Faithful Friends

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 2:19-30)

This morning as we look into these passages and open up God’s Word together we get to see the tremendous blessing of special relationships. We saw last week that Paul was a man who would willingly pour himself out in serving Christ by serving other people. That’s the man that we read about. He was willing at all costs to pour himself out in service to others. He described himself as a drink offering being poured out for them. 

He loved and he gave, He loved Christ and others so he was willing to give of himself to them. His actions did not show him to be a man who was all about himself, caring primarily about himself, but a man who honestly tried to look out for the interests of other people. He’s a great example to us of how we’re to live the Christian life.

When Christ met him in that dramatic way on the road to Damascus – with a blinding light, a voice from heaven – that was major. The events surrounding his conversion were not normal. Christ met him on that road in a fantastic way.

But what was even more dramatic than the way Christ met Paul was the life change that followed. That was a big event, but the years to come were even more dramatic. Paul was a man opposing the living God, persecuting the church, an enemy of the cross. He went from that to a man who loved God and loved the church, a preacher of the cross. He so loved Christ and His church that he would sacrifice for them in dramatic ways of service.

He met Christ, and his life was changed, truly transformed. This transforming change, what it looked like was a life of giving, giving of himself to others. It was like, what other response would be appropriate to such a dramatic change? I have been given a new life, an eternally secure future, a relationship with God. What else am I going to do in response other than, “Here you go God, this is all I have, use me in any way you choose”? 

We saw too that this way of living was one that brought Paul the most joy. He rejoiced in being poured out and he invited the Philippians to rejoice with him in their sacrifices as well. They, the Philippian church people, had also received grace through Christ. They had been recipients of His grace, and so they too were giving of themselves to Christ and to other people. That is a proper response for us too, who have been saved from the wrath of God, saved unto life in Christ. This is the way it is to be for Christians. A looking beyond ourselves, looking to Christ, serving others in His name. Why? Because He has loved us, so we ought to love Him.

One of the joys of our faith is entering into special friendships that only come to us as a result of our union with Christ. Yes, we have Christ. He is ours as Christians and we are His. But along with Christ we get to interact with, love, and serve with others who are also united with Him. We become a family of believers in Christ. Brothers and sisters in Christ. With every Christian relationship we have we should be unified with each other, and there is always a third person involved, that is our Lord. It is not just about you and me, it’s about you and me and our Lord. And so we get to be in each other’s lives. We get to help each other. We get to serve each other, and love each other in special ways. How do we do this most effectively? How do we help each other in the most beneficial way possible? By being more like Christ.

Think about this: the more your brother or sister is like Christ, the more you will be encouraged and built up through that special friendship. That also means that the more you are like Christ Himself, then the more you will encourage and build up your fellow follower of Christ.

Are we faithful spiritual friends? Are we those who reflect Christ well in people’s lives around us? When we interact with other brothers and sisters, do they primarily see Christ? Do we even want to be that kind of spiritual friend who reflects Christ well and encourages and builds others up?

In Romans 15 Paul says this about the Christians to whom he was writing:

I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. (Romans 15:14)

They were full of goodness, they were full of gracious, Christ-like character, filled with knowledge, and able to instruct each other. True spiritual friends. Someone who was walking with Christ, in the goodness of Christ, and who encourages others to do the same.

From our text this morning I want us to look at some significant spiritual friendships, profitable, wonderful relationships that were given as gifts by God’s grace. And as we do, let’s consider our lives and evaluate our commitment to being good spiritual friends to other people.

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. (Philippians 2:19-20)

There are three parties involved in these two verses:
There is Paul who will be sending Timothy to the Philippian church.
There is Timothy who will be the sent one.
And there are the Philippians who will receive Timothy.

Paul obviously treasures his friendship with the Philippian church. He wants to send his friend Timothy to see them. He can’t go himself, so he sends Timothy to see how they are doing and progressing in the gospel. So since he can’t go, he will send Timothy. Why? Because he wants to be cheered by the news of how they are doing. He wants to hear of God’s work among them! What is God doing in Philippi? Paul wants to know. He wants to make sure all is well and that his friends are growing in grace and progressing. Paul is a faithful spiritual friend to these to whom he has ministered.

What is more encouraging than to hear of God’s work among those that you love? Paul wanted to hear and to be cheered by this news. Paul loved those he discipled. There was a spiritual bond there. 

I don’t know about you but as I consider this, I begin to think of what it must be like to be in Paul’s shoes. He is suffering, largely due to his current imprisonment and uncertainty of the future. Put me there and I think I would struggle with a few selfish thoughts. Maybe like, “What about me?” or “At least you guys in Philippi are free, you have nothing to complain about, of course you are doing okay.” I mean what might cheer me would be some decent food, a really good attorney to get me out, a couple more blankets, a lenient emperor, things like that. Those things would cheer me, I think. What might cheer me would be things that might better contribute to my comfort in this really uncomfortable state that I am in. And yet Paul’s focus is different, isn’t it? “How are my brothers doing?” “How is your walk of faith? Let me know so that hearing of your continued faith can cheer me!” Paul had a heart for God’s people. His heart for other people in the name of Christ became so elevated over his own simple concerns for self.

We see this in places like Acts 20, beginning in verse 17. Paul was going away, never to return, and he pours out his heart to the Ephesian elders. He cannot stop his emotions. He loved them dearly, loved God’s people. He expressed this despite his dire circumstances. 

Have you ever been so down, so engrossed in your own difficulties that you cannot rejoice in God’s faithful work in others’ lives? We can get there. We can get so into our own things that we can hardly rejoice at the good news of a brother. We can get so self-focused that even the news of the salvation of a soul can have little effect on us. We can be prone to that. If somebody comes to Christ, the angels are rejoicing in heaven! God is changing hearts and minds, and we can somehow brush it off mentally and go right back to, “Oh but what about me and my troubles!” What a sad place to be.

I wonder what Paul would have chosen if he had a chance to choose. Freedom on that day, or a good report of God’s faithful work among his brothers? What would he have treasured more? A change in his temporal circumstances, or a report of spiritual change and growth among the Philippians?

We need to hear of God’s work around us in the lives of our friends and be cheered by what we hear. Listen to this from Paul’s writing in 1 Thessalonians. He is writing to this church. Listen to how he recounts what he knows and has heard about these Christians. Listen to the excitement in his words, the joy in what he says to them, about what has been reported to him.

2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:2-10)

It is like Paul is worshiping here. He is so excited about God’s work in their lives. He is rejoicing with them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, right? That’s what Paul is doing. The travesty is when we miss out on glorying in God’s work because we can’t get past ourselves and our own troubles. God is so at work, isn’t He? He’s at work all around us, and we can be blinded to that when we don’t take the time to stop and consider all that’s going on in others’ lives.

Two Fridays ago, we had a banquet here at the church to thank all who have been involved in the counseling ministry here. Many, many people have served, we had more than seventy people on the invitation list who have served or had a spouse who has served in this important ministry of our church. Serving includes counseling, assisting counselors, administrative work, security, and greeters; all kinds of opportunities for service.

It is a very labor-intensive ministry. There is a lot going on, it is always changing and moving. Many people are involved, but all those who serve don’t really see each other much. We all do our thing, it runs smoothly, but we don’t all get to spend a lot of time together talking about what God’s doing. So this banquet was a unique opportunity for everyone who could come to see each other, fellowship with one another, and hear stories about what God’s doing. During the course of the evening we had four people give testimonies of how the ministry had impacted their lives in the ways they had served. You know what that turned out to be for me? A time of worship! It was a time to be cheered, hearing about the ways God was at work in others’ lives.

It was a break from the day to day issues of life. A change of pace from problem solving, working through problems, organizing activities. Just a stepping away for a moment from the fast-paced involvement of all that goes on in GBCM, to a time where we all sat and listened and contemplated with great awe and excitement over what all God is doing around us.

We all had problems and issues that day, we all had difficulties in life, but for that time, we were cheered by the reports and reminders of our great God who is constantly at work in the lives of people for His glory.

I don’t know that we get that all the time. Does it cheer you to hear of God’s work in your spiritual friends’ lives? Are we telling those stories to each other, that they might be cheered and rejoice in God’s evident work around us? We can get so negative at times that we fail to say, “Wow! Look what God is doing!” We don’t want to miss that.

The second person in this passage is Timothy. Timothy is the one Paul will send to the Philippian church to get a report of God’s work there. Paul says of Timothy in verse 20, “For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.”

Timothy is described here as a true spiritual friend. He had a genuine concern for others, just like Paul did, and a concern for the welfare of others, just like Paul did. Not only does Paul have significant friendships in Philippi, but he also has a significant friend, spiritual friend in Timothy.

Paul here gives Timothy the highest possible commendation. Paul sent Timothy because he was “like-minded” or “like-souled.” They were alike in their souls. In other words, Paul and Timothy had like-principles. This is a statement of brotherly unity. Apparently for Timothy, to live was Christ, as it was for Paul, and Timothy conducted his life in that way. In this like-mindedness Paul says that Timothy will be genuinely concerned for them, or have a genuine, real interest in their lives. So Paul and Timothy share strong feelings about their fellow Christians in Philippi. Their concern is equal in this matter.

It could be that Paul was as comfortable sending Timothy to them as he would be to go himself, because they had a kindred spirit, they had hearts that had been knitted together.

How does this happen? How do we get to this kind of closeness with other people? Their friendship was based on their love for God and their walk with Him. In 1 Timothy Paul writes,

To Timothy, my true child in the faith:
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (1 Timothy 1:2)

Timothy was Paul’s son in the faith, Paul was Timothy’s mentor in the Lord. There was a spiritual relationship based on their relationship with Christ. This is what unites them, and what should unite us. It’s the type of unity that Christ prays for in John 17, the unity that Paul writes about in Ephesians 4.

Many things can unite us together, but not all things unite us spiritually. We can be united together in our love for the same football team, or because we attend the same school, work in the same office, or like the same political candidate, but none of these things unite so fully as does a shared walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Why? Because if our aim is to please God individually, if that’s what we’re really going after, then our goals, yours and mine, are the same. They mirror each other’s, and they’re heading in the same direction. We will rejoice together over God’s Work, we will hate together what God hates, love what He loves, we will move toward Him together and away from sin together.

This is what we see in Paul and Timothy, “You go, Timothy, and your going will be like me going, because we are unified in our love for Christ, pursuit of what He loves, and in our shared desire to hear and know of God’s work in Philippi.”

Our Christian relationships are gifts from God. And the more individually we are committed to Christ, the sweeter our relationships will be with other Christians. Do you feel like your Christian relationships are lacking? Are you struggling with a Christian brother or sister? If so, I would encourage you to first of all, be certain that you are faithfully pursuing Christ. Start there. Be sure you goals are lining up with Christ’s, your desires are in sync with His, your walk is a walk consistent with His Word. He is the one who unites us.

And then you can, if needed, help your brother or sister to see the joy of following the Lord in the same way. Encouraging one another in the faith, growing together in the faith with significant spiritual involvement with one another.

We clearly see from Paul that Christ was everything in his life, that was primary, to live is Christ. He then poured himself into others, the church in Philippi, and into his dear friend Timothy. Timothy likewise saw Christ as his all, and would then naturally be drawn to Paul with a like-minded kindred spirit. Again, because they are going after the same things. And the Philippian church also, loving Christ, they too will love both Paul and Timothy in Christ.

The key to spiritual friendships is first of all that we examine our own hearts, our own minds, and our own devotion to the Lord. To be sure that we’re pursuing Christ, loving Him, worshipping Him, and devoted to Him. As we do that, and others around us are doing the same thing, God unites us together as we share in those same goals and same desires.

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. (Philippians 2:19-20)

I would encourage us all to be cheered by the news of God’s work in each others’ lives, and to be quick to share those stories of what God’s doing in your life, that they might encourage others.