Today’s selected reading continues in the new testament epistle which the apostle Paul wrote into the congregation which was located in Philippi. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verse nineteen through thirty of the second chapter of the epistle. When you come to this final portion of the second chapter within the epistle which was written unto the Philippians you will notice the apostle Paul mentions two individuals by name. In the nineteenth verse we find the apostle writing about and mentioning an individual by the name of Timotheus, while in the twenty-fifth verse of the same chapter we find the apostle write about and mentioning another individual by the name of Epaphroditus. What is actually quite interesting about intriguing about the inclusion of these two individuals within the epistle of Paul to the Philippians is the tremendous level of trust and confidence the apostle Paul had in these two men. The more I read the epistles and writings of the apostle Paul the more I find it absolutely astonishing and remarkable when the names of individuals are mentioned. When reading the New Testament it is easy to be familiar with names such as Peter the apostle, john the apostle, James the apostle, and even Paul the apostle. What is not so easily recognized when reading the New Testament are the names of the supporting cast that are all partners together in the work of the ministry of the kingdom within and upon the earth. I am sitting here right now and I can’t help but be gripped and captivated by two distinct realities which I believe are absolutely integral to the work of the kingdom of God. The first reality is that of a supporting cast—those list of individuals who while they may not have a prominent role in the script that is before us, play an integral part of the work of the kingdom of God upon the earth. The second reality I find myself encountering at this very moment is that of partners together in the work of the ministry, and partners in the work of the kingdom of God. We spend a great deal of time emphasizing the main characters, and we spend a great deal of time focusing on those who are in the forefront that we fail to recognize the countless other individuals who help advance the work of the kingdom within the earth.
Recently in the popular world of sports within this nation there was a big to do about where National Basketball Association superstar Lebron James would make his next team. If you remember back several years ago you will find that there was a similar to do about where this same superstar basketball player would make his next home, and there was even a promise time special on national television entitled “The Decision.” On this national broadcast Lebron James announced that he was going to bring his talents and skills to South Beach and make the Miami Heat the next stop on his journey within the league. One of the interesting realities surrounding this decision is that when Lebron James made the decision to take his talents to South Beach the Heat already had a star player by the name of Dwayne Wade. If you follow basketball at all you will know that these two players were close as friends off the court, and the chance to combine their talents was an opportunity they weren’t willing to pass up. At this same time you will recall that there was a third player who joined this trio of talent in South Beach—a player by the name of Chris Bosh. Together the Miami Heat had their star trio of talent in the hopes of bringing a championship to South Beach. Of course this trio—together with the other players who played side by side them on the court—brought two championships to South Beach. Eventually, however, Lebron James would leave the Miami Heat and would return to the Cleveland Cavaliers where he would win another championship against Golden State. Even Dwayne Wade would find his way out of South Beach and would return home to the city of Chicago where he would take his talents and play for the Chicago Bulls. After playing with the Cleveland Cavaliers and only winning one championship for that team, Lebron James would eventually take his talents to the city of Los Angeles where he would commit to playing for the Lakers for a total of four years. With the speculation on where he would end up being over and brought to a close, one of the biggest questions surrounding his decision was who was he going to have around him on the court to make an attempt to win another championship with a team who had a history and legacy of championships.
Now, you might be wondering why on earth I would take the time to write about the National Basketball Association, and specifically the two occasions when there was much speculation and fanfare surrounding the destination for Lebron James. The reason I took the time to briefly write about this is because any player within the NBA—regardless of how talented, gifted and skilled they are—is only as good as the supporting cast around them. Michael Jordan played virtually his entire career with the Chicago Bulls with the exception of a brief stint after he returned from retirement and played for the Washington Wizards. If you know anything about Michael Jordan—aside from the numerous Most Valuable Player awards he received—you will know that while he played with and played for the Chicago Bulls, he won a total of six championships. On top of that accomplishment, there was also the matter of how many Finals Most Valuable Player awards he received for his performance during the series. There are other players in NBA history who have won multiple championships with their respected teams—Jerry West, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Karim Abdul-Jabar, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryan, and the like. The question I would present you with right now is what do all of these players have in common? What do men such as Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, and even most recently—Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and the like—have in common? The answer is remarkably simple, and yet it is one that we often overlook. The one thing each of these names have in common is that while they won multiple championships, they never did so alone. You can study the entire history of the National Basketball Association and you will find that there was never a player in the history of the league who won the championship single-handily and by themselves. Oh there might be an award for the Most Valuable Player, but even that award is made possible by and with the supporting cast of players around and behind that player. There have been championships which have been won in the National Basketball Association throughout the years, yet no single championship was won without the support of the cast members—regardless of whether that was the starters for the team, that player which is known as “the sixth man,” or even those players who come off the bench. In fact, more often than not a team is only as formidable as its supporting cast members who have the ability to come off the bench and make an impact on the outcome of the game.
If you know me, you will know that I am a huge movie buff and watch a ton of movies. If you looked at my iTunes library you will find a number of movies I have purchased throughout the years. In addition to this there have been a number of movies I have rented from iTunes which I have watched over the years. You will also note that in addition to iTunes I also have a subscription to Netflix, as well as Amazon Prime, and even use my mother’s Hulu account. This isn’t including the fact that I also have Comcast and have access to a number of movies which are available to rent, purchase of watch free of charge. I don’t know how many movies I have watched throughout the years, but it is safe to say that I have watched hundreds of movies over the thirty-five years I have been alive. In fact, on nights when I don’t have to work the following morning you can find me staying up watching a movie before finally turning in and going to sleep. Adding to this reality is the fact that this doesn’t even include the countless movies I have seen in the theaters which I have paid for. If there is one thing I have learned from the countless movies I have watched—and even the countless television shows I have watched—it’s that no movie or television show is done with only one single character. Oh, it is true that there may be a singular main character, or perhaps even a series of main characters within a movie or show, but no movie or show was ever shot and recorded successfully without a litany of supporting cast and characters. In fact, every good movie, and every good television show is only as good as the cast of supporting characters and roles. I can’t think of a single movie or television show that was ever aired or shown with only one single character, and I have watched a number of both. Even two of my favorite television shows—Prison Break and 24–were only as good as the supporting cast who helped underline the story the writers and directors were trying to convey on screen. Please know and understand that there has never been a single story that has ever been written without a litany of supporting cast members—those whose role was to help tell the story and make the story come to life. Read any good book series—Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Hobbit, Game of Thrones, The Chronicles of Narnia, and the like—and you will note that in order for these stories to be told there needs to be the presence of a host of supporting cast and characters. In fact, I would dare say that no story of any individual—regardless of whether it’s fictional or non-fictional—has ever been told without a list of supporting cast members who not only helped that individual’s story, but also had a story of their own.
Even when you read the four gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God, you will notice and discover that His story did not take place without the presence of a supporting cast. The story which we know to be the life and ministry of Jesus Christ did not and could not take place without those who came alongside the ministry and work Jesus was called to fulfill and accomplish within and upon the earth. Consider if you will the words which Matthew wrote and recorded in the tenth chapter of his gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ. Beginning to read with and from the first verse you will find the following words recorded by this disciple of Jesus Christ: “And when He had called unto Him His twelve disciples, He gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; the first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat. And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence. And when ye come into an house, salute it. And if the house by worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city” (Matthew 10:1-15).
In the tenth chapter of the gospel according to Matthew we read of the twelve disciples whom Jesus called unto Himself to follow Him, to accompany Him in ministry, and even on this particular occasion—to work side by side alongside Him in the ministry of the kingdom. The reason I mention and include the account of Jesus sending out His disciples into the harvest field is to emphasize the reality that not even Jesus’ story, nor the work and ministry He was called to do could be accomplished alone by Himself. It was true that Jesus did perform a great number of miracles, He did heal a number of sick men and women, He did raise certain individuals from the dead, and He did cast out a number of evil spirits and devils from various individuals, but the ministry which Jesus undertook and engaged in for three and a half years was not a singular ministry centered upon Him and Him alone. In fact, this reality is further expressed in the tenth chapter of the gospel according to the beloved physician Luke in the tenth chapter of the book which bears his name. Whereas Matthew wrote of Jesus sending out the disciples in the tenth chapter of the gospel bearing his name, Luke writes of Jesus sending out an additional seventy out who were sent out two by two. Consider if you will the account as the beloved physician Luke records it: “After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before His face into every city and place, whither He Himself would come. Therefore said He unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth labourers into his harvest. Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way. And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again. And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house. And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you: and heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city” (Luke 10:1-12).
It is quite evident and clear from the words which we read in the gospel which the beloved physician wrote, as well as the gospel which Matthew wrote that Jesus had a supporting cast of at least eighty-two individuals—twelve disciples who were His closest companions, and another seventy whom He sent ahead of Him into those cities which He Himself would come. The truth of the matter is that if even the account and story of Jesus the Christ could not be told without a cast of supporting characters and individuals—what makes us think that our stories can be told without the same? We do ourselves a great disservice when we think that the story we have been called to tell—the story we have been given to live out in this arena called life—can be done without a cast of supporting characters. In fact, one of the most dangerous games we play within the body of Christ is when we become so focused and caught up in personalities and elevating certain individuals that we fail to recognize the cast of supporting characters, as well as first and foremost failing to see the ultimate player in our story. Would you be surprised if I told you that you weren’t even the main character in your story, but that Jesus who is both Christ and Lord is in all reality the main character? What would you do if I told you that the only way your story can be that which the Lord of hosts intended on it being is when the Holy Spirit clothes Himself with you? We become so caught up in the lie and the delusion that we are somehow the main character, and perhaps even the only character in our story that we completely neglect the reality of the Holy Spirit clothing Himself with us, and the fact that at the end of the day it is all about Christ. This was perhaps one of the greatest dangers which surrounded the church which was present in the city of Corinth. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote in his first epistle unto this particular congregation:
“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other” (1 Corinthians 1:10-16).
There were those within the church in Corinth who associated themselves with the apostle Paul, while there were those within this church who associated themselves with the apostle Peter. Still there were others who associated themselves with Cephas who is known as Peter, and others who were associated with Christ. What ultimately happened within this congregation was that it essentially became divided, as men and women were allowing contentions and strife and chaos to invade the body of Christ. I am convinced that we play a dangerous game within the body of Christ when we see ourselves as the central figure of our own story, and we fail to recognize the need and importance of a cast of supporting characters all around us. What’s more, is we play a dangerous game when we elevate and exalt men within the body of Christ and allow ourselves to be caught up in personalities which are before us. Would you believe me if I said that the same way we have superstars within the realm of sports, so also do we have superstars within the body of Christ—those who have been elevated to an unholy and unsafe place among us? What would you think if I said that there were even such individuals who have elevated and exalted themselves to such heights, and actually enjoy being the center or attention and in the spotlight? When we fail to see others as having an integral part in the story the Lord of hosts is telling in, with and through our lives, we do a great disservice to the work of the ministry, and the kingdom of God suffers upon the earth. I am convinced that one of the single greatest passages that emphasizes this great need for a cast of supporting characters is found in the twelfth chapter of this same first epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthians. If you begin reading with and from the twelfth verse of this particular chapter you will find the apostle Paul writing concerning the body of Christ, and the various members which make up the body. Read the following words which were taken directly from the epistle which Paul wrote unto the Corinthian congregation:
“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? IF the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).
I am absolutely and utterly convinced that we need to pay close attention to the words which the apostle Paul wrote in these final verses of the second chapter of the epistle which was written to the Philippian congregation, for within this particular passage of Scripture we find the apostle Paul writing and speaking of two specific individuals who partnered together with him in the work of the ministry of the kingdom of God. When writing concerning Timotheus, who was also known as Timothy, the apostle Paul wrote and declared that he had no man likeminded, who would naturally care for their state. What’s more, the apostle would go on to write how all men seek their own, and not the things which are Jesus Christ’s, but they knew the proof of Timothy. What was the proof of Timothy among the church and congregation at Philippi? The answer is actually found in the twenty-second verse when the apostle Paul writes that “as a son with the father, he hath serve with me in the gospel” (Philippians 2:22). It is absolutely imperative that we understand the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Philippian church and congregation—particularly and especially when we consider the words which Luke wrote in the sixteenth chapter of the treatise which he wrote to the most excellent Theophilus. Beginning with the sixteenth verse of the New Testament book of Acts we find the following words written concerning Timothy: “Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciples was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek: which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium. Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and Circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek. And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem. And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily” (Acts 16:1-5).
What I absolutely love about Timothy is—not only the intimate connection he had with the apostle Paul, for he was as a son in the faith to him, but also his willingness to partner together in the ministry of the kingdom. In fact, what’s more than this is that when you read epistles such as Second Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, as well as 2 Thessalonians you will find that when Paul opens up each of these letters, he does so by mentioning the name of Timothy. What’s more, is that at the conclusion of the epistle which was written unto the Romans one might also get the strong sense that Timothy was with Paul when he wrote that particular epistle. Out of the thirteen epistles which the apostle Paul wrote to—two epistles were written unto Timothy himself, while Timothy was present with Paul when five additional epistles were written. This is actually quite important for us to recognize and understand, for it speaks a great deal of Timothy’s commitment—not only to the apostle Paul himself, but also his commitment to the work of the ministry of the kingdom. In fact, in the final chapter of the first epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian congregation we find the following words concerning Timothy: “Now if Timotheus come, see that he may be with you without fear: for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do. Let no man therefore despise him: but conduct him forth in peace, that he may come unto me: for I look for him with the brethren” (1 Corinthians 16:10-11). What’s more, is that in the fourth chapter of this same first epistle written unto the Corinthian congregation we find the following words concerning Timothy: “For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my waters which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church” (1 Corinthians 4:17). Concerning Timothy, the apostle Paul not only referred to him as his beloved son, but also as faithful in the Lord—faithful in the work of the ministry, and faithful in his own personal walk with the Lord. Furthermore, the apostle Paul goes on to write concerning Timothy that he works the work of the Lord as he himself also did in the earth. In addition to this, when writing unto to the Thessalonian church the apostle Paul went on to write of Timothy: “And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellow-labourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning our faith: that no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto” (1 Thessalonians 3:2-3).
When we speak of the work of the ministry of the kingdom it is absolutely imperative that we recognize and understand that there is not a single individual who can carry that work squarely upon their shoulders. As we examine the Scriptures and study the account of lives such individuals such as Paul, Peter, John, James, and even Jesus Himself, we can clearly see that just as it is true in sports, and just as it is true in movies and television shows, and just as it is true in any great story we find on our bookshelves—no single individual can accomplish everything by themselves. When it comes to the body of Christ we must recognize that it isn’t even about the strongest and most honourable members, for if you read the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian congregation concerning the body of Christ, you will find that “Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: Those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestowe more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have mor abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And when one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:22-26). You will notice that the apostle Paul emphatically declares that each member in the body of Christ has their own unique and specific role, function and purpose, and that collectively we have been called to further and advance the work and story of the kingdom of God upon the earth. There is a popular saying which has been used time and time again, and that phrase is “There is no ‘I’ in T-E-A-M,” and this is especially true when it comes to the body of Christ and the work of the ministry of the kingdom of heaven here on the earth.
The apostle Paul wrote and spoke of there being n schism in the body, and I am convinced that we create and even promote these schisms when we fail to recognize the tremendous need for a supporting cast within our lives, and around us as we attempt to live out God’s story within and upon the earth. Even more than this, the apostle Paul declares that perhaps those who are the most necessary, and those who are the most needed within the body of Christ are those members of the body which we think to be less honourable, and those parts which are perhaps uncomely. More often than not, it is not that which is seen in the spotlight or heard from the rooftop that is the most necessary within the body of Christ, but those whose names we will perhaps never know. I leave you with the final words of the eleventh chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews. In a chapter that describes and outlines countless names of heroes and giants in the faith, the author provides us with names of some individuals whose lives and story they would not go through, and even various stories which belong to individuals whose names we might never know this side of eternity. Consider if you will the words which are found in the eleventh chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews: “And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barack, and of Samson, and of Jephthah; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escape the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trial of cruel mocking and scourging, yea, more over of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:32-40). It is because of what we read in this particular section of Scripture the author can encourage and instruct us with the following words: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and fain in your minds” (Hebrews 12:1-3).