Jump Start # 2161
Philippians 2:20-21 “For 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.”
Paul was sending Timothy to check on the welfare of the Philippian brethren. Timothy was the one Paul could count on. When summoned, he went. Our verse today is telling. It’s sad. It’s not unique nor limited to the first century. There was no one else, but Timothy. No one else had a similar kindred spirit. No one else truly cared. No one else put the kingdom, others, and Jesus before their own concerns. There was no one.
The feelings of Paul are often expressed in our times. Leaders in a congregation will plan a special series of lessons. It’s talked up. Flyers are printed and mailed out. The building is polished. The topics are important and practical. The weekend comes and goes and few came. For all the work and for all the money, it seemed like a flop. Heads are scratched. People wonder what they should have done differently. Why didn’t members come? Why didn’t others come? It was so good for the people who were in attendance. The message was helpful and will be long remembered. But so many could have been helped. There were people going through the very things that were preached about. They needed to hear those messages. The conclusion was obvious, “they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.”
At the end of the day, once home, some just do not feel like getting back out again. Others had other things on their schedules that seemed more important to them. School night. Got to get to bed early because of a big meeting in the morning. It’s rainy.
This is also illustrated and seen by a lack of interest in serving in the kingdom. Fewer preachers today. Fewer men stepping up to serve as shepherds. The need is enormous. Who will fill the shoes of the current preachers and shepherds? Who will be there for the next generation?
The reasons are many. For Paul, there was no one other than Timothy who could be sent to see about the Philippians. No one else was genuinely concerned about them. No one else would go. For us, the world and this life seems to take a greater interests than Jesus and the kingdom. Same problem all these years later.
The answer is obvious. It’s about priorities. It’s about order. They need to seek first the kingdom of God. That’s all they need to do. Easy solution. Quick fix. Yet, Paul had to deal with it and we do as well.
When people seek after their own interests instead of Christ, it becomes discouraging for those who are trying. Sometimes they feel like dropping out and joining the rest. It also means that most of the work must be carried on by fewer and fewer. A large church, but no one will teach. A large church but no one will serve. A large church but no one does much except the faithful few.
What can be done?
First, get out of the cave Elijah. These thoughts and these words can make us feel that we are the only ones doing anything. At Paul’s trial, the apostle declared that no one stood with him. They all deserted. Poor Elijah thought he was the only one faithful in God’s nation. The Lord reminded the pitiful prophet that there were thousands who had not bowed the knee to Baal. We can feel like ole’ Elijah. I’m the only one, we sing, who is carrying the load here. I am the only one who cares.
Sometimes a wife can feel that way about her family. The kids are off in video land. The husband is glued to the ballgame. Laundry, dishes, keeping up with things and she feels all alone in this journey.
I know the spirit of Elijah. I’ve spent time in that cave with him. The “woe is me,” club is very lonely. It’s discouraging and it leaves you with a sour taste about everyone else. Here’s what I found out why crying in my cave. While thinking, I can’t get anyone to do anything, there was a sweet widow who had been praying for me. There was a young couple who had invited a friend to services. There was a few ladies who got together for a deeper Bible study. I never knew those things. Things were going on and I didn’t know them.
While Paul seems to be crying that there was no one to send to Philippi, Apollos was out there preaching. The apostles were busy teaching. Titus, Prisca and Aquila were busy. Scan Romans 16, so many names, so many helpers. Maybe they weren’t where Paul was at. No phones, no access back then, but not everyone was seeking their own interests. In most places, there are things going on that the rest never hear about. Someone once suggested, ‘Why don’t we keep track of all the things that go on and post it so others know?’ Bad idea. It leads to bragging, jealously. Don’t let the left hand know what the right hand is doing. Because I do not see things does not mean nothing is being done.
Second, encourage others, don’t scold them. We are equals and we are in this together. Invite someone to go with you. Show them. Invite someone to go to the hospital with you. Invite someone to team teach with you. Invite someone to help you host a few families in your home. Rather than screaming, NO ONE IS DOING ANYTHING, lead them and help them. It would be good for a preacher, the elders to take someone out to lunch that they feel has potential. Spend some time with them. Buy them a book that would help them. Let them know what you see in them. Mentor them.
Interestingly, before this chapter of Philippians ends, Paul mentions Epaphroditus, a fellow worker and a fellow soldier in Christ. He was to be held in “high regard” in the Lord. So, Timothy wasn’t the only one Paul could count on. There were others. Discouragement does that to a person. It clouds their vision and makes things worse than what they really are.
Third, the work is too great for you to quit. Maybe you are the only one that cares. Maybe you are the only one that does things. Maybe you are tired of keeping the place together. Maybe you are tired of being the first there and the last to leave. But if you quit, who will take your place? You are doing what you do because you care. You are making a difference. Maybe it is just assumed that you will do it. Maybe no one can do what you are doing. Take a moment. Catch your breath and then pick up the load and keep going. If Heaven notices a cup of cold water that is given, then it will notice what you have done. Your years of service leaves footprints for others to follow. You may never enjoy the shade that comes from an acorn that is planted, but others will. It may be years later that your example is used to impress upon others the need to put the Lord first.
Don’t whine. Don’t complain. Just serve. We must continue to preach, “Deny yourself.” We must continue to teach, “Seek first the Kingdom of God.” We must keep praying, “Lord, send forth laborers.” Include younger ones so they can learn. I have a picture of one of my granddaughters, dragging a bag of trash, three times her size, down the hallway of a church building, as my daughter cleans the meeting house. Little ones helping. Little ones learning. Get the teens out on a Saturday to help out.
Kindred spirits—they are there. Paul had them. We all do. They are found in a wonderful friend in Alabama who calls me “Jump Starts.” They are found in the heart of a sweet sister who puts a jar of homemade jelly in my hands. They are found in the loving touch of an elder who puts his arm around my shoulder and asks, “How are you doing?” and he truly means it. It’s found in the kind phone calls, the touching emails, and the thoughtful ways people let you know that they are with you, support you and love you. Then you understand, it’s not you, it’s the Lord that they do these things for. They are kindred spirits. They do care. Not everyone will do what you can do. Not everyone sees what you see. But they do what they do. They see what they see. Together, we make a team. Together we are part of the kingdom of God.
There are days when you feel like Paul and say, “There’s no one.” But then, you realize there are others and there is something that God needs me to do today. That is what I must do.