Stephen Caswell © 2004
No Need to Be the Best -- D.L. Moody
I know perfectly well that, wherever I go and preach, there are many better preachers known and heard than I am; all that I can say about it is that the Lord uses me. Moody couldn't speak well, and was not overly brilliant. But Moody was humble and available. That's why God used him.
As we have seen over the past month, Philippians chapter 2 concentrates on service. This is not surprising since the secret to joy is Jesus first, others second and yourself last. If we place others second we must serve them. Paul recalled the ultimate example of service in the person of Jesus Christ. Today he presents three pictures of joyful service to show that it’s really possible. The three pictures are Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus. Let's have a close look at these three examples.
Others is the key to joyful service. These three examples all show a Christ-like concern for others. All three men put their own needs last. How do you know when you have the mind of Christ? When you talk about Jesus and not yourself. When you serve others on Jesus' behalf. When you don't look after your own needs. Our thinking must be like Paul's, to live is Christ and to die is gain! Paul’s name Παῦλος means small. Jesus Christ was very important to Paul. He saw himself as small.
a. Serves Others
Philippians 2:16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.
Paul knew that God would reward both the Philippians and himself for their service. Paul's desire was that the Philippians would bring him rejoicing at Christ's return. The words holding fast are in the present tense. It means to continue to hold forth the Gospel in ministry. If they completed their ministry for Christ, then Paul's service amongst them would not be in vain. They would rejoice together and be rewarded together. Paul labored diligently at Philippi when he started the Church there with Silas and Timothy. His ministry benefited them, not himself. The word labor kopiaw means to toil, be wearied, to work hard. Paul worked hard and led them to Christ. He suffered a good deal in prison to do this. Suffering didn't stop him because Paul put the needs of others before his own. He rejoiced whenever he had the opportunity to serve others on behalf of Christ.
A Chinese Sells Himself
Lough Fook, a Chinese Christian, moved with compassion for the coolies in the South African mines, sold himself for a term of five years as a coolie slave, and was transported to Demerara, to carry the Gospel to his countrymen working there. He toiled in the mines with them and preached Jesus while he toiled, till he had scores of whom he could speak as Paul of Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds. Lough Fook died; but not until he had won to the Saviour nearly 200 disciples who joined the Christian church. Like Jesus Christ, Lough Fook humbled himself, took upon Him the form of a slave to labor among them. Then he made the greatest sacrifice he could. He gave his life for others.
b. Sacrifices For Others
Philippians 2:17 Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.
Verse 17 says that he rejoices in sacrifice too. Paul says that he rejoiced at the opportunity of being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of their faith. What did he mean by that? Numbers 15:1-10 gives the details of the drink offering. A drink offering of wine was poured out on the main offering to add a sweet smelling savor. Because it was absorbed by the fire of the sacrifice it disappeared and could no longer be seen. It added a sweet savor and then was gone.
The purpose of the drink offering was to enhance the main sacrifice. Paul could lose his life in Rome if the case went against him. But he rejoiced at the opportunity to be sacrificed for the sake of the Church. Paul said that their Christian service was the main sacrifice, his ministry only added savor to theirs. To think this way Paul had to be humble. He had the submissive mind. Only Christians with the submissive mind can rejoice in service and sacrifice. Paul put others before himself. 1 John 3:16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. Paul rejoiced in sacrifice for others, do you?
Sacrifice In A Russian Prison
A Christian named Uri was imprisoned in Siberia. He was desperately trying to keep warm during a cold winter's night. Uri clung to his blanket managing to stay alive. The temperature was well bellow zero. During the night another prisoner was brought into the room. As Uri looked at his beaten form shivering in the cold, the Lord spoke to him. He won't live through the night without a blanket. Uri said, I know Lord. The Lord said give him yours. But Lord I will die. The Lord said, I know, give him your blanket. In the morning the new prisoner was alive and warm. He looked at the blanket and wondered where it came from. Then he noticed Uri's lifeless body on the bed across from him. As a result, this prisoner came to trust Christ. It has been said that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. Growth requires sacrifice. Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains alone. The question asks us is, will we make sacrifices for others?
c. Strengthens Others
Philippians 2:18 For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.
Up to this point Paul has expressed his own joy several times. Now he commands them to rejoice with him. Why should Christians rejoice in suffering and sacrifice? Firstly, because it’s the greatest thing we can do with our lives. To lay down our lives for the Lord is an honor, the grandest homecoming we could recieve. Secondly, every sacrifice made for Christ will be rewarded. Paul shared his suffering with them to strengthen them not weaken them. Paul’s example strengthened other believers. Paul understood God’s purpose in suffering. Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 2 Corinthians 4:17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. We can rejoice in sacrifice because we are suffering on behalf of Christ. God uses these things to accomplish His good pleasure and our own good.
God strengthens our faith and the faith of other believers. God also gives us an opportunity to gain a greater reward one day. Paul's courage in prison encouraged the church at Rome to preach Christ boldly. Paul used his suffering to encourage the Philippian church. He encouraged them through this letter. Paul also hoped to visit them soon and further strengthen their faith. v 24. Paul put others before himself. He could have kept Timothy to help Him. Paul wasn’t concerned about his own trials, he was concerned about the needs of others.
Paul rejoiced whenever he had the opportunity to serve others on Christ’s behalf. Do you view service like this? Do you count it a privilege to help others, to share God’s Word and serve the Lord? Paul's service often resulted in suffering and sacrifice. But this didn't deter him from serving. Are you faithful to serve through thick and thin? Service that costs nothing accomplishes nothing. Paul rejoiced in sacrifice. He also encouraged others to rejoice with him. Do we encourage others to rejoice in our suffering? Do you testify of God's grace in it all? Do we seek to strengthen others?
Humble Imperfect Blessings
For years I never felt I measured up to all I thought the Lord wanted me to be, or all I thought I should be. Satan convinced me that since I wasn't "perfect," I had no right to minister to others. Then one day, my children brought me a bouquet of flowers they had picked. I hugged each child with joy. As I tried to arrange the flowers in a vase, I discovered my children had picked no stems, just blossoms. I laughed -- I had been blessed with their gift of love, however imperfect. It was then I realized we don't have to be perfect to be a blessing. We are asked only to be real, trusting in Christ's perfection to cover our imperfection. -- Gigi Graham Tchividjian
In case we think that service is only for the spiritual elite like Jesus Christ and His apostles, Paul gives us two more pictures. Timothy and Epaphroditus were not spiritual giants or exceptionally gifted men. They were simple, humble believers serving their Lord. They had the mind of Christ.
2:19-20 But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state.
Timothy was a timid believer by nature, but that didn't prevent God from using him greatly. His name means Τιμόθεος God honoring. He certainly lived up to this. Paul longed to visit the Philippians personally and encourage them. Since this wasn’t possible, he sent Epaphroditus and Timothy instead. Timothy had a two fold ministry. Firstly, Timothy would visit them and care for them. Secondly, he would bring back news of the Church's state to encourage Paul. Why did Paul choose Timothy for this important work? Because he was sincere. The words care for merimnaw mean to be anxious about, take thought, have care for. Paul said Timothy would sincerely care for them. He was genuine; he really loved people. Timothy was like minded with Paul and Christ.
Philippians 2:21 For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus.
Timothy was also selfless. Timothy put Jesus first, others second and himself last. This passage indicates that Paul wanted to send someone from the Roman Church to Philippi. But no one would go. They all sought their own and not the things of Christ Jesus. Christians either live out Philippians 1:21 or 2:21. Either for us, to live is Christ and die is gain, or we seek our own and not the things of Christ. Who do you live for, Jesus Christ or yourself? Timothy was sincere. He lived for Christ. He was selfless putting his own needs last. Is this your aim? Is it mine?
Philippians 2:22-23 But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me.
Paul reminded the Philippians of Timothy's proven character. The words proven character dokimh describe something or someone proven to be good by testing. Timothy had proven himself to Paul and all God's people that he was trustworthy. Paul reminded them of how Timothy had served with him in the Gospel as a faithful son. He had served Paul for more than ten years and had been completely reliable. That's proven character, that's steadfastness. Many people follow Christ and begin to serve Him zealously. But as the years go by their love grows cold and they drop out. They have done their bit and retire early. Demas was like this. The love of this world brought his service to an early end. He forsook Paul and went back to the world. He didn't have steadfastness. The long haul shows that such people don't have proven character.
Matthew Henry’s Creed
Matthew Henry, the famous Bible commentator, lived his whole life in the light of a little creed taught to him by his godly father: I take God the Father to be my God; I take God the Son to be my Savior: I take the Holy Ghost to be my Sanctifier; I take the Word of God to be my rule; I take the people of God to be my people; And I do hereby dedicate and yield My whole self to the Lord: And I do this deliberately, freely, And forever. Amen. - His commentary still blesses people today!!
Is our service sincere? Is it motivated by love for Christ and people? Do we genuinely try to help others or just pretend to care? Sincere believers minister to those who have need without being pushed into it. Sincere servants doesn't seek praise or recognition. Sincere servants are God honoring. Are you selfless in your Christian life? Can you say, for me to live is Christ or do you seek your own and not the things of Christ? Is your service steadfast? Are you persevering through trials? How are you serving Jesus Christ now?
a. Sold Out
Philippians 2:25-27: Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need; since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick almost unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.
The last picture of Christian service is Epaphroditus. His name Ἐπαφρόδιτος means lovely or charming. Epaphroditus was a member of the Philippian Church. There is nothing in the Bible to indicate that he was a pastor or deacon. But nevertheless he was sold out for Christ. For a couple of minutes we will see how much he meant to Paul. He gave him these titles.
1. My Brother - He was a brother in the Lord. His conversion was real; his faith was genuine.
2. Fellow Worker - He was Paul's companion in labor. Christian service involves labor and Epaphroditus was a good worker. Recently I read the account of rebuilding the walls in Nehemiah. He records the work done by the different families. Nehemiah 3:5 says that the nobles of the Tekoites didn't put their necks to the work of the Lord. They were slack and bludged on the job. What a terrible thing to record about their service. Epaphroditus didn't serve that way and neither should we. God knows when we don't put in our best effort. We can't fool Him. We only get one shot at life. Therefore we ought to make each moment count for eternity.
3. Fellow Soldier - He fought the good fight with Paul. He was a co-campaigner. He didn't desert his post when the conflict became fierce. He withstood the attacks of the enemy. He was a faithful soldier of Jesus Christ. Even when he was sick he kept fighting the good fight.
4. Your Messenger - He brought a gift from the Philippian church to Paul in Rome, a distance of about 700 miles. He then stayed on to minister to Paul in prison.
Epaphroditus was a balanced Christian. He was a brother sharing the fellowship of the Gospel. As a laborer he helped further the Gospel. Then as a soldier he defended the faith of the Gospel. He rejoiced in his service for Christ. Today, we have the same responsibilities for Christian service. Are we as devoted as Epaphroditus? He was sold out for Christ. He was fully committed to God's service. Are you? Am I? Are we fellow workers, fellow soldiers and messengers of Jesus Christ?
Every Member A Minister
Lloyd John Ogilvie is the pastor of a dynamic church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. But he insists that he is not the minister. In fact, the church has rewritten its constitution to make every member a minister. In the New Testament, of course, minister means simply servant. Members of Bethlehem’s First Presbyterian Church know that the job of their pastor is to encourage and enable them, the minister-members, to do the real work of the church — taking the life and joy of Christ into their jobs, their neighborhoods, their social relationships. Every member is a minister!
O God, help us to be masters of ourselves that we may be servants of others. - Sir Alec Paterson
b. Supplies Needs
Philippians 2:28-30 Therefore I sent him the more eagerly, that when you see him again you may rejoice, and I may be less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem; because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me.
Epaphroditus also supplied peoples needs. He gladly carried the gift from Philippi to Rome. He was concerned for Paul and eager to assist him. Missions and evangelism took high priority in his life. He put his own life at personal risk. Travel was not always safe in those days. Robbers abounded. He risked his life through association with Paul, a prisoner of Rome. He stayed on in Rome serving Paul on behalf of the Philippian church. He didn’t mind doing menial tasks. He had the submissive mind. He didn’t mind playing second fiddle to Paul. Epaphroditus truly had a servant's heart. He became sick and almost died because of his labor for Christ. It was probably the long journey and the hard work that brought on his sickness. When we become sick or run down we generally go into hibernation. But this man didn't regard his own life as being important so that he could serve Paul. He was willing to sacrifice himself for others. That's real commitment to Christ. No wonder Paul commanded them to receive such men and esteem them highly.
Livingstone’s Last Birthday
When Stanley found Livingstone, the great missionary who spent thirty years in darkest Africa, he wanted him to come back to England with him, but Livingstone refused to go. Two days later he wrote in his diary: March 19, my birthday. My Jesus, my King, my Life, my all, I again dedicate my whole self to Thee. Accept me, and grant, O gracious Father, that ere the year is gone I may finish my work. In Jesus’ name I ask it. Amen. A year later his servants found him on his knees dead.
Epaphroditus was sold out to Christ. He served joyfully and fully. Are you sold out to Jesus Christ? Are you engaged in His service? Do we share in the fellowship of the Gospel? Are we laboring to advance the Gospel of Christ into new areas? Do we fight as a good soldiers for the faith of the Gospel? Epaphroditus met needs. Do you meet the needs of people? Do you give your resources, time money and service to help others? Do you keep serving when you are tired and discouraged? Are you easily prevented from going to Church or serving Christ? Or are you like Epaphroditus?
Today Paul shows us that Christ like service is indeed possible. He shows us three pictures of joyful Christian service. The pictures he presented were Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus.
Paul served others, sacrificed for others and strengthened others. Do you?Do I?
Timothy was sincere, selfless, and steadfast. Are we committed to Christian service? How?
Epaphroditus was sold out to Jesus Christ and supplied others needs. Do we do this?
O God, help us to be masters of ourselves that we may be servants of others. - Sir Alec Paterson.