Do You Care?
By Melvin Newland
Sometimes when people go out of church they say, “Boy, I wish so & so had heard that message.” But I don’t want you to do that this morning. I want you to take it personally, “How does it apply to me?” not, “How does it apply to someone else?” You see, I’m preaching this morning about “caring about others,” & I’m convinced that it is a message needed by us all.
As I prepare sermons I often think of the things I need to hear. So this message is just as much for me as it is for you.
A youth minister was attending a Special Olympics where handicapped children competed with tremendous dedication & enthusiasm. One event was the 220-yard dash. Contestants lined up at the starting line, & at the signal, started running as fast as they could.
One boy by the name of Andrew quickly took the lead, & was soon about 50 yards ahead of everybody else. As he approached the final turn he looked back & saw that his best friend had fallen & hurt himself on the track.
Andrew stopped & looked at the finish line. Then he looked back at his friend. People were hollering, “Run, Andrew, run!” But he didn’t. He went back & got his friend, helped him up, brushed off the cinders. And hand in hand, they crossed the finish line dead last.
But as they did, the people cheered, because there are some things more important than finishing first.
Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, “Two are better than one… If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls & has no one to help him up!”
We do fall or get knocked down at times in life, don’t we? And how wonderful it is when we have a friend who cares enough to lift us up, dust us off, & help us continue on.
Now turn with me to Philippians 2:19-30. In it we’ll listen to the apostle Paul because he is such a good example of a tender & compassionate friend.
In fact, someone has noted that there are more than 100 people listed as Paul’s friends in the N.T. And one of the reasons Paul had so many friends was because he was such a good friend, himself.
So as we look at Philippians 2:19-30 this morning, I want us to consider 3 very important lessons.
WE NEED TO CULTIVATE A GENUINE INTEREST IN OTHERS
The first is that we need to cultivate a genuine interest in others. In vs. 19, Paul says, “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you.”
Now Paul is a missionary, & sometimes missionaries write appeal letters. So it would have been logical for Paul to have written a letter saying, “I’m in prison here at Rome, & the conditions are really bad. I need help, so please take up a special offering & send it to me quickly.”
But Paul doesn’t do that. Instead, he is concerned about them. So he is sending Timothy to find out how things are going. And he wants so much for the news to be good.
For a lot of people, Saturday mornings are “check on family” times. Married children call their parents, & parents call their children, & brothers & sisters call each other just to visit & hear about what is happening in each other’s lives. And when you hear good news, there’s joy all around.
Lou Gehrig was 1st baseman for the New York Yankees. He died on June 2, 1941, of A.L.S., later called “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” The doctors really didn’t know how to treat it. So he was in the hospital for a long time as they experimented with different drugs, trying to find one that would work.
Just before he died, Lou Gehrig called his friend, Bob Considine. He said, “Bob, I have great news. The boys in the lab have come up with a new serum, & they’re trying it on 10 of us. It seems to be working well on 9 out of 10.” Bob Considine asked, “Is it working on you, Lou?”
Lou answered, “Well, no. But 9 out of 10, how do you like those odds?” He was really joyful because 9 out of 10 were being helped.
That kind of attitude is probably why Lou Gehrig is remembered with such fond memories – because he was such a good friend.
The apostle Paul was the same way. In Philippians 2:3-4, he writes, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” In other words, “be genuinely concerned about others.”
Do you ever ask yourself on Sunday morning, “Why am I going to church? Am I going because I feel I owe a debt to God, so I’m trying to pay it back? Or because I’m carrying a heavy burden that I hope will be lifted? Or because I like the music & the fellowship & even the preaching? Why am I going?”
Why should we go? Well, if we’re genuinely interested in others, the church becomes a training ground where we learn how to help one another.
So when you come to church, be on the lookout. Over there is a mother with both hands full, trying to herd her kids through the door. Maybe she could use your help.
Or you’re sitting near a guest, here for the first time. Introduce yourself & tell them, “I’m glad you came.” And let them know that if we can help them in any way to grow in their faith, that’s why we’re here.
Or when you look at the prayer list, & learn of someone who is having a difficult time – get a card & write them a note, & let them know that you’ll be praying for them.
Or if someone you know is struggling with a heavy burden of grief or loss, hold their hand, & maybe weep with them. Just let them know that you care.
Now I realize that many of you are already doing that, & I praise God for you. Isn’t it refreshing to know that we can care about each other without any hidden agendas – to care about each other because “you’re my brother, or you’re my sister in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Now things happen when you’re genuinely concerned about others.
First of all, you begin to forget your own problems. We seldom realize that. We think that when I’m having trouble, I need to do something just for me, something extravagant, or indulgent.
But that’s not the answer. The Bible teaches us, & psychologists are learning, that the quickest way to get rid of our troubles is to become involved in helping someone else.
The prophet Isaiah knew that a long time ago. Isaiah 58:10-12 says, “If you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry & satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, & your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs…&…strengthen your frame.”
Secondly, when you’re genuinely concerned about others, you’ll find that when you’re in trouble, others will be good friends to you.
So the first thing we learn from Paul’s words is that we need to cultivate a genuine interest in others.
WE NEED TO OFFER SINCERE ENCOURAGEMENT TO OTHERS
Now the second lesson is that we need to offer sincere encouragement to others. In vs. 20, Paul says, “I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare.”
Paul is still talking about Timothy. Paul had discipled Timothy, & watched Him grow in his faith. Now Timothy is an adult & has a ministry of his own. Paul looks at him & says, “I don’t know anybody like Timothy.”
In fact, the New American Standard Version translates that verse to say, “I have no one else of kindred spirit.” And Chuck Swindoll points out that the two Greek words used there are words that mean “same soul.” Paul is saying, “Timothy & I have the same soul. We’re kindred spirits, like-minded.”
Now we have different levels of friendship. Most, I suppose, are casual friendships. We know each other’s names, & we greet each other, “How are you?” “I’m fine. How are you?” “I’m fine, thank you.”
Neither of us may actually be fine, but we don’t feel like unloading on each other, so we answer, “I’m fine.” That’s a casual friendship.
Some are close friendships, where we enjoy going out & spending time with each other, doing things together. It’s a deeper relationship, & we share things that we wouldn’t normally share with others.
But there are very few of “same soul” friendships where you’re so close to each other that you think alike, & you’re motivated by the same things. It’s scary sometimes to be around someone like that because they think so much like you that they know what you’re going to say even before you say it.
Now I want you to know that you’re really blessed if that “same-soul” friend is your husband or your wife. That’s a very special blessing, because you can come home & be who you are. You don’t have to pretend. You’re kindred spirits, & there’s love & understanding between you.
Paul writes that Timothy is a “same-soul” friend. Then in vs. 21, he says, “For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”
I think Paul is presenting a contrast. He is saying, “Most everybody else looks out for his own interests, but Timothy is not like everybody else. He’s special, & he’s interested in you.”
Ben Merold is a minister that I have known for nearly 40 years. I knew him first when he was preaching in Illinois. Then he went out to the Eastside Church in Fullerton, CA, & preached there for more than 20 years. That church grew to be one of the really strong churches on the west coast.
When he first went there, Ben & his family went through some terrible times together. Ben & Pat had 3 children, & 2 of them were strong Christians. But one of their sons rebelled against everything. He wouldn’t listen to them at home. He became involved in drugs & alcohol, & finally ended up being arrested for crimes that he had committed.
Ben thought about quitting the ministry because he remembered the verse that says, “If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?” [1 Timothy 3:5] So he seriously thought that maybe he ought to leave the ministry.
In the moment of deepest depression, Ben says that Tommy Overton came to him. Tommy preached in Huntington Beach, & had been there almost forever. Ben was the new kid on the block, & Tommy could of been jealous over all the praise Ben was receiving because of the way the church was growing.
But Tommy came, knocked on the door, & said, “let’s go for a ride.” So Ben & Tommy went for a ride. They rode around for a while, & finally ended up in the parking lot of the Women’s Correction Institute in L.A.
Ben said, “We sat there for a while. Then Tommy said, `Ben, I don’t know if you know this or not, but I had a daughter who spent a lot of time in this prison. I used to sit in my car in this parking lot, & cry & pray because they wouldn’t let me see her. I know what you’re going through. If you ever need someone to talk to, who understands the pain, I want to be that friend.'”
Ben Merold says, “I poured my heart out that day to Tommy.” And months later, when his son was tragically killed, Ben Merold called Tommy Overton to preach the funeral for his son.
We need friends like that. And we need to be a friend like that, someone who will pick them up when they fall down, & brush them off, & hold their hand, & go on with them toward the finish line.
WE NEED TO PRACTICE AN UNSELFISH RELEASE
Well, there is one more lesson here: We need to practice an unselfish release. Vs. 25 begins the story of Epaphroditus. We’re about out of time so I’ll just tell it to you.
Epaphroditus was a member of the church in Philippi. And the church there was a strong supporter of the apostle Paul. So when they learned that Paul was in prison, they sent Epaphroditus to be with him, to be a source of encouragement & assistance to him.
But Epaphroditus wasn’t able to help Paul very long because he became seriously ill. In fact, he almost died. Well, the news of Epaphroditus’ illness got back to Philippi, & the people there were concerned about him. And Epaphroditus became distressed about their anxiety for him.
It would have been so easy for Paul to say, “Well, Timothy is leaving, & now you want to go, too. What am I supposed to do here in prison all by myself? Who is going to help me?”
But instead, Paul writes to the church in Philippi & says, “I’m sending Epaphroditus back to you, & I want you to welcome him, & encourage him because he almost died for the cause of Christ.”
A friendship that is really a friendship will release. It isn’t a selfish or smothering kind of love. Those of you who are single & dating need to hear this. Husbands & wives need to hear this.
And I think parents need to hear it, too. There comes a time in every home when you have to let your children go, & that’s really difficult to do.
I would like to tell you that’s the end of the story. But it really isn’t. Over in 2 Timothy 4, Paul is imprisoned again & the circumstances are very different this time. His friends aren’t there.
I don’t know where they are. Maybe they’re too far away to get to him. Maybe they’re in prison themselves, or dead. Or maybe they just got tired of coming to the prison. Paul’s been in prison a lot.
So Paul writes these words in 2 Timothy 4:16-17, “At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side & gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed & all the Gentiles might hear it.”
Your best friend, the friend of friends, is Jesus. He will never leave you, nor forsake you. And when you fall, He’ll pick you up, dust you off, & walk with you hand in hand all the way to the finish line. You can bet your life on that.
This morning, if you don’t know Him as your friend, if He is not your Lord & Savior, then we extend His invitation. And He stands ready to meet every need in your life, forgive your sins, & give you the promise of everlasting life. Will you come?
As a thank-you for your support of our ministry this month, we’d be glad to send you a CD (or downloadable MP3’s) of Eric Elder’s beautiful piano music called “Soothe My Soul.”
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