May 17, 2015
When a person loses their confidence it’s not a good situation. Confidence is having a belief or trust, in the power, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing. The other night a friend was sitting in a chair in our kitchen when suddenly the chair collapsed. It was a new chair! That does not promote confidence. When an athlete loses their confidence, their performance suffers and it’s hard to get their confidence back.
In Phil.1:14 Paul mentions that because of his imprisonment, other believers became confident in the Lord and began speaking the gospel with boldness. Perhaps they reasoned, “If Paul can go to prison for Christ, surely I can step up for the Lord” I don’t know.
What I do know is that when it comes to living the Christian life confidence is very important. You see, confidence in God is necessary for living the Christian life
I. THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IS A SURRENDEDRED LIFE. 2:19-30
In the book of Philippians Paul goes back and forth between talking about his own circumstances and the circumstances of the Philippian believers. In 2:19 he returns to his own circumstances. And there is a sense in which v.19-30 are mundane. This is the stuff of personal letter writing. But I want us to see something that is commonly found in Paul’s letters.
Over and over again we find the phrase, “in the Lord.” In 1:14 he refers to confidence in the Lord. Notice in 2:19 he says, “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy.” In v.24 he says, “I trust in the Lord that shortly I will come also.” In 2:29 he says, “receive him in the Lord.” In 3:1, 4:4, 10 he refers to rejoicing in the Lord. In 4:1 he says, “Stand firm in the Lord.” And In 4:2 he says, “agree in the Lord.”
If you are a Christian it is important to recognize that your life is lived in the Lord. You belong to the Lord. The Lord lives in you and the Lord cares about what happens to you. Every circumstance of your life is fully known to the Lord. You are never outside of his love and care, and provision. Of course, if you decide that you would rather live according to your own ways, disregarding the Lord’s ways, then by default you miss out on the goodness of God to his people.
When I speak of living a surrendered life, I am not implying that we live a passive life. The Christian life is never a life of sitting back and just letting things happen. No. The Christian life is an intentional life. No one can live your life for you. We must work out, live out our salvation. In our day to day living we are regularly making plans and setting goals with a view to obey the Lord. We must live our lives.
As Paul is in prison, awaiting his trial he is trying to look to the future. So in v.19 he says, “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon.” In v.24, “I trust in the Lord Jesus that shortly I will come.” Why didn’t Paul just say, “My plan is to send Timothy; I hope that shortly I will come?” Why did Paul have to insert the phrase, “in the Lord Jesus?” Was he just trying to sound holy? This is more important than we think.
In Jms.4:13-15, we read, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’–yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” This is why Paul often uses the phrase, “In the Lord.” It’s the same idea as is found in James. We live our lives in and with the Lord, recognizing that the Lord is ultimately in control of things.
Most of us like to have control. We make plans and we want things to go as planned. And when they don’t we are upset, frustrated, and disappointed. And if others do not respect our plans or our way of living, we are often angry and resentful. And let me add that our attempts to control our lives and the lives of others involve more than just our planning. It often involves our money. We try to have enough money so we don’t have to worry about unplanned circumstances. Don’t misunderstand. I’m not against money. But many people, many Christians, are really trusting more in their money than they are trusting in God. We try to control things by our knowledge and our ability to get a leg up on the other guy, and our position at work and status in life. In fact, for many Christians the only thing they are trusting God for is to go to heaven when they die. Otherwise, “I can handle things down here, Lord. If I need you, I’ll call you. Thank you!”
This is not how Paul lived his life. For Paul all of his plans were intentionally surrendered to the will and purposes of God. Now think about it, if we intentionally seek to have God in control of our circumstances and affairs then guess who is not in control? Yes, we make our plans but we commit them to God. We surrender our plans for each day to God. “Lord, my plans for today are such and such, but you may have other ideas, so help me to rest my confidence in your divine ordering of my day instead of my ordering of my day.” We never know what a day will bring forth. There may be great joy or sorrow in store for us. As much as we like to think we have things under control, we really don’t. It is wise to entrust our plans, our dreams and goals to God and when circumstances do not unfold according to plan, we are looking to God for his guidance and strength. If our confidence is in God, we need not be afraid or upset. Psalm.112:6-7 says, “For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.” Make your plans and be prepared to let them go as you trust in the Lord. The Christian life is a surrendered life.
II. THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IS A SELFLESS LIFE. 2:19-24
Timothy was a co-worker with Paul. He was a young man from the town of Lystra in the province of Galatia. His grandmother, Lois, and mother, Eunice were Jewish Christians, while his father was a Gentile. Paul planted a church in Lystra during his first missionary journey. At some point Timothy came to Christ and when Paul returned to Lystra on his second missionary journey he met Timothy and saw that Timothy knew the scriptures and was a committed follower of Christ. Paul recognized that Timothy could be greatly used in the Lord’s work. Timothy became a traveling companion with Paul and they developed a father-son relationship. Timothy learned much from Paul and Paul relied heavily on Timothy in his work with the churches. In fact Timothy would have been with Paul when Paul planted the church in Philippi.
In v.19-24 Paul writes that his plan is to send Timothy to Philippi as soon as he knows the outcome of his trial. Timothy would be able to bring the believers in Philippi up to speed about Paul and also assess how things were going in the church. But look at how Paul describes Timothy. In v.20 Paul says, “I have no one like him who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. And in v.21 Paul continues by saying, “For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” Who is Paul referring to? We don’t really know. There were others who travelled with Paul. Luke and Silas travelled with Paul. But Paul is probably not referring to them. As Paul was writing about Timothy, obviously, he was reminded of some people who put self before Christ. In chapter 1 Paul referred to some in Rome who preached Christ out of envy and rivalry. And we know there were some in the church at Philippi who had selfish ambition and were filled with conceit. Paul is holding Timothy up as an example of a Christian whose ambition was not self-centered but Christ-centered. Timothy was someone who took a genuine interest in the welfare of the believers in the various churches. According to v.22 the believers in Philippi were well acquainted with Timothy. They had seen his selfless service up close.
Now we all have our own interests. We all have obligations that need to be fulfilled. That is not the issue. In 2:4 Paul says, “Look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.” If we are going to be responsible people we must look to our own interests. But what happens is that because our hearts are naturally self-centered, life becomes all about us. We are concerned about our security. We worry about the security of our family. We are concerned about our health. We are concerned about job security and retirement. We have career goals and financial goals. And then we feel that we need to take some time for ourselves and it isn’t long before Jesus Christ is just another aspect of our full and busy lives.
Selflessness is an attitude that begins in the heart. Selfless behavior flows out of a heart that is filled with and focused on Christ. Selflessness is directly related to the strength of our confidence in God and Jesus. If I believe that God has my back and that God will provide and that God is caring for my life, then I do not have to worry about securing my present and my future.
When a ruler came asking Jesus about eternal life, Jesus asked him if kept the commandments. The ruler said that he had kept all the commands. Then Jesus told him that he lacked one thing, and that he should sell all his possessions and give to the poor and then follow Jesus. Well, the ruler became sad for he was very rich and that was one interest he could not let go of.
Timothy was confident that God was looking out for him. He knew that his life was safe in Christ. So he could be selfless. He could give of himself. He didn’t worry about his life. Instead he focused on the things that Christ is interested in. He tended to the church.
Do you have in mind the things of Jesus Christ? Jesus lived a God-centered, God-directed life. His heart and mind were set on things above. He called people to follow him in living such a life. Those who follow Jesus put him first in their heart and mind. The reason we struggle to do this is because we are more self-centered than we realize. The more we look to Christ and have our hearts and minds filled with Jesus through the Holy Spirit, the more selfless we will become.
III. THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IS A FAITHFUL LIFE. 2:25-30
While Paul was hoping to send Timothy and hoping that he himself would be able to return to Philippi, his immediate plan was to send Epaphroditus back to Philippi. As we see from v.25, Epaphroditus was part of the church in Philippi. He had come to Rome to bring to Paul a gift of money from that congregation. Look at how Paul refers to Epaphroditus. He calls him his brother, a fellow worker, and fellow soldier. In others words, Paul counted Epaphroditus as a co-worker in the cause of Jesus Christ.
Now what did Epaphroditus do? Well, from the text, all Epaphroditus did was to bring the money. We don’t read that he was preaching or teaching. He didn’t do any miracles or, anything, really. It could be that in bringing the money he also spoke words of encouragement to Paul, but I’m reading into the text. What is more, it seems that while on his way to Rome he became very ill. One scholar points out that Epaphroditus was probably not traveling alone since it would not have been safe. When he became ill, someone in the group returned to Philippi to bear the news while Epaphroditus and the others continued on to Rome. According to v.27, the illness was very serious. He was at death’s door.
Paul goes on to tell us that in his mercy, God spared Epaphroditus. We don’t know how he recovered, but I am sure people were praying and his recovery was an answer to prayer and a miracle of God’s grace. After all, there were no hospitals and medicine was primitive compared to what we know today. Paul was so relieved. He wrote this letter and sent it back by way of Epaphroditus so that the believers in Philippi would have this servant of God back in their midst.
In v.29 he encourages the believers to receive Epaphroditus with joy. They should honor him. In v.30 Paul says, “he nearly died for the work of Christ.” Wait a minute; he was just a messenger, bringing a gift of money to Paul. This is what you call dying for the work of Christ?
What qualifies as the work of Christ? We have some volunteers who count the offering every Sunday. It is a time consuming task. Are they doing the work of Christ? Tom Hartshorn usually deposits the money at the bank. Is he doing the work of Christ? What about those who serve as ushers? What about Derrick who runs the sound? What about those who straighten up the sanctuary after the service? Are they doing the work of Christ?
In my understanding, any act of service that is done out of one’s commitment to follow Jesus, any act of service that is done from a desire to glorify God and honor Christ and strengthen his church is doing the work of Christ, no matter how mundane or thankless the task may seem. The key is in the motivation. Our desire is to serve the Lord.
One of the marks of someone who does the work of Christ is faithfulness. We don’t know exactly how the events surrounding Epaphroditus’ illness occurred but what we see is his faithfulness even in suffering. Faithfulness is a mark of the Christian life. But in order to be faithful, one must be confident in God. The very idea of being faithful implies struggle. And it’s not just the struggle of illness and opposition. Sometimes it’s the struggle of being faithful in the monotony of routine. Prayer, worship, Bible reading can often feel routine. But because we are confident that God is faithful to his word and too his people, we seek to be faithful day in and day out no matter the circumstances.
The believers in Philippi were experiencing persecution. They were suffering for their faith in Christ. Paul commends Epaphroditus as an example of a Christian who was faithful even in suffering.
No matter who you are, or where you are, no matter the circumstances of your life, if you are a Christian, you are going to seek to be faithful to Christ, faithful in service, and faithful in suffering.
Now again, I must first ask if you are a Christian? Are you trusting in Jesus Christ as your Savior, Lord and King? Have you given your life to Jesus? Have you made it your ambition to follow the way of Jesus in your day to day living? And if so, do you trust in him? Is your moment by moment confidence in God or only in yourself and those you can see? Confidence in God is necessary for living the Christian life. If your confidence is in God then you can be surrendered, selfless, and faithful. Amen