“Do all things without complaining and disputing,that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.” (vs14-16)
There is a vain labor. It is when someone doesn’t believe the gospel unto the end, bringing forth fruit no fruit that shows they’ve obtained mercy. They may start well, but if there is no endurance in living for others, then their profession is false, and the preacher has no fruit in them. Don’t let this happen to you. You and I are to live godly, shining as lights in a crooked world. Do not be discouraged by the evil around you, but use it to shine all the more. This world’s darkness is a backdrop for the light, so that your patient submission to Christ stands out amongst murmurers and complainers, as you continually submit to God’s will. Let your trust be seen, as you patiently bear with sinners and circumstances, and glorify God as your top priority because you believe His love, wisdom, and power. He cares for you, and His decisions are best. Be content, shining as a light, in a world of discontented people.
Secondly, God uses people who care for others (vs17-24). Paul wrote, “Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me. But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state.For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state.” Paul had many men in the ministry, but he had only one Timothy, a man so near to his heart that he served like a son with a father. We read again, “For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus.But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me. But I trust in the Lord that I myself shall also come shortly.” Timothy labored for others, instead of himself, and in this, he was honored. It is the same with us! If we spend our lives serving ourselves, then we miss the glorious honor of helping others know Christ, and the usefulness we COULD have had is squandered. I don’t want this to happen to me. I want to serve you, to labor for your benefit, and to do so knowing that God will care for me because no good work is forgotten by Him!
Do not use people but help them. Do not minister to be seen, but like John the Baptist, bear witness of the Light, so that others can be saved (John 1:6-8). Paul had special affection for Timothy and God gave him special usefulness because service is the way of promotion. Doing for others from the heart makes the most for you because it is still true that the BEST WAY to warm yourself is to hug another person. The gospel isn’t a display for our talents and zeal; it is the message that we use to HELP people, so that Christ may shine upon them. We are not serving ourselves because we’ve learned from Christ and others like Timothy that serving God is the only acceptable use of the gospel.
Finally, esteem others who are examples of service and imitate their character and usefulness (vs25-30). Paul said, “Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need; since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick almost unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I sent him the more eagerly, that when you see him again you may rejoice, and I may be less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem; because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me.” We are not people who look to the world for heroes, admiring who has the most money and charm, but we look to God’s people for illustrations of what we should seek! Nothing is said of Timothy and Epaphroditus’ talents or how well they spoke. You only have a testimony of their love and devotion to others. Thus, when you look for people to esteem and follow, look for those who’ve honored God and served others. Look to their heart as made known by their deeds and words.
It is refreshing that ALL of us can be exemplary in character, because all of us can serve to God’s glory. It doesn’t take the most talent or the biggest ministry to love others, do good, and put others needs above your own. Therefore, do not concern yourself with success rates as much as character. Do not look to the guy that everyone admires because of his wealth and talent, but look to those who honor God by imitating Christ! Not much is said of our Savior’s appearance, and He had no wealth in this world, but His conduct reveals God’s love as He left His own comforts and suffered to save us. Epaphroditus was sick, almost to death, but he did not want to burden his brethren, and when strength was given, he returned to their comfort. Paul gave this brother back to the church at Philippi because he believed that he’d be more encouraged by their enjoyment of Epaphroditus than if he kept him near to himself while in prison. This selfless mind state is the highest attribute of humanity. It is love based upon the gospel because God provides our every need and teaches us to serve others. Let us follow true greatness and the examples given to us in Scripture. Imitate people who serve others and help them in their ministry. Do this by grace, and you’ll prove that you haven’t received the gospel in vain. Your profession of faith is real.