SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY
12TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
SEPTEMBER 1, 2019.
Title: “Adequacy in Christian Service”
Text: “But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s (Philippians 2:19-21).
Scripture Reading: Philippians 2:19-30.
During my visit to Africa, I heard the story of a nurse who risk everything fighting to save the lives of people who contracted the deadly virus, Ebola. He would wake up every morning, go to the Ebola holding station, dorned his white jumpsuit to execute his duty as a nurse. In the process, he contracted the virus and his life almost came to an end. He was saved by the American team of doctors and nurses. When he was cleared, the following day he was back at his job to the displeasure of his family and friends. He told his family and friends, “Pray that God will increase in me the spirit of compassion.” The Holy Spirit has called us to a life of service. We should live and serve him. Our service to Him demands sympathy and compassion for others.
Dr. Daniel Poling was for many years editor of the Christian Herald and president of Christian Endeavor International. He had a son who was a minister. He was one of the four chaplains who went down on the ship Dorchester not far from the British coast in the early days of World War II. The four chaplains who went down with the ship gave their life vests to others when there were not enough to go around. Before the ship had set sail, he had written a letter to his family in which he said, “I know I shall have your prayers; but please don’t pray simply that God will keep me safe. War is a dangerous business. Pray that God will make me adequate.” Let us learn together this morning, what it takes to serve God in adequacy.
We ought always to pray for adequacy in service to Christ. Paul showed us the meaning of adequacy in Christian service in the way he commended his follow laborers Timothy and Epaphroditus to the church at Phillippi.
When Paul calls his fellow laborers in Christian service to adequacy, Paul is stating that adequacy in Christian service demands a sympathetic person. Notice in verse 20 of our text this morning that Paul gives young Timothy, his spiritual son in ministry a signal commendation. Paul said that no one else he could send to the church would care for them as he would. Timothy could sympathize with others and have a real concern for them and their problems.
To sympathize means to feel for others in their troubles. A little girl was once late in returning home, her mother asked her what had happened that made her late. She replied that her friend Mary had broken her doll. Then her mother asked why that had caused her to be late. She said that she had stopped to help Mary cry over her broken doll. Jesus Christ was sympathetic towards sinners. In all his ministry work, he also reminded everyone that he came to seek and to save the lost. Jesus Christ came not only to minister to the spiritual needs of people, but to both their physical and environmental needs.
Adequacy in Christian service demands a selfless person. As we read further in verse 21, we see that Paul’s commendation is the highest that can be given to a Christian servant. He or she seeks the things of Christ. Timothy was a man who always looked for the highest good that could come to the Christian cause. Too often the first question people ask is what good something can do for them.
A missionary pioneer named Henry Martyn said, “I go to burn out for Christ” Not only does this kind of selfless service place the cause of Christ above life itself. The reference in verse 30 is to Epaphroditus, who “not regarding his own life, supported Paul.
We see this burning out in a first responder Named Timothy Stackpole. Timothy Stackpole was a New York Firefighter, who was severely burned in a 1998 fire. After he recovered, he returned to the force despite the advice of some friends and family and the fact that he could retire comfortably.
He was a great firefighter and passionate about his work and was soon promoted to captain. Timothy was one of the firefighters that ran into the second tower to try to save some people. When he did, it collapsed and took his life. He knew his calling—to save people. The Holy Spirit has called us to a life of service. We should live and serve him. Our service to Him demands sympathy and compassion for others.
Epaphroditus was sent with a message and a gift from the church at Philippi to Paul in Rome, where Paul was imprisoned. While Epaphroditus was there, he got very sick, “nigh unto death.” He apparently got homesick too, but Paul sent him back home with a tremendous testimonial of his worth.
The word translated “not regarding his own life” was a gambling term. In the early church, there was an association of “gamblers,” men and women who visited those who were sick with dangerous and infectious diseases. In AD 252, when the plague broke out in Carthage, the heathens threw out the bodies of their dead and fled. Cyprian, the Christian bishop, gathered his congregation and set them to burying the dead and nursing the sick in the plague-ridden city. At the risk of their own lives, they saved the city from destruction.
Adequacy in Christian service enables us to do our task with competence and efficiency. It means that we are responsible for being faithful to the task. It does not, however, means that we are responsible for the results.
A farmer hired a worker and asked him for his qualifications. The man responded by saying that he could sleep during a storm. Shortly thereafter a storm came. Not sure that the hired hand had done his job, the farmer got up in the stormy night to check the stocks, the doors, and the locks. Finding everything secure, he remembered the hired hand’s remark that he could sleep in a storm.
Adequacy in Christian service demands a seasoned Christian who will not be troubled by the storms of life. It calls us to be courageous in the face of danger seen and unseen. A seasoned person’s faith would be tested and tried, but grounded in the word of God, his or her service will not be shaken. In II Timothy 2:15, Paul admonished young Timothy, “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needed not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.” Being seasoned, we are called to remember that words may change with generations, but we must be guarded against misapplying or twisting scripture, when we teach the truth. To be seasoned, we must study or strive and be diligent for God’s approval and not man’s approval in our service.
Timothy’s great value was that he was always willing to go anywhere or any length to serve. In this world of ours, we may have other ambitions. But our one desire should be to serve. In doing so, let us do with the spirit of compassion, selflessness, and with diligence. This will make us the patron saint of Jesus.
Adequacy in Christian service is greatly to be desired. Let us desire the spirit of sympathy and compassion for those that are lost. Let us pray that God will make us adequate. God bless you all.