Happily Serving the Lord Together Always

17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. 19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. 23 I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, 24 and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also. 25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me. (Philippians 2:17-30)

Beginning in verse 17 and going through the end of chapter 2 we read of three men who faithfully served God in varying ways in the first century church. Three men who obviously loved the Lord, and at some point in life, by the power of the Holy Spirit and for the glory of God, came to a place of saying, “My life will now be wrapped up in the Lord Jesus Christ.” All three of these men came to that conclusion, that decision in their lives.

These men decided to take a detour from the broad way of life that the vast majority had chosen and to give themselves to or for something else. They didn’t break completely with the world – they lived in the world – but what they broke from were the philosophies that were governing the world of their day. They decided to break from those philosophies that were against Christ, against God. To break from the philosophies they may have grown up with in their own traditions, and to do something different.

We may look at these men today and say things like, “Wow, these were extraordinary men.” We look at them with admiration and awe. We read of them and respect them, giving honor to them with our words. And while we may hold them up as great and worthy to be followed, in their day, for the most part, they would have not been held up so highly by the masses, nor praised in the streets. More likely they would have been described with different words such as “strange,” “odd,” “crazy,” “ignorant,” “foolish,” and “losers.” Why? Because they were breaking from the world.

Breaking from the world in radical ways does not usually bring praises from the world. But these men were not looking for praise from the world, they had instead decided to live for another. Not primarily to live for each other even, or those that they served, not first of all, but to live their lives primarily for God. 

So three men: Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus.

Over the next few weeks we are going to take a look at these three men. I want us to get some idea of how they chose to live life, and how they thought about life. I want us to see the risks they took and the attitudes that they carried with them while taking such risks. I want us to see them, what they did, how they thought, how they loved, and who they loved. And in this I would like us all to take a look at ourselves, and to ask ourselves some hard questions such as: “What am I doing with my life?” “Who or what am I living for?” “Is my life being spent well for my Lord?” Our lives are all being spent, but are they being spent well for our Lord? Some hard questions for us but questions, I believe, that are worth asking while we are still around, still here. How will we live day to day, with these lives that God has entrusted to us?

I love what Mark said when he opened this morning, talking about worship. So often when we think of worship we think of a “worship service,” and the whole thing is supposed to be about worship, not just the music. It’s easy to see how music is worship because we all participate in it. I wonder sometimes how we look at the sermon, and I hope we don’t think of it as one guy participating and everyone else observing. That’s not how it’s supposed to be. I hope this morning as you hear these words and hear the Scripture, that you’re constantly evaluating it and looking at your own heart. You’re asking questions like, “What does this mean about God?” “What does this mean about my life?” “What does this say about my heart?” “How am I going to live differently when I leave this room?” “How am I going to interact with the Scripture?” “What about these commands we’ve heard about?” “What about the Gospel?” “Where is my mind?” “Where is my focus?” I hope you will participate with me as I say some things from our passage and you evaluate your own heart, and your own life.

So that is the plan, and I hope you are ready to gaze into these men’s lives, and into our own hearts as well. For today we will mostly consider Paul.

17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:17-18)

He uses the word “rejoice” twice in these two verses. He’s rejoicing, and he wants others to rejoice with Him. We spent some time the last couple weeks considering what the society was like in Philippi. We learned that they were in a crooked and twisted generation. Yet Paul says “I am glad and rejoice with you all.” In this crooked and twisted generation. By the way, Paul was of all men experiencing this crooked and twisted generation. He was a prisoner for his faith. He wasn’t a guy saying, “Things are bad and they are gonna get worse, and some day it may be so bad that we may suffer as prisoners for our faith.” No, it was happening for him. He was past that; he was a prisoner. He was right in the middle of it. No speculation about coming bad days where individual lives will face physical and economic persecution; it was upon them. He was living what we project might happen some day. He was living it.

And so in this environment he chose his path. Paul was past trying to build his retirement account and dreaming about a future of comfort and ease. He was beyond building a career that would earn him respect and honor. He was beyond the freedoms of just pursuing what was going to bring him physical pleasure. He had no opportunity to just seek out entertainment to medicate his mind. He had no opportunity, as we do, to get our bodies fixed when they break or malfunction, no modern medicine. No, he was where we sometimes speculate we may be some day as Christians in this world. He was beyond speculating, he was living it. He was living out things that we may fear about the future; that was his life. Sound depressing?

I mean really, Paul was like, “Take my money, my toys, my hope for future comfort, my career goals, my entertainment, my special meals, my desserts, my vacations.” I mean really, doesn’t that sound depressing? Where would we be if we were in those shoes? How would we cope? We may say, if all that is gone, “what really is left?”

None of us are there, facing what he faced. We are here, and we are still rich compared to the world. Not much has been taken from us. But what if it were? Really, what if it were? Are we satisfied with Christ? Content with Him? Glorying in our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ? And interaction with Him through prayer and His Word, as Paul was. He was so much so that when everything was stripped away, he could rejoice. Rejoice because the source of his joy could not be taken away. It wasn’t up for grabs. Nobody could take it away. And with His joy secure in Christ, he was free to pour himself out for Christ in loving kindness toward his friends. Here is how we know this to be true.

17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:17-18)

The phrase “even if” at the beginning of verse 17 is a clause that refers to something known for sure. Something that has actually taken place. It could be rendered “because.” He is being “poured out,” that was the price he was willingly paying in love, his life being poured out like an Old Testament drink offering. Paul was a living sacrifice, like that spoken of in Romans 12:1. Many have made bold statements like, “I would die for Christ, I would die for my faith.” And many have done just that. But the question for us this morning is “will we live for Him?”

Now we may not be very familiar with the imagery here of a drink offering. A drink offering was often made in conjunction with an animal sacrifice in the Old Testament. The priest would place a sacrificial animal on the altar and would take wine and pour it either on the sacrifice or on the ground in front of the altar. So an animal sacrifice with a drink offering, all offered to God. A drink offering is poured out completely on the altar or in front of it.

In verse 17, Paul is saying that he is the drink offering being poured out, that is made in conjunction with the sacrificial offering of their – the Philippians – faith. In other words, the Philippian church is giving themselves in sacrificial service to the Lord and Paul is participating in that as the drink offering. They are serving Christ together; Paul is serving Christ and the Philippians are serving Christ. In both instances, both parties are giving of themselves in sacrificial service to God. It’s a partnership; it’s unity.

I just want to be sure we see the sacrifice of both and see the intertwining of their lives together in this effort. Even though they were physically separated, in Spirit, work, and spread of the Gospel, they were partners, living in unity together. And they were all suffering. The Philippians in a hostile pagan environment, crooked and twisted. Remember Paul had told them in 1:28-30:

28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. (Philippians 1:28-30)

The Philippian church was suffering, they had opponents. There was persecution taking place. Just as Paul says in verse 30, “engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.” They were together, they had this thing in common, and that was that they were giving of themselves sacrificially for Christ and for the faith.

A common thing about both analogies, that of being a drink offering poured out and a sacrifice which would be totally consumed by fire, both analogies help us to see the degrees of commitment they have. What I mean is a drink offering is totally poured out and a sacrifice is totally consumed. There is no half-way in this, it is a full-out, committed service.

There is not to be any half-way in serving Christ. I say that and realize that this is where, for some, things become frightening. We say things like “all-out service to Christ!” “100% commitment.” I remember hearing preachers say things like that as a kid and thinking, “That sounds radical. What does that mean?” All-out service must mean you’re going to end up somewhere in Africa. It would have to be hard, it would have to mean separation from family and friends, pretty much just miserable service. 100% service to Christ. What does that mean? What does that look like? 

Does that mean I give up my home, and become like Paul, a traveling missionary, poor and hungry, preaching, in prison? Does it mean I spend all my time at the church house, finding ways to serve God there? Does it mean I give up my family, my friends, my job, empty my bank account, respond positively to every ministry opportunity available? Do I stop sleeping at night because there’s so much to do? Do I give up vacations and times of rest, and just work in missions until I drop of exhaustion? 

No, I don’t think we have to think of giving our all to Christ in terms of any one aspect of Christian ministry. We need to think of giving our all to Christ as being all that we do within the guidelines that the Bible gives us, within the guidelines of our biblical roles, responsibilities, and special opportunities to serve.

I know of a man who was going to give his all to Christ, and he left his family. He abandoned his family to go serve in the missions field. I can’t abandon my family to serve you. That’s not what we’re taught. That would be out of balance with God’s Word, right? I must serve my wife as her leader in love, train my children, and serve you as a pastor of this church, and take care of this temporary body that He’s given me with sleep, exercise, and eating well. It is in all of those things that I must sacrifice to the Lord.

I just think people get unnecessarily fearful or live in guilt thinking they should serve in particular ways, and that taking care of their God-given responsibilities is somehow counter to that. They are not counter to that. As we serve we are to do so all-out, that is for sure, 100%. And serving Christ is doing so in every area of life, living for Him in every activity in life, “whether you eat or you drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

We should even sleep to the glory of God. I just say that because I have heard some say that being poured out as Paul says here means something like, “Keep going, full speed, run the race until you die, and then we will all rest in heaven.” God didn’t make us that way. I don’t think that is the point Paul is making here about himself or the Philippian church. Our lives need to be as balanced as the Bible teaches, but in that balance of activities, whatever we are doing, it should be done sacrificially for the glory of God.

Paul goes on to describe his attitude for sacrificial living. He says, “I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.” Serving God is the supreme purpose of our existence. He created us for His glory, and we’re to serve Him. And if that is true, then our greatest joy will come at the point of our greatest sacrifice. There seems to be a very direct correlation between sacrificial living and joy. Unfortunately, too many Christians only experience a worldly joy or happiness. This is because it is so fleeting, it doesn’t have any staying power; it comes at one moment and quickly disappears. It’s that way because it is based on circumstances. When facing good circumstances, happy, when that changes, sadness, or even bitterness and resentment. You know how that works, right? “Let’s go get ice cream,” and everyone is happy. “Oh no, the car won’t start,” and everyone is sad or even mad. My spouse is happy so I am happy, my spouse is grumpy so I am grumpy. We can get to where the only thing that brings us joy are those things which promote our own self-interests. That is not a biblical joy like Paul is speaking of.

When we seek to do God’s will for His glory, sacrifice our own selfishness for His glory, that is when we begin to understand and experience what real, lasting joy is. The reason we may know little about Paul’s kind of joy may be because we know little about his kind of sacrifice.

Let me give you an example of sacrifice and joy for the Christian. Parents, think about this example. You’re at home, and for the third time in one day, your child comes in with muddy shoes, tracking mud all over the carpet. Not the first time, the third time. You have spent an hour of your day already scrubbing the carpet because of the earlier tracks. You had not planned that on your schedule, it was not on your to-do list from the night before. You had other things planned for your day. You have reached a tipping point and you begin to unload on your child. I don’t mean that in a biblical, appropriate way. Your heart brims with anger and because it does, sinful communication begins to so easily flow from your mouth. You put this child in his place with your very unkind and very condemning words. And you leave the room before the child can say a single word. A little venting has taken place.

As you reflect on your attitude and your actions you begin to feel the conviction of the Lord, and guilt begins to overcome you. You know why? Because you’re guilty. When that happens, there is no joy. In that scenario, nor was there sacrificial service of faith in that child’s life, in your interaction with him. 

What would sacrificial service of faith look like in this case? It would look like attitudes of obedience and faith in that moment. It might look like patience, but only as you look to Christ and consider how patient He is with you all the time, when you do much worse things, three or more times. It might look like kind words that come from a heart that is overcome with worship of Christ. It might look like training for that child instead of condemnation.

These are sacrificial acts, obediences to God, living to glorify Him in ways that go far beyond our own ability and strength. It is living by faith, pleasing Him, glorying in Him. And as we do this, our joy becomes full because our focus is on Him.

Do you see how sacrificial service and joy come together? Sacrifice and service in this little one’s life for the sake of Christ, and joy that follows from that encounter, that is pleasing to our Lord. And so even as Paul is being poured out and the Philippians are sacrificing in serving Paul, they are rejoicing altogether, one with another, as they serve the Lord.

Joy that comes through obedience, sacrificial obedience to the Lord, is a lasting joy. Our sacrifices are offerings to the Lord, but not in the sense of losing something. It’s not really that way. We can’t really sacrifice anything that is not replaced with something better. We think we’re giving up so much stuff. But we can’t give up anything without having it replaced by something far better. It’s like Paul says in 2 Corinthians,

17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17)

And so sacrificial, obedient living in all of life, in every aspect of life – whether ministering to the poor, the spiritually lost, co-workers, our children, our spouse, having a good attitude during sickness, trusting God in pain, refusing to sin to gratify our flesh, sacrificial obedience, living for the glory of God – becomes a joyful endeavor that we as Christians can share together by faith. That is exactly what was taking place between the Christians in Philippi and the Apostle Paul. What does it mean to be poured out as a sacrificial drink offering as Paul was? It’s going through life living for God not halfway, but all the time. If God calls you to go to Africa, go. We serve Him 100% in all of life.

17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:17-18)