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Aug 06, 2017

Reaching Toward the Goal | Philippians 2:19-30

Reaching Toward the Goal | Philippians 2:19-30

Passage: Philippians 2:19-30

Speaker: Scott Shelton

Series: Reaching Toward the Goal

Category: Weekend Message

Good morning and welcome to ZPC again. The children can now be dismissed to go with Miss Kristin or Miss Amy to their classes.

Hope you have had a wonderful summer and it’s good to worship together – and to share communion a little later.

We’re continuing in our series on Philippians. Since it’s summer and we miss some Sundays on vacations, let’s get some context into Philippians.

Paul is writing this from jail in Rome to the church in Philippi. He’s jailed probably because he was falsely accused of bringing non-Jews into the Temple in Jerusalem. He eventually appeals his case to Rome, is sent to Rome and is in jail there.

So Paul does what he can writing several letters to churches and finding trusted messengers to send them out. Which leads us to today as Paul is sending out 2 messengers from Rome. Let’s pick up the story in 2:19-30:

Phil. 2:19-30 NRSV

“19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I may be cheered by news of you. 20 I have no one like him who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 All of them are seeking their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But Timothy’s worth you know, how like a son with a 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 trust in the Lord that I will also come soon.

25 Still, I think it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus—my brother and co-worker and fellow soldier, your messenger[c] and minister to my need; 26 for he has been longing for all of you, and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 He was indeed so ill that he nearly died. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, so that I would not have one sorrow after another. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, in order that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 Welcome him then in the Lord with all joy, and honor such people, 30 because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for those services that you could not give me.”

This is the word of the Lord – thanks be to God.

Let us pray…May the meditations of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be pleasing to you, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

Now I have some notes for you – inside cover of the bulletin – you can follow along with those if you’d like.

Today we live in a small world. When my family and I went to Israel last year, it was easy to get there. And despite a long layover in Toronto – we got there in a matter of 14-15 hours – amazing! Now my knees and legs didn’t feel so amazing after sitting in coach, with long legs jammed into the seat in front of me, but it’s still amazing to go somewhere so fast. The world is also small, as we can also send messages immediately. Through texting – or if your my teenage kids – through twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat – you can send something and your friends can see it – right now. Amazing!

For Paul, writing about 30 years after the time of Christ, sending a messenger with a message was a big deal. It might take 2 months to travel from Rome to Philippi, and included some danger.

So Paul is sending, and it’s important.

Who is he sending and why?

He is sending Timothy and Epaphroditus. Timothy is someone very close to Paul – like a father-son relationship for Paul. He says he has no one like Timothy who is genuinely concerned for the people. He looks not out for his own interests but for the interests of others and of Christ. This sounds so similar to what Paul praised about Jesus in Philippians 2. He wants Timothy to encourage the people in Philippi. As a new church plant – they need encouragement and checking on to see how they are holding up. Paul trusts Timothy to do that.

Paul trusts Timothy because he has trained him – equipped him. Now I’m sure Paul didn’t sit Timothy down in a class with some other guys and watch a video series and then answer questions out of a workbook. That is a good way to learn – which we use sometime – in our classes.

But Paul is about more than just information. He is about transformation. NT Wright says in the ancient world this happened between older workers and younger ones, between fathers and sons, as the father taught the son how to run the family business. Paul and Timothy had an intimate bond where Timothy “watched and copied” what Paul did.

We need to be about that here at ZPC as well. Because equipping is not just a class or study, it’s also relationship that leads to change. It’s not just information but transformation. Again…

Equipping is:

Not just Information,

But Transformation                          

Earlier in my ministry here at ZPC, we had an older Associate Pastor named Quentin Small. I was drawn to Quentin I think for his passion for people and for Jesus and he loved being a pastor. Our offices were next to each other and when he had a good phone call with someone inviting them to go on a mission trip or lead a ministry and they said yes, he would start clapping after he got off the phone. At first, I thought that’s a little weird, but then I grew quickly to see how cool that was – that Quentin cared so deeply about people and Jesus.

So I started asking Quentin more questions about how to conduct a difficult funeral, or advice on being a good associate pastor, or staying passionate for ministry for almost 40 years. Though he has been retired for almost 15 years, I still talk to him a couple of times a year and still ask him to pray for me and for his advice. I was changed and transformed by knowing Quentin Small. Quentin was like Paul to my Timothy. Who has been someone who has been like Paul to you? Who has been someone to give you advice, or wisdom, or equip you? And who might be your Timothy? Paul writes 2 letters to Timothy later in the New Testament, and he says in 2 Timothy 2:2 this:

“and what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well.”

Paul is saying take what you’ve learned from me and give it to others, who will be able then to share it with others.

So Paul is sending Timothy.

Paul is also sending Epaphroditus – back to Philippi. Epaphroditus’ story is different – he was sent from Phillipi as a messenger (v. 25), carrying gifts and money to support Paul. In Roman jails, scholar Ben Witherington says that “families and friends had to provide for those incarcerated…Rome would not do it.” Epaphroditus does this for Paul. And because the travel was so far, Epaphroditus would stay with Paul – to be a friend to Paul.

Now it’s time to send Epaphroditus back – sooner than expected. You see, Epaphroditus had gotten sick on the way to Rome, almost died, but found a way to get there and deliver the gift.

I read in a news feed that a pizza delivery guy was on a delivery when his car broke down. He walked the last half mile to deliver the pizza. If it was me, I’d be mad because the pizza was cold. No, really, the customer was impressed and is raising money to help the man repair his car. It’s almost certain that Epaphroditus got deathly ill on the way to Rome, but finished the journey to deliver support to Paul. Even better than the pizza guy.

Paul says Epaphroditus is a great example of what a Christian should be – like a brother, a co-worker, a messenger, and ministered to Paul’s needs.

And imagine his role in church history. Paul writes this long letter – and entrusts Epaphroditus to carry it back. Because Epaphroditus did his job, we can now study this letter and read things like “for to me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” “Be anxious for nothing but pray about everything.” “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

And from chapter 2, “…so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Without Epaphroditus being sent – and answering the call – the letter to the Philippians may not exist!

So, what’s your message? And where are you being sent?

We all have the same message on one hand of sharing Christ with others. But each of us can live that out in different ways – depending on your job, where you live, your season of life, who you know, and what your gifts and passions are.

Being sent can be risky and can cost something.

It costs Epaphroditus something to come there. Risking his life, getting sick. It costs.

I have another older friend about Quentin Small’s age who took a big risk to do ministry to those in poverty along the Texas/Mexico border. His name is Deantin Guerra and he is a Mexican-American who was raised in South Texas and was a successful small business owner running sporting goods stores in Brownsville, Texas. He was drawn to help those living in poverty on the other side of the border, and felt sent by God to quit his job, sell his stores and go into a ministry that was building houses and doing other good work.

After being equipped and learning how to do ministry, he was sent to start his own ministry, called Faith Ministry. But Deantin quickly ran into a crisis. He saw the intense poverty in Reynosa, Mexico and didn’t understand why.

Deantin said, “When I came here for the first time to do mission work, I was culture-shocked. I couldn’t understand why God had made a river, and on one side of the river, everything was okay, and on the other side, people didn’t have anything.”

And he wanted to fix it – but he couldn’t. He felt overwhelmed, got down, and wanted to quit. He was ready to quit when he went and visited with a mentor. He told his story and his friend asked him to reconsider.

The friend told him the story of the starfish: “A father and son walked up a shore littered with thousands of starfish, beached and dying after a storm. The son was picking them up and flinging them back into the ocean. “Why do you bother?” the father scoffed. “You’re not saving enough to make a difference.” The son picked up another starfish and sent it spinning back into the water. “Made a difference to that one,” he said.

Deantin felt sent again to do God’s work. Here’s what he said:

“I decided to come back to do mission work in the name of Jesus Christ, one house at a time, one family at a time, one patient at a time at the clinics, one child with the scholarships, and one family and one soul with the church. We do everything in His name and for His glory, one at a time.”

To this day, more than 23 years later, the starfish remains a symbol of the ministry that Deantin founded. He continued in the ministry and with just a small staff – but equipping thousands of volunteers – they have made a difference through the building of over 2000 homes, running a medical clinic in Reynosa, hundreds of child sponsorships, and building and financially supporting 3 local churches in Mexico.

I love short term missions and that’s one way to be sent. Just in the last few weeks, we had 4 ZPC’ers sent to Haiti to help run a VBS for 450 kids there – and they are equipping/training the Haitian leaders to run the VBS. We had a handful of ZPC’ers go to Kenya to deliver and install water purifiers in villages.

And 2 ZPC men are just returning from Uganda, working with an orphanage.

But you don’t have to go to Haiti, Mexico, Kenya, Uganda to be sent and to go. You might be called to go far away, but most are not. Deantin Guerra went near his home.

You can be sent – to a neighbor, a friend, a co-worker, a family member even who is in need of hearing the good news of Jesus through words, and actions. But it does costs something. Even to go close by, it probably means stepping out in faith, out of your comfort zone, to risk reaching out to someone.   It may cost you time, money or even rejection. But if you feel sent by God to go - Go!

And you can be equipped here at ZPC by being in worship, learning and growing, joining a home group here in the next few weeks. We teach scripture to our children and youth so that they can live for Christ. Our hospital team meets a couple of times a year and we discuss how to make a good hospital visit.  And our home group leaders meet to talk about hospitality, facilitating a group discussion, caring for your group members.

But being equipped is more than being trained, it also means living in relationship with other Christians, learning how to pray for each other, care for each other and even serve together.

We had a high school student here at ZPC who felt sent. He was called to serve on the Awakening team last year and give a talk. He had to be trained and equipped. He had to take time for team meetings where they went over what a team member did. He had to write a talk and practice it in front of the team, getting their feedback.

He also felt sent to invite someone. Sean O’Dell invited Conor Crittenden, both seniors last year at Pike High School, to come to the Awakening. Conor accepted and came. Now Conor was already a Christian. He came to the Awakening and when I asked him about it – he said he felt welcomed and it felt like family. He’s been coming to HSM and I even saw him recently as he was volunteering as a crew leader at VBS. Here he was, not technically a member of ZPC, but a member of our church family – now being sent to serve our Covenant Children at VBS. He leaves to be a college student at IU next Sunday, but today at 10:30, he’s becoming a member of ZPC!

You don’t have to go to a foreign country to be sent to your school, a neighbor, a friend.

So listen to God for where he is sending you, and answer his call.



Benediction:      hold up bulletin

Take this home – see what’s happening at ZPC; but mostly – to ask yourself…

Where do you sense that God is sending you? It could be simple, or profound. It could be close by or far away – and I bet most of you already know – you may already be doing it – or just waiting for a nudge to do that – to go where you are called and are sent by God.

Now go! With the love of God the Father, the grace of Jesus, the Son, and the power and courage of the Holy Spirit. Amen.