Philippians: Real Joy In Real Life
Part Six: Philippians 2:19-30
“Your heart is a work of art. I want to be rich in memories not money. Love is our inheritance, our inheritance honey.”
– Jon Foreman “Inheritance”
“To my grandmother, Florence Worobey, who consistently demonstrated, in word and deed, that participation with God in his mission is the business of every believer, and to my boys, Connor and Adam, that you would grow to be continually captured by the love of God expressed in Jesus, and be moved by the Spirit to play your part in the unfolding drama of God’s redemption.”
– Thesis Dedication Page. David Fields, Shaped For Faithful Witness: Missional Hermeneutics and the Implications for Preaching
We Were Made For Self-Giving
“In your relationships with one another, adopt the same pattern of thinking, feeling and acting as that of Christ Jesus…” Philippians 2:5
“From the highest to the lowest, self exists to be abdicated [given up]…This is not a…law which we can escape…What is outside the system of self-giving is… simply and solely Hell… that fierce imprisonment in the self… Self-giving is absolute reality.”
– C.S. Lewis The Problem of Pain
We Need Concrete Examples: Timothy and Epaphroditus as Examples of Jesus-Shaped Lives
“Timothy, Epaphroditus, and Paul…have understood that Christian commitment means loosing one’s life in order to find it, forfeiting the whole world but gaining one’s soul. A divided commitment to the gospel, as Jesus never tired of saying in various ways, is actually no commitment at all.”
– Frank Theilman
“Join together in following my [Paul’s] example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us [Timothy, Epaphroditus, and others who live with this pattern of life] as a model, keep your eyes on those who life as we do.”
– Philippians 3:17
We Become Examples To Others
“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It’s the only thing.” – Albert Schweitzer (theologian, physician, missionary, 1952 Nobel Peace Prize recipient).
We are all leaders in that we all have the ability to influence others:
Paul let’s his life be an example to others (3:17; 4:9), and that is an example to us.
Leading By Example:
- You don’t have to be perfect (and you aren’t) – but you do need to admit when you’re wrong, learn from your mistakes, and keep leading
- You actually want to positively influence others for Christ (see Phil 1:14, 25)
- God enables us to lead by example (Phil 2:13): “…for God is working in you, both to will and to act according to his good purposes.”
“We are ambassadors of Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 5:20
Life Group Study: Philippians 2:19-30
Open Up: Think of one person in your own life whose personal example has inspired you or motivated you. What was it about that person that you found particularly inspiring or helpful?
- Read Philippians 2:19-30. What do you think Paul’s goal is in speaking of Timothy and Epaphroditus in this section? What connections do you see between the dispositions and actions of these two men and Paul’s encouragements to the Philippian church in 2:1-5?
- What encouragements do you personally take from these examples? How do then inspire you or challenge you? Why?
- In the mainstream Greco-Roman culture, honor was typically granted because of civic contributions, successes in battle, and personal patronage – which was the loyalty and honor given to those very few people in the ancient world who had power/wealth.
(Note: A ‘client’ is a person of lower status and with little wealth or power, who would attach themself to a ‘patron’ as a way of gaining a level of security in an insecure world. The ‘client’ would then serve the interests of the patron, particularly by speak well of the patron in public and so honor them with their loyalty).
What are some of the typical reasons people are honored in our culture?
- Paul speaks of welcoming Epaphroditus “with joy” when he arrives, and to “honor people like him” (v.29). By using the phrase “honoring people like him”, Paul is placing Epaphroditus in a grouping of people who display certain qualities or dispositions. What features of Epaphroditus’ life does Paul consider worthy of honor?
- The types of Christian behaviors that are worthy of honor include: (a) giving attention to the needs of others above one’s own needs (2:25; cf. 2:3-4), and (b) doing the “work of Christ” (2:30). One scholar writes: “any extent to which Christians today think about the dispensing of and acquiring of honor must be done on a scale that reflects the Christological calibrations that Paul uses rather than any other scale” (Fowl, 138).
In what ways can we as followers of Christ today put Paul’s words – about “receiving with joy” and “honoring people” that live like Epaphroditus – into practice?
- The main purpose of this section of the letter is for Paul to set forth Timothy and Epaphroditus as concrete examples of those who live with a Christ-life pattern of life – the kind of life he is encouraging all believers to adopt (2:2-5). But Paul is also providing information about these two co-workers, and is using this section of the letter to speak of his own hopes to come and visit the Philippian church.
This communication about his co-workers and his desires to see the church personally becomes another example of how Paul cares about the church, as he puts it in 1:8, Paul says he: “longs for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.” It seems he really does. Clear, helpful communication of our hopes and desires is one way to care for those around us.
a. How have you experienced clear communication to be loving and helpful? Or, on the flip side, how a lack of clear communication to be unhelpful?
b. Are there areas of your own life where communicating with others could improve?
- When Nathan and Mellissa Basford (missionaries to mountain peoples in Asia) were here in early October, they asked the question that was essentially: “At the end of your life, will you be satisfied with what you did with it? Will you be able to look back, without regret, and say “I lived in a way that was for the sake of God and others”? I was speaking with one of our young adults about that idea this past week, and she mentioned how, because she is young and hasn’t attended many funerals, people in her stage of life don’t often think about the issue of what we really want our lives to have been about. But it is a powerful, significant question to ask.
The chorus of a Switchfoot includes the lyric: “This is your life, are you who you want to be?” This question invites us to think deeply about not only what we are doing but about who we are, and who we will become. In our passage, we have seen concrete examples of two people who have lived in a way that was shaped around Jesus’ own pattern of life.
They didn’t just ask what they wanted to be, but more importantly, who God wanted them to be. At the end of your life, what do you want it to have been about and why?
Pray: Take some time to pray together with your group – that God would be working to shape and form you into the sort of person he designed you to be.