Preached in Upton, Hanley Castle, Hanley Swan and Welland, August-2017-Jan 2018
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose.
14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labour in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.
19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. 20 I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. 21 For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. 23 I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. 24 And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.
25 But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. 26 For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. 28 Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. 29 So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honour people like him, 30 because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.
Well it’s a new year, a time when people make plans for the future and one good way of doing that is by imagining how you’d be remembered. What would your legacy be?
You might know the story of Alfred Nobel, The Swedish chemist who invented dynamite. He became enormously wealthy By the time of his death he owned 90 armament factories.
Eight years before he died in 1896, Something happened to Nobel That changed him forever. His brother Ludvig died, and several newspapers made the mistake of publishing not Ludvig’s but Alfred’s obituary. One headlined the obituary, “The Merchant of Death is dead”. Nobel was appalled at how he’d be remembered, so he made plans to donate all his wealth to found the Nobel prizes, to give himself a better legacy. I wonder what sort of legacy you’d like to have?
Well our passage today is all about the legacy we leave in life. Most of my preaching here in the last 6 months or so has been from the letter of Philippians, which Paul wrote from a Roman prison cell, and in our passage today he wants us to think about our legacy, our reputation.
V15 paints a grim picture of the warped and crooked world in which we live, and then challenges us to be people who shine like stars in the night sky, so how do we do that? Well I think there are three ideas here that we can put to work in our lives that will make a real difference to our legacy. Here’s the first one, And it comes from the example set by Paul’s friend Timothy.
1) Learn to love like Timothy.
Let’s start by reminding ourselves who Timothy was. He grew up in the city of Lystra, which is in modern day Turkey. His father was Greek, his mother Jewish, Mum and grandma were faithful god-fearing Jews, who taught him the scriptures, but it wasn’t until Paul preached about Jesus in Lystra that Timothy became a servant of Christ the King, as both Timothy, his mum and grandma were converted.
A few years later, Paul returned to Lystra and invited Timothy to come with him on a great missionary adventure, travelling all through Turkey and then into Greece. He then sent Timothy on his own to Thessalonica to help the church there. And when Paul was imprisoned in Rome, which is where he wrote this letter Philippians Timothy was there with him too, taking care of him in prison.
Later Timothy ended up in Ephesus, and Paul left him there to take charge of the church, and deal with a load of people who were trying to introduce false ideas about Jesus into the church.
Not long after Paul wrote two letters to him, 1 and 2 Timothy, which have been a real inspiration and encouragement to many young church leaders down through the ages.
They certainly helped Timothy in Ephesus: he stayed there for the rest of his life, which ended in 97AD when he was beaten to death by a bunch of pagan partygoers at a festival.
So what can we learn from Timothy? Well as well as his passion for sharing the gospel, what’s really striking about Timothy, is how much he loves his fellow Christians.
v20, “I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”
So if we want to build a great legacy for ourselves, one area we can work in is putting the interests of others ahead of our own.
Let’s take a look at the example of another of Paul’s friends, Epaphroditus.
2) Be generous like Epaphroditus
He seems to have been a leader in the church in Philippi and probably quite an affluent man, so the Philippian church sent him to Rome, to provide financial support for Paul.
And how does Paul describe this servant of Christ the King?
v25, “my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier”
You get the sense that this was someone Paul really trusted alongside him in the trenches.
Sadly while Epaphroditus was helping Paul in Rome, he became very ill, nearly died, and so Paul sends him back to Philippi for the good of his health. Apparently he later became the bishop of the church in Andriace, which is in Greece.
So what can Epaphroditus teach us about serving Christ the King?
That when we offer our time and our resources to God he can do great things with them. I guess as we look at the needy world all around us, and wonder how the little we think we have, can make a difference. Yet it really can.
Think of the story of the Feeding of the 5000. A little boy willingly offers up a few sandwiches and a couple of small fish. Barely enough to feed him. But in the hands of God, that little can feed 5000 people.
When we are generous to God with our time and our resources to God he can do great things with them.
Let’s see what else there is in our passage. How else can we shine as stars in the night?
3) We can learn to serve Jesus with a smile…
A few weeks back I went to Villa Park to watch my football team Sunderland lose to Aston Villa. It was a strange night, not least because I was sat in the Aston Villa end, and I had to work quite hard to remember not to get excited at the wrong moments. Luckily Sunderland did a lot to help me with that, by being terrible.
But anyway, to avoid drawing attention to myself I started studying the people around me to see what they were doing. And you know what Aston Villa fans do at football matches?
- Mutter and grumble to themselves about the team
- They turn to their neighbour and mutter and grumble to them about the team
- And then you get your mobile phone out and log onto some website and grumble on there too.
The whole game, apart from about 10 seconds after each goal, the crowd just chatted and grumbled. There was no singing or chanting, no buzz. Just grumbling.
Now we all like a good grumble don’t we, And I’m as guilty as the next person, but is that how we’re supposed to serve King Jesus? Take a look at v14, Paul says,
“Do everything without grumbling or arguing”
What does he mean by everything? Well … everything! The whole Christian life, all the things we try to do for Christ the King.
- So when it comes to church rotas, don’t grumble, do it with a smile.
- When it comes to studying the Bible, don’t grumble, do it with a smile.
- When it comes to giving, don’t grumble, do it with a smile.
- When it comes to getting through the contraflow in Upton, don’t grumble, do it with a smile.
Whatever it is that you’re doing, whether its here in church, or whether its out of here, serving him day by day in our villages and clubs and workplaces, don’t grumble! Service with a smile, with joy. Because it’s a privilege to serve Christ the King
Now the problem is we Christians sometimes forget what a privilege it is to serve Christ the King. And it isn’t a new problem.
Do you remember those incidents with Jesus’ disciples, from our gospel reading… when they’re all arguing about which of them is the greatest? James and John, think its them, and along with their mum they go to see Jesus and ask to have the best seats at his victory table. You see for them following Jesus was an investment in their own career advancement. They were in it for what they could get out of it.
And here’s what Jesus says to them,
“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45)
What’s Jesus saying there? He’s saying that there are loads of people in the world, who think the way to be great is to get into a position of political power so they can look down on people. But that’s not the way the Kingdom of God works. In the Kingdom of God, the way to become great the way to shine like a star in the dark night sky, isn’t by gaining power, it’s by serving others. Just like Jesus came to serve.
And that isn’t a burden about which we should grumble, its a privilege which should bring us joy. So let’s serve him with a smile! And as we do that, whilst being generous with our time and money, and caring for others, we’ll make real difference wherever we’re serving The Lord.