good quote

" In my opinion, the great single need of the moment is that light-hearted superficial religionists be struck down with a vision of God high and lifted up, with His train filling the temple. The holy art of worship seems to have passed away like the Shekinah glory from the tabernacle. As a result, we are left to our own devices and forced to make up the lack of spontaneous worship by ...bringing in countless cheap and tawdry activities to hold the attention of the church people." ~ A.W. Tozer

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Joyful Life: Study on Philippians Chapter 8

Philippians 2:19-30
    "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. For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's. But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel. Him therefore I hope to send presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me. But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly. 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. For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. 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. I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me."

Two Humble Servants
Selfless Concern for others honors Christ.
      James McConkey, author of The Threefold Secret of the Holy Spirit, used to tell this story in his own inimitable way.
      Into the life of my brother came this experience. The winter was ending. The ice in our native river was breaking up. A few miles above our home was a small town at which an immense ice jame had formed in the river. Just below this was an island on which eleven people, men, women, and children, were imprisoned.
     Everyone knew the fate that waited them. If the ice dam, with its great wall of water behind it, should break, it would sweep those unfortunate people down-river to their deaths.
   When my brother learned of this situation he put fifty dollars in his pocket and hurried to the little town. When he arrived there he found the entire population lined up along the river banks waiting for the inevitable catastrophe. Standing among the crowd he offered the fifty dollars to any man who would attempt to rescue the imperiled islanders. But no one signified his willingness to make the desperate attempt. Again and again he repeated his offer, and each time it was refused.
   Unable to induce anyone else to try the rescue operation, he sent to the village store for a length of small but strong rope. When it came, my brother tied this to his belt and offered to join himself to any man who would rope himself in an effort to save the lives of the doomed people on the island. Immediately four men stepped to his side, roping themselves to the same line of peril. And those five men picked their way across the great ice dam at imminent hazard of their own lives to bring back to safety those that otherwise would have certainly died. When he offered money, there was not a man who would take the risk. But when they saw him willing to give himself, and were touched by the life that counted no price too great, he drew them instantly to his side.

   Paul realized the value of examples. Timothy and Epaphroditus were partners in the gospel who considered others better than themselves and demonstrated concern for their needs. Paul held them up to the Philippians as examples they could esteem and emulate.

  Paul wanted to visit the Philippians, but he was unable to do so because he was confined in Rome, under house arrest. He hoped to visit them again, but in the meantime, he assured the Philippians: "I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you" (Philippians 2:19). The word translated "I trust" means I hope. "In the Lord Jesus" points out that Paul subjected his plans to the Lord's sovereignty. Lord willing, he would send Timothy to Philippi because he wanted to be encouraged by a favorable report of the Philippians' spiritual progress. Although his own circumstances were difficult, he was interested in the Philippians' situation. He considered them more important than himself, and he regarded them as his partners in the work of the gospel.
   Why would Paul send Timothy? What made Paul choose him rather than someone else? He chose Timothy because he was convinced that Timothy was a man of deep concern and blameless character. Paul wrote concerning Timothy: "I have no man like-minded, who will naturally care for your state" (verse 20). By "like-minded," Paul meant that Timothy shared Paul's concern for the Philippians. He could be trusted to offer the Philippians a helping hand and a pat on the back. He had a good mind and a tender heart.
  It made good sense to send Timothy for another reason. Paul wanted the Philippians to show concern for one another. They could see how Timothy portrayed his concern for them, and they could follow his example. Do other believers matter to you? If they do, do they know it?
  We often feel that we live in a me-first, dog-eat-dog kind of world, but self-centeredness wasn't born in our lifetime; it has been around a long time. Even in the first-century Church self-interest abounded. Paul informed the Philippians that he had selected Timothy as his messenger to them, "for all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's" (verse 21).
   Does your concern for others outweigh your concern for yourself? When Jesus taught His disciples about His inevitable death on the cross-- a substitutionary death for sinners-- the disciples ignored His words. They chose to deny Jesus' cross and dream about His kingdom. Hoping to get a jump on the rest of the disciples who wanted prestigious positions in the Kingdom, James and John asked Jesus to give them co-regent positions. "Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory," they petitioned (Mark 10:37).
  Jesus' reply knocked the props out of the disciples' political platform. "Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them, but so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be the servant of all" (verses 42, 43).
  Then Jesus offered Himself as the supreme example of selfless concern for others. "For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister," He explained, "and to give his life a ransom for many" (verse 45).
   If we truly follow Christ, we will reflect His character by caring more for others than for ourselves.

Timothy's Proven Worth
    The Philippians knew "the proof" of Timothy (Philippians 2:22). "Proof of him" means his proven worth. He has stood the test in his ministry with Paul. He had served with Paul in the work of the gospel as a son with a father. Plutarch suggested that "character is simply habit long continued. "Timothy had habitually served others. That was a major mark of his character. He was characterized by concern. He displayed the attitude Paul wanted the Philippians to show to one another. His humility made his like-mindedness possible.
  Are you known for your concern for others? What is the mark of your character? What is the record of your Christian service?

Expect Company Soon
   After describing Timothy's concern and character, Paul again mentioned his visit to Philippi (verse 23). He hoped to send Timothy "presently"-- at once. As soon as Paul knew the outcome of his legal trial, he would send Timothy. At the same time he hoped to visit the Philippians shortly (verse 24). "Shortly" means without delay. Paul seemed to think that he would be released from Roman custody and then visit the Philippians without delay.

    Epaphroditus served as another example of consideration and concern for the Philippians. Paul had not sent him to the Philippians; they had sent him to Paul. Having found Paul in Rome, Epaphroditus performed a ministry of service to him. Now, however, Paul was returning Epaphroditus to the Philippians because Epaphroditus had fallen ill in Rome.

Concern about the Christians Back Home
    Paul's imprisonment had reduced his ministry opportunities, so he needed someone to help him in his ministry. Out of concern for their missionary, Paul, the Philippians had sent Epaphroditus to him. Paul regarded Epaphroditus as his brother and companion and fellowsoldier (verse 25). That's quite a recommendation. On the other hand Epaphroditus was the Philippians' messenger. He showed unselfish concern for Paul's needs. His attitude was precisely the kind of attitude Paul wanted all the Philippians to show to one another.
   But Paul informed the Philippians that he was sending Epaphroditus home. Why? For two reasons. First, Epaphroditus had become homesick. He "longed after" the Philippians (verse 26). He had an intense desire to go home. Second, Epaphroditus had become greatly distressed upon learning that the Philippians knew he was ill. Epaphroditus believed he had failed his friends in Philippi by becoming sick in Rome. In spite of his illness, he was obviously more concerned about how the Philippians felt. In a display of concern for Epaphroditus, Paul had decided to send him home.

So Sick He Thought He'd Die
   Paul informed the Philippians that Epaphroditus "was sick nigh unto death" (verse 27). He had nearly died. However, God was merciful to both Epaphroditus and Paul; He healed Epaphroditus. He spared Paul the sorrow of having to see Epaphroditus die in Rome. Paul was ready, therefore, to send him back to Philippi, where the Christians would rejoice upon seeing their friend. That happy reunion would reduce Paul's sorrow (verse 28).

A Hero's Welcome
   Paul urged the Philippians to receive Epaphroditus "in the Lord with all gladness" (verse 29). "Receive" means to welcome to yourselves. He wanted them to give Epaphroditus a joyful welcome. In addition, he exhorted them to honor him. He reminded them that it was for the work of Christ that Epaphroditus had approached death's door (verse 30). In fact, he had been careless with his life in order to minister to Paul.
   Epaphroditus was a sterling example of Christlike concern. Rather than being concerned about himself and his needs, Epaphroditus considered Paul's needs and ministered to him. Now, Paul wanted the Philippians to reciprocate by throwing out the welcoming mat for Epaphroditus and by showing Christlike concern for him and his needs.
   Some Mennonites consider it wrong to charge for helping another human being. Instead they say, "I will charge thee nothing but the promise that thou wilt help the next man that thou findest in trouble." That's the way it should be in the work of the gospel; everyone considering everyone else and being concerned about everyone else.
   Epaphroditus' lowly mindedness was evident in his ministry to Paul. It enabled him to be a good partner in the work of the gospel. He, Timothy and Paul were humble servants of God. They considered others better than themselves. They were concerned about others and their needs. They served as shining examples for the Philippians to follow. Christians, today ought to follow their example. They were humble partners in the work of the gospel?

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