July 13, 2020
Most of you know that I first started following Jesus when I was 25 years old. At that time I had no clue as to what it takes to follow Jesus. I just knew He forgave me and now I had a new life in Him. So I started looking at other Christ followers to see what it looked like to follow Jesus. One of the things that troubled me when I first started following Jesus, was how few Christians really took Jesus’ teaching to heart and were willing to adjust their lives to obey His Word. So one day I asked our College leader why that was. And he gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever received as a Christian. He said, “If you want to learn what it means to follow Jesus, don’t look at his followers, look at Jesus.”
Now as great as that advice was, all of us still need models or examples of what it looks like to follow Jesus. In fact, I’ve been blessed to have some great models over the years. One of my first models was a deacon at our Church. He was always joyful and generous. In fact, he often bought my breakfasts at our deacon’s meetings. Later on he became my father-in-law, and I got to see him serve his wife and family in so many ways. He was a flesh and blood example of what a faithful, hardworking servant should look like. Then there was my Soccer Coach in College. I got to live with his family over the summer one year, and watched how he treated his wife and interacted with his children. His was the first “Christian family” I’d ever been a part of. So one of the things I learned from him was how to love my wife. Then there was Pastor Dale, my Pastor when I was in Seminary. We ate lunch together every week. He modeled two things for me that I find so important in ministry: how to listen, and how to believe in someone who is raw in ministry. I’ve been blessed to have these and many other models who have taught me how to follow Jesus.
The point is this: you can learn a lot about following Jesus by keeping your focus on Jesus, but God also wants us to learn how to follow Jesus from what we see in other Christ followers. In fact, each one of us is commanded to make disciples of Jesus, by baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything He has commanded. And one of the main ways we can learn how to follow Jesus is by watching how others follow Jesus.
That’s why I’m so excited about opening God’s Word to our passage in Philippians 2:19-30 today. For now, after Paul has taught us how we are to think like Jesus, grow like Jesus, and shine like Jesus, he now introduces to us two men who model for us what it looks like to serve like Jesus. So this morning, we’re going to look at the examples of Timothy and Epaphroditus, two servants of Jesus Christ, who model for us some of the key characteristics found in those who serve like Jesus. So we’re going begin by looking at the Example of Timothy from Philippians 1:19-20 where Paul writes: I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. Here then is the first characteristic of someone who serves like Jesus:
Those who serve like Jesus will display a genuine concern for God’s people It makes sense this is the first characteristic we observe from Timothy. He was willing to act on his concern for God’s people by dropping what he was doing to make the lengthy and tiring trip to Philippi. Once in Philippi, he might have to deal with problems in the church – those who were causing conflict – not an enviable task. But Timothy’s willingness to go reveals his genuine concern.
That’s what a servant does. When they see a need, they are moved to meet the need. Their love for God’s people moves them to act regardless of what they are doing. My guess is that most of you have experienced this kind of concern within your own family. When a family member is in need, you put your life on hold to help – there’s no debate, no delay. It’s like what Kayla and Russell did back in January on the day of Hudson’s premature birth. As soon as they heard, they dropped what they were doing, caught the first flight out and came to be with Courtney and Austin.
But this genuine concern is more than just having a compassion for someone in need, it also includes a willingness to serve even if it might cost you something. Here Timothy models both characteristics for us. That is why Paul said in verse 21 about Timothy: For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. In saying this, Paul is telling us that Timothy has this Christlike attitude that puts the needs of others ahead of his own. That’s the attitude of a servant. God’s people matter to him, because they matter to Jesus. That’s the starting point for having this Christlike compassion for others.
For any of us to be willing to put the needs of others ahead of our own, we need to see one another the same way Jesus sees us. Every single believer is special to Jesus. Every single believer is family to Jesus. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for you. He’s already proven that by going to the cross for you. So if we’re going to have a genuine concern for God’s people, then God’s people need to matter to us. So ask God to open your eyes to see what He sees and open your heart to fill it with His compassion for His people, and you will begin to serve like Jesus. Those who serve like Jesus will display a genuine concern for God’s people.
Well, that’s the first characteristic of a servant we see in Timothy, now here’s the second:
But 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. I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. Philippians 2:22-23 I would summarize this quality by saying: Those who serve like Jesus will serve wherever they are needed The church in Philippi knew Timothy’s coming would be equal to that of the arrival of Paul himself, for Timothy had served with Paul like a son with a father. Timothy wasn’t merely a volunteer in an organization; he was Paul’s son in the faith. They had a special bond; Paul had led Timothy to faith in Christ during his first missionary journey. Paul discipled Timothy. He had showed him how to follow Jesus. And part of following Jesus was learning how share in the work of the gospel ministry. And the result of all his discipling relationship is what Paul shares with us here: “Timothy has proved himself.”
In other words, Timothy had “passed the test.” Timothy had a proven character. He proved to be above reproach, faithful in his marriage, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money, and man who could manage his household well. Paul was vouching for Timothy’s character. He was a mature, faithful minister of the gospel. But there’s one more reason why Paul says that Timothy has proved himself: Timothy was willing to serve wherever he was needed. He proved this by his willingness to leave his ministry in Ephesus to come minister to Paul in prison. You see, prior to Timothy coming to be with Paul in Rome, he was pastoring the church in Ephesus. He was carrying on the work both he and Paul had started years previously. But when Paul asked him to come and be with him, he came. And now he was willing to go to Philippi in place of Paul because Paul had asked him to do that too. Timothy had proven he was a humble servant because he was available to God to do whatever God asked of him.
The best servants are those who are available to Jesus. They will serve wherever they are needed. You see, you don’t need tons of training to be a servant, but you need a heart for Jesus. And you don’t need a Bible degree be a servant, but it helps to loves Jesus. So let me ask you: Do you have a heart for Jesus? Are you available to serve wherever Jesus needs you to serve? Are you willing to take on mundane tasks? Are you willing to tackle difficult tasks? Are you willing to let someone else call the shots and get the credit? That’s what we see in Timothy. Timothy proved himself by doing whatever was asked of him. Those who serve like Jesus will serve wherever they are needed
So those are two characteristics we’ve seen from Timothy, but now we get to see how Epaphroditus served like Jesus: Look now at verse 25 But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. Philippians 2:25 So here’s the next characteristic:
Those who serve like Jesus will be faithful in fulfilling their calling Epaphroditus had come to Paul bearing a financial gift to help provide for Paul’s expenses while he was under house arrest. But he had also been sent to stay with Paul and care for and encourage Paul. This second calling may have been for an indefinite period of time; and explains while Paul went into great detail in commending Epaphroditus – for now Paul was sending him back.
And one of the chief commendations of Epaphroditus was his faithfulness in fulling what he had been asked to do. It appears that Epaphroditus had fallen ill on his journey to Rome, and almost died along the way, but he had persevered. He was going to bring this gift to Paul even if it cost him his life. So Paul is very keen on making sure the Philippians understood all he has done for him, especially the part about him risking his own life to finish the job.
I love this about Epaphroditus. Servants are faithful. Servants will do whatever it takes to fulfill their mission. They’ll take risks most others are not willing to take. What we see in here Epaphroditus’ sacrificial attitude. We don’t see this very often today. Too often, when someone is asked to serve, we hear more of an entitlement attitude that says, “What’s in it for me?” I don’t see that in Epaphroditus. Again, there’s an absence of selfish ambition. Rather, we see a Christlike obedience. Whereas Christ was obedient to death, Epaphroditus was obedient to the point of death. But he prevailed. He was faithful. And sometimes that’s what it takes to serve like Jesus.
I know this for a fact in my calling as a Pastor. There have been times in the past when I was been tempted to throw in the towel. There were just too many demands, too much criticism, not enough support, and very little partnership. And it just seemed like it would be easier to get a job at Home Depot or some landscape company, then to burn myself out with the burdens of ministry. But God’s calling on my life as a pastor is to be faithful. These are the words that always come back to me whenever I was tempted to quit: This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 So this isn’t just a calling for pastors, it’s a calling for anyone who wants to serve like Jesus. God calls His servants to be faithful. I want to be faithful because Jesus was faithful. And that’s what I see in Epaphroditus. Those who serve like Jesus will be faithful in fulfilling their calling
I think today more than ever, the Church needs faithful servants; men and women who will stick it out, who will serve through thick and thin, who won’t quit when life gets hard. You see, anyone can serve when everything’s going well, but true servants are committed to going the distance, because that’s what’s God requires. And that was Epaphroditus.
Well there’s much more we could say about Epaphroditus, for he also put the needs of others ahead of his own. As Paul reported: For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. Philippians 2:26-27 Even with death at his own doorstep, Epaphroditus wasn’t thinking of himself, but was more concerned about his brothers and sisters in Christ who were worried about him. That’s what it means to serve like Jesus. Like Timothy, Epaphroditus always put the needs of others ahead of his own. And for that, Paul believed Epaphroditus deserved hero’s welcome home.
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. So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me. Philippians 2:27-30 Because Epaphroditus was faithful in fulfilling his ministry, not only should he receive a hero’s welcome, but he needed to be honored. And not only him, but we are to honor people like him. We are to honor those who sacrifice to serve God’s people. We are to honor those who put the needs of others ahead of their own. We are to honor those who are faithful to their calling. So Paul’s command to honor people like Epaphroditus is so refreshing. For it’s usually the famous, the talented, the powerful or the beautiful who are honored today. But in God’s realm He wants us to raise the bar on what is worthy of honor – and we’ve seen this today. It’s faithfulness that He honors. For He is the One who will hopefull say to us one day: “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
So today I want to conclude this talk about serving like Jesus by honoring a few of Rock Spring’s faithful servants: First, I want to honor Linda Balzan. She’s on the hospitality team that brings meals to people in need. All I know is that I keep hearing how she goes above and beyond what she is asked. She loves making meals for people. And many of you have been blessed by a meal she has brought you. Thank you, Linda for always being there to cook or bring a meal to anyone in need.
Next, I want to honor Sue Price. Sue has been one of those faithful servants who has worked behind the scenes as a constant presence of love and care for Patricia Hansen over the last few years. Thank you, Sue for your faithful and compassionate care for Patricia and Ken these past few years.
Third, I want to honor Ken Hansen. Ken has served alongside Dave Douglas as co-treasurer since the very beginning. Ken works tirelessly behind the scenes counting offerings, making deposits, producing financial reports, tax documents, and balancing our books. Very few see the work you do, but your faithfulness and hard work keeps Rock Springs above reproach in all our financial dealings. Thank you, Ken for your meticulous and caring stewardship of Rock Spring’s Finances.
Finally, I want to honor Barry and Sandy Christensen. These two have such a gift of helping people feel included in our Church family. You are always so thoughtful and sensitive to new people. And it’s been such a blessing to share in many newcomer breakfasts with you this past year. When I read the prayer cards each Sunday, almost every Sunday you share a request for someone who is hurting or in need. Thank you, Barry and Sandy for your genuine concern and love for everyone who calls Rock Springs family.
So there you have it. These are just a few people who have encouraged me and shown me what it means to serve like Jesus. And although we learn best from following Jesus, God made it possible for us to learn a lot by watching those who follow Jesus. And so we’ve seen some good stuff from the examples of Timothy and Epaphroditus today:
- They showed us their hearts for God’s people.
- They showed us their availability to serve wherever they were needed, and
- They showed us what it looks like to be faithful in whatever they were asked to do.
Sometimes their serving went unnoticed; sometimes their serving took them places they never imagined; and sometimes their serving cost them, but in the end, it was all worth it. For not only did they care for God’s people, but they served them just like Jesus. May our God help us serve one another the same way. And may we learn from one another more and more what it looks like to follow Jesus, and serve like Him.