If the Lord Jesus is willing, I hope to send Timothy to you soon for a visit. Then he can cheer me up by telling me how you are getting along. 20 I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. 21 All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. 22 But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has served with me in preaching the Good News. 23 I hope to send him to you just as soon as I find out what is going to happen to me here. 24 And I have confidence from the Lord that I myself will come to see you soon.
25 Meanwhile, I thought I should send Epaphroditus back to you. He is a true brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier. And he was your messenger to help me in my need. 26 I am sending him because he has been longing to see you, and he was very distressed that you heard he was ill. 27 And he certainly was ill; in fact, he almost died. But God had mercy on him—and also on me, so that I would not have one sorrow after another.
28 So I am all the more anxious to send him back to you, for I know you will be glad to see him, and then I will not be so worried about you. 29 Welcome him in the Lord’s love and with great joy, and give him the honor that people like him deserve. 30 For he risked his life for the work of Christ, and he was at the point of death while doing for me what you couldn’t do from far away. – Philippians 2:19-30
He was a true brother in Christ. He had his own peccadillos. He was sometimes crude. He was occasionally prejudiced; though one of his best friends was black. But he had a heart for God, for faith, and for sharing his faith. He was a Kennedy Evangelism partner, and a significant influence on my life. Jerry was a source of spiritual formation and direction for me. So I can understand how Paul felt as he spoke of Timothy – though in many ways I was the Timothy to Jerry.
Our faith can too easily remain a philosophical pursuit. We can believe certain things, hold certain truths, even believe in Jesus as Savior. But sometimes faith must take on flesh. Sometimes we need send away a Timothy to serve another. Sometimes we must urge people to receive a co-worker in Christ. Faith becomes real in those moments.
Paul is writing from prison and very much in doubt about his future. But he is also concerned for the spiritual welfare of the believers in Philippi. He was willing to part with his son in the faith for the sake of the people in Philippi. Faith and love will do that. They will conspire to lead you to sacrifice for the good of another. They will engage in the goodness of God’s will.
That’s why we send our sons off to war. That’s why we urge our best friend to take a Call to a distant place. That’s why we are willing to send a pastor to plant a new church, or head up a new mission effort. We do it not because it’s good for us. We do it because faith is more than a philosophy. It’s a way of life.
Paul urged the people of Philippi to do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit. Now he is practicing what he was preaching to these people. He was looking toward not just his own interest but the interest of others (Philippians 2:3-4). That’s when faith becomes real.
Paul must surely have believed that any sacrifice he would make for the sake of the gospel would be worth it. He also knew that God was faithful. And just as he had delivered Epaphroditus, God would deliver him as well. Faith becomes real when we believe the promises, and take the risks for the sake of the gospel. People who live like that have great kingdom impact.