Paul recommends two men whom he highly regarded as leaders who genuinely care; Timothy and Epaphroditus. These two stand out above the others. Two, every day men who did extraordinary things with and for other people.
Paul said of Timothy, “There is no one like- minded, who will naturally care for your state” (Philippians 2:20). Not all leaders take care of people in the same way. Interestingly, Paul’s criticism of other leaders is not that they had bad doctrine, but they did not have a genuine compassion for people or seek the interest of Jesus above all else. There is one man Paul could trust to truly care. Paul could entrust Timothy with these very special people because he cared for them like Paul did. He does not even seem to consider that Timothy would do otherwise. Paul was sure Timothy would follow through, just like he would have. Timothy was a genuine encouragement not only to the Philippians, but to Paul. Timothy was like a son to a father with Paul.
Leaders are genuinely concerned about those who follow. However, leaders need someone who genuinely care for them as well. Leaders need to be encouraged too. Leaders get discouraged just like everybody else. Leaders receive the “pot shots.” Leaders deal with the mess left by others. Paul was encouraged by Timothy. He knew he could leave what he had been doing with these people in good hands. He would not have to worry about how they were being taught or treated. Timothy had a like-mind.
Timothy was also genuinely concerned for the Philippians. Notice the statements, “a genuine interest or genuine concern.” A leader puts the interest of others ahead of his own. In our “Me” driven society, this is rare. How often do we let our self-concern make our hearts insensitive to the needs of others? A leader is aware of others and their needs. He has a sense when someone is not doing well. He reaches out. He seeks the wounded. How do we want a leader to care for us? We want him to be available. We want him to listen. We want his wisdom and guidance. We want him to pray with us. We want to know he genuinely does care. He not only says it, but even more importantly, he shows it.
Have you ever met a man who claims to be a leader but spends all his time talking about himself? If he is always elevating himself and putting others down, will he go out of his way to make sure you are okay? That man will have no one to follow. Think about how many homes and churches have suffered from self-willed leaders. It is sad when a man has that role but uses it selfishly. A leader serves for the good of those under his leadership, not his own good. Paul was sure Timothy would do just that. He learned it from Paul. The greatest encouragement Timothy gave others was that he served them. His focus was on them. A genuine leader who cares does not act out of selfish ambition. He is lowly in mind and esteems others better than himself. He is always looking out for the interest of others (Phil. 2:3-4).
Now consider the second man Paul recommends; Epaphroditus. He was a man who had the confidence of others. He went to Paul on behalf of the Philippians and became a great encouragement and comfort for Paul. He even risked his life for him. Leaders need to know others are looking out for them too.
Further, people do not follow a man they do not trust. Epaphroditus had gained the trust of the Philippians. When the Philippian brethren heard that Paul was in prison in Rome, they said, “We’re going to send somebody with some gifts and supplies so that he might minister to Paul’s needs” (Phil. 4:18; 2:25). They chose Epaphroditus. At some point he became gravely ill, literally “at the door of death.”
The greatest demonstration of Epaphroditus’ genuine concern was how he laid his life on the line. Epaphroditus learned that the people back in Philippi knew he was sick. This caused Epaphroditus great distress. He is more concerned about their anxiety than he is about his own health. So, when he does get stronger, Paul says, “I’ll tell you what, Epaphroditus, you’re so upset and concerned about your loved ones. I’m going to send you home. You will feel better and I will feel better, and they will feel better too.” At great risk to his own life, due to severe illness, he was determined to complete what he had been sent to do. Epaphroditus chose against himself for the sake of somebody else.
He risked his life by his willingness to serve a prisoner charged with a capital offense. Epaphroditus was willing to lay it all on the line for Paul and the Philippians. Paul was on trial. He is charged for being a threat to the Roman government. Epaphroditus shows up to befriend and serve him, opening himself up to the same charge. There was no selfish ambition in him. He was seeking the needs and interests of others above his own. If we know a man is willing to give, even his life, risk himself for us, we follow that man.
One of the problems in the time of Ezekiel is that the elders were not taking care of those for whom they were responsible. They were abusing them, taking advantage of them. They fed themselves not the flock. They clothed themselves not the flock. They left the weak, sick and broken exposed to danger. They allowed the flock to become food for all beasts (Ezekiel 34:1-4). These men had no concern for the good and interest of others. They were not lowly in mind. Their only concern was for themselves. There was no comfort or affection found in them. Now compare them to Epaphroditus. He served the needs of Paul. He was concerned about how the Philippians felt about him being sick. He worked for the good of others as a fellow worker to assist Paul. He did not regard his life. He was a cause for rejoicing. Which of the two demonstrates genuine concern for others? Epaphroditus. Who would we follow? Epaphroditus.
Leaders are genuinely concerned for those they lead, not because they get paid. They do not care that they do not get noticed. They are genuine because they are more concerned for others rather than their own self interests. They care enough to risk their lives. When we have homes and churches with men who lead like this, problems will be quickly and successfully addressed.
Leaders are generally the people who have influenced us the most. Also, they are not afraid to get dirty with us if they need to. Who do we admire the most? Timothy and Epaphroditus were Paul’s heroes! Who are ours? Who do we honor? Paul said, “You need to honor a man like this.” Who do we honor, esteem, hold in high regard? Whose poster is on our wall? Whose autobiography are we reading? Do we honor the wrong people? We may honor a man because he’s affluent. We may honor a man because he’s got a lot of head knowledge about the Bible. Yet, it may be that neither of these men have any desire to serve anybody. So, who do we honor? In the wall of our mind, whose picture hangs there? Who has the “honor roll” in your family or church? Who do we admire most? Think about our influencers.
When we see a need, when we see an opportunity to serve, who do we think of first? Is that person(s) willing to get dirty? What are towels for? Did the towel Jesus used in John 13, when He washed feet, get dirty? We are not a servant if we serve only when we want to. The “honor roll” is not a few acts of service now and then. It is a lifestyle. It’s a totally new way of thinking about why we’re here. The person we honor and think of first is most likely a genuine leader.
Notice how Paul displays the very spirit that he’s urging the Philippians to adopt. Paul needed Timothy. Paul needed Epaphroditus. But he knew that the Philippians needed them too! See, that’s the thing about a servant. A servant will always give what fills the need of the people. He wants what is best for others! Paul cared for Timothy. Timothy cared for Paul. Paul cared for Epaphroditus and Epaphroditus cared for Paul. All three genuinely cared for the Philippians. The Philippians also genuinely cared for them.
Leadership is not always easy. Leaders are present, not just when needed but also in tranquil times. When we have leaders like this, they do not have to tell us they care. We know it because they show it!
Finally, notice throughout how Timothy and Epaphroditus are examples of these attributes. This is what made them caring leaders. “Therefore, if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each one of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others “(Phil. 1: 3-4).
by Rickie Jenkins