By Norman E. Sewell
It continues to amaze me how often we read the Scriptures and fail to see some of the statements found in them. A few years ago I was visiting in another community and worshipped on Lords day morning with the local church and heard the preacher there read from Philippians 2:19-24. Notice part of that with me. Paul wrote: But! trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. For! have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel” (vv. 19-23). Somehow I had missed the statement “for all seek their own,” or at least it had failed to register in my mind. Now, having finally seen it! believe there is a powerful lesson taught by Paul in that short statement, especially when combined with other clear statements of Scripture.
All of us have experienced dealings with people who show that they are very selfish. Selfishness in fact seems to be part of being human unless we train ourselves not to be, and the only reason to so train ourselves is that God wants us, as his children, not to long for pre-eminence, or to think only of ourselves and what we may want, but of what is also good for each other. Earlier in this same chapter Paul told the Philippian brethren: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4). To the Christians Paul wrote: “Let no one seek his own, but each one the others well-being” (1 Cor. 10:24). In fact, when Paul wrote to the Corinthians showing the nature of the love that God commands us to have he wrote that love “does not seek its own” (1 Cor. 13:5). So loving one another as God demands would do away with such selfishness.
Yet in spite of this Paul was able to write to the Philippians concerning Timothy, For I have no one like- minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things whieh are of Christ Jesus.” Those words will make you stop and take a good look at yourself! What about me? Am I self-willed, always wanting my own way and selfishly pushing my plans and thoughts on others? Is this an indictment of all the other men who worked with Paul from time to time? At least it seems that this statement was in praise of Timothy, and suggests that others needed to grow and mature to be more as he was.
There are examples in the Scriptures of men who sought their own self and their own way first. The rich young ruler, as he is often called, exhibits this attitude of selfishness and unwillingness to put anything on a higher level of importance that his wealth. Since this young man lived under the Mosaic law Jesus told him to keep the commandments in order to have eternal life. But he seemed to want to know more because he had already kept the commandments from his youth. But Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me. But when the young man heard that saying, he ~vent away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Matt. 19:21-22). There is no doubt that Jesus did not come first with him, or that he loved his wealth more than he loved God –
Then there are men like Epaphroditus who was sent by the Philippian brethren to carry support to Paul. Apparently he stayed with Paul for some time as a fellow worker and fellow soldier (Phil. 2:25). When Paul sent him back to the Philippians he asked them to receive him with gladness and hold him in esteem, “because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life to supply what was lacking in your service toward me” (Phil. 2:30). We need not think that one must be a preacher to put the kingdom first as Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 6:33). Toward the end of the Roman letter Paul mentions Priscilla and Aquilla, “my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life” (Rom. 16:3-4) and a great many people who in one way or another labored with Paul for the Lord. Every one of us faces the choice as to whether we will “seek our own” or “the things which are of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:21).
What is involved in being less self-willed, and less selfish with our lives? Truly following after Jesus requires self-denial. Jesus told the disciples in Luke 9, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (v. 23). In fact, in the following verse Jesus went on to say that this might include giving up your life for his sake. “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” (v.24). No one denies that this is hard, but think of those John saw in the vision recorded in Revelation 12 who “overcame him,” that is Satan, “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death” (v.11). There was, and there is, something more important than life here on this earth. Recognize that if you are a Christian then you do not own yourself. Paul told the Corinthians “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are Gods” (1 Cor. 6:20). The Macedonians, apparently recognizing this, “first gave themselves to the Lord” (2 Cor. 8:5).
Look into your own heart. Are you more like Timothy and seek the things that are of Christ, or more like the others and seek your own? I’m afraid such an inner look may be painful. It was for me.
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 15, p. 23-24
August 5, 1993