of incredible bravery. Courage is visiting our moms and dads and caring for them as they grow older instead of abandoning them to others' care. Courage is integrity in business when no one else sees it, or keeping my promise when I'd rather do anything else. Genuine manhood is seen in our being pillars in the church, leaders of God's people. Genuine manhood, courage, begins on our knees in submission to the God who created us! Hollywood doesn't make movies about this kind of true masculine courage, does it?
(12 The Apostle Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus: three men worthy of our emulation, of our modeling our lives after. The example of Christ humbling Himself and becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross must be the ultimate act which we order our lives by. And those men, and women, who do, indeed, so order their lives are to treasured by the rest of us: honored, prized, and copied!
(13 And it all begins by our coming in submission to cross of Jesus Christ! There is nothing in the Christian life that doesn’t, first, begin there! Amen! Do you know Him? Has there been in moment in your life when you called out to Him and asked for His forgiveness? Are you, right now, living for Him, and for others? Or are you living for the now! Are you living for yourself? The joy of the Lord will never be yours until you give everything you have to Him! Until, as in our illustration at the very beginning of this message, we can say when someone asks us about Christianity, “Watch me!” Amen! There is no other way, is there? John 14:6 (KJV)
6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
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