AGCC Sun. a.m. 5/25/1997
TEXT: Philip. 2:19-30
INTRO: We are in the season of the year when graduation time rolls around. There will be many different graduation events with relatives and friends coming to celebrate the accomplishments of their young people. There are 3 particular categories that catch everyone's attention at graduation:
a. Cum Laude (with honor)
b. Magna Cum Laude (with great honor)
c. Summa Cum Laude (with the greatest honor)
In the Christian realm there are those who have understood that with great
sacrifices also come great joys, the "summa cum laude" of Christianity! Honor
and joy come to those who discover the fountain of sacrifice. Sacrifice is the
foundation for real joy in the Christian life, a joy that can be so great that
one can actually fail to see the loss or sacrifices they have made!
The happiest people tend to be those who are selfless people, they take
great joy in sacrificing themselves for others.
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us
that sacrifice brings great joy to those who are ministered to as well as those
who do the ministering. There is a real joy in sacrifice!
I. SON IN THE FAITH 2:19-24
A. Selfless 2:19-21
1. Paul commends a young man here named Timothy
a. Timothy was hardly a candidate for tough ministry!
(1. He was very timid and easily frightened (see I Cor. 16:10; II Tim. 1:7)
(2. He was physically not well, was sick a lot! (see I Tim. 5:23)
(3. He was from a mixed marriage, evident by the lack of comment of his father as a believer, and since he was uncircumcised until Paul had him be, his dad must have been Greek while his mother was Jewish.
b. Yet, Timothy had a true servant's heart!
c. Paul comments that there is no one like Timothy, he was a man who did not consider himself first, but others.
(1. This reflected Paul's teaching in Philip. 2:4 ff.
(2. Timothy's first concern was that of Jesus Christ, not his own needs
2. The ability to look beyond our own needs, to sacrifice self, is where
we find the greatest meaning of love and life in God.
ILLUS: During the Korean War, a group of believers were in a little chapel when communist soldiers barged in with machine guns. One of the soldiers said, "All right everybody, get up!" So they got off their knees. He said, "Line up against the wall!" They did what the soldier said to do. Then that soldier ripped the picture of Christ off the wall and threw it down on the floor. He said, "All right, one by one, I want you to come by here, spit on this picture, and curse His name."
The first three in line were men of the church, they did what the soldier said to do. They spit on the picture and they cursed the name of Christ. The fourth one in line was a high school girl. She came up before the picture and she dropped to her knees. She wiped the spittle off with her skirt, and she said, "Go ahead and kill me. I cannot curse His name."
The soldier said, "Get up!" They blindfolded that girl and the three men, and marched them out behind the chapel. The people inside heard three shots. The soldiers came back in with the girl -- alive.
The soldier said, "Anyone who gives up what
they believe that easily is not fit to be a communist." And they marched out.
-- Ron Blue, Moody Founder's Week, 1985
3. The call to be a follower of Jesus Christ is such a call to sacrifice!
a. Jesus Himself set this example for us
b. He calls us to be "like Him".
4. Timothy could have drawn attention to his own physical weaknesses to excuse himself from serving, or his own natural fears, but he does not use the excuses he could have, he simply serves!
a. For Timothy is wasn't just the issue of "do I want to do this?"
b. It was the issue of "does God need something done?"
c. The sacrifices were real, and they were hard.
d. Timothy's first concern however wasn't himself!
B. Steady 2:22-24
1. Timothy's sacrifices haven't just been few or recent, he had proven himself over and over again.
a. It is one thing to make an occasional sacrifice, and it is another thing to live a life of sacrifice!
b. Timothy had reflected a lifestyle of sacrifice.
2. Since Paul is concerned about the Church in Philippi, he can think of no one better suited to go to them and bring back a true report than Timothy.
3. When a tough job is called for, you want the steady servant, not the occasional one!
4. Real servanthood in God's kingdom requires a long term commitment, not just a quick sprint!
a. The very best things come from long term steady commitment, not just the momentary shallow commitments.
b. The things of value to us more than likely came from those who had
remained steady in their sacrifices and commitments.
ILLUS: Have you wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed
the Declaration of Independence? Five signers were captured by the British as
traitors, and tortured before they died. 12 had their homes ransacked and
burned. 2 lost their sons in the Revolutionary Army, another had 2 sons
captured. 9 of the 56 fought and died from wounds or the hardships of the
Revolutionary War. There was and is a tremendous price to pay for
5. Wherever we find blessings in our life we will find someone sacrificing behind them!
a. Timothy sacrificed himself for the ministry and those he ministered to
b. Paul was willing to sacrifice his need for Timothy's presence to send
him to the Church in Philippi to see how they are doing.
II. SACRIFICES IN THE FAITHFUL 2:25-30
A. Service 2:25
1. Paul now mentions another man who he praises highly... Epaphroditus.
a. he was probably the Pastor from the Church in Philippi
b. Paul calls him his "brother, FELLOW WORKER, fellow soldier, a messenger" (this word in Greek is "Apostolos" which we get "Apostle" from, sometimes used of "bishop" too.)
2. The Church in Philippi had sent him to bring some kind of help to Paul, and to minister to Paul's needs.
3. Epaphroditus was willing to come as a sacrifice in the name of the Lord and of the Church.
a. Ironically, the Church in Philippi was undergoing persecution, yet they are not focused on their own needs, but Paul's!
b. Epaphroditus is not too caught up in his own needs back home to fail to
come to help Paul.
ILLUS: John Fawcett was preparing to move. At age 32, he was leaving the small Baptist church in Wainsgate, England, for the prestigious Carter's Lane church in London.
Fawcett had worked hard. Orphaned at 12, he was forced to work fourteen hours a day in a sweat shop. He taught himself to read by candlelight and studied continuously. When he was ordained at age 25, he moved to Wainsgate. For seven years he served the tiny church of 100 members before receiving the invitation in London.
However, Fawcett never moved to London. He couldn't break "the tie that binds." The last possessions were loaded on the moving cart as Fawcett began his good-byes. Tearfully he bade farewell to those he had loved for the past seven years. They returned his tears... and his love. It was too much for the young preacher. London would have to wait. Unloading the cart, he decided to stay in Wainsgate a little longer. Fawcett never moved to London; he never even left Wainsgate. He died there 54 years later.
Fawcett was destined to become one of England's greatest preachers. He wrote hymns, published books and opened a training school for young ministers. His "Essay on Anger" so impressed King George III that he offered Fawcett "any benefit a king could confer." His love for the people and their love for him not only kept him in Wainsgate, but it also prompted the writing of a hymn we sing even today:
Blest be the tie that binds Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds Is like
to that above. -- Norm
4. Bigger, Better, and More isn't always the way to greater happiness!
Less can be more if given in love!
B. Suffering 2:26-27
1. Paul now mentions that he is going to send back to them their Pastor...why?
a. Because Epaphroditus had become deathly sick!
b. Evidently, Epaphroditus nearly worked himself to exhaustion!... Paul mentions later in verse 30 that he had almost died "FOR THE WORK OF CHRIST"...seems to indicate that he wore himself down somewhat in ministry!
c. Epaphroditus became concerned (the word used here is "distressed", the same word used to describe Jesus' "distress" in the garden of Gethsemane!) over reports of the Church's reactions in Philippi to the news of his sickness....perhaps the Church which was being persecuted had a hard time imagining the possible loss of their Pastor!
d. Knowing the Church back home was worried brought distress to Epaphroditus!
e. His heart was with God's people, now he was torn between staying with Paul and letting the Church back home know that he was O.K.
2. Because of all this, Paul mentions that he was glad nothing serious happened to Epaphroditus because this would have added "sorrow upon sorrow" to him.
a. Paul was struggling with depression already, one more bad thing would have only added more misery to him!
b. Paul is honest about his struggle here!
3. Though in pain himself, Paul still is thinking about them and not
ILLUS: One of the more heroic stories to come out of the Korean
War involved a young sergeant by the name of Gardolibov. He had been engaged in
the severe fighting on Heartbreak Hill. When the shooting had subsided, a rescue
team was dispatched to the area to aid the wounded. The sergeant was found
dying, but they discovered something very unusual. Although his hands were
paralyzed, he had clenched between his teeth the two ends of a communication
wire that had broken. In that moment when one would expect his every thought and
concern to be directed toward his own needs, he was still doing what he could to
keep the messages going through. He was faithful unto death! Many so-called
"soldiers of the cross" are put to shame by his noble example. Sad to say, when
the going gets rough, the demands too great, the sacrifice too costly, or the
shame of the cross too much to bear, they desert their post and flee back of the
lines where it's more comfortable and secure. Some even go AWOL.
C. Satisfaction 2:28-30
1. Paul now mentions that he is eager to send their Pastor home to them to ease the tension and concerns....although he is the one that needs his fellowship right now!
a. Paul cannot look to his own need knowing someone else is in need!
b. Paul is therefore eager to send Epaphroditus back to them to minister to their concern.
2. Paul also gives them instructions to welcome Epaphroditus back, perhaps worried that they might think their Pastor left Paul behind in his need, Paul assures them that their pastor's return is at his request, not abandonment.
a. Paul states here that Epaphroditus' return to them would lessen his own anxiety because they would be overjoyed to have their pastor back again!
b. Once again, Paul is not thinking of his own need or self, he is concerned about those who are suffering though he himself is suffering worse than they are!
3. What a statement of sacrifice!
a. Instead of Paul mentioning his own sacrifice here for them, he instructs them to honor their Pastor when he returns for his example of sacrifice!
b. Paul mentions here that Epaphroditus had almost died for the work of Christ...indicating that some of what happened could be attributed to his hard work for the Lord, it had taken a toll on Epaphroditus.
c. Paul stating that Epaphroditus had "RISKED" his life comes from a word that meant someone who was commissioned to bury the dead bodies of those who died of infectious plagues! It was a gambling term also! The meaning here is that Epaphroditus put himself at great risk to sacrifice himself for the work of God!
d. This comes back to the concept of Christ who "for the JOY set before Him endured the cross scorning its shame!" (Heb. 12:2)
4. Much was accomplished for God because everyone was sacrificing for each other, and the love was evident to all!
a. Without a sacrifice, there is no joy!
b. It takes an investment of something to pay off dividends in the
ILLUS: One of my favorite sayings I got off a soda bottle: NO
DEPOSIT, NO RETURN. To me that means you'll get out of life about what you're
willing to put in. All champions have made great sacrifices to win their
victories. So when someone talks to me about their goals and dreams, I ask them
one question: "What are you willing to do about it?" -- John Naber, Four- Time Olympic Gold Medalist, Swimming
5. Paul could tell them to welcome Epaphroditus with "great joy" because of the sacrifices he had made, and they had made also!
a. It is ironic that joy should be so associated with sacrifice
b. There is joy because it takes great love to give of oneself, and love always brings joy to the one who gives it, as well as the one who receives it!
6. Have you discovered the joy of sacrifice?
CONCLUSION: Some of the greatest joys come through great sacrifices! the outpouring of love by Paul's friends and workers brought everyone joy, this great joy came from great sacrifices and service. It is ironic that a sense of fullness comes through self emptying. Do you know the joy of sacrifice?