Paul, Timothy, Epaphroditus: Role Models of Faithful Service (Philippians Sermon 12 of 24)
January 11, 2004 | Andrew Davis
I. Unsung Heroes of Church History
We're looking this morning, as we return to the book of Philippians after a little time away, at Philippians 2:19-30, so I think you'll be helped if you open in your Bibles there and look along. Shortly after I came to Christ, over 20 years ago, I was given the gift of a mentor. His name was Tim Schuman, he was on staff of Campus Crusade for Christ when I was a student at MIT, and he taught me many things. He knew the Bible much better than I did, which was saying absolutely nothing at that point in my life, but he was a good mentor to me, but more than his biblical knowledge, much more than that, it was just the way he lived his life. It was the fact that he was a role model for me, and a mentor. Now we're going to look much more carefully at the issue and the theological necessity of role models in chapter 3. And again, in chapter 4, we'll see it. But here in chapter 2:19-30, we see three role models for our lives, Paul and Timothy and Epaphroditus. Now, as I went on in my Christian life, I found a great interest in church history, and I found that role models don't have to be living; they can be dead. We can learn from people who've gone before us.
And so therefore, in this text, we have three men who are with the Lord now, and who can be for us role models. We also see another thing in this text, and that is that God ordains the passing on of the torch from one generation to the next, when Paul speaks of Timothy, laboring with him as a son with his father. Now, we get the sense of the generational passing on of the torch, from one to the other, and the awesome burden of following a man like the Apostle Paul in ministry. Can you imagine being Paul's protégé? I don't think he had just one, I actually think he had a number, but Timothy certainly was following Paul in ministry, and that's a great burden, picking up where the master left off.
With what trembling do you think Joshua was told in Joshua 1? "Moses my servant is dead. Now then… you, Joshua, get up and lead this people." Can you imagine what must have gone into his mind? If he had any humility at all, I'm sure he was overwhelmed with the crushing burden. He saw what it did to Moses all those many years, and now he was called upon to pick it up and to take it along. We've seen this again and again in Scripture and also in church history, the young inexperienced being trained and prepared to take on that torch, that mantle, on into the future. David and Solomon, David, speaking of his son, not disrespectfully and not without love, but saying, "My son, Solomon, is young and inexperienced, and this temple that is to be built will be a great and majestic temple for the glory of God. So my son needs some help," said David concerning Solomon.
And then there's the Elijah and Elisha relationship, where Elijah is called by God to go put his mantle on Elisha and call him as his successor in ministry. And that was the very mantle that was left behind when Elijah was taken up to Heaven in a chariot of fire and in a whirlwind. It was with that mantle, the mantle that had been passed on to Elisha, that he struck the river and was able to cross through on dry ground and continue the ministry in the power of the Spirit. This is also a recurring theme, not just in Scripture, but also in church history.
A little while ago, I was reading about the end of Augustine's life, and four years before he died, he handed over the administrative duties of the church in Hippo, in North Africa, in Hippo, to his assistant, Eraclius. Imagine being Eraclius at his own installation ceremony, as the old man is sitting on the Bishop's throne just behind him, and he's preaching a sermon. This awesome presence of Augustine, listening to your first sermon in that post. Overwhelmed by a sense of inadequacy in Augustine's presence, Eraclius said, "The cricket chirps, the swan is silent." So he felt himself to be a cricket, a grasshopper in his own eyes, while the swan sat back there, so majestic.
Again and again, the great men of church history have passed on to those that follow. The great women of church history have trained another generation of godly women to take up after them. Again and again, it's been seen. When William Carey died at age 73, a young missionary who was just beginning his ministry was overcome with grief, but remembered again the sovereignty of God, and remembered again the timelessness of God. This is what that missionary said, "And what shall we do? God has taken our Elijah to Heaven, but we must not be discouraged. The God of missions lives forever. His cause must go on, with our departed leader, all is well. Amen and amen. He has finished his course gloriously, but now the work descends on us."
And G. Campbell Morgan, who was a pastor at Westminster Chapel, handed over in July of 1943 the reins of that ministry to a young preacher from Wales named Martin Lloyd Jones. And in his resignation letter, G. Campbell Morgan wrote, "I have to place in your hands my resignation to take effect at the end of August. It is not an easy thing to do. On John Wesley's monument in the Abbey, the words are found, 'God buries His workmen, but He carries on His work.'" And so it is. God ordained 20 centuries of church history at least after Christ. And so the torch must be passed on, the next generation must be prepared. They must take up where the mentor has left off. They must pick up this work. And what an awesome burden it is, that both the old and the young have to face. That the aged have to be worthy of being mentors. They have to have lived lives worthy of emulation, and they have to be willing to say, as Paul will say later in Philippians 4, "Whatever you've learned or received or heard from me or seen in me, put it in practice and the God of peace will be with you."
But yet, with all of that, there's the humility of recognizing, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3, "I planted the seed, Apollos watered, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants, nor he who waters, is anything, but only God who makes things grow."
II. Respecting Timothy’s Proven Dedication (vs. 19-24)
And so here is Timothy, this young minister in training, being prepared by the Apostle Paul, groomed, as it were, for taking on the torch. And Timothy himself will pass it on to others. As it says in 2 Timothy 2:1 and 2, Paul speaking to Timothy, "You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will be qualified to teach others also." So there's that four generations of spiritual heritage passed on, one to another.
Now Timothy's been carefully groomed for success in ministry. He was evangelized and trained by his grandmother, Lois, and his mother, Eunice, prepared for a life of faith. The Apostle Paul came to town, Timothy's father was really of no account spiritually. We don't know anything about him, other than that, he was a Greek and probably not a believer or else he would've been mentioned more strongly in the Book of Acts. He was just not a presence. He was an absentee father for Timothy spiritually.
Timothy "Adopted" by Paul
But the Apostle Paul, in effect, kind of adopted Timothy. Took him under his wings. It says in 1 Timothy 1:2, and this is so precious, it says, "To Timothy, my true son in the faith." There's a sense of that adoption, the Greek word there is of children born in wedlock. "This is my genuine son." That's the way he thought.
Now, clearly, he's meaning "spiritually." Now, of course back then, it was possible as it is today, for a significant person like Paul to adopt somebody and make him his legal heir. That's how we get to go to Heaven, by the spirit of adoption. We are adopted into the family of God. God has one only begotten son, Jesus Christ, but we are His adopted children. And I think that's the way Paul felt toward Timothy. It was somewhat like an apprenticeship. And he was going to get him ready, he was training him for ministry.
Look at verse 22. He says, "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." What an incredible discipleship opportunity have you fathers for your sons and your daughters as well. Parents have a great discipleship opportunity, and I would say more than that, responsibility to train their children spiritually.
Get them ready for their work. Get them ready for the good works that God has ordained in advance that they should walk in them, Ephesians 2:10. It's for you to shape them and to prepare them and get them ready. So also the church in a lesser way, but parents, first and foremost, to prepare that next generation and get them ready. He says, "As a son with his father, he has served with me in the work of the Gospel." Somehow, I fear that we're losing that, the father-son relationship. I think there's so many forces pulling families apart so that they're atomized, and there isn't that quality time for fathers and sons to spend doing just simple projects. We could imagine... It's not in the Bible, but we could imagine Jesus and his earthly father, Joseph, working in the carpentry shop, because Jesus was called a carpenter, in Mark's Gospel. Where did he learn that skill? It's got to be from his father, Joseph, his earthly father. But how much more Jesus and his Heavenly Father? As we're studying in the Sunday school, in the International Sunday School, in John chapter 5, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth. My Father is always at His work to this very day. And I, too, am working." And so Jesus is at work.
Whatever the father does, the son wants to do. He wants to imitate his father. He doesn't want to do anything that his father's not doing, and never was there a man who so perfectly met that criteria as Jesus Christ. Only did what His Father was doing, and never anything His Father wasn't doing. "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it." I don't want to do anything that God's not doing, do you? What a waste of time to build up a whole structure and see it come crashing down, because it was not in God's will. But Jesus never did anything like that. He served perfectly, as a son, with His Father. And at a lesser level, so also Timothy served with his father, spiritual father, Paul, in the work of the Gospel.
May I say to you, fathers, take time to disciple your children. Redeem the time. Make the most of the days, they're so brief, aren't they? Our days are like a vapor. They're here for a little while, and then they vanish. Make the most of it. And younger folks who're just having new children coming in, realize what a great opportunity you have. Listen to what I'm saying now, and realize what an opportunity it is for you to shape and to train the next generation of church history. And those of you whose children are grown, realize you still have a valuable ministry here in the church to prepare young parents, to shape and mold their children as well. And even apart from the biological relationships within the family, we can mentor and disciple young spiritual children, as it were, bringing them along in the faith, just as Tim Schuman did with me.
Timothy’s Qualities for Success in Ministry
Now, as we look at Timothy, we see some qualities for success in ministry right in this text. First of all, a rare and genuine interest in the welfare of God's people. He says... He has a genuine interest in your welfare. The word "genuine" there means a true interest. He's truly interested, it's not fake, but it goes to the core of his being. And the word "interest" is, we're going to mention in a moment a little bit more, means he's literally kind of anxious over you. He's concerned about your welfare, spiritually. That's Timothy. He has a genuine anxiety, as it were, over how you're doing spiritually. And it's rare. He says, "I have no one else like him." Now this is very unusual, the spirit in this young man. It's an unusual spirit. "I have no one else like him who takes a genuine interest…" And it also says, "For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ." "I have no one else like him... Everyone looks out for their own interest." This is a rare individual, Timothy.
And so clearly, Paul, in this glorified thank-you letter, which is Philippians, is establishing Timothy as a key leader, because Timothy, I think, is going to go back to the Philippians with Paul's letter. And so he wants them to think well of Timothy and receive him so that they can benefit from his ministry. He has a rare and genuine interest in the Philippians.
Secondly, he has proven loyalty and dedication to the great commission. As I already mentioned, it says, "Everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself." What it means is that his mind is focused on the great commission. He's focused on the kingdom of Jesus Christ. He wants to build the kingdom. He's thinking Christ's thoughts after Him. What does Christ care about, except His own glory and the building up of His kingdom and the benefit of the people of God?
And Timothy thinks about the same thing. He's not thinking about his own thoughts, and his own career, and what he wants to do with his life; he's thinking Jesus' thoughts after Him. And he was, in this way, I think, very much like-minded with the Apostle Paul. The Apostle Paul said, "I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given to me, the task of testifying to the Gospel of God's grace." They were kindred spirits, Paul and Timothy. Genuine interest. He also had a good reputation among believers. Paul says, "You know that Timothy has proved himself." A good reputation in ministry is vital for success. In Proverbs 22:1, it says, "A good name is more desirable than great riches. To be esteemed is better than silver or gold." In order to be an elder, you have to have good reputation with outsiders, so that the Gospel will be held in honor. This is required for being an elder. And if something were to happen in the life of an elder or a pastor which would besmirch greatly his reputation and there's truth in it and a reason for the reputation to be besmirched, then he can't continue ministering.
Now this is the kind of thing that is a challenge. The need to maintain a good reputation, an honorable reputation, before unbelievers in the outside world. Philip's book said that preaching is truth delivered through personality. It's not just an angel from Heaven or some person you don't know standing up in front of you, teaching you the Word, but it's somebody that you can know whose life you can observe. I think this is somewhat connected theologically to the issue of the incarnation, that Jesus lived among us and we beheld His glory. We could see the way He lived. And so, there was a mixture or a marriage, I would say, of a lifestyle of holiness and godliness with right doctrine. And so Paul commands Timothy to watch his life and doctrine closely. It's so vital that you watch both, not just your life and not just your doctrine, watch them both closely. And so, he had a good reputation among believers. And fourthly, he had a servant heart. He says, "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." This is this man, Timothy, and well-worth emulating.
III. Honoring Epaphroditus’s Courageous Gamble (vs. 25-30)
We also have another role model before us, and it's this man, Epaphroditus. We know a lot more about Timothy than we do about Epaphroditus, but Epaphroditus gets some attention here. Now, who was Epaphroditus? He was their messenger who was sent from Philippi with the money that they were giving. Paul needed money in order to keep living, really hard to make money while you're in prison. Very, very difficult to do. And so, there has to be an outside support system, and if Epaphroditus was chosen by the Philippian church to bring the money to Paul in prison. Look at verse 25 and following. Paul writes, "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. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. 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."
Now, what was Epaphroditus' dangerous mission? You think, "Well, what's the big deal about taking a huge amount of money across roads in the 1st-century world to where Paul was?" Well, nowadays, we would hire Brinks or Wells Fargo in a truck to protect that kind of money. Of course, there was great danger. It was actually almost expected on some roads that you would be attacked by brigands. Paul was attacked by highwaymen numerous times, as he says in 2 Corinthians chapter 12 when listing his sufferings. And so, it almost was expected that he would have to fend off an attack or survive it, or somehow get that money through without being robbed. Very dangerous. It was also dangerous in terms of guilt by association. When he got to wherever Paul was, perhaps Rome, and he began to have commerce or conversation with him, the Roman authorities might assume that he was part and parcel with all that uprising, and they might very well arrest him and put him in prison. It took great courage to be with a prisoner who was under these kinds of charges.
But as it turns out, the real threat to Epaphroditus' life was neither one of these things; it was illness. It was physical illness. It was sickness. Could be just from the disease of being in a prison, I don't really know, we don't know that much about where Paul was. But we do know this, Epaphroditus was ill. And not just with any illness, but with a grave illness, serious illness, to the point even of death. And so he had a dangerous mission. Therefore, his mission, we could call a courageous gamble. He was willing to risk his life, that's what the text literally says. Verse 30, "He almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me." Now I want to speak very clear about risk in the issue of missions. There're some things that cannot be risked, because they are beyond our reach. You can "store up treasure in Heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal, and they will never be at risk." Isn't that glorious? There's no risk at all for heavenly treasure. But there are earthly valuable things, aren't there? Things that matter to us. Like our life, our health, our reputation, material possessions, loved ones. These things are actually at risk when you do missions.
When you're willing to step out in faith, for example, trying to lead some people at work, and the non-Christians there have a certain opinion of you, "Oh, he's a nice guy, likes to talk about sports," or "He's a good engineer," or "He's this or that," or "She's a nice lady, she did this or that. Nice person," you're going to risk that to share the Gospel with them. You got to be willing to trade it in. because it's not worth much anyway, to be honest with you. It really isn't, it's barely worth the paper it's printed on, but they think well of you, kind of, to the level that non-Christians think of you. You have to be willing to risk it, to trade it in, to get uncomfortable for the advance of the Gospel. You've got to be, kind of, in one sense, I want you to understand, a gambler, in order to advance the Gospel. It's not guaranteed that you'll get sick. It's not guaranteed that highwaymen will attack you and take your money. It's not guaranteed that you'll be arrested by the Romans, it's not guaranteed you'll be persecuted in those ways. But you have to be willing to risk them.
A year ago, when there was the big SARS epidemic, you remember that? Big story right after the second Gulf War was ended, and the voracious media vacuum was looking for a story, and SARS was it. And we were thinking this was going to overwhelm the world, I remember, the headlines and all this kind of thing. At that time, we were planning our mission trip to a large populous East Asian nation. And as we were preparing that mission trip to large populous East Asian nation, we had to decide, were we willing to risk the lives of those that would go? Now, we had some information from people that we knew that said it's not a major issue there, but it was an issue. There were people that were getting that illness, and we had to pray through.
And it was thinking about this passage and others that made me realize you cannot advance the Kingdom of Heaven without some risk. You have to be willing to die. Jesus said in John 12, "Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, [if it's willing to risk] it will bear many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it. But the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." That's risk. You have to be willing to say goodbye to some valuable things in this world in order to advance the kingdom.
Well, what are Epaphroditus' rewards? First, honor for men. Look at verse 29 and 30. It says there, "Welcome him in the Lord with great joy and honor men like him." Honor him, "because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me."
Paul says it's right to give honor to people like Epaphroditus. Earthly honor from other Christians is a strong inducement to a life of faithfulness. It is a benefit, an encouragement in the ministry, but I want to give you some warnings about it. There are some warnings that come from this kind of earthly honor that church people give to other church people. Honors, number one, should recognize God's grace in the achievement. They should recognize that apart from the grace of God, that individual could never have done that thing.
Secondly, honor should not be done in an earthly or kind of pagan way, but in a very Christian way, an encouragement to greater service to Christ. Thirdly, earthly honor should not be the individual person's goal in service. Jesus covers that in Matthew 6, we don't do our good works before men to be seen by them. And if nobody ever honors you, God sees it all. And wouldn't you rather have God's reward than human honor? I would. And the fourth, honor should not be, therefore, a source of jealousy among church members. But yet, we should honor each other, shouldn't we? We should encourage, we should find the good things that brothers and sisters are doing in this church, and encourage them. This should be just a hot house of encouragement for greater service to God.
So let's find things that are worthy of encouragement and honor, and do it. But I'll tell you this, Epaphroditus right now isn't thinking a lot about the Philippians' honor, is he? He is thinking about a different honor that Jesus mentioned right after those verses in John 12:26. "Whoever serves Me must follow Me, and where I am, My servant also will be." That's enough reward right there, just to be with Jesus. And then he says this, "My father will honor the one who serves Me." That's John 12:26. That's honor worth living for, isn't it? And so Epaphroditus is honored in Heaven now for his service to God.
IV. Understanding Paul’s Real Struggles
Now the third aspect of this text that I find fascinating is a true insight into the Apostle Paul as a role model. It's easy to put this man up on a pedestal, isn't it? To say he was a perfect person, a marble saint. Had no flaws, no real struggles, this kind of thing. Everything he did was easy, but we see some paradoxes here.
Paul’s Earthly Hope in a Life of Heavenly-Mindedness
First of all, Paul has an earthly hope in the middle of a life of heavenly-mindedness. What is his earthly hope? "I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon," he says. In verse 23, "I hope therefore to send him as soon as I see how things go with me." There is the earthly heavenly hope that no one can take from us. It's kept in heaven for us. That hope is the anchor of our soul and it will not give way. But then there are earthly hopes along the way. And this was one of Paul's, he was hoping to send Timothy. No guarantee that it would happen, just hoping that he could do it.
Now, realize, back then, communication across the empire took a long time. I mean, as recently as the 19th century, missionaries like Adoniram Judson, he could write a letter and wait two years to get a response to his letter. Timothy was going to be the messenger from Paul to Timothy, and so he has an earthly hope that Timothy will fulfill that role. Lottie Moon, for whom the Lottie Moon Christmas offering is named, was starving and well near death before anyone really knew about it, because of how slow the communication was, even as recently is about 100 years ago. And so, communication was slow back in the 1st century Roman Empire. Timothy was, Paul hoped, going to be the messenger who would take this letter back to the Philippians.
Paul’s Anxiety in a Life of Faith
Now, Paul's desire is to be cheered by Philippians' spiritual health. He says, "I want to be cheered when I receive news about you." We see here then, I think, a vulnerability in Paul. And what I would call an anxiety in a life of faith. What kind of anxiety is it possible for a believer to have? The fact of the matter is later in this text or in this letter, Paul's going to say, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." But here, Paul is greatly anxious, isn't he? What's he anxious over? Well, he's anxious over the spiritual condition of the Philippian church. And so, he has great anxiety in a life of faith. The fact of the matter is, we have no guarantee, no guarantee, that this or that person that we're ministering to is going to end up in Heaven. We have promises from God that people who believe in Christ will end up in Heaven.
We know from Scripture that those who are chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world will most certainly end up in Heaven, but are the Philippians in that category? Paul's not sure. He hopes so. Time will tell, but he doesn't know for sure. And so he's anxious. And he's anxious over the Galatian churches. Anxious like a mother in childbirth. He says in Galatians 4, "until Christ is formed in you," and he knows that they're believers. He's anxious over the Thessalonian church. In 2 Corinthians 12, he says, "I face daily, constantly, the pressure being worried about these churches that I've planted." The very thing that Timothy was also anxious over, the Philippians. He's concerned.
Parents, probably anxious over the spiritual condition of their children. Do you know for sure that your children are going to be with you in Heaven? I don't. I pray, and I yearn for them, and I train them, and I pray, and I desire. But I've said to them many times, well, I keep saying, "You can't go to Heaven on my faith. You must be a believer." And time will tell. So Paul has a godly anxiety in the midst of his life of faith. He's concerned. Look at verse 28, "I'm all the more eager to send him so that when you see him again, you may be glad and I may have," what? Look at it, "less anxiety." He's concerned, he's anxious. "Oh, you hypocrite, Paul. You told us we shouldn't be anxious for anything." Well, I think he means, be anxious for nothing in that you don't pray, and trust God over it. In the end, he conquers his anxiety by prayer, but he is anxious.
Paul’s Sorrow in a Life of Joy
Thirdly, we see Paul's sorrow in a life of joy. Philippians is rightly called an "epistle of joy" because of the number of times that Paul displays or commands joy. He says in Philippians 1:18, "Because of this, I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice." Philippians 2:17, he says, "Even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you." And then in verse 18 of that same chapter, 2:18, "So, you too should be glad and rejoice with me." In Philippians 3:1, he says, "Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord." Philippians 4:4, "Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, rejoice." And then 4:10, "I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me." Chapter 4, he's going to say, "I've learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. Well-fed or hungry, living in plenty or in want, I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength."
However, in this section of the epistle, we get a glimpse into his true heart. And here he speaks about being spared sorrow upon sorrow. Do you see it? Look at verse 27, "Indeed, Epaphroditus was ill and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only, but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow," overwhelming sorrow. Hmm. Hmm, how can you have overwhelming sorrow and still live a life of joy? That's a big question. Is it possible to just kind of sail blissfully through this world, never being touched by sorrow or sadness? Do you really think that's even a Christian goal? Was not Jesus a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering? Was that not Christ who is weeping over Jerusalem? Was it not Christ who was sweating great drops of blood in Gethsemane? Was it not Jesus who said, "I have a baptism to undergo and how distressed [as in a straitjacket] I am until it is completed"?
It is not a Christian virtue to be blissfully untouched by misery and pain as you sail through this world. That is not what "rejoice in the Lord always, I say it again, rejoice" means. Philippians 2:27 gives me insight here. Instead I think what we ought to do is say, "This world is filled with pain and suffering and struggling, difficulty. And things that are precious to me, I may well lose, and I'm going to hurt over them. But I'm going to fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith, who, for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning at shame, and sat down at the right hand of God."
Now that gives me the ability to rejoice in the midst of great sorrow and suffering. It's not in your outline there but you might want to take a pen and write down 2 Corinthians 6:10, in which these two come together. 2 Corinthians 6:10, Paul speaks of himself as sorrowful and yet always rejoicing, as poor and yet making many rich, as having nothing and yet possessing everything. So it's possible as a Christian to be sorrowful and yet always rejoicing. If your child is diagnosed with Leukemia this year, are you going to want somebody to come and say, in effect, "Don't worry, be happy"? Is that going to minister to you? For somebody to quote Philippians 4:4 and say, "Rejoice in the Lord always"? In the end, that will give you great joy, but realize, in this world, you will have trouble. But in Christ, you have peace. We don't have an ostrich joy, but we have one that faces the realities of suffering in this world and is able to be joyful anyway, and why? Because 2 Corinthians 4:17 says, "Our light and momentary troubles are working in us a glory that far outweighs them all."
Paul’s Weakness in a Life of Power
And finally we see Paul's weakness in a life of power. Do you realize that few people have ever had as powerful an impact on history as the Apostle Paul? How many millions of people do you think were saved through Paul's letter to Romans? Think about it. How many millions of people have been affected by Paul's epistle to the Ephesians or the Philippians? Perhaps as many as hundreds or thousands of people were saved directly through his ministry in his time on earth. How many miracles did he do? We don't know. But he did some. A powerful life, courageous and bold, a world-changing life, and yet here in Philippians 2, we see, really, a man of great weakness and dependency. He's hoping that he can send Timothy to the Philippians, he's not sure whether that will work out or not. He's dependent on the Philippians to send him money so that he can eat, ultimately dependent on God, but he is the picture of dependency and weakness. And frankly, in the end, I believe that was Paul's greatest sanctification lesson. He was a ladder-climbing Pharisee, he had the world by the tail, he was a powerful guy, he knew all the right moves to make, courageous and strong. God taught Paul to be nothing, to be totally dependent on God, so that he would realize that he only lives except at God's word.
2 Corinthians 1:8 and 9, "We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure far beyond our ability to endure so that we despaired even of life, indeed, in our hearts, we felt the sentence of death. But this happened so that we might no longer rely on ourselves but on God Who raises the dead." And so we see in Paul a life of weakness in the middle of a life of power. Total dependence on God, a thorn in the flesh, teaching him every day, "My grace is sufficient for you, Paul, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."
What kind of application can we get out of these three men? Well, first, honor godly role models. Honor Timothy's proven dedication, serving like a son with his father in the Gospel work. Honor Epaphroditus' courageous gamble, his willingness to die, even, for the advance of the Gospel. And honor Paul, so genuine, so dependent on God, so trusting. Secondly, learn the true Christian life. As we've just been discussing, it's not a fake life, is it? It's not a life of saying, "I'm fine, I'm a Christian. Everything is always fine for me." No, as sorrowful, but always rejoicing, able to trust in God even in the hardest times.
Thirdly, risk more for Christ. Next week, you'll have an opportunity to go out and witness. Every week, there are between 300 and 400 people that come and worship with us. Every month, we have an outreach in which between 30 and 40 people come. Now, I'm not really sure what God is going to call you to do next Sunday afternoon. I believe there will be callings for people who are sitting and listening to me other than going out and witnessing, but I want you to pray seriously about what that calling would be. Realize that our time on earth is brief, and God is calling on us to witness. This church is making available to you an opportunity to reach out to those who haven't heard the Gospel before. Pray through being involved, be willing to risk your Sunday afternoon. Be willing to risk not eating your favorite lunch. There will be food available, it just not necessarily going to be your favorite lunch, but it's very good, I enjoy it, I really do. And you'll enjoy it too, alright? The folks that put that together, we love them, okay? We are grateful for the food, it just may not be your favorite lunch. But you will be fed. But more than that, you'll be able to say with Jesus, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and finish His work."
And fourth, focus again on living for the reward of the honor from God. Paul, that baptism was powerful, and be able to think, "I want to know Christ, I want Him to be pleased with me at the end of my life." You brought me to tears, brother. I want us to live for the honor of God. That God would look at us at the end of our lives and honor us. I'm not so worried about whether the Philippian church honors me or not, but I am concerned about whether God is pleased with my life. And that matters to me.