Longing for Another
June 20, 2019 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
At Oak Hills we say our mission is “longing to know and make known the astonishing grace of God.” Every year I seek to take time to step back and take stock of how we are doing as a church, in light of our mission. We have many reasons to give glory to God for his work among us to fulfill this mission. We also have room to grow, as we always will this side of heaven. This summer, I want to encourage our growth in “longing” by looking at pictures of longing from Scripture, praying that we would be challenged and inspired. This is part two of a multi-part series.
Paul’s letter to the Philippians is called the Epistle of Joy. Throughout this letter Paul is expressing joy for all sorts of people, circumstances, and, mostly, the power of the gospel. Paul’s joy is remarkable because he is in prison when he writes the letter. If I was in his shoes, I would struggle to find reasons to rejoice in such dire circumstances.
One source of joy for Paul was the ministry partnership he enjoyed with Timothy and Epaphroditus. He calls Timothy a “son” who served with him “in the gospel” (2:22). Epaphroditus he calls his “brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier” (2:25). Paul had strong affections for these two brothers.
Paul calls the church at Philippi to “honor such men” (2:29). Paul calls us to regard Timothy and Epaphroditus highly for their love for the Lord and the gospel. He would even encourage us to follow their example. Timothy and Epaphroditus give us our second picture of longing.
There are many qualities of Timothy and Epaphroditus that Paul commends. I want to zero in on one. Timothy and Epaphroditus longed for people. They cared for others. They sacrificed for others. They prayed for others. Notice what Paul says about each:
Timothy was “genuinely concerned for your welfare” (2:20). In his heart, Timothy cared for the well-being of the Philippian church. From Acts 16 we know that Philippi could be hostile towards the Christian faith. This young church was threatened not only by hostility from outside, but also by conflict within (see 4:2). Timothy understood these dangers and “genuinely” cared for them. I’m sure this concern compelled him to be a prayer warrior for the church.
Epaphroditus “has been longing for you all and has been distressed” (2:26). This man of faith came from the Philippian church. He traveled to visit Paul with a financial gift (see 2:25, 4:18). Apparently, while he traveled, Epaphroditus fell ill (2:27). The Philippians heard of this and were concerned for him. He did not want them to be unduly burdened by his welfare. Epaphroditus is sick, but he’s worried and concerned about the Philippians being concerned for him.
What stands out about these two men is their whole-hearted love and longing for the Philippian church. They did not minister “from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility” they counted the Philippians “more significant than” themselves (2:3).
If we want to long to make known God’s astonishing grace, we must long for people like Timothy and Epaphroditus. Longing to make known cannot happen in a vacuum. We long to make known because we long for people, specific people, to know the wonder and goodness of Jesus’ saving grace. This longing for another grips our hearts. This longing compels us to pray. This longing leads us to be genuinely concerned for the spiritual welfare of another. This longing will lead us to make sacrifices for others.
For whom do you long?