Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Themes: Servant Leadership, Bread of Life,
Golden Friday, 1st Sunday After Pentecost

Volume 8 No. 482 May 25, 2018
IV. Featured: Luke 22: 24-30 - Servant Leadership

Servanthood: Humility in Action

by John MacArthur

"‘Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave'"
(Matthew 20:26-27).

In God's sight, greatness is marked by a humble, servant's heart.

Bible commentator R.C.H. Lenski once wrote that God's "great men are not sitting on top of lesser men, but bearing lesser men on their backs." Jesus would have agreed with Lenski's observation, but He did not see it as wrong to desire greater usefulness to God. Those standards of usefulness, however, are much more demanding than any worldly ideals for self-serving, domineering leadership. For example, Paul lists for us the high standards God has for church overseers (1 Tim. 3:1-7). God considers men great who are among those willing to be servants.

In Matthew 20:26-27, Jesus was speaking of genuine servanthood, not the "public servant" who merely uses his position to gain power and personal prestige. The original Greek word for "servant" referred to a person who did menial labor and was the lowest level of hired help. Jesus could have used a more noble word to denote obedient discipleship, but He picked this one (from which we get deacon) because it best described the selfless humility of one who served.

But in verse 27, Jesus intensifies His description of God's way to greatness. He tells us if we want to be great in His kingdom, we must be willing to be slaves. Whereas servants had some personal freedom, slaves were owned by their masters and could go only where their masters allowed and do only what their masters wanted. The application for us as believers is that "whether we live or die, we are the Lord's" (Rom. 14:8).

If you desire real spiritual greatness, you will be willing to work in the hard place, the lonely place, the place where you're not appreciated. You'll be willing to strive for excellence without becoming proud, and to endure suffering without getting into self-pity. It is to these godly attitudes and more that Christ will say, "Well done, good and faithful slave . . . enter into the joy of your master" (Matt. 25:21).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to help you cultivate a servant's heart.

For Further Study

Read 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and make a list of the qualifications for an overseer (elder). Meditate on the implications of each trait, and write down ways in which humility relates to these leadership qualities.

Source: Grace To

The Key to a Good Life

by Jim Liebelt

...whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
--Matthew 20:26-28

I don't think I've ever met a person who didn't want his or her life to matter. I think God creates us with a desire to live a great life. The problem is that we lose sight of what makes a life truly great and what it means to make a difference during our lifetime.

A friend of mine tells the true story of a man who once was an athlete. He played college football until one day, as a young adult, he suffered a stroke at practice. The stroke caused brain damage and the man was in a coma for a couple of weeks. When he woke up, he was paralyzed and couldn't walk. The doctors told him that he would never walk again. Eventually, he regained the use of his legs and re-learned how to walk, but the brain damage was severe enough that he would never be his old self again. He would be challenged for the rest of his life.

The university where he had played football gave him a job as a custodian. He loved his job. He told my friend that he is so thankful to God that he is alive and can hug his wife and give piggyback rides to his kids. He said he was thankful that the school gave him a good job--even though it was picking up other people's trash--because he loved helping people.

Here was a guy who has all the reason in the world to be angry with God and to give up. But instead, because his life has been touched by God's love, he found real life and the way to greatness--to live a life that matters--by loving God and serving others. By the world's standards, this custodian will likely never be considered great. But, in God's eyes? Absolutely! This man makes a difference by being a servant, which by the way, Jesus defines as the core value of real leadership!

Sadly, many people never recognize that the key to greatness lies not in the amount of money they make, prestige of their career, or how many times they show up in a Google search; true greatness is not limited to the most popular, the most outgoing, the smartest, or the most gifted; rather, it is available to each of us and is found in the simple and often quiet, role of servanthood.


1. How have you defined greatness? Has your definition been in line with God's definition? If not, why not?

2. Think about the people in your life. Who can you serve today? How can you serve that person?


Matthew 20:20-28; John 13:2-17; Luke 10:27-37

Source: Homeword with Jim Burns

Who Is the Greatest?

by Jon Bloom

Selfish ambition is a sin that always seems to be "crouching at the door" (Genesis 4:7). It contaminates our motives for doing just about anything. It shows up even in the most holy moments, like it did for Jesus' disciples in Luke's account 1 of the Last Supper. But Jesus aims to set us all free 2 from the suicidal slavery of self-worship.

* * *

Jesus' final meal before the cross was perhaps the most ironic time for the Twelve to debate over which of them was the greatest.

The greatest human being who would ever walk the earth, the Founder and Perfecter of their faith 3, was reclining at the table with them. He was the only one in the room without sin. 4 He was the only one there who always did what was pleasing to the Father. 5

This Person had just led the Twelve through the last Passover meal before his death - the death that would be the propitiating sacrifice for their sins. 6 And he had just instituted the new Passover meal, which they and all future disciples were to observe regularly until he returned so that they would always remember that their sins were forgiven only through the substitutionary, atoning death of the true Passover Lamb. 7

This was no time for any disciple to assert his own greatness - except maybe the greatness of his sin.

Even more ironic is what ignited the debate.

Jesus had just revealed that one of them that very night would willingly participate in the most spectacular sin8 in history: the slaughter of the Son of God. And yet somehow the introspection9 and inquiry that followed ended up in a competition over who was greatest.

It was a moment that displayed the terrifying blinding power of pride in sinful people. How quickly the Sun of Righteousness 10 can be eclipsed by the moon of selfish ambition.

Jesus was about to die for their sins. And he was about to be betrayed to that death by one of them. Their response to such horror and glory should have been mourning, repentance, and worship. But instead each disciple was suddenly and absurdly preoccupied with his own place of prominence in God's plan of salvation.

But what grace Jesus displayed in this moment. This sin too would be paid in full. Therefore, he did not condemn his disciples for thinking far too highly of themselves 11 at the worst possible time.

Instead, he mercifully drew their gaze off of themselves and back to him:

The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. (Luke 22:25-26)

The secret to freedom from slavery to selfish ambition was to keep looking to Jesus. Looking at, comparing, and competing with one another would only lead to a black hole of demonic evil. 12 But to look to Jesus would remind them of the grace they had received and that loving each other as he had loved them 13 would fill them full of joy. 14

* * *

Aren't you thankful that the Lord moved Luke to include this account of the disciples' sin? Because isn't the same sin frequently exposed in our hearts too, even in the most sacred moments?

We will wage war against selfish ambition as long as we live in this fallen state, because it's right at the core of our fallen nature - our sinful desire to be like God. 15 We shouldn't be shocked when we see it in ourselves, and like Jesus we should be patient when we see it in others. The key to walking in freedom is helping each other get our eyes off ourselves and back on to Jesus.

Because our souls are designed to be satisfied with his glory, not our own.


1 Luke 22:14-30

2 John 8:36

3 Hebrews 12:2

4 Hebrews 4:15

5 John 8:29

6 Romans 3:25

7 Acts 10:43

8 See John Piper's book, Spectacular Sins, p.98.

9 Matthew 26:22

10 Malachi 4:2

11 Romans 12:3

12 James 3:14-15

13 John 15:12

14 John 15:11

15 Genesis 3:5

©2012 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.

Whoever Wants to be First Must be Last of All and Servant of All

by Doorman Priest

Gospel: Mark 9.30-37

A couple of good friends from work and I regularly eat together at lunch and on one occasion, as we were sitting down to eat, one of them announced that it was his custom to say a prayer before the meal. Would we mind? Now he knows that I am a Christian so this was no big deal to me but he was concerned that we didn’t feel obliged to join in. We sat with our heads bowed appropriately as he intoned Bismillahi wa 'ala baraka-tillah. “With Allah's name and upon the blessings granted by Allah do we eat.”

Our Sikh friend shuffled uncomfortably at this point but only because he realized that he could not think of an appropriate prayer of blessing the food from his own tradition.

We chat a lot, the three of us, about religion and faith and about the mad things some religious people do. We can laugh at the foibles of each others faiths and our own. What we have never done is to get competitive or start weighing up the merits of the various claims each of our faith positions asserts about the nature of God’s grace and issues of salvation. This I think is the mistake many people make in religious dialogue. You can probably imagine the conversation: “O.K. guys we’ve reached the point where I need to tell you that you’ve both got it wrong. My way is right. You need to know Jesus.” Now I know there are many who would take that line and not just with my Muslim and Sikh friends but with other Christians. The INTERNET is full of examples of one Christian calling another “False Christian” for not assenting to the exact detail of the first one’s religious worldview whether this be on the authority of scripture, the role of women in holy orders, issues of human sexuality, climate change or whatever. I have actually seen written down “You are banned from this blog. You are not a Christian because a true Christian would not accuse another of not being a Christian.” I have been told that I can not possibly understand the truth (that would be the truth as someone else saw it) because of my “sin-darkened mind.” (Ah, that-sin darkened mind of mine. I knew it would catch up with me in the end.)

Actually we all do it to a greater or lesser extent: I remember feeling irrationally annoyed at the Jehovah’s Witness who didn’t have to come into assembly on the off chance the Head of Year might say a prayer. I used to feel superior to the Evangelicals who wouldn’t let their kids read Harry Potter because it encouraged witchcraft and I exchanged knowing smiles with likeminded people when the Anglo Catholic at college decided to start community prayers with a Hail Mary.

Last Easter at the college residential we were studying “Communicating the Gospel”. We visited a Mosque and a Gurdwara (where in the tradition of Sikh hospitality we were very well fed). We attended a Synagogue for the Jewish Passover, Anglican Choral Evensong, Catholic Mass and an Orthodox Easter Morning service.

When my head had stopped hurting and I had processed it all what I realized was that I’d been given glimpses into ways of faith which were different to mine. Competitiveness was pointless and such “who’s the greatest” discussions equally so. On my better days I simply strive to become more like Jesus as I follow the path of Christian discipleship in Obedience to God and in the strength of the Spirit. I regularly fail but, in the context of my own failures, questions of who is better than someone else seem infantile.

How wrong those disciples had got it! What a fundamental and basic mistake! To be demonstrating their individual jealousies and selfish ambitions as they argue about which of them is the greatest, at the same time as Jesus was predicting the true nature of his Messiahship is a breathtaking juxtaposition of ideas. Add to that the hint that because they didn’t much like the message thus far, they were unwilling to ask him more and we begin to see another side to Jesus’ followers.

Jesus had just shared his intuition of the inevitability of his own death and they are bickering about who is the natural successor.

I told you last week that Mark often presents the disciples as dull-witted and slow to catch on. Well here they are at their worst. Their proximity to Jesus doesn’t bring them understanding and the Gospels parade a stream of other characters before them and us who reveal wonderful insights into Jesus’ mission that leave the disciples far behind in their understanding. That is deliberate on Mark’s part. There is a warning here that we should not be modeling our discipleship so much on their example as the examples of the other insightful characters Jesus deals with.

But before we get too self-congratulatory we might want to question to what extent we are guilty of doing the same as the disciples. Who knows? Perhaps it is a necessary stage we each have to go through as disciples before we can truly appreciate the depth of what Jesus is trying to teach us. Perhaps we would all do well to consider the levels of competitiveness we exhibit in the workplace, in our hobbies, in our relationships with “the other” in society, at home even, as we vie for position in these little hierarchies and fail to hear the wider teaching of Jesus. Add to that the times when the message is just a little too threatening or demanding for us to want to take it any further and we may, worryingly, discover that we are not so different to the original twelve.

This should be quite a disturbing passage to all of us if we remember not to distinguish between the disciples of then and today. What exactly does it mean to be “servant” then? In quite what sense do you mean “last”? These are not ideas we naturally associate with our lives. This teaching is really counter-cultural.

We already know from last week’s Gospel that while they understood the concept of Messiahship they did not at all like Jesus’ interpretation of it. He has to repeatedly push home the message of rejection, suffering and death and until they take this on board they will not understand the implications of what follows as a consequence: that God’s love is real and triumphs over death. Let’s be clear: Jesus is battling on two fronts here. Not only is he experiencing resistance from the religious authorities and the civil authorities but he is struggling with his own followers. Time and time again Jesus must re-emphasize the difference between the values of the Kingdom of God and the values of this world, values that include status, position, power and influence. That’s some contrast with the ideas of servanthood and being last.

Once again we have the benefit of hindsight as Jesus, of course, goes on to show them and us what servanthood and putting everyone else first – and that’s everyone in a cosmic sense – really means. Jesus’ choices in this section of the Gospel simultaneously confirm his violent fate and his identity as God incarnate who, through death and resurrection, offers each of us everlasting life. The Disciples would not understand this until Mary Magdalene, a mere woman just to underline the point, spells out to them the reality of the resurrection.

This is the point where the words of the Epistle should doubly rebuke us. James, using the style of traditional Jewish Wisdom literature, exhorts his readers to recognize the "wisdom from above." Such wisdom is "pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy" (James 3:17). On the other hand, "bitter envy and selfish ambition" does not come from above, "but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish". What a shame Jesus’ followers didn’t have access to this wisdom then, but we do and we should learn from their mistakes.

That is easy to say of course. How easy it is for us to lack the self-awareness needed to recognize the personal agendas each of us is motivated by and how difficult, once we do recognize them, to truly put them aside. We are modern day disciples. Are we like the original twelve, too close to the trees to see the wood? Have we built up in our own minds a sense of privilege that gets in the way of our true servanthood? In the same way that the first disciples had to learn from the Centurion and the Syrophoenician woman, foreigners both and thus perceived to be outside the boundaries of God’s grace and not in the privileged position of standing side by side daily with Jesus, maybe I have something to learn about the nature of God and discipleship from Shakir and Jagtar when we have our lunchtime discussions.

Perhaps we all need to analyze ourselves to see whether we too are exhibiting that same flawed disciple reasoning and behaviour and maybe, too, to see who else is around us who has the startling insights that we don’t expect or which we dismiss too easily because of who they come from.

Two Men Worth Imitating

by Steven J. Cole, Flagstaff, AZ

Scripture: Philippians 2:19-30

At St. Bede's Episcopal Church in Santa Fe, New Mexico, there is only one door into the sanctuary. Over that door is a hand-lettered sign that reads, "Servant's Entrance." There isn't any way in or out of that church except through the servant's entrance! That's not a bad reminder of the fact that every believer is called to serve our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. Unlike most sports teams, the Lord's team does not have any bench warmers. Every Christian is given a first-string spot on the team, with a vital role to fulfill. A non-serving Christian is a contradiction in terms.

After the doctrinal high water mark of this letter, where Paul speaks of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ who left the glory of heaven to take on the form of a servant and to become obedient to death on the cross for our sakes (2:5-11), Paul turns to some seemingly mundane matters about sending Timothy and Epaphroditus to the Philippian church, and about his hope of coming personally if he is released from prison. This is one of those sections of Scripture that, at first glance, you may wonder why God took up the pages of the Bible with the travel schedules of these three men. But as we examine it, I hope you will see that the Holy Spirit uses it in a marvelous way to illustrate for us the truths that Paul has been presenting in this entire chapter. These choice men whom Paul commends to the Philippian church, Timothy and Epaphroditus, are two men worth imitating as we seek to serve our Lord. Along with Paul himself, they have much to teach us about Christian servanthood. They show us that ... If we cultivate a servant's heart and endure a servant's hardships, we will receive a servant's honor.

1. We must cultivate a servant's heart.

Our Savior did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Every Christian is the blood-bought servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. Being a servant of Christ is not an option if you want to be more dedicated; it is the calling of every believer. If you are not a servant of Christ, you cannot rightly call yourself a Christian. But, because we all are selfish by nature, we must cultivate the heart of a servant as we grow in Christ. Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus illustrate men who had servant's hearts, as seen in two dimensions:

A. A servant's heart is centered on the things of Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul was a man whose focus was on the Lord Jesus Christ. In 2:19 he says, "But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly." In 2:24 he says, "I trust in the Lord that I myself also shall be coming shortly." It is Paul's way of saying, "If it be the Lord's will." It shows that he did not make decisions based simply on common sense or on what he thought was best, but he submitted everything to the Lord and His will. When he mentions how Epaphroditus got well from his illness, he doesn't say, "Thank goodness he got better!" but rather, "God had mercy on him, and not on him only, but also on me." When he instructs the church to welcome Epaphroditus, he tells them to "receive him in the Lord with all joy." Clearly, the Lord was the focal point of Paul's life and ministry.

Timothy's focus was also on the Lord. Paul states that, unlike many others, Timothy was not seeking after his own interests instead of those of Jesus Christ (2:21). Timothy served with Paul in the furtherance of the gospel (2:22). Christ and the gospel were at the center of Timothy's life.

Epaphroditus also was a faithful servant whose focus was on the things of Christ. He had pushed himself almost to the point of death to bring the gift to Paul from the Philippian church. Maybe he grew ill on the six-week journey and pushed himself almost beyond his limits in an effort to get to the apostle's side. Or, perhaps after arriving he contracted some illness, but he kept pushing himself in his service to Paul in the cause of the gospel. His longing and concern for the church back in Philippi also reveal his servant's heart for the things of Christ.

Paul calls Epaphroditus a "minister to my need" and states that he had completed by his presence what the Philippians could not do in their absence in service to Paul (2:25, 30). The word translated "minister" and "service" comes from a Greek word from which we get our word "liturgy." In secular Greek, the word was used of a man who, out of love for his city and the gods, would finance a great drama or outfit a battleship. It has the flavor of sacred service, or worship. Every servant of Jesus Christ does what he does, whether giving or helping or speaking, as an offering to the Lord Jesus. A servant's heart is centered on the Lord Jesus Christ and His work.

This focus on Christ and His work should not just be true of those who earn their living from the gospel. Every Christian, however you earn your living, should live every day in fellowship with the Lord, in submission to His will, in obedience to His Word, available to do His work. Christian servants will be eager to talk about the great truths of the Bible with fellow Christians. They will be ready to tell lost people about the Savior and His work on the cross. They watch for opportunities to please Him by helpful deeds toward others. Three attitudes mark servants who are focused on the Lord Jesus Christ:

(1) They are willing to be sent anywhere. It wouldn't have been easy for Timothy to leave the side of his beloved father in the faith in order to go to Philippi, but he was willing to go if that was God's will. It hadn't been easy for Epaphroditus to leave the comforts of home and journey to Rome, but he had done it. Now, it also would be difficult for him to leave Paul and return home, but he was willing to go where the Lord wanted him.

Have you told the Lord, "I'm willing to go anywhere You want me to go"? I remember as a teenager being hesitant to do that, because I was afraid He might say, "Go to Africa as a missionary," and I didn't want to do that! But then I reasoned, "God is a loving Father who knows what is best for me. If it's best for me to serve Him in Africa, I'd be stupid to stay in the United States."

So I surrendered to Him on that matter. Then, after seminary, an opportunity came up to pastor a church in northeastern Indiana. I can think of few places in this country I'd rather not be more than northeastern Indiana! But Marla and I knelt down and reaffirmed our submission to His will. The packet of material from that church never arrived in the mail, and the Lord soon opened up the church in the mountains of Southern California, where I served for 15 years.

(2) They are willing to serve anyone. Timothy served Paul, but he was willing to go and serve the Philippian church. Epaphroditus served the Philippian church, but he was willing to go and serve Paul. He reminds me of Philip, who was being used by God to reach great multitudes in Samaria, but who was willing to go to a deserted road where the Lord used him to reach the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:5-8, 26-40). A servant of Christ isn't out to make a name for himself by speaking to large crowds only. He's available to his Lord to serve anyone the Lord directs him to serve.

(3) They are willing to sacrifice anything. Timothy had given up his own interests to become a servant of Christ. Epaphroditus almost lost his life in his service for the Lord. To the Ephesian elders, Paul said of his own ministry, "I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24). Have you told the Lord, "I'll give up everything--my desires, my ambitions, my comforts, my time, my money--to serve You"?

I have emphasized this point at length, that a servant's heart is centered on the things of Jesus Christ, because if you have any other motive or reason for Christian service, you will eventually burn out or bomb out. You'll get angry and be hurt because of the way people treat you; you'll be frustrated and grow weary of the hardships you have to endure; you'll quit in disgust or disappointment-- if you're serving for any reason other than love for the Lord Jesus who gave Himself for your sins. A servant's heart must be constantly captivated with Christ.

B. A servant's heart puts others ahead of himself for the sake of Christ.

The Apostle Paul was in prison facing possible execution. Timothy was his right hand man, a faithful man who had served with Paul as a child serving his father (2:22). It would have been understandable if Paul, thinking of his circumstances, had said, "I can't spare Timothy at this time. He must stay here with me." But, instead, he was willing to send Timothy for the sake of the Philip5 pian church. The Philippians had been willing to serve Paul by giving monetarily and by sending Epaphroditus, who himself had been willing to serve to the brink of death on Paul's behalf.

Of Timothy, Paul says, "I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus" (2:20, 21). These are hard words to understand, because you would think that out of all the faithful Christians in Rome (Paul wrote Romans 16 about five years prior to this, where he greets many faithful believers in Rome), he could have found some who were not living for themselves! And, what about Luke, Titus, Aristarchus, Trophimus, and Epaphroditus? Paul must have meant that of those available to him at that time as messengers, Timothy was the only one he knew of who would genuinely seek after the interests of others instead of their own.

There are at least three ways you can tell if you're putting others ahead of yourself:

(1) You will have heartfelt love--These verses are oozing with Paul's heartfelt love for Timothy, Epaphroditus, and for the Philippians. Also notice how Epaphroditus longed for the Philippians and was distressed (the word is used of Jesus' distress in the garden) because they had heard that he was sick (2:26). There are some super-spiritual Christians who try to remove all emotion from the Christian life. They think that spiritual maturity means being stoical, not showing any grief or anxiety or tenderness or tears. But Paul here says how if Epaphroditus would have died, he would have been overwhelmed with grief at the loss of this dear servant of God. Paul knew Romans 8:28--he wrote the verse! He also knew Philippians 4:6-7, about not being anxious. Yet he didn't chide Epaphroditus because he was distressed over how the Philippian church felt about his sickness (2:26). Paul wasn't afraid to be human and to express his deep feelings for others.

(2) You will show genuine concern--This spills over with heartfelt love, but here I am especially focusing on Timothy's genuine concern for these people, that he was not seeking his own interests, but the welfare of the church (2:20-21). Sad to say, many who serve the Lord, including some in full-time ministry, do it with mixed motives. They're out for the strokes others can give them. They like being in the limelight. They're manipulative in using people for their own advancement or gain.

I knew a pastor in California who was outwardly very friendly. He seemed loving and caring. But when you got to know him you could see that he had an inordinate need to be liked. He would tell people what he thought they wanted to hear so they would like him, even though sometimes it was not the truth. He was really seeking his own interests, not the welfare of the church.

(3) You can work cooperatively with others--Timothy served with Paul like a child his father (2:22). Paul and Epaphroditus worked together harmoniously in the gospel cause. To do that, you've got to die to self and put others ahead of yourself for the sake of the work. Some people are not team players, unless they are the boss.

Even though Paul was clearly the leader among these men, and was about 25 years older than Timothy (we don't know how old Epaphroditus was), he didn't lord it over them. He humbly calls Epaphroditus his brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier. He deflects any glory from himself and lifts up these two faithful servants. So we must cultivate a servant's heart, centered on the things of Jesus Christ, putting others ahead of ourselves for the sake of the gospel.

2. We must endure a servant's hardships.

Serving Christ is not easy. The term fellow soldier implies warfare. It brings us under the withering attacks of the enemy, who wants to hinder the cause of Christ. Just as soldiers must go through boot camp so that they can learn to endure the hardships they will encounter on the battlefield, so the Lord's servants must be tested. Paul mentions Timothy's "proven worth" (2:22). The word means "approved by testing." It is the same word used in Romans 5:3, 4, where Paul says that tribulation brings about perseverance and perseverance brings proven character. A product that has been approved by testing is a reliable product. Either the manufacturer or a consumer advocate has submitted the product to severe conditions to see if it holds up. You can know that the product won't give out just when you need it most. Timothy had endured enough testing that Paul knew he was faithful. Testing or hardship in Christian service can come from many sources:

A. The hardship of persecution both from without and within.

Paul was in prison due to persecution from without. But also he was under attack from those who preached the gospel from envy and selfish ambition (1:15, 17). Perhaps they are the ones he refers to in 2:21. They claimed to be serving Christ, but in reality they were serving themselves. Alexander Maclaren wrote, "Many a professing Christian life has a veneer of godliness nailed thinly over a solid bulk of selfishness" (Expositions of Holy Scripture [Baker], "Philippians," p. 284). Paul knew the keen disappointment of professing Christians who were not faithful because they were living for themselves. It's often more difficult to bear the attacks from those within the flock than from those outside, because you expect the world to be against you, but not fellow Christians.

B. The hardship of the work itself.

In 2 Corinthians 11:23-29, Paul catalogues the hardships he experienced as a servant of Christ: persecutions, physical hardships, dangers that brought him to the brink of death, and, on top of everything else, intense concern for all the churches. In our text, he mentions his concern for the Philippian church (2:28). He mentions Epaphroditus' risking his life (it's a gambling term, "to throw the dice"), as well as his concern about the church. So the work of the gospel involves both physical and emotional hardships that can wear us down. We must be prepared for hardships in serving the Lord and rely on His sustaining grace, not on our own strength or resources.

I would encourage you to read the biographies of the great saints who have gone before us. One of the best is Ruth Tucker's From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya [Zondervan], which is a biographical history of the missions movement. It will move you to tears as you read of the incredible hardships that God's people have gone through to take the gospel to the unreached parts of the earth. In the early years of missionary work in Africa, only one out of four missionaries survived the first term of service (p. 155)! They were plagued by disease, by hostile people, by tribal warfare, by govern8 ment hindrances. Yet they kept going. Our hardships are nothing in comparison with theirs!

Why go through such hardship? If we cultivate a servant's heart and endure a servant's hardship, ...

3. We will receive a servant's honor.

We don't seek the honor for ourselves, but for our Lord who alone is worthy. But He promises, "Those who honor Me I will honor" (1 Sam. 2:30). He will reward every faithful servant with the crown of righteousness (2 Tim. 4:8). Any hardship we suffer now in serving Christ will be well worth it when we see His face and hear from Him, "Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master" (Matt. 25:21).

Paul here honors Timothy by sending him as his own representative. He honors Epaphroditus by his commendation and tells the church to "hold men like him in high regard" (2:29). As Calvin points out, the devil is intent on undermining the authority of godly pastors, and so the church must hold such men in high regard (Calvin's Commentaries [Baker], "Philippians," p. 84).


Did you notice how these seemingly mundane words about the travel schedules of these men illustrate what Paul has been saying throughout chapter 2? He has told us that we should do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind to regard others more highly than we do ourselves; not looking out for our own interests, but for the interests of others (2:3-4). Then he gave us the great example of our Lord, who laid aside His rights, took on the form of a servant, and became obedient to death on the cross. Therefore, God highly exalted Him (2:5- 11). Jesus had a servant's heart; He endured a servant's hardships; He received a servant's honor. That's the pattern for all who serve Him. Let's all strive to become imitators of Timothy and Epaphroditus; but not only of them, but of the Apostle Paul; and, beyond him, of our Lord Jesus Himself. There should be only one entrance to the church: the servant's entrance!


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