I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.

But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also. – Philippians 2:19-24

What defines you? A question with three words has such significant importance. But, this question in no way is simple. So, I’d like you to take a moment and write down what defines you and how. Take a piece of paper and a writing utensil or a mobile device near you and write out what defines you.

I know the question has so many variances. It begs an expounded explanation of what details are you asking for. But, in answering that question I would be leading your own definition. This is meant to be your perception of what defines you. Surely there are other ways that you would be defined. Think of these simple variances.

How do you define yourself? How does your family define you? How do your friends define you? How do your co-workers define you? How does your community define? How would the cashier at the store or the restaurant went through once define you? How does the Lord define you?

Just the opening word changes the answer, “how,” which implies a quality, personality, character trait, or life style. This simple question of “how” rather than “what” which is specific, it demands an intricate response rather than generalities.

Now, its assumed that in this current context someone wrote the Sunday school answer. Jesus. Yet, one of the most chilling moments in all of the Gospel’s is when Jesus says this.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ – Matthew 7:21-23

Or even when you read the parable of the where the seeds are planted. Some who say they believe start strong and burn bright, but are shallow, so the first time when things are not easy they abandon the Lord. There are others who grow in knowledge and truth, but they are not dedicated to the Lord. Life is more about life than it is about the Lord, so life distracted them from the eternal life they could have had. Then there are those who believe and their whole life can’t help but be a light that displays who the Lord is for others to see the King (Luke 8:1-18).

And, as we open up the letter to the Philippians, we find that despite Paul’s continued rejoicing in the Lord over the Gospel being shared no matter the person and despite their motives. He is not a fool. He recognizes that when there is an opportunity to send someone for the purpose of caring for others you must send someone you trust. Someone you would define as walking worthy of the Gospel.

When we think of a disciple in the Bible we often think of the twelve. But, the person discipled most visibly in biblical history by someone other than Jesus was the tandem of Timothy and Paul. We read about Paul’s journeys with Timothy in Acts, read about him in numerous letters from Paul to churches, and most pointedly read two letters written to Timothy by Paul about being a leader in a church.

So, as we approach this small, portion of scripture. These verses  would normally be overlooked as not impactful enough we should recognize the great importance of both the person of Timothy and the difference Paul places on Timothy and those who would simply share the Gospel.

Who Would Send You?

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.

Paul is a prisoner in chains for the name of Jesus. He has resolved himself that to die in this state for the name of Jesus is to gain and to live is to be an encourager for others in Christ. Paul has been witness to another apostle turning away from believers because of their heritage and fear of others rather than standing true for the name of Jesus.

Paul has witnessed brothers in the cause of Christ depart from the Gospel because of fear, only to come back. He has endured the hateful hurling of stones with the aim to kill him from his own people, both Roman and Jew. Even when Paul came to Philippi the first time he came with Silas because he did not wish to come with Mark who had abandoned him previously as they shared the Gospel.

Paul had been witness to kindness amidst torture. He had seen men ready to die but given them the hope of eternal life. He has seen countless healed. He has seen the Spirit of God work in the lives of the most unlikely of people. He has been welcomed by the rich and the poor.

Yet, amidst all of the men and women he has served with, traveled with, traveled to, he speaks drastically about Timothy’s worth. We have no letters from Timothy, but we have two distinct letters written to Timothy that are centerpieces for any leader in the church to have read and to appreciate their significance on their role in the church.

Paul implicit statement that Timothy both genuinely cares for the welfare of the Philippians and the interests of Jesus Christ. This is what defines Timothy. It is what we should all wish to define us. We should aim to be defined as someone who seeks to glorify God and genuinely cares for others.

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm. – 1 Timothy 1:3-7

Paul’s belief of about the works of God being rooted in love and not simply teaching about the law or God. Talk without action, without actions of love is meaningless. We could know the mysteries of the greatness of God and be able to categorically share with you every Sunday School story of the Bible, without acts of love they are meaningless. Paul writes elsewhere to the Ephesians about their love.

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him – Ephesians 1:15-17

But, what does this look like realistically. What would this look like for our church. There are very few churches that don’t boast of their prowess and purpose filled mission statement of the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. Yet, how they define themselves and how they live it out are often tragically different.

During a time of applying, looking at, and interviewing at churches to be a pastor I had a unique opportunity. When you go to a church anonymously you get to do your own sort of interview process. You get to see whether a church is being a conduit for the glory of Christ or for simple aspirations for self-growth.

Some churches would have numerous people who say they go to that church because of the pastor. Others would declare that the church helped provide funds to bring their dead daughter from Florida to be buried at home in a different state. Other churches would speak about their events as if they were sacred. Some churches that declared their love for God were so gossip filled that it would make you weep as they openly degrade staff members, leaders, and the community.

What was so impressive about SBC was how dramatically important the community of the church is. The frankly fantastic appreciation and love for one another is encouraging. The intentional honor the church shows so many different generations. This is a church where there are about a dozen of every decade who call our church family.

We have humble leadership that don’t dig their heels in but openly admit their need to grow, their mistakes, and purposefully seek to become more equipped to love the saints. We have a community that desperately needs Jesus, but also one that is also saturated with His name and doors wide open to zealously proclaim Him.

In all of this ask yourself, what defines you?

What way would someone not only describe what you are a part of, but how you are a part of it. When someone comes to church on Sunday do you make it a point to encourage another person. When you walk into work on Monday, are you prepared not for another week of work, but another week of opportunities to genuinely care for the welfare of those you meet.

Is the name of Jesus what defines you? It cannot be repeated enough, we do not do good for goodness sake, but for God’s namesake. Do people hear you praising God for your life, your eternal hope of life, and trust Him with the difficult moments of today. Do you trust Him with the moments where difficult is not hyperbolic enough to accurately describe the devastation? Paul was doing that even in this letter to the Philippians.

Because in this passage we know how Paul defined Timothy, and how he defined other churches because of their love. Now that you know how you would define you, remember to think about this who calls you when they need help? Who calls you when they need prayer? Who calls you because they know you will just genuinely love them and point them to Christ’s love?

Partner With Those Who Are Mature and Young In the Gospel.

But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.

Paul was not living his faith out alone. He was attacked by Romans, Jews, and as seen in this letter even berated by believers. Yet, Paul was not alone. He had partnered with a younger person in the faith. He had made it a point to care for this young man like a father would for a son. But, this was again not simply about relationships, Paul and Timothy’s bond was built upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What defines you, will also define your relationships.

The world can appreciate a caring parent. The world can appreciate development of a younger generation. The world even appreciates the training of a craft or trade of the younger generation. But, remember the question what defines you. What defined Paul also defined his relationships.

Paul’s entire life from tent making to preaching, from traveling the empire to being locked in a prison were premised around the Gospel itself. How Paul was defined was by the Gospel itself. Making God known through his presence. Paul went to proclaim who God is and what He has done. Paul stayed in certain places to make Jesus known. And, Paul was removed from places and locked up simply for the sake of the making God and what He has done known.

And, so Paul’s relationship with Timothy was premised completely around the Gospel. They grew in relationship in the Gospel and around the Gospel. Their bond was not simply strengthened by the Gospel but built upon and built by the Gospel.

There is no wondering why Paul was happy to send this young man to the church to care for them. He knew and had firsthand experience that Timothy was defined by the Gospel himself. That making God known to the Philippians would be His greatest aim because that is what Paul had shown him and what Timothy strove to do.

So, it is an important question not simply what defines you, but also who is encouraging you to be defined that way. Our faith is not meant to be lived in a vacuum of isolation. Whether you are 92 or a new born, a believer of 70 years or have only believed for a short time you are given the example to not live faith alone.

The pastors’ kid of pastors’ kids Andy Stanley shared about a conversation he had with his remarkable father Charles Stanley. Charles Stanley is a world renown preacher and someone who has encouraged and challenged many in my congregation in Nebraska, though he is based out of Atlanta. He told his son he wanted someone to mentor him. He was looking for someone to equip him better for his walk with Christ, this was in his 70’s.

When is it to late in life to find others to focus you on Christ. On the flip side of this I have had couples in their 70’s that have been saved all their life explain, “I cannot mentor someone I don’t know enough.” There may be times in your life where you need to heal, you need to grow, and you need to learn. But, there is no time where the command to make disciples by teaching them all things about God about how Jesus has all authority, and how Jesus will be with us for all the days of our lives is not of paramount importance.

Think about the importance you would place on a final letter, the final moments you would have with those you love before you go away. Jesus used his final moments to challenge us to go.

The incarnate and resurrected from the dead Creator God of the Universe who had become part of His creation, says go and tell others of me. Go and make me known. In His final moments before leaving He left you and I a command to develop one another. To be the Gospel to one another.  

Send Others, and Personally Go, to Encourage Others in the Gospel!

I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also. – Philippians 2:19-24

Paul had little help of His own. Numerous times in His letters from prison he mentions being abandoned. Paul had few to care for him, yet because he could not go, and could not be everywhere he desired to send others. He looked to the good of others. Yet, amidst his own turmoil he still wanted to go as well.

Paul never lost sight of his purpose. His purpose was to equip the saints, to care for others, and to ensure that those he sent would put the cause of Christ first!

Like Paul and Timothy we must not miss that we choose the most important thing that defines us. We choose with our actions, we choose with our words, and we choose with what we prioritize. Being defined by the Gospel is more than the fantastic Sunday Morning worship services where brothers and sisters in Christ come to worship. It is more than a Small Group or Sunday School. It is more than your war room prayer closet.

As you read the Bible, which I hope all of you are, and if you access to the whole of scripture and call yourself a mature follower of Christ yet have not read the whole bible in the past five years or even the New Testament think about your true longing to know the Lord. Yet, being defined by the Gospel is more than your personal time in God’s Word.

So, reflect on who you are. Reflect on what you are in Christ. Reflect on how you are walking worthy of the Gospel. How are you genuinely caring for others welfare? Whether you are going out to the different homes for “Meals on Wheels” and literally delivering food others have made to those in need or are inviting those you know in need into your home and caring for them.

But, Jesus added a note of confidence. He didn’t say maybe God was love, or that it would be nice if God were love. He said GOD IS LOVE-period. But there is more to the message of Jesus. He insisted that His Father is crazy with love, that God is a kooky God who can scarcely bear to be without us.

God wants us back even more than we could possibly want to be back.

Not only does He require that we accept His inexplicable, embarrassing kind of love; but once we’ve accepted it, He expects us to behave the same way with others. I suppose I could live, if I had to, with a God whose love for us is embarrassing, but the thought that I’ve got to act that way with other people-that’s a bit too much to swallow.[1]

So, how are you being defined by the Gospel through your inexplicable and embarrassing love for others so that others can know the creator God?

How does your life revolve around the simple and drastic principle of making God known to others?

In order to send others to genuinely shine the Gospel through caring for others, you first should be the desperate example that someone else would send.

[1] Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel, (Colorado Springs Colorado: Multnomah Books, 2005), 157-159.

           Questions to Consider

-       How are you walking worthy of the Gospel? (Philippians 1:27, 2:5-8; Ephesians 4:1-3; James 1:26-27; Hebrews 12:1-4; 2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2)

-       How are you showing your genuine concern for others encouragement in the Gospel? (James 2:14-24, 5:13-20; 1 Corinthians 9:19; 1 Peter 3:8-18)

-       How are you genuinely caring for others welfare? (Matthew 5-6; John 21; 1 John 2:9-11; Romans 12)

-       Are you a person who others would send to encourage others in the Gospel? (2 Peter 1:3—15; Luke 9:57-10:24, 14:25-34)

-       Are you a person preparing others to be sent to share the Gospel? (Matthew 28:18-19; Titus 2; Colossians 4:2-6)

-       What about your schedule displays you actively going to others to encourage them and show the Gospel’s tangible truth here and now? (2 Timothy 3:10-16; Colossians 3:16-17; 1 Corinthians 10:31)