Thank you to John for this message
Prayer: Holy God, you are faithful and unchanging. Please enlarge our minds with the knowledge of your truth, and draw us more deeply into the mystery of your love, that we may truly worship you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
A church wants to appoint someone to an important pastoral role. One of the candidates is young, has a reserved temperament, and is frequently ill. Do you think that person would be suitable?
The apostle Paul had a companion called Timothy, who was young (1 Timothy 4:12), reserved (1 Corinthians 16:10), and frequently ill (1 Timothy 5:23). Yet Timothy was Paul’s personal representative to the Philippians and to other churches, and in the following reading we can see how much Paul valued him.
Reading: Philippians 2:19-24
Paul is in chains for Christ (1:13). He awaits the verdict of the Roman judges – will he be condemned to death, or released from imprisonment? He does not know. But he hopes in the Lord Jesus, he is confident in the Lord (vv19,24). In other words, Paul is fully submitted to the Divine will. He knows that God can use Timothy (young, reserved, often ill) to further his gracious purposes.
These verses give us a pen-portrait of Timothy’s real character. They show him to be
1. GENUINELY CARING (vv20-21)
Paul has “no-one else like-minded, who will genuinely care for your welfare”. Paul has many Christian friends (see 4:21-22), but nobody else has Paul’s deep concern for the Philippians (see 1:8). So Timothy is Paul’s key man in communicating and sharing with them.
Paul continues with a rather shocking statement (v21): ” All are wrapped up in their own affairs, not those of Jesus Christ.” This seems to be a general comment on the state of the world. People are self-seeking. Their attitude is “Look after number one.” “If you don’t look after yourself, no-one else will.” (Some people would not say this, but their actions speak louder.)
Their list of priorities is: 1. Me 2. My family 3. My friends 4. God (?)
The Lord Jesus said “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
Paul commends Timothy’s genuine care for the Philippians. Is our care for others genuine? We say “How are you?”, but do we mean it? What do we most pray about? Whom do we pray for most deeply? Are we anxious about our own concerns, rather than the well-being of others? “One of the surest antidotes to personal anxiety is to widen our horizons and so enlarge our heart of sympathy that we share the burdens of other people.” (R.P.Martin)
May we be more like Timothy, in real care for others and seeking first the interests of Jesus Christ.
These verses also show Timothy to be
2. GOSPEL-SERVING (v22)
The Philippians knew Timothy as Paul’s companion and colleague in gospel ministry, from the time when the gospel first came to Philippi (Acts 16). Over the years since then, Timothy had been tested and approved in the hard school of missionary travels.
Paul likened his association with Timothy to a father-son relationship. He wrote to “Timothy my true son in the faith” (1 Tim.1:2). Clearly the apostle Paul was older and much more experienced than Timothy (not an apostle). Yet here he writes that Timothy “has served with me in the work of the gospel”. This reminds us that, in Christian ministry, the only right basis for honour is serving. We follow Jesus, who himself took “the very nature of a servant” (v7), and told his disciples “I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27).
May we be more like Timothy, in seeking to serve, for the spread of the gospel and the growth of God’s kingdom.
Young or old? Reserved or outgoing? Frequently ill or in good health?
Whichever of these descriptions applies to you, the Lord can bless and use you in genuine care for others and in serving for the spread of the gospel. Just ask Him.
God our Father,
so possess our hearts, guide our minds, and strengthen our wills,
that we may give ourselves to you in thankfulness and love,
and be used in the service of your kingdom;
for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.
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