Imagine what it must have been like to travel with the Apostle Paul. At first thought, most people would probably think that was pretty exciting—with all the miracles and people coming to know Christ and churches being started. That is true.
But there was another side to being associated with this bold fellow. Everywhere he went he would create a stir and negative reactions. There were riots and beatings, and all sorts of high-pressured life-threatening situations. With Paul, you would be a cultural stranger in most places, identified with a radical message that was offensively odious to your own ethnic roots and politically dissident within the prevailing secular culture.
Being identified with Paul was a dangerous thing. But Timothy and Epaphroditus (tomorrow’s topic) were not afraid of this whatsoever. They were identified with the Apostle not only when he was getting into a conflict, but also when he was in jail. These men came to see him and to tend to his needs. (In 2 Timothy, Paul mentions the name of some people who abandoned him.)
Paul writes in verse 20 today one of the most amazing things he ever says. Speaking of Timothy he states that, “I have no one else like him…” That is quite a resume enhancement and high-level reference.
We are able to glean from a couple of other New Testament passages that Timothy’s personality was much at the other end of the scale from Paul. Whereas the Apostle was a bold “type A” aggressive fellow, we get a biographical picture of Timothy as a more gentle, timid, and receding personality. Yet he travelled in public circles with the polarizing preacher dude; he showed up daily at the jail to be with Paul.
Why did he push past the gentle soul of his inner self to be this way? Because as Paul says, Timothy had a genuine concern for other people. He was motivated by serving Christ in serving other people. He was by conviction a person who looked away from himself. He was illustrative of what I believe we all should be – “preference deference” people.
A person who defers the fulfillment of their own preferences is a person who understands the reality of a larger and more important picture of God’s work taking place all around them. They want to be a part of what HE is doing, recognizing their personal fulfillment in life will come from that rather than the pursuit of their own preferences.
After 35 years of this pastoring thing and seeing people come and go in churches, I’ve always been most impressed with people who choose to come and stay in a church because they see it as a place they can best serve God and other people with their gifts and skills. And I’ve likewise always been saddened by the people who leave because they continue in a lifelong point-to-point search for the community of faith that best serves their needs and preferences.
Fulfillment and God’s pleasure is to be found in the application of Christlikeness in serving other people. Disappointment and disillusionment will be experienced by folks who seek to find fulfillment in what other sinners do or don’t provide for them.
So why not strive to be a Timothy, and by so doing you will be modeling your life after a person commended in God’s Word for modeling his life after the others-oriented serving pattern of Jesus Christ.
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.