Helping you grow closer to God
Download the Chip Ingram App
I Choose Love Resources on sale now.
About this series
I Choose Love
How to Build Lasting Relationships
One of Jesus' last commands, and one of God's greatest delights is that His children, those who call Christ Lord, would love one another. But we all know loving other people doesn't come naturally, and it's not always easy. In this series, Chip teaches us, from the book of Philippians, Chapter 2, how to choose love and build relationships that last.More from this series
I want to share something with you, because there’s something that God and Theresa have in common. Are you ready for this? They are both always shopping. When Theresa and I are hanging around downtown Los Gatos, if we go away for a little weekend, if we – sometimes I travel to Atlanta and there’s a number of shops there – she is always looking, she is always shopping.
Now, don’t get me wrong. She is not like a, I have to have new shoes, a new dress. She is shopping for grandkids. There is a birthday every third day and then anniversaries. So wherever we go, she’ll walk in and go, “Oh!” And then she’ll tell me, “For this season, this would be perfect for…” and then she’ll name one of the grandkids and tell me why.
Here’s what I want you to know: she cares about each child in its season and she wants to get the very thing that would help them be and experience the very best.
And what I want you to know is that God is shopping. In other words, He is looking, He is looking. And what He is looking for is people who are ready and prepared to fulfill His will. In fact, notice on the front of your notes. I put two key Old Testament passages.
It’s the Lord speaking from Ezekiel 22. He says, “And I searched for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me” – why? “that I should not destroy it.” And this is sad. He went shopping and He couldn’t find anyone. “But I found no one.”
And then notice the response, “‘Thus, I have poured out My indignation on them. I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath. Their way have I brought upon their heads,’ declares the Lord.” We see the evil in the world, we see the tragedy, we see disasters and God is saying, in the midst of all of this, This is not My desire. I’m searching for a man, for a student, for a woman that you could stand in the gap, that I will fill you and use you. And I will bring light and goodness and restoration and healing.
The second passage is one that has profoundly impacted me. 2 Chronicles 16, verse 9. He, the prophet is speaking for the Lord. And he is speaking to Asa, a king who, for years, for thirty years, he was walking with God, making a tremendous impact, and then he felt like, Well, my time is over, and I’m just going to coast.
And so God brought a situation into his life and instead of trusting God, he trusted in himself, and the prophet comes and says, “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the whole earth, that He might strongly support those whose hearts are completely His.” And then he says, “But you have acted foolishly in this. From now on, surely, you will have wars.”
Here’s what I want you to know. When we are talking about: I Choose Love, there is a lot on the line. I am being a little facetious with the shopping analogy, but our God is looking! His eyes are going to and fro throughout the earth. Up and down these aisles, in churches across the world.
And He is looking for a man or a woman who is ready and prepared, so He can use them. And as He uses them, it is in that process that He changes us and He meets the needs of the world and the hands and the feet and the love of Christ is poured out through us, ordinary, regular people.
And here’s the question I want to talk about today: Why does God use some people and not others? Or: Why does God use some people in a great way and other people not so much? Now, warning: I want to tell you that it’s not about intelligence or giftedness or education.
In fact, open your notes and what I want to show you is that the answer to that question is right out of Philippians chapter 2, verses 19 to 30. We are going to learn why God uses some people and He doesn’t use others.
The context here is the apostle Paul is in prison. He is awaiting execution. He doesn’t know whether he is going to live or whether he is going to die. But he is concerned about this church. They have set a gift through Epaphroditus, who is a church leader at Philippi. And he has come and brought a financial gift and he has been an attendant and he has helped the apostle Paul.
And he has been there and apostle Paul has now heard that they are struggling and there’s some disunity and Epaphroditus, their messenger, got really, really sick and almost died. And, so, he realizes, out of his concern, he is going to send Timothy to help them, to encourage them.
And then later we are going to learn he is going to send Epaphroditus. But as you look at this text, what you’re going to see is the reason why God uses Paul, the reason why God uses Timothy, and the reason why God uses Epaphroditus.
Follow along. Notice in your notes: the purpose for sending Timothy. He says, verse 19, “But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I may be encouraged,” the word literally is: so that I could have joy, “and be cheered within when I learn of your condition. 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. But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel, like a child serving his father. Therefore, I hope to send him immediately, as soon as I see how things go with me. And I trust in the Lord that I myself also shall be coming soon.”
The purpose for sending Timothy – why? Paul cared. It’s that simple. We have learned that love gives and love serves and love obeys. I’m just telling you, love just cares. He cared about that church so much that someone that was helping him, he says, “I am going to send Timothy to you.”
The next question is: well, why Timothy? What did he bring to the table? The reason Timothy was chosen was Timothy cared! Look at this passage. He says, “I have no one else of kindred spirit,” literally, “who has an equal soul. They all are concerned, not about other people, but about themselves.” They were self-focused. This goes back to the very beginning of: “Consider others as more important than yourself. Do nothing from selfishness or arrogance or vain glory.”
Timothy, he says, he is genuinely concerned. Literally it is: one and all, without exception, are bent on their own way. But not Timothy.
Notice: “They seek after their own interest, not those of Christ Jesus, but he is of proven worth.” In other words, he has been faithful, he has been with me. At this point in his life, he has been with Paul for about ten years as a young pastor. He probably was picked up in his very, very late teens or early twenties. He is probably in his – thirty-three to thirty-five now.
What we know is he is timid by way of personality, he has got a couple strikes against him – he’s half Jewish and half Greek. Paul has admonished him. He’s a sickly, vulnerable guy. In other words, by physical standards, by sharp, powerful, got-it-together, a graduate of a great university – that’s not Timothy.
But he is faithful. He is loyal. His heart – he cares. He is willing, as you read through the New Testament, Paul talks about him ten different times. When there is a need, Paul says, “I send him, I send him, I send him.” You know what? He’s willing, he’s available, he’s loyal, and he is a servant. And God greatly used him.
He ended up being the pastor even at Ephesus, which is one of the great churches in all of the New Testament.
Well, we now know that Paul cares; we now know that Timothy cares; and the story is going to go on, because he wants them to know that, Hey, I’m going to send Timothy shortly, but you have heard that the leader in your church that came to serve me, that brought the financial gift, he came close to death and so I am going to send him immediately so I can learn of your condition and I can put you at ease.
Do you know that communicating with people is one of the most important things we ever do to show that we care? A phone call, a hand-written note, a text, “I’m praying for you today.” It doesn’t take that much to care for people. Love cares. Love engages. Love demonstrates, by action, that other people really, really matter.
Notice we pick it up in verse 25. You ask yourself, Well, why does he send Epaphroditus? Are you ready for this? You can get it, can’t you? Epaphroditus cares. Verse 25.
“But I thought it necessary to send you Epaphroditus,” notice the description, “my brother, my fellow worker, my fellow soldier, who is your messenger and minister to my need.” Talk about a resume. “Because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you heard that he was sick. For, indeed, he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, lest I have sorrow upon sorrow.”
Why is a man so deeply moved by the hurt and the heartache and the sickness of someone else? It’s because Paul cares. Sometimes he gets painted in this picture of this flaming apostle and this, he brings the truth and messenger and writes thirteen books. And he did do that. But he was tender and he cared and tasks were important, but people mattered most. How about you?
Do you care? Where you live: your roommate, your family – do they sense, do they feel you care? Do your words communicate: “I really care”? Do your actions communicate at work that it’s your task and your stuff and what you’ve got to get done, or that you care? One of the things I love about our church is when there are needs you care. There has been an outpouring of finances and individuals really making a difference.
Notice he says, “Therefore receive him in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard because they came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete that which was deficient in your service to me.”
Do you see these characteristics coming out? Commitment. “He is my brother. We are in it together. We are family.” He is a fellow worker. We are arm-in-arm. We are setting goals. There are tasks. There is work to be done. This isn’t about us. We are fellow soldiers. We are doing battle! We do spiritual warfare. We are working out hard things together. We are in the trenches together.
And then he says, “He is your messenger,” and it’s a very interesting word. This is a Greek word used in the ancient language of someone during that time who would be called a “benefactor,” and someone who is the benefactor of the city, who might bring a drama to the city or a public works and pay for the majority of it.
And what he is saying is Epaphroditus was a messenger, an apostle, a benefactor, a brother. He was the kind of person who cares. Hold people like that in high esteem.
There are a couple fellows that are going to rotate off the board. And I just, as we were going through that meeting, I just thought of the endless hours that they have put in and the ministries that they are involved in and the preparation and what they have meant in my life and things behind the scenes that no one knows. Boy, you talk about fellow brothers, fellow workers, messengers, people who care.
Now, here’s where I want to go. That’s the passage. You got it? Philippians 2:19 to 30. What we know is that the command was: don’t think of yourself, put others’ interests ahead of your own. The great example was verses – right? 5 through 11 – Jesus, “Have this attitude in yourselves that was also in Christ Jesus. He didn’t think equality with God a thing to be grasped, but He humbled Himself.” Remember?
And then: love obeys. He says, “Now obey, not just in my presence, but now much more in my absence,” and now he is going to say, love just doesn’t just obey, but in the everyday grind of life, love actually cares. And here’s what I want you to get.
Notice on the top of your notes. It says, “Timothy and Epaphroditus exemplify the kind of person God uses to fulfill His purposes.”
Let me read that again. “Timothy and Epaphroditus exemplify the kind of person that God uses to fulfill His purpose.”
Out of this passage I have done something that I think is going to be very helpful. There are four things that, when God is shopping, if you will, when He is looking, when He is saying, Should I use this man? Should I use this student? Should I use this woman? Should I use this couple? Are you ready? Should I use this church? There are four things He is looking for.
And I put them in the form of a question. I want, as I go through these, I want you, right now, would you please whisper a prayer, Oh, God, would You help me to have ears that are open and a heart that is tender to hear that I could answer these questions honestly? Because if You’re not using me to the extent that You have designed me to, there are needs that are going unmet in people’s lives. They are not experiencing Jesus. And, secondly, I am not experiencing the joy and the power and what You designed me to be.
Four questions – listen very carefully. Pull out your pen, I’ve got a couple things to fill in. Question number one when God is looking is: do you have a servant’s heart? Do you have a servant’s heart? Do you really care about people to the point of moving out of your current schedule, your current rhythm, and just life as it is today? See, that’s what servants do. Remember?
For a servant, there is no job too low, there is no recognition needed, and there’s no thanks required. A servant doesn’t whine about what is wrong. A servant says, “Oh, there’s a problem or a need, I am going to be a participant in changing it.”
Here’s the issue: we, in our hearts and minds, intend, but it’s an action step. I would like you, use your tear-off tab or whatever vehicle, will you please ask God, Lord, will You show me where to serve? And if not in this church, in a Christian organization, in a very special way of leading a study at work – we just want you, the body of Christ, to have a servant’s heart.
And a servant’s heart isn’t measured by standing up in a service. A servant’s heart is measured by action steps that give and serve and obey and care. And, so, just ask yourself, honestly, Do I have a servant’s heart?
There is a man on Saturday nights. He comes early, prays, all during the service he prays. We have another service, he prays. And then on Sunday morning, I drive in and I can tell you right where he stands and he is helping people get in and out of the parking lot.
You’ll probably never know his name; you’ll probably never recognize him. You know what Jim has? You know why God is using Jim? He has a servant’s heart.
Second question: are you willing and available? Are you willing and available? Many care, but not the point of genuine willingness to act. Others are genuinely willing, you’re really willing, you’re just not available! You’re just too busy! You’re just doing lots of stuff and you have assumed all the stuff you’re doing is the most important stuff.
If there’s no time for God, and if there’s no time to serve others for God, let me just tell you, you’re too busy. The application for some in this church is to pause and stop and have a little private moment with God or a family counsel and say, We are too busy. We are going to cut some stuff out and we are going to put some God stuff in. Willingness and availability.
When the eyes of the Lord are going to and fro, you know what? He doesn’t use people that aren’t available and He doesn’t use people who aren’t really willing.
My question: are you willing?
The second reason people don’t serve or don’t care is this is so sad, but you actually think that you don’t have anything to give. And you actually think, some of you, that because of what you have done or what you have been through or the tragedy or the abuse or the divorce or the separation or the abortion or the bankruptcy.
I could go on and on and on and on. You think, Well, I mean, you know, God uses people who are squeaky clean and have it all together. Like the apostle Paul. Murderer. Or like Moses! Murderer. Or like James and John, the guys with anger management issues, right? People who really have it together like Rahab. Oh, that’s right, she was a prostitute. Or Matthew! The apostle Matthew – oh, that’s right, he was a tax collector and a crook. I could go on.
It always amazes me – when I was a kid, I grew up in a real social church and we didn’t believe the Bible, but it was a beautiful church and it had all this stained glass. And I’m for stained glass, don’t get me wrong. But they had all the pictures of all the apostles in stained glass. And that’s where I had them.
And then, are you ready? I read this book. And one the greatest things that happened in my life, these people are as messed up as me! Some of them a lot worse! They are as messed up as you.
You know what I have in my hands?
These are people who say, this is the list of things that they can check that, “This is what I have been through.”
Someone who has been through the death of a parent, the death of a child, the death of a close friend, an unwanted pregnancy, the loss of a friendship. Chronic fatigue, unresolved bitterness, job loss, struggles with alcohol, struggles with drugs, a major family change, gone through a divorce, been a single parent, raised in a single family, have an addiction, had a bad church experience, low self-esteem, loneliness, depression, fired from a job.
And you know what we say? Guess what! You qualify! You qualify because the grace of God has taken you through this. You don’t have it all together, but we are going to say, “Cancer? This is a person who has been through cancer. Terrible divorce? This is a person who has been through a terrible divorce.”
Guess what – God uses people who will lay down their pride, be open to get some training and teaching, and say, “I want God to use my brokenness and my pain in ways that are restorative, that He is going to leverage my hurt and my pain.”
Here’s what the Scripture declares, “God comforts us in all our afflictions so that we can comfort others as they go through it.” The eyes of the Lord are going to and fro, and He is asking, Do you have a servant’s heart? He is asking, Are you willing and available? And as the green lights come up on the dashboard of the Holy Spirit, He is looking for those kind of people that He is going to give direction and power and joy.
Third question you need to ask and answer: are you faithful in the assignments God has given you? See, the fact of the matter is is that God has given us many opportunities and Timothy was faithful, he was proven. Epaphroditus was faithful and he said, “You have to be faithful.”
The thing that amazes me, you talk about faithful, you talk about well-prepared, you talk about people who really pray.
I remember a man named Dave Marshall who, beyond all the “great Christians” in the world who revolutionized my life, Dave was a brick layer. Dave wasn’t flashy, Dave wasn’t cool, the Bible studies weren’t dynamic, he wasn’t a good speaker. But Dave didn’t give up on me. I had just come to Christ and I couldn’t figure out whether I was going to really walk with God or keep hanging out in bars and doing stuff I knew was wrong.
And Dave just was faithful. Dave invited me into his home for dinner. He cared. Dave modeled what it meant to be a man. He cared. Dave met with me once a week and a lot of times I blew him off; I wouldn’t get up.
He just kept coming. He cared, he cared, he cared, he cared. And you know what? Whatever my life ever amounts to, whatever number of people or depth of people, whoever get changed or helped by Jesus, Dave Marshall is the human reason because he cared.
And you know what? He is doing the same thing. He is a little bit older now and he’s up on a college campus when he’s not laying brick, reaching out to Chinese students who just need someone to care and invite them into their home.
Final question that God is asking is: are you loyal and teachable? Are you loyal?
There are people here that have lived through the ups and the downs of leadership up and down and struggles and crisis and you know what? They are loyal. They didn’t come into this church and say, “Hey, what’s in it for me? And if it isn’t the way I like it, I’m leaving.” They have prayed, they have hung tough, they have been faithful, they keep giving, they keep coming, they just don’t give up and we are here because of them.
And my prayer is that I will be loyal and faithful for the generation that is going to come after us.
The final word I have there is not only loyal, but teachable. Are you willing to learn something new? God is looking for people that are willing to say, “I don’t know how to do that, but I’m open.”
What are you willing to do so that you could experience the blessedness and the joy and that you could be a part of meeting the needs that – are you ready? Only you can meet.