Models of Ministry, Part 2
Models of Ministry, Part 2 4.26.20
Good morning, church family. Another week goes by, and it’s another week where we aren’t gathered together. I believe this is the fifth week in a row when we have not met. Wow. Five weeks without gathering.
The Lord is at work, though. You can be assure of that. The Lord is at work. The Lord might not be at work in the ways that we like, but, dear friend, the Lord is at work. His purposes are being fulfilled. He is on his throne. The world is operating just as he planned it to operate. He is saving people and growing people in their love for him. Michael W. Smith says it well in his new song, “Waymaker”:
Even when I don’t see it; You’re working; You never stop, You never stop working.
So many of you this week have attested to me of the Lord’s work in your life. I’m very thankful for that. If you have not contacted either pastor Jesse or I or the elders about how you are doing, that invitation is still open. Please let us know how you are doing and how we can serve you.
We’re continuing our study of Philippians this morning. Still plugging along. Pastors are called to preach the word in season and out of season. We got to keep going. That’s what we’re doing this morning. We’re exploring part 2 of our series on “Models of Ministry.” Last week we covered Paul’s example and the Philippians example. This week we will cover Paul again briefly, but our focus will be on Timothy.
Go ahead and turn with me to our passage this morning. It is Phil 2:19–24. As you turn there, let me point out that we are covering a larger portion of Scripture this morning. Sometimes I cover just one verse for a whole sermon. This morning we’re covering five verses. That’s a lot. My rationale for this decision is this: these five verses capture a single thought. My approach to preaching isn’t so much verse by verse as it is thought by though. Paul sometimes explains one thought over a number of verses. When he does that, I will cover all of those verses. That’s what he does in our passage. Let’s go ahead and read the passage.
I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.
The title of this morning’s sermon, as I already mentioned, is “Models of Ministry.” We’re studying this passage this morning to derive from it certain principles regarding ministry that we ourselves should live out. I explained last week that ministry is not just for the professionals, for me and Pastor Jesse. It’s not just for the elders and deacons. Ministry is a responsibility that every Christian has. Christ calls everyone to be a minister of the gospel. That ministry can and will look different for every person. Nonetheless, everyone is called to be a minister of the gospel.
Ministry Involves A Concern for Others
Like I had last week, I have two points for you. This week again I have two points for you. For our first point this morning write this: “Ministry Involves a Concern for Others.” To engage in ministry, to be an effective Christian in the world, to glorify God with the life that you’ve been given, you must have a genuine, abiding concern for the wellbeing of others. We see this care and concern for others show up in Paul’s and Timothy’s lives.
First, take a notice at what Paul says of himself regarding the Philippians. In v. 19, Paul alludes to his desire to hear of how the Philippians are doing. Paul states that his desire is to send Timothy to the Philippians soon.
Look with me at Phil 1:1. Paul introduces the letter in 1:1 by writing, “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus.” Based upon 1:1 and what Paul says in our passage, 2:19, we can see that Timothy was with Paul when he wrote Philippians. Paul was jailed in Rome during the time he wrote this letter. I do not think this means that Timothy was jailed with him. Timothy could have visited Paul while he was in prison. It does mean, though, that Timothy was around Paul during the time of his writing. Paul wants to send Timothy to the Philippians.
The reason why Paul wants to do this (look again with me at 2:19) is “so that I too may be cheered by news of you.” The idea is that Timothy will visit the Philippians at some time in the future and will report back to Paul how the Philippians are doing. Now we don’t know how information regarding the Philippians well-being will get back to Paul. Maybe Timothy and Paul have plans to meet up again once Paul is out of jail. Or, maybe Timothy will write Paul a letter, informing Paul how the Philippians are doing. Maybe. We don’t know, though.
What we do know, however, is that Paul is eager to hear how the Philippians are doing. He says in v. 19,
so that I may be cheered by news of you.
Paul wants to hear that they are doing well. Look with me at 2:24. Paul says,
I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.
Paul is going to send Timothy, but he also thinks that he himself will be able to visit. In fact, he wants to visit them. He longs to see them. Turn to Phil 1:7–8. Paul says,
It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you kin my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both min my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
Paul longs for these Christians. He yearns for them. He has great concern, great compassion, great longing to be with them and see them. Paul has a deep, personal, soul-agonizing concern for the well-being of the Philippians.
Timothy, too, has this deep concern for the Philippians Look what Paul says of Timothy. Look at 2:20. Paul says this of Timothy,
For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.
The verb that Paul uses here is worth noting. You see the word “concerned” in the ESV? That Greek verb is μεριμνάω. To better understand this verb, turn with me to Phil 4:6. Paul writes this in 4:6,
Do not be anxious about anything
The Greek verb for “anxious” here is the same verb that shows up in 2:20. Paul says in this passage, “Do not μεριμνάω.” In our passage, Phil 2:20, Paul says that Timothy is μεριμνάω. It almost seems, when we compare these two verses, that Paul is contradicting himself. In one passage he praises Timothy for μεριμνάωing the Philippians welfare, but in 4:6 he commands the Philippians to not μεριμνάω about anything. How do we make sense of this?
When we are anxious, when we engage in the sin that Paul prohibits in 4:6, we are consumed with our own thoughts. We can’t escape them or get away from them. When we become anxious, our mind becomes a prison that we cannot escape. The thoughts that are leadings us to anxiety control us and we cannot get away from them. Anxiety casts a spell on us that we can’t seem to shake. Anxiety brings with it a form of intensity to it. Anxiety is when our thoughts are so intense that we cannot stop thinking about them. There is an intensity to anxiety.
What Paul highlights of Timothy here is that there was an intensity of concern that Timothy had towards the Philippians. His interest in their well-being was not ho-hum. It was intense. He deeply, genuinely cared about them. Paul is not saying that Timothy was sinning here. That Timothy had a sinful worry for the Philippians. No. He is instead saying was that his concern for them was intense, like anxiety. Anxiety is intense. So was Timothy’s concern for them. He had this deep, genuine concern for the Philippians.
What this highlight, what Paul and Timothy’s example highlight, is that there needs to be an intensity to our concern for others. An intensity. The ideal us to be deeply, truly concerned for others. Not just a half-hearted concern. But a deep concern. A concern that moves us towards action.
What prohibits us from being like this, from modeling a genuine concern for others is selfishness. Selfishness is what prevents us from pursuing a life, a ministry in which we are truly effective and useful to the Lord. Look with me in v. 21. In this verse Paul contrasts Timothy’s example of concern for the Philippians with how most people in the world operate. Paul says,
For they all seek their own interests,
Timothy’s example of being concerned for the wellbeing of the Philippians is contrasted by the idea of people seeking their own interests. The way of the world, the way that is contrary to ministry, is to be focused upon our own desires and interests. This is the sin of selfishness.
If you want to be an ineffective minister of the gospel in this life, be selfish. Selfishness is a ministry killer. Selfishness will make your life meaningless, pointless, and ineffective. You will make no difference in this world, you will bring no glory to the immortal God if you are selfish. Selfishness is a ministry killer.
To be an effective minister of the gospel you must repent of selfishness. You must kill it. Our biggest problems in ministry, our biggest hindrances to effective ministry are ourselves. To be engaged in ministry, we must sacrifice what it is that we want—our interests, comforts, and pleasure—for others. To be an effective minster of the gospel you must be selfless.
The Antidote to Selfishness
What’s the antidote to selfishness? Paul is very clear what the antidote is, but we must look closely at what Paul says in vv. 20 and 21. Read these with me again,
For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ
Verse 20 specifies Timothy’s concern for the welfare of the Philippians. In the beginning of v. 21, Paul mentions how most people don’t do what Timothy does. Most people, rather than being focused on other people like the Philippians as Timothy is, most people are focus on themselves. We’ve covered that already. Now look how Paul ends v. 21. He says, “Most people are selfish; most people seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”
From this passage, what are the interests of Jesus Christ? Based upon the context, the interests of Jesus Christ is the wellbeing of the Philippians. Paul is saying that Timothy is focused upon Jesus’ interests. Jesus’ interests are the wellbeing of the Philippians.
Paul is bringing together the two most important commands Jesus gives. Jesus says the most important commandment is to love God. The second is to love people. Paul says in this passage that Timothy is serving the interests of Christ, he is loving Christ, by serving the interests of the Philippians, by being genuinely concerned for them. To truly love people is to love Christ.
In any and every human relationship, true love between people is a sign of a love for Jesus Christ. Hatred, unforgiveness, bitterness, brokenness, and selfishness are symptoms of a lack of love for Jesus Christ. If you have problems loving people, it’s because you don’t love Jesus. If you want to change, if you want to love, forgive, move on, and get along with other people, you have to love Jesus more. The way we grow in our concern for others, the way we grow in our usefulness and effectiveness in ministry, is we must love Jesus more.
Ask the Father to give you a greater concern for people by giving you a greater love for Jesus. The is the key that unlocks love for people. If you don’t love people, if you are not concerned for others—your spouse, your kids, your friends, your neighbor, this church—it’s because you don’t love Jesus. Ask the Father to change your heart by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Ministry Involves Perseverance
That was a long point. We packed a lot in there. Now we transition to our second point of the sermon. This will be a shorter point but no less an important of a point. Write this, “Ministry involves perseverance.”
I get this from what Paul says of Timothy in v. 22. Paul writes,
But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.
I get this point of perseverance in the ministry from a single word in this verse. That Greek word stands behind the English words “proven worth.” Other translations might have “proven character, proved himself, proof of him, qualifications.” This word is hard to capture in English. This is how the leading NT dictionary defines the word. They write,
The experience of going through a test with special reference to the result of the test
This noun here refers to both the testing of Timothy and the Timothy’s proven track record for passing the test. Paul is not specific with reference to trails, tests Timothy has persevered through. But he speaks of Timothy having endured these trials and having trail-tested character.
Trials in Ministry
The trials of ministry are manifold, dear friend. There are many trials of ministry. One that is very hard to persevere through is thanklessness. Let’s say you pour your heart out for someone, you shower them with encouragement, praise, prayer. You constantly talk to them about the gospel. You do everything you possibly can to show this person the love of Jesus Christ. Never once does this person acknowledge your sacrifice on their behalf. Their thankless. They don’t even seem to realize the personal cost that you are giving up for them. That hurts. To pout out your heart for others and to never have that sacrifice acknowledge or thanked is very difficult.
These trials of ministry are very difficult. But God has tremendous purposes for us in them. When we persevere through them, when we put our noses down and push through, God does a tremendous work in us. He crafts our character into one that is battle-tested, like Timothy’s. A battle-tested character, one that has persevered through trial and difficulty, is a superior character to one that has not been tested. Trials present us with the possibility of falling away. When we persevere, we come out of the trials with a strong, more resilient faith.
Listen to what 1 Peter 1:6–7 reads,
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
What Peter is saying here is a battle-tested faith is worth more than gold. The process to get this battle-tested faith is hard. It’s difficult. It requires effort, faith, strength. But, dear friend, it’s worth it. We come out the other end stronger in our walk with Christ than we were before.
Enslaved to the Gospel
How do we persevere through these difficulties? If ministry involves perseverance, then how do we persevere? The way we persevere in ministry is that we must have our mindsets changed. Take the example of thanklessness. Thanklessness is difficult to experience. Yes. A million times yes. It is hard to pour out your heart for others and that sacrifice to not be recognized. Yes. It is.
But if that leads you to pull away from ministry, if that leads you to a paralyzing disappointment that renders you useless to the Lord in the work of the ministry, your conception of ministry was all wrong. It’s not about you at the end of the day. It’s not about how you feel. It’s about Jesus.
Going back to Timothy. Timothy persevered through these difficulties. He pushed on. Paul knew his character was battle tested. And so did the Philippians. That’s what Paul is saying in v. 21. How did he do this? How do we persevere through the difficulties of ministry difficulty, through the trials and tribulations of ministry?
The answer is found in the second part of v. 22. Paul writes,
But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.
Notice what Paul says of Timothy here. Paul views Timothy as a son. Why? Because Timothy “has served with me in the gospel.” This word “served” is key here. The verb is δουλεύω. Now, what other Greek word that I’ve covered a number of times from this pulpit does it sound like? δοῦλος. A δοῦλος is a slave. A δοῦλος is not just a servant. A δοῦλος is more than a servant; he or she is a slave.
The verb that we have in v. 22 is poorly translated as “he has served.” What Timothy has done is more than service. It’s more than that. He hasn’t served. He has slaved. That’s what the verb means.
The verb is translated this way:
To act or conduct oneself as one in total service to another, perform the duties of a slave, serve, obey.
What it is that timothy enslaved himself to—total commitment, a sold-out faith—was the gospel. Timothy enslaved himself along with Paul in the gospel.
A Mentality Change
What we need is a mentality change. We often think, either in our conscience or in our sub-conscience, that life is about us. We often think that when we minister we should be recognized, praised, or applauded. That’s how we naturally think.
That’s a hindrance to ministry, dear friend. In ministry, our focus must be, has to be, on other people. Totally. Our feelings ultimately do not matter at then end of the day. What matters is the Lord. His purposes, his command, his gospel.
One of my favorite pastors, John MacArthur, on his 50th annviersay of being the pastor at Grace Community in California, he was asked this question by an interviewer:
Much has been written about pastoral burnout, and at least some of it seems linked to wrong expectations and disappointment. How can young ministers overcome that challenge?
This was MacArthur’s response:
The idea that you’re going to leave the ministry out of disappointment is a failure to understand that it was never about you; it was a service to which you were called. If you were in the military and your job was to stand and guard the food while everybody else went to battle, and you were a good soldier, you’d be there doing your duty, doing what you were commanded to do.
If we fail and falter when ministry gets tough, we’re making it about us. We do what we d not because it feels good or because we are recognized and thanked by others. No. Those things are nice but they’re not essential. What is essential is Jesus Christ.
Dear friends, what the Lord is after in our lives is a faith that is worth more than gold. That’s what 1 Peter says. When we choose to engage in ministry, when we pour our lives out for others, we will face a myriad of trials and difficulties. But what the Lord calls us to is to persevere through those difficulties. This life is not about us, dear friend. It is about the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Following Timothy’s example, we must persevere. Keep going, brothers and sisters. That is what our Lord calls us to do.