Saturday, September 10, 2011

Example of Christian Faith

The Search for Joy
Example of Christian Faith
Philippians 2:17-30
Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.  For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me. 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.
Paul was embracing and holding onto an example and standard of living to show the Philippian church that all who claim the name of Christ should live by. If anyone had the right to complain about their circumstances, it was Paul who had already spent many years in prison as a direct result of his faith in Christ. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;  In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.  Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? ( 2 Corinthians 11:23-29) Paul was willing to die, if necessary, for his faith and be a sacrifice poured out, if it would further the spread of the gospel. 
Paul’s concern for the church at Philippi was weighing on his heart and he wanted to send Timothy to personally attend to their spiritual needs. This would give Paul the opportunity to point to Timothy as an example of Christian faith in his faithful service to Christ. Timothy’s background was that of a Jewish mother and a Gentile father but Paul considered him a “dear beloved son” in the faith (2 Timothy 1:2). Timothy showed himself as a submissive servant naturally caring for the needs of people. Paul waited to send Timothy as part of the “missionary team” until he had grown in the faith and matured in spiritual matters. He did not want to send Timothy to minister as a new convert.  Paul was awaiting the outcome of his trial (v. 23) before he would send Timothy, so the Philippians would know the result of his circumstances and legal state of affairs.
Epaphroditus was a Christian, a Gentile as far as we know and a member of the Philippian church who risked his life and health to take a missionary offering to Paul while he was in Rome. Paul called him, “My brother and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier.” These three men, Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus were companions in the faith knit together in love for the cause of Christ in spreading the gospel. Epaphroditus was like Timothy in that he cared for the needs of others. He left Philippi to bring Paul a love offering protecting the money with his very life becoming extremely ill almost to the point of death. Paul assures the people in Philippi that Epaphroditus’ sickness is over and that he is well by the mercy of God for Paul himself would have suffered, “sorrow upon sorrow,” had he died. Epaphroditus was a blessing to Paul as he encouraged him during his prison experience and didn’t allow his own sickness to hinder him  from being a sacrificial servant.
Thought: It would be a sad state of affairs if we, as Christians, were never considered a blessing to anyone while living on this earth. Paul’s writings exhort us to live sacrificially in service to our Lord and admonish us to be a blessing to others in need. Paul proves to us that the joyful life is a life of sacrifice and service with no thought of reward. What joy Timothy and Epaphroditus brought to Paul during one of the most difficult times of his life.  We too can bring joy to others as we strive to serve them sacrificially relinquishing any thought of reward to the glory of God.

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