December 19, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Philippians 2)

Submitted by Timothy R. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

Philippians 2:19-24

  • Reflect on the description of Timothy.

I find each of the phrases that Apostle Paul uses to describe Timothy to be so challenging and inspiring:

I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.”:  Timothy’s concern for others was without parallel. We read in Acts 16 that Timothy was there with Apostle Paul when they first planted the church in Philippi, so he had personal history with the Philippian church. It seemed like Timothy never let those relationships deteriorate over time but kept up his concern for the Philippian church members. As Paul points out, this kind of genuine concern for others is very unusual (“I have no one like him.”). Typically people look out only for their own interests. How was Timothy able to have such genuine and selfless concern for people? Apostle Paul correlates it to Timothy seeking first the interests of Christ. Because Timothy was a person who put Christ first, it naturally caused him to be others centered in this way.

You know Timothy’s proven worth”:   It’s not just Paul who can vouch for Timothy but Paul was confident that the Philippians will be able to vouch for Timothy’s proven worth. It’s easy to be caring towards a select group of people who we get along with, and click with.  But it’s another thing to be able to say to an entire church congregation, “you know Timothy’s proven worth.”  That’s a testament to Timothy’s consistent and uniform care towards all people.

“How as a son with father he has served with me in the gospel“:  This frequent description of Timothy by Paul really challenges me and has long been a source of encouragement for me. I look at the portrait of Timothy in the New Testament and seemingly opposite description of Paul in Scriptures.  They seem like polar opposites when it comes to temperament and personality. Paul was bold, courageous, and intense.  In contrast, Timothy comes across as timid, sickly, and unimposing. Yet despite their external differences, they were so alike when it came to their commitment to Christ and their heart for the gospel. In terms of personality and temperament, I can identify with Timothy lot more than I can with Apostle Paul. But through Timothy’s example, I am always reminded that I can still strive to be like Apostle Paul. That my innate personality cannot be an excuse, nor disqualifies me from being able to serve God as zealously and faithfully as Paul did. Timothy is a great example of how insignificant those externalities are.

Philippians 2:25-30

  • What kind of man would risk his life for the work of Christ?  Why is it appropriate to honor such people?  Who are the people in my life I ought to honor for their labor for the Lord? 

A person who would risk his life for the work of Christ is very much like description of Timothy. It is someone who prioritizes Christ and genuinely takes interest in the welfare of others. Epaphroditus was very much like Timothy in that way.  Paul describes Epaphroditus as “my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier.” What an incredible compliment and praise that was!  It is appropriate to honor such people because they are genuine and rare heroes who demonstrated the life that I am called to live. Even among professing Christians, it’s rare to find Christian who fit the kind of descriptions that Apostle Paul uses for Timothy and Epaphroditus. And when there are Christians who live such lives, it’s only right that I honor such people.  And the best way to honor such people is striving my best to follow their example. That’s the least that I can do.  I am thankful that my life is full of such people, both those who lived in the past and those who are living in the present. I think about the cloud of witnesses who have gone before me such as C.T. Studd,  Hudson Taylor, George Muller, and Apostle Paul himself.  They really demonstrate what it is like to put others’ interests in front of their own. In addition to these ancient cloud of witnesses who have gone before me, at our church, we had the privilege to meet modern day heroes like Chuck Colson, Marilyn Laszlo and others who have proven over and over again, their willingness to put concern for others and interest of Christ above their own.

  • Paul’s emotions are closely tied to the welfare of those he loves.  Do I have people in my life who cause me to rejoice and grieve?  How can I cultivate this level of closeness in my relationships?

Yes, I am thankful that I have many such people in my life. Even as I write this, I see this as such a testament to God’s blessing and work in my life. For I know that naturally speaking, I am not relational nor people oriented. Without Christ, I would have been a total loner living a pretty isolated and lonely life. Yet because God intervened in my life, now I am part of this spiritual community where I have literally hundreds of brothers and sisters in Christ. And their lives are pretty much intertwined with mine.  And I can honestly say that I rejoice and grieve depending on what happens in their lives.  I am so thankful that God has blessed me with such relationships. One way that I can cultivate this level of closeness in my relationships is to do what Paul demonstrates in the opening of Philippians. I can remember them in my prayers, thanking God for their presence in my life and lifting up their needs as I become aware of them.

Personal Prayer

Lord, thank you for the challenging and inspirational examples of Timothy and Epaphroditus. They are such beautiful examples of those who put others’ needs and the gospel above their self-interest. And because of that they were such a source of strength and encouragement to Apostle Paul and the Philippian church. Lord, I pray that I might be able to follow in their footsteps. Lord, please help me to become a person who can strengthen and encourage those around me, because I put their welfare and gospel above my own interest. In Jesus name, Amen.

Submitted by Mark L. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

Philippians 2:19-24

  • Reflect on the description of Timothy.

The apostle Paul points to Timothy’s “proven worth” as the reason why he is sending him to the Philippians.  It isn’t the fact that he possessed some kind of innate abilities, great speaking skills, ministry success, or the fact that he is some kind of great project manager with great logistical skills.  It is simply because he is someone who is “genuinely concerned for [the] welfare” of others.  What makes him stand out from other people that the Apostle Paul might have served with or people that he was considering was that Timothy would never place his own interests above others.  As I think about the confidence that he had in Timothy because of his selflessness, it’s a striking contrast to the way I assess my “proven worth.”  It’s often worldly as it relates to whether I’m progressing as a minister, being given more responsibilities in ministry, whether there is ministry “success” on my watch, and so forth.  All of the concerns center on me and what my interests are.  This is so contrary to the interests of others and the interest of Christ.  I myself have been on the receiving end of Christ’s interest in my welfare, namely to reveal himself to me so that I might be saved.  And in so many other concrete ways I have been the recipient of God’s love through people’s sacrifice and the concern they had for my spiritual welfare; I am where I am precisely because of the interest that my leaders, as well as people who weren’t in the same ministry, had in my spiritual well-being.  It’s really challenging to read how Timothy is described in this manner and it’s kind of selfless heart that I want to embrace going into 2013.

Philippians 2:25-30

  • What kind of man would risk his life for the work of Christ?  Why is it appropriate to honor such people?  Who are the people in my life I ought to honor for their labor for the Lord? 

In Epaphroditus’ case, verse 26 provides a clue as to what kind of man would risk his life for the work of Christ.  His distress was on the account that the Philippian church had heard that he was ill.  In other words, even though he may have been bed-ridden as a result of physical exhaustion and not being to function normally, he somehow had the room in his heart and enough of his mental faculties to process the fact that they had heard he was ill and be distressed.   It shows the capacity of his heart and the kind of selflessness that is able to have this kind of concern even though he is the one who is ill.  When it comes to one’s personal well-being and needs, he must have been someone who would always place the needs of others above his own needs.  Such a person who is selfless and whose concern centers other people would be the kind of person that would risk his own life for the work of Christ.  Our church was really blessed to have such people visit and share their testimonies.  I remember when Ajith Fernando coming to our church.  What made his messages and testimony so powerful was simply by the fact this was a person who could have chosen to live a very comfortable life as a scholar in America but instead chose to stay in his war-torn home country, Sri Lanka, to serve his own people.  No one would have really blamed him if he had left in order to insure the safety of not only his own life but his family as well.  There are also two missionaries from Central Asia who serve as a constant reminder as to how I should be defining the notion of what it means to suffer for Christ.  The personal struggles and hardships as well as dealing with many obstacles outside of their control have served as a constant reminder not only the cost of serving Christ but the joy and the resulting praise to God in seeing such examples of sacrificial love.  Here at our church, there are the leaders Pastor Ed and Kelly, who have not only tirelessly gave it their all in leading our church but have done this on a consistent basis, day in and day out, putting the needs of others above themselves.  I’m so blessed to have examples of those who have denied themselves and risked their lives for the work of Christ and see that I would be the poorer person for it if I were to fail to honor such people.  To honor such people in my life would be to recognize that all of the spiritual blessings that I have received in my life, including my salvation and to follow the examples of people living in full trust and faith in God.  Without such awareness, it would be impossible for me to be filled with awe and gratitude towards God.

  • Paul’s emotions are closely tied to the welfare of those he loves.  Do I have people in my life who cause me to rejoice and grieve?  How can I cultivate this level of closeness in my relationships?

I have had the privilege of leading small groups and am very thankful for the people that God placed in my life to love and to lead.  Ironically, it was those who have caused me grief that I feel closest to and am able to rejoice as I see where they are at today in terms of serving God.  This was possible because of the fact that I had to confront them on certain glaring issues in their life in which they needed to struggle over.  And as I look at where they are right now, I’m very thankful and able to rejoice and marvel at how God has worked in their lives.  The way I need to cultivate this level of closeness in my relationships has to be centered on truth, honesty, and trust.  Naturally, I’m someone who doesn’t want to stir the waters by avoiding any kind of emotional discomfort in relationships.  It’s a tendency where it regretfully has manifested in some relationships in the past.  For all of the people that the apostle Paul knew, I’m sure it was not without any risks involved.  With some, he must have had to confront them on a glaring sin issue and risked being misunderstood and having the relationship severed.  In other relationships, he must have experienced heartaches by trusting that his fellow workers would be by his side during his most trying moments and then finding out that they had deserted him.  For every Timothy and Epaphroditus in his life, there must have been plenty more who may have deserted or severed their relationship with him.  So why would anyone bother to go through such a process if that is what it will take to develop the kind of closeness displayed in the apostle Paul’s relationships?  It’s because we were designed and meant to be in a set of relationships, especially within the context of serving God and building up his church.  It is precisely the kind of close relationships seen here with the apostle Paul and Timothy and Epaphroditus that not only could potentially bring grief but at the same time, there is rejoicing on many different levels, including seeing people change towards repentance and having suffered together and overcoming difficulty in serving God.

Submitted by Andrew I. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

Philippians 2:19-24

·       Reflect on the description of Timothy.

Apostle Paul thought very highly of Timothy and viewed him like “son” who has “served with [him] in the Gospel.” Timothy was someone who has proven his mettle in serving along-side Apostle Paul for the advancement of the Gospel, and the father-son relationship really captures this. I’m sure in this simple statement, there must be stories and examples of Timothy and the suffering and sacrifice he had to face, alongside Apostle Paul, in order to proclaim the Gospel. It is clear that he is one in heart with Apostle Paul and so the physical and emotional sufferings that we see in Apostle Paul throughout his Epistles also probably existed in Timothy’s life as well. Apostle Paul doesn’t hold back his appreciation of Timothy as he goes on to say that he has “no one like him” in partnership with him in the ministry. Apostle Paul views Timothy as his faithful right-hand man, someone he can depend upon in the difficulties of ministry and building the early church. He knows that he and Timothy share the same heart for the Gospel message to go to the ends of the world. And he is fully appreciative of this fact, that he has Timothy at his side and shares with him the burdens of the Gospel. He thinks so highly of Timothy that he wants to send him to the Philippians because he is confident that Timothy will be genuinely concerned for the Philippians’ welfare and to put the interests of Christ ahead of his own. And he sends Timothy not only to be a benefit to the Philippians, but also to exemplify everything that he has been exhorting the Philippians to do. In Phil. 2:3-4 he challenges the Philippians to consider others more important than themselves and to put the interests of others ahead of themselves, and that is exactly how he describes Timothy. And Apostle Paul is wise because he knows that the Philippians know this aspect of Timothy as well! The Philippians knew “Timothy’s proven worth,” and so could they all could look up to Timothy and respect him and learn to follow in his example. Timothy had already proven himself to the Philippians in this way and so he would have been the perfect person for Apostle Paul to send to them at this time.

As I think about the description of Apostle Paul has of Timothy and the way he views him, I am challenged to become more like Timothy. I can be more “Timothy-like” for my leaders here at the church plant in Minnesota. It’s difficult to be the top leaders of a church and it can feel lonely and tiresome trying to handle and deal with all the aspects of the ministry. At times, it can feel like they are the only ones pushing the ministry along as they try and handle the big picture of our church. And into that situation, I can be a source of encouragement by pushing alongside them and by sharing their burdens and concern for the Gospel and the ministry. Many times I think about how I can love my leaders and I think that I need to do something directly for them, serve them in some way, give them something, etc. But being a “Timothy” for them in this ministry can be another way that I can show my care and love for them. How does this play out concretely in my life? It’s by being proactive and taking initiative in the ministry, thinking about different things we can try and do, trying to solve problems that I notice, taking ownership over an aspect of the ministry, volunteering for different tasks, and being as zealous and passionate in all that I do.  As I show genuine care and concern for the church and the ministry and look to the “interests” of Jesus Christ, they’ll be strengthened and encouraged knowing that they do not bear the burden on their own. And in this way, I can be like a “son” to them as I serve “with [them] in the gospel.” I’ve been entrusted with the responsibility and calling to share the Gospel message not only verbally but also with the life that I live here at Minnesota. As I am serving at our church plant, I have been called to be “genuinely concerned” for the welfare of the students we meet at the various campuses and to put the interests of Christ ahead of my own. This is something that I need to continue to challenge myself and grow up into. It’s hard for me to be genuinely concerned for others and to put Christ’s interest ahead of my own because I am a selfish and self-centered person. I want to take care of my own things and to prioritize my own life. But remembering the entrustment and calling that I’ve been given as a church planter helps me to struggle with those feelings and to put them aside.

Philippians 2:25-30

·       What kind of man would risk his life for the work of Christ?  Why is it appropriate to honor such people?  Who are the people in my life I ought to honor for their labor for the Lord? 

Epaphroditus was a man who was willing to risk his life for the work of Christ. He was willing to do this because he knew that his own eternity was guaranteed in heaven and wanted to pour out his life so that others could be saved as well. He did not consider his life worth anything to hold onto, but was willing to let it go if it could attain something that was genuinely precious. He saw his life as something temporary and transient, but he saw people’s salvation (i.e. the work of Christ) as eternal. In the same way, I need to consider my own life as temporary, and take on the challenge to risk my own life for the work of Christ. It’s hard and difficult to consider my life not worth holding on to because I am selfish and sinful and it’s the dominant reality of my life. And that’s why I need to have faith in God’s word that tells me otherwise, that heaven is real and that souls are eternally more precious than the body. It’s hard and it’s a daily struggle for me and that’s why it is appropriate to honor such people who are able to do so and are willing to sacrifice themselves and their bodies for the Lord’s labor. I think about some missionaries that our church knows and the kind of labor they do for the sake of the Gospel.  They are sacrificing their bodies trying to love people that can be hard to love and trying to build up a ministry in a country that is hostile to Christianity. They are willing to risk their lives and to give up their comforts for the sake of the Gospel and they clearly deserve my honor because I know how hard it would be for me to try and live like that. And even closer to home, there are people in our church who have sacrificed things in their own lives in order to labor in the Lord. And as the year ends, I’ve specifically been thinking about the various pastoral/lead couples of all of our churches and ministries as people that I can honor by sharing my appreciation for them for what they do and by praying for them and their needs. I’ve been given a glimpse of the kinds of things they endure as I’ve served along side some of them and hear different stories of their experiences. They are definitely people who sacrifice a lot as they serve God. They are constantly thinking about others, putting other people’s interests ahead of their own, sacrificing their own personal time and energy and giving it to others. They are definitely people who lay down their lives for the sake of others and set an example for me to follow and so are worthy of my honor and respect.

·       Paul’s emotions are closely tied to the welfare of those he loves.  Do I have people in my life who cause me to rejoice and grieve?  How can I cultivate this level of closeness in my relationships?

Yes, I do have people in my life who causes me to rejoice and at the same time grieve, and if I stop to think about it, it kind of surprises me that that is the case. It surprises me because I know that it would not have been the case my freshmen year in college before I became Christian. Back then, I could care less about people around me. All I cared about were my grades and how I was doing and I viewed others only in terms of how they could benefit me. If they were going to be a burden in my life in some way, I would sever that relationship and move on. But now, after becoming Christian, my life has been connected to so many others because of the Gospel and I experience the highs and lows because of that. I am no longer alone in this world, but am connected in a web of relationships. I have been a recipient of love from so many people as well as a channel of love to others in this church and it is because of this that I have people who cause me to rejoice and to grieve. I have so many leaders in my life who’ve sacrificed and loved me, my peers from college with whom I serve alongside with, many others that I’ve served in different ministry groups with, people I’ve served on the mission field with, people that I’ve shared the Gospel and ministered to, and the list can go on and on. If I were to write down every single person that I am connected to now because of the Gospel and this church, it would fill pages and pages! And I would have never imagined my life to be like this when I first became Christian. Indeed, my life has been enriched in relationships because of the Gospel and this spiritual community. I care about people and love them and this is why I can rejoice and grieve with them. I think about my friend right now who is trying to move down to San Diego to help the ministry there. I am thankful for his sacrifice and can rejoice in his willingness to go.  And then there are the joys in seeing people that we’ve ministered to over these past few years coming to Christ! We experienced our first baptisms this past year in Minnesota and it was such a joyful moment as I thought about each of these students and the transforming power of Christ in their lives. There were also many salvations here in Minnesota and as I think about each of them, it brings joy to my heart as well. And at the same time, my heart grieves as I think about different people who have turned their back on the Gospel message. They once were faithful Christians, excited about serving and giving to God, but for some reason or another decided to go back to their old lives. I worry about them as I don’t know much about what is happening in their lives and I can only pray for them and hope that they would come back to the Gospel in the future. I think the best way for me to cultivate this level of closeness in relationships with others is by praying for people in my life, praying for my leaders, praying for my peers, praying for my ministry team members, praying for the different needs of people in our church, and praying for my students.  And in this way I connect to them and am able to share in their burdens and joys.

Personal Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,

I thank you for the blessings of the many relationships that I have because of the Gospel in this body of Christ. Indeed, I realize how rich my life is compared to what it would have been had I not decided to become Christian. I pray that I may honor those within the body of Christ, locally and universally, who are willing to risk their lives for Your work. I know how difficult it is for me to surrender my life daily and as I see people who do it more faithfully and passionately, help me to honor it by being inspired and motivated to follow their example and to show my appreciation for what they are doing. Help me also to be faithful in prayer as I think about different people in my life and their needs and burdens. In this small way I can love them and cultivate my relationship with them. Finally, help me to grow into the role of being a “Timothy” to those around me. Help me to see that I can be a source of encouragement to my leaders by being a faithful and zealous co-laborer in the ministry. Remind me also that I am to be an example to those who look up to me and witness my life. Help me to live a life that exemplifies Christ-likeness, being humble and not grasping for my own life, but instead consider others more important than myself by putting others’ interests ahead of my own in love.  In Jesus Name, Amen.

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