“Sending Timothy” Philippians 2:19-24
We all need encouragement at times. Often, God sends His encouragement through a person. Being the person who bears God-given encouragement to another believer is a vitally important and God blessed ministry. In the Bible, some believers made the ministry of encouragement a priority in their lives. Joseph nicknamed Barnabus was such a person. “And Joseph, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” (Acts 4:36–37).
Another person who made encouragement a big part of his ministry was Timothy, Paul’s son in the faith. We are going to learn a little more about Timothy and the job Paul gave him to do.
Paul told the Philippian believers in Philippians chapter one about his possible execution. No doubt the Apostle sensed that both he and the Philippians both needed some encouragement. Therefore, he thought about Timothy. “But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state.” (Philippians 2:19).
The first thing we notice here is how much Paul depended upon the providence of God in his life. Although he planned to send Timothy, he was acutely aware that this plan depended entirely upon the Lord allowing it to happen.
This brings to mind the admonition the Apostle James wrote to the businessmen in James 4:13 “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’” God encourages us to plan, but when we plan we must allow for God to change our plans according to His perfect design.
The Apostle Paul knew what it was to have the Lord blue pencil his plans. For example, look at Paul’s plan in Romans 15:22-28 “For this reason I also have been much hindered from coming to you. But now no longer having a place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come to you, whenever I journey to Spain, I shall come to you. For I hope to see you on my journey, and to be helped on my way there by you, if first I may enjoy your company for a while. But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things. Therefore, when I have performed this and have sealed to them this fruit, I shall go by way of you to Spain. But I know that when I come to you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.” As Paul stated his plan to send Timothy, he wanted to be careful not to exalt his will over the Lord’s.
Do we see God’s sovereign hand in our lives? This reality was a great comfort to the Apostle Paul. It also should be a great comfort to us. Recently, I went to the hospital to get an ablation to solve my atrial flutter events. Kathy, my bride, and I made extensive plans anticipating my procedure would take place, but God has a different idea, and I could not have it. God changed our careful plans. He can change all of our plans if He desires to change them, even if we don’t like it. Are we aware “the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord and He delights in his way?” If we are, we can find in this fact a great deal of encouragement and consolation.
Second, Paul stated clearly his motive in sending Timothy. This is not a tour of inspection, to make sure the Philippians did exactly what Paul demanded of them. Actually, the primary purpose of this trip was to encourage the Philippians and also to encourage Paul. We see this in the explanation of Timothy’s character. Surely a man of this caliber would encourage this church simply by his presence in their midst.
Why did the Apostle Paul choose to send Timothy to Philippi? “For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:20–21). He sent Timothy, first, because Timothy is Paul’s kindred spirit.
Do you remember how Paul described Philippian church unity in verse 2 of this chapter? Paul wrote that an important element in church unity was that their souls were together. The Greek word translated “like minded,” means “souls together.’ Paul used a word with the same root to describe Timothy and himself meaning “of the same soul.” Paul wrote he had no other one like Timothy with the same soul as he had.
Timothy had a soul, an essential life force, a heart that would naturally care about what was happening to the Philippians. In short, Timothy had a pastor’s heart. He cared deeply about what happened in God’s church.
Second, he also sent Timothy because he “cares for the things of Christ more than his own benefit.” We see this in the comparison statement in verse 20. “For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus.”
Timothy stood out because he always put “spiritual things” above all else. Now it is true that this is a statement of comparison. Who was being compared to Timothy? Even the Apostle Paul had those around him who discouraged him with their lack of commitment to the Lord, to His Word, and His service. Remember John Mark who deserted Paul and Barnabus early in their ministry? Perhaps, his greatest disappointment was Demas who departed from Paul having “loved this present world.”
Yet, perhaps the comparison, we his readers should make is between Timothy and us. Could we honestly say, we desire spiritual blessings most of all? David, the man after God’s heart, wrote Psalm 142:3-4 at a low point in his life. “When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, Then You knew my path. In the way in which I walk they have secretly set a snare for me. Look on my right hand and see, For there is no one who acknowledges me; Refuge has failed me; No one cares for my soul.” David too found that many around him did not care for him or the things of God. If Paul were to write about you and me today, would he be able to say honestly we are like Timothy? Do we put the things of God first, and ourselves second?
Third, he sent Timothy because they already knew Timothy’s character and usefulness (v. 22-23). “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.”
Paul did not want to send someone to them they did not know. We trust someone because he or she has shown themselves trustworthy. Timothy had done just that. Timothy was one who had stood the test. We don’t know what role Timothy played from the Acts account of Paul’s ministry to Philippi, but it seems clear Timothy played an important role.
The Apostle Paul described Timothy’s service as service of “a son with his father.” Timothy was a very loyal assistant to Paul.
Paul’s choice of Timothy underlines the truth, character matters. Did you notice as Paul recommended Timothy and his ministry to these people, he did not cite how many souls Timothy led to Christ in the last year? He didn’t say Timothy was a dynamic preacher who would rivet them to their seat. Rather, Paul said Timothy had the right heart, and he had the right character. God blesses us because of who we are and not because of what we have done. If we are what we are supposed to be, we will do what we are supposed to do. Have you ever considered the Barnabas method of church growth? In Acts 11:23–24, we find, “When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. For, he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.” The believers in Antioch didn’t just sit on their hands. Because what we are makes us do what we should, God blessed their efforts and the church grew and people were converted.
Are we a people who are like Timothy was? Do we seek the things that belong to Christ or are we more concerned with our own things? When all is said and done, which will matter most to us at the judgment seat of Christ? I recently read a book which described each of us attending our own funeral. The writer said we should imagine four people from four different areas of our lives describing us. What would they say? The writer’s point was if we want them to say good things about us, we must live that way now. Frankly, what these four people say is not important. What concerns us should be what God says about us. If God is pleased, the four other areas of our lives will take care of themselves.
Only one life, twill soon be past.
Only what’s done for Christ will last.