The Model of a Christian
INTRODUCTON: The Apostle Paul was going through one of the most heartbreaking experiences of his ministry. He was in a Roman jail for the defense of the Gospel. But worse than that, he was separated from those believers with whom his heart was so closely knit together.
One of the great concerns of the Apostle Paul, which rested so heavily upon him, is found at the conclusion of a long list of things for which he had suffered for the sake of the gospel.
In II Corinthians 11:28 he tells us it was for "the care of the churches." Paul had a tremendous burden for the churches he had helped to establish all over Asia Minor, Greece, the entrance to Europe and in Galatia. Paul knew these dear saints needed encouragement, preaching and teaching.
It was during this period of time, as he sat in this Roman prison, that the church at Philippi sent Paul a gift. This gift was delivered by whom we believe to be the Pastor of the Philippian church, Epaphroditus. Paul now writes back to these folks this letter that we call Philippians.
At the outset of chapter 2 Paul challenges us to have the mind of Christ, a mind and heart of unselfish sacrifice. Then he bears his soul about the need of people who really care enough to give of themselves to serve. In chapter 2:17-30 Paul is challenging us with the testimony of workers who really cared.
“Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. (18) For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me. (19) But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. (20) For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. (21) For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's. (22) But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel. (23) Him therefore I hope to send presently, as soon as I shall see how it will go with me. (24) But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly. (25) Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants. (26) For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. (27) For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. (28) I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. (29) Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: (30) Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.”
He needed CO-LABORS for the task of caring for these believers there in Philippi.
He needed men who were as COMMITTED to Christ as he was.
He needed men who CARED for others as much as he cared.
He needed men and women who would be dynamic role models of Christ to the world around them.
He needed men and women who were more than just fashion Christians, or statue saints more than check-list Christians going through their Sunday routine.
It was not that there were not enough Christians around, or enough people around to do the work. It was simply that he needed people who really CARED!
There were believers everywhere, that were able.
There were people who were qualified to serve.
There were people who were intelligent enough to serve.
There were people no doubt who had the training to serve.
There were people who had the time and the talent to serve.
But there were not enough people who were willing to POUR-OUT themselves in the service of the Lord. Of Timothy Paul said in verse 20, "For I have no man LIKE-MINDED, who will naturally care for your state."
Oh, to be sure there were plenty of people, but Paul said of them in verse 21, "For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's." Paul did not need another:
SIMON MARGUS, who loved the display of power as he did in Acts 8, or a
DIOTREPHES as John spoke of in III John who loved to have the pre-eminence. There were plenty of these. He didn’t need a
JOHN MARK who quit the team on Paul's first missionary journey due to his discouragement over the circumstances he encountered, or a
DEMAS who was more interested in the pleasures of the World, so he left just when Paul needed him, or a
JUDAS who complained about the gift given by Mary and then betrayed our Lord, or a
THOMAS who did not have enough faith to believe that Jesus would arise from the dead, and was now alive as He said.
Paul needed some men and women:
who were as dedicated as he was, and
who cared as he had cared for the saints of the churches.
Paul was concerned in verse 21 that there were many people, but "They all seek their own, not the things which are of Jesus Christ."
They seemed to be selfish about their own matters.
They appeared to be too busy to go out of their way.
They were too occupied with their own business to care.
It was this that was breaking the heart of the Apostle Paul as he cried out, IS THERE ANY ONE THAT CARES, REALLY CARES?
I wonder if that which characterized the Philippians could be characteristic of us?
DO WE really see the painful needs of others? Are we really concerned about their spiritual as well as physical pains? Or are we more concerned about our own needs and welfare while we hold these at arm’s length?
DO WE carry a burden for getting the gospel out to the lost and dying world all around us? OR are we too busy with our needs and activities of life to really be concerned?
DO WE have a genuine concern for those in our congregation by getting to know them far more than just sitting with them during the service? OR are we too selfish about what we are doing to get involved to know and love those around us?
DO WE carry a burden and concern for the ministry by getting involved? OR are we too preoccupied with our own business affairs?
DO WE carry a burden that children need to be taught and trained and guided in the things of Christ? OR are we so busy that no one cares?
Now in our text before us, Paul said there were two men who not only showed an interest in the things of Christ, but were also men who really cared. These men are role models of SERVICE and SUFFERING. While it is true that Jesus Christ is the Christian's model, these men are presented as model Christians.
First: There was Timothy, the model of SERVICE. We read about him in verses 19-22. Timothy was like a son to Paul.
We believe that Paul met and led Timothy to Christ on his first missionary journey.
Paul considered Timothy his own "son in the faith,” who he nurtured in the faith.
Timothy is mentioned 24 times in Paul's letters and is identified with Paul in the writing of five letters.
Now in verse 20, Paul commended Timothy for two qualities:
a. Timothy was "LIKE-MINDED." Timothy was literally "an equal soul." Timothy was one of a kind.
b. Timothy "NATURALLY CARED." The phrase means "genuine, faithful, sincere."
Timothy was the genuine article. There was nothing fake about this young man in the ministry. He could be depended upon. He had a real concern about the welfare of the Philippian saints.
Now this does not mean that Paul had no genuine Christians with Him in Rome. There were certainly hundreds of Christians in Rome. In fact in the Book of Romans chapter 16 Paul greets 26 of them by name. However when he penned his last book, II Timothy, just before he was taken to the gallows to be beheaded for the cause of Christ, in 4:16 we read, "At my first defense NO MAN stood with me, but ALL MEN forsook me…"
Paul was saying everyone was too busy, too concerned with their own needs and their own comfort; they were too self-centered. Everyone seemed to be saying, “I need to take care of my affairs and if there is any time left, I'll give that to God.”
Back in the 16th century during the golden age of England and during the noble reign of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen summoned to the palace a merchant sea man for whom she had a job.
She explained that she needed for him to make a journey across the ocean. She said, "You are highly qualified and I know you can do the job for me." As she laid out the job that had to be done and the time to be consumed, the merchant sea man began to make excuses and said, "I appreciate the honor of having been asked by the Queen herself, and I know the job needs to be done, but you don't understand my circumstances. I am in a rather crucial time of my business affairs and right now if I were to be gone for an extended period of time, it would ruin me financially, my business would be destroyed."
The queen of England, who was a very strong woman and who served with strength and mighty power, looked him straight in the eye and said, "Sir if you see to my business, I'll take care of yours."
The man, not being able to resist, started out on the long journey to take care of the affairs of the Queen of England. Much to his surprise, the journey took longer than he had anticipated. And he thought, "When I return to England I will be bankrupt, my business ruined and my career gone." After many months, he arrived home and to his surprise he discovered that rather than being a pulper he had become fabulously wealthy, because the queen had attended to his business as he was to hers.
I am saying in this message that while you are saying I am too busy with my affairs, the KING OF KINGS and the LORD OF LORDS, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is saying, "If you will see to My business and My affairs, I will take care of yours." God will never let you be impoverished when you give of yourself to the work of God. Paul is saying I need folks:
who are willing to go for me,
who are willing to care as I care, and
who are willing to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.
There was one who was willing and his name was Timothy. But there was also a
Second: There was Epaphroditus, the model of SUFFERING. Found in verses 25-30, his name meant "charming." And a charming Christian he was!
Here is a man who would have been unknown and unrecognized in the annals of the Christian church were it not for this one brief reference to him.
Here is a man who served no public office. He was just a servant, if you please, just a valet. He was a messenger boy for the Gospel.
No task was too menial for him to do.
No assignment was too little for him to accept.
No risk was too great for him to undertake.
He would have been comfortable with a towel and basin.
Here is a man who was sent by the Philippian Church with a gift for Paul. He was sent by them to look out for the physical needs of the Apostle Paul. Oh, by the way Jesus said, "It is not the master who is the greatest; rather it is the servant who is the greatest."
Here is a man who, as the scripture tells us, worked himself nearly to death. He deserved the highest of honor, yet he desired none, verse 29-30, “Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: (30) Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.”
Now Paul was sending this man back using this occasion to dispatch this letter to the church. Two things need to be noted about this man, Epaphroditus :
A. He was a balanced Christian, verse 25, “Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants.” Paul could not say enough good things about this man. Notice how he describes him:
My companion in labor,
My fellow soldier, and
B. He was a burdened Christian, verse 26-27, 30.
“For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. (27) For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. (30) Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.”
Notice again verse 26, "He longed after them." Literally Epaphroditus was home sick for the people at Philippi. We believe this man to have been the Pastor at this church.
In Verse 30 we read, "For the work of Christ." That was his priority. That was his life, the work of Christ. He was not just a spectator, he was an involved participant. Epaphroditus was not just content to give at arms-length. He gave himself.
What does it mean to be selfless as a Christian? Someone has said "that every Christian lives either in Philippians 1:21 or in Philippians 2:21." Looking at these two verses, side by side, you need to ask yourself, "Which of these best describes my life?"
This man Epaphroditus lived in Philippians 1:21, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." He did not live in Philippians 2:21, "For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's." He, like Christ, knew the meaning of SACRIFICE and SERVICE.
I challenge you men who are deacons of this Church "To the work of Christ."
I encourage those of you who serve and labor and minister on the staff here at the Green Street Baptist Chapel "To the work of Christ."
I encourage those of you who serve and labor and minister in the Choir, in the Nursery, in the Junior churches, in the cleaning, in the prayer ministry, in all our work to do it for "the work of Christ."
I challenge you to be balanced and burdened in your Christian life and service.
In verse 30 we read the phrase, "not regarding his own life." This is the only time this word is used in the New Testament. It was the statement of a gambler, being translated something like this: "He risked his life upon the throw of the dice."
Epaphroditus risked everything for the service of God. He was willing to say, “It matters not. As for me, I'll give my all unto the service of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
O may God give us more men like Timothy and men like Epaphroditus. Their motto was "Anything, anywhere, anytime, at any cost, to the Glory of God." These young men could truthfully say:
I'll go where you want me to go, dear Lord, over mountain or plain or sea.
I'll say what you want me to say, dear Lord; I'll be what you want me to be!
I wonder if you could stand to your feet and say that in this service?
I wonder if there are individuals who would say "All to Jesus, I surrender all?"
I wonder if there are folks who will risk all to serve the Lord Jesus and be able to sing, "All to Jesus, I surrender all?"
I wonder if you would be willing to say, "God, I will look after your affairs, if you will look after mine?"
I wonder if there are folks here this Lord's day, who will rise up and say, "Today, I rather have Jesus than anything this world affords?"
Now, when I mean to serve:
I don't mean like a DEMAS who served for a while and then quit because of the world.
I don't mean like a JOHN MARK who served until he got discouraged.
I mean to serve until Jesus comes, not just until there is a replacement.
There was a time early in the life of George Beverly Shea when he had to make a life-time decision. Already he had a developed voice with many opportunities to sing for the Lord. One day an offer was made to Mr. Shea. This was a legitimate offer and Mr. Shea knew if he would take the offer he would become very, very wealthy. It was a dream of a life time. However, he had a godly mother praying for him. And thank God for Godly praying mothers.
On the Sunday morning before he was to make his decision, his mother laid on the piano a poem written by Rhea Miller. As Mr. Shea sat at the piano practicing, as he did each Sunday before church, and with that poem in hand, he wrote the music to "I’d rather have Jesus." You have heard the words:
I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold.
I'd rather be His than have riches untold.
I'd rather have Jesus than houses or land.
I'd rather be led by His nail scared hand.
I'd rather have Jesus than man's applause.
I'd rather be faithful to His dear cause.
I'd rather have Jesus than worldwide fame.
I'd rather be true to His holy name.
Than to be a king of a vast domain, or to be held in sins’ dread sway.
I'd rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today.
On the next day he said to the man who had made the offer to him, "I cannot come. I’d rather have Jesus, and the work he has for me to do." As you well know, that song did become George Beverly Shea's life song.
Before I draw this message to a close, let me challenge the men and women of this church, mom's and dad's, and those of you who we affectionately refer to as our "Senior Saints." Today, who are our young people looking to as Christian Role Models? Someone wrote,
"Much can be determined about a nation's ideals and future welfare by the character of its role models. Who are the most admired people in America? Are they the spiritual leaders, civic and political leaders, altruistic social reformers? The heroes and idols of America are actors and actresses, sports figures, jetsetters, entertainers and rock stars. With a wine glass or a joint in one hand, and somebody else's mate in the other, they swindle their way into the living rooms and hearts of America. Our homage to such celebrities tells us as much about us, and our probable destiny, as it does them." In answer to the question "And what about the church as a role model to our youth in this generation?" they said, "The church has not escaped this dearth of authoritative leadership. The voice which once sounded sharp and clear with hope is now strangely muted and her influence in the world community has become almost silent. The salt has largely lost its savor, and the light its radiance."
Where are the role models today? I mean the examples of service and suffering for the cause of Christ.
Eric Liddell was one of them. You remember him? He stirred his generation by refusing to race on a Sunday in the 1924 Olympic games, and by his ultimate victory in the 400 meter dash. The entire story was depicted in the Award-winning film "Chariots of Fire."
One year after winning the gold medal, he went to China as a missionary carrying the Gospel by bicycle and foot to the back country of that nation. He was captured and classified as an "enemy national." He was sent to prison and died there in 1945. Here is a summary of how he influenced those with him in prison, "None of us will ever forget this man who was totally committed to putting God first. That friendship with Jesus Christ meant everything to him. As a Christian, Eric Liddell’s desire was to know God more deeply, and as a missionary, to make Him known more fully."
I challenge you with the attitude, actions and activity of Timothy and Epaphroditus. I wonder how many in this service would have the commitment to stand and say:
I'll be an Timothy;
I'll be an Epaphroditus?
By the grace of God and for the Glory of God I’ll serve the Lord Jesus until He comes.
Has God spoken to your heart after reading the sermon on "The Model of a Christian?" Then why not right now talk to God about what He has spoken to you.
Do you have the assurance that one day you will go to heaven? If you have no assurance that you know Jesus Christ, then I trust you will decide to accept Him as your personal Savior. The Bible tells us in
Acts 16:31, “…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…”
Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
This prayer is here for those who need to ask Jesus to be their personal Savior: “I do want to go to Heaven. I know I am a sinner, and I do believe Jesus Christ died for me. I realize I cannot buy this great salvation, nor can I earn it. Knowing Jesus died on the cross and arose from the grave to pay my sin debt and to purchase my salvation, I do now trust Him as my Savior, and from this moment on I am completely depending on Him for my salvation.”
If you made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, please let me know. Please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you some literature that will help you in your Christian life.
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