Tuesday, September 20, 2011

God's Model For Christians or Believers (Phil.2:19-30)


In 1993 Houston football player David Williams skipped a game to be with his newborn son and wife. The team fined him $ 125,000. The radio call-in shows debated who was right or wrong. Many said it wasn’t manly. In Fremont, California, a principal wrote to teachers, “If boys don’t get girls play games with them on the playground, they could be guilty of discrimination or harassment.”

The book “Missing from Action: Vanishing Manhood in America” by Weldon Hardenbrook describes four false models of manhood.

(1). Macho Maniac:
Rambo, James Bond or Dirty Harry. They deny all their feelings, ignore the law, never worry, always complain, and never apologize. They just sweat and bully people, taking whatever they want.

(2). Great Pretender:
Archie Bunker. Belittling others (especially workers, wife or children), they build themselves up. Out of fear, they hold the world at arm’s length with tough talk and criticism.

(3). World-class Wimp:
Dagwood Bumstead. He is incept, being outwitted by children, wives, and dogs. He is a passive bumbler whom no one takes seriously.

(4). Gender Blenders:
Michael Jackson or Boy George. They don’t even pretend to be masculine. They play with the image and mix feminine/masculine. People magazine reported a psychologist who asked his 7 year old nephew, “Is Michael Jackson a boy or a girl?” his nephew thought about it and said, “Both.”

Being a male is a matter of birth, being a man is a matter of choice. We can learn, choose, and grow. We do not need to settle for society’s false models. The Bible provides godly examples. Timothy (ref. Phil.2:20) and Epaphroditus (v.29) show us 5 Qualities Christians or believers should seek. Let us go straight to it:-

Put people before profits. Why? Relationships are more valuable than things. Compassion means protecting the needs and rights of other people. Timothy took a genuine interest in others’ welfare, not just his own interests. A developer bought land for a housing subdivision. He drilled wells, paved streets, and put in all the utilities. After the entire project was done, the wells went bad. He put in a pump house at a nearby river. Following a spring flood, the river shifted away from the pump house. He paid to dig a trench to the pump house. Then he paid to dig new ells. This compassionate response was beyond the law’s requirements and his contracts.

Too often, we care about ourselves, not others. It is possible to get so caught up in business and career that family is forgotten. People make excuse and say, “I’d like to help, but …” But let us remember this, God looks for men of compassion who put people before profits.

Putting character before conformity (v.22). God wants men who are not afraid to be different from the culture and to stand alone, “Timothy has proved himself…he has served with me in the work of the gospel.” Timothy was known and tested. This is integrity. Timothy’s name – “honoring God” – meant one who did not cave in to pressure. Such godly men cannot be bought.

The Bible says, “The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out” (Prov.10:9). The bottom line for manhood is integrity. A nice personality makes good first impressions, but success over the long haul is built on character, not image. A man of consistency “walks securely.”

A righteous man and a man of God has no secret like Senator Packwood’s 8,200 pages Diary to be kept from the Senate Ethics Committee, no Playboy magazine in hiding, no whisky hidden in the trunk, no juggling of the financial books to hide expenditures from the wife, and no affair with a former girlfriend. God also wants consistent men and women because inconsistent men and women produce insecure children and unstable marriages. God wants consistency, not conformity.

Putting cooperation before competition (v.25). Paul was a spiritual superstar, but he knew that you get more done working together. That’s why he had time for fellows like Timothy and Epaphroditus. Paul used three words to describe their spirit of cooperation- (a) brother, (b) fellow worker, (c) fellow soldier. Each word has an implication- (a). Brother means we are family. We are related in Christ. In churches worldwide, we use Brother Bob, Brother Smith, Sister Williams. Paul used the word “brother” 133 times in his epistles in the New Testament.

(b). Fellow worker means we are fellowship. We are engaged in the same task, making mature disciples. (c). Fellow soldier means we are in a fight together. Christians have a common enemy, the Devil. We are called to defend and support one another in the spiritual battle. Would others easily say that you are a brother, fellow worker, fellow soldier?

Some research suggests that only 10% of men in America have real friends. That should change in the church, but even Christian men don’t automatically know how to relate to one another. It is hard to risk letting others get close to us, even though there is tremendous power in unity. The more men who are able to unite in the cause of Christ and cooperate instead of complete, the stronger their local church will be.

Putting the cause of Christ before comfort (vv.25-27). A message was received by Paul, “Epaphroditus, your messenger…was ill, and almost died.” Paul was in Prison in Rome. The people in Philippi sent an offering to help him. It was 800 miles and 6 weeks of travel over rough roads. Epaphroditus went by foot and got seriously ill, almost dying. Yet he kept on and completed his task. He was persistent in spite of pain. His feelings were secondary. The cause of Christ came before comfort.

Many men are great starters (“Yes, we are going to go for it, we are going to do it!”), but they never finish. They quit because it is inconvenient or causes stress. Ministry always costs. You pay a price. If you want to serve God without any cost or inconvenience, forget it. There is no such thing.

VMI, an all-male school, came under attack. Woman wanted in Lt. Col. Thomas Linn resisted, “Society desperately needs male developmental education. It needs men who are assured and responsible in their masculinity. We need strong, committed men to channel aggression and instill an inner compulsion to do what is right. School like VMI do this well.”(USA Today, November 18, 1993). Recent news indicated woman are now admitted.

Committed men finish what they start. God wants men to be aggressive in spiritual things and in work. God wants men who put Christ’s Couse before comfort.

Put service before security (vv.29-30).Today we are told, "Build a nest egg to provide security for yourself.” The goal of life is security. Servicing others drops down the list in importance. Becoming a fulltime evangelist is rejected because you can’t make enough money. Ministry teams are neglected because you don’t want to give up a vacation. Working in the youth weekend is dropped because you can get overtime on Saturday.

Serving Jesus calls for reckless bandon. It means driving your car a year longer to support that missionary. It means passing up the new dress to help that refugee. It means selling your boat to buy that mission a generator. It means giving up Saturdays to build houses for the poor.

Welcome him in the Lord… Honor men like him… he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life.”(vv.29-30) “Risking” means “hazarding”(Weymouth) your life- a gambling term – or staking everything, Epaphroditus was God’s gambler, risking his life for Paul and for the cause of the gospel. If we only play church and come to sing our songs and to hear our sermons, we do God a dis-service. God looks for men and women who put service before security.

A 77 year-old man with an attitude of service retires 12 years ago. He has worked on construction missions eight times overseas and three times stateside. All were at his own expense and for no pay. This retired man is guided by the Holy Spirit and fulfilled. He cares about God’s ministry and service, no just security.
You can be for or against Jimmy Carter, former US president and his politics. But after he held the most prestigious job in the nation, he began volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, building houses for the poor at his own expense. Jimmy Carter surely put service before security!

Any church is healthy when there is a reasonable number of men and women who are willing to serve, but not destroy others. Women will always serve the church, but the difference is the number of men who will join them. Paul calls us to make a living sacrifice of ourselves to God. If you don’t volunteer to ministry, you are not sacrificing. If you are not tithing you are not sacrificing. The result is bored and unfulfilled others.

Only those who throw away their lives for my sake and for the sake of the Good News will ever know what it means to really live” (Mark 8:35). Do you want to live? Go for broke! Get out on the limb. Risk and give up your life. God is looking for men. Get usable, and God will wear you out.

(SERIES – 14).


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