Faithful men and women are hard to find. Godly character is in short supply. We live in a celebrity culture that idolizes the lifestyles of the rich and famous.
Our social media feeds and our news feeds broadcast their versions of role models in the image of the great American dream to be successful and powerful and free.
The political world hammers us with images of individuals, casted as public servants, whom most of us wouldn’t even trust on a first date with our daughters.
If you want to find a faithful man or woman to be your role model, then you’ll have to begin with some very basic principles of what godly character looks like so that you can readily identify if your role model is worthwhile.
One of the most often quoted passages in the Bible concerning godly character is Galatians 5:22 – 23 where we read that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Likewise, in Romans 5:3 – 5 we read that we are to “rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Or we may consider what 2 Peter 1:5 – 7 says when we read that we are to “make every effort to supplement [our] faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”
Another very clear passage that outlines principles of godly character is Colossians 3:12 – 15 where we read that we are called to “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”
At the end of the day God has a lot to say in His Word about what it means to have godly character.
It’s almost as though God in all of his wisdom knew that faithful men and women would be hard to find. Godly character is in short supply therefore, we need some rock-solid principles of godly character outlined for us to learn and to grow from.
You can follow this same line of reasoning throughout our study of the book of Philippians. The apostle Paul has been instructing the Philippian believers on some finer points of godly character over the first few chapters of this study (Hughes 2013: 106 – 108).
- In 1:27 – 30 Paul instructs the Philippians to live their lives as citizens of heaven in a manner that is worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ by standing firm in the message of the gospel while not being frightened as they trust and believe in God amidst their suffering. The gospel produces the courage to live rightly.
- In 2:1 – 4 Paul instructs the Philippians to live their lives as citizens of heaven in a manner that is worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ by resisting the urge to be self-centered and full of pride as they put on the humiliative-mind of Christ. Humility crushes self-centeredness and pride.
- In 2:5 – 11 Paul describes the self-humiliation of Christ at the cross and the super-exaltation of Christ in the vivid picture of his return as the Lord and King whereby every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess the gospel. Jesus is not only our greatest model of godly character, but he is also our highest hope for when we mess things up. Our hope for complete justice in this broken world is found in the crucified, risen and returning Christ.
- In 2:12 – 18 Paul outlines some super practical instructions on how to be people of godly character who do not spend our lives complaining and arguing but instead are known for our attention to growing in personal and corporate holiness as a church so that we might shine as lights amidst a crooked and twisted generation. The idea here is one of personal/corporate holiness in the family of God over and above standing in self-righteous judgment of the world around us. Working out our salvation and sanctification is how we shine as lights in this dark world.
So, the apostle Paul has had much to say about what it means to be men and women of godly character who live our lives as citizens of heaven in a manner that is worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And the question that seems to be resounding throughout the text is: Who can we look to as a model of what this looks like?
We know that Jesus is our primary model, but is there a human being alive at the time of the writing of this letter that we can look to as flesh-and-blood example? And Paul’s answer is an astounding: YES! Look to Timothy my friends!
Timothy is a great example of what it means to be a man or a woman of godly character whose manner of life as a citizen of heaven is worthy of the gospel. Look at some the things the apostle Paul says about Timothy.
PHILIPPIANS 2:19 – 24…
19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. 23 I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, 24 and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also. – This is the Word of the Lord. Let’s pray…
#1: TIMOTHY IS A TRUSTED REPRESENTATIVE (V.19)
Paul says, “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you.” Paul longs for the joy of hearing that the Philippians are growing in the gospel and he knows that Timothy will be a trustworthy representative (Hughes 2013: 109).
Paul literally trusts Timothy to represent the interests of the beloved Philippians and the apostle Paul and the Lord Jesus faithfully.
The question that this truth elicits is: Am I a trustworthy representative? Can I be trusted to represent the interests of the people I am called to serve? Who do I have in my life that is full of godly character? Who am I fashioning my life after that is not a person of godly character? Timothy was a man of godly character who was a trusted representative.
#2: TIMOTHY IS UNIQUELY GENUINE (V. 20)
Paul explains that he is sending Timothy, his trustworthy representative, so that he (Paul) may be encouraged by good news of the Philippians growth in the gospel and the reason he is sending Timothy instead of someone else is because Paul says, “I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare” (v. 20). Timothy is uniquely genuine.
While there were definitely many Christians in Rome where Paul was living on house arrest, the apostle Paul couldn’t think of anyone else who was as uniquely and genuinely concerned for the welfare of the brothers and sisters in Philippi. Timothy was one-of-a-kind; he was the real deal; there was no question in Paul’s mind.
Once again, this description elicits some self-examination in me. Do I stand out in the crowd as someone of godly character? Is there any hint of inauthenticity or fakeness about me? Does my reputation (the story of my character) leave anyone questioning my genuineness? Timothy was a man of godly character who was uniquely genuine.
#3: TIMOTHY SEEKS THE INTERESTS OF JESUS CHRIST (V. 21)
The apostle Paul implies this when he says that everyone else “seek(s) their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ” (v. 21). Once again, there were certainly Christians in Rome, but apparently all of them didn’t pass the sniff test to be men or women of godly character who could be Paul’s trustworthy representative to the believers at Philippi.
Am I person who seeks the interests of Jesus Christ? This is an important question for the church especially in America. Ask anyone why they are part of the church and oftentimes they’ll give you consumer answers and self-interested answers instead of contributor answers or discipleship answers.
Here’s what I mean, we choose a church based upon how we feel about it, the programs it offers, the quality of music production, the likability of the preacher and the feeling of the community. These are not bad things to assess in a church family.
But we rarely balance those consumer things with contributor things or discipleship things.
- Is this church the church that I contribute my time, talent and treasure to?
- Am I actively engaged in helping others to grow spiritually here?
- Does this church regularly repent of sin?
- Does this church spend time at the foot of the bloody cross in the doorway of an empty tomb?
- Are we consistently reminded of the hope of heaven?
These things could be said about Timothy because he was a man of godly character who sought the interests of Jesus Christ.
#4: TIMOTHY IS A WORTHY CO-LABORER (V. 22)
Paul says, “you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel” (v. 22). This is a picture of a co-laborer who sticks with you through thick and thin instead of running away and hiding at the first sign of difficulty or jumping off the wagon because of some silly disagreement.
Timothy’s faithful godly character had been time-tested and proven to be invaluable. His relationship with his mentor, Paul, was like a close-knit Father and son relationship. It wasn’t like Paul said jump and Timothy asked how high, it was more like two equals investing their entire lives into something together. That something was the ministry of the gospel.
Paul and Timothy both, along with every other Christian who possesses godly character are like co-laborers who proclaim Christ everywhere together “warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, (so) that we may present everyone mature in Christ” as we work hard “with all his energy that he powerfully works within us” (Col. 1:28 – 29).
Timothy was a man of godly character who was a worthy co-laborer. Can the same be said of us? Are we worthy co-laborers? Do we have people in our lives that are worthy co-laborers?
In conclusion, the apostle Paul wraps things up by reminding the Philippians that he hopes to send Timothy to them “just as soon as I see how it will go with me, and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also” (vv. 23 – 24).
At the end of the day, Paul’s ultimate hope was not in Timothy; his ultimate hope was in the Lord. He strongly desired to see the Philippians himself but the verdict was not yet in as to whether or not he would be released from his jail cell. Therefore, he planned to send Timothy to them because he was a man of godly character.
Timothy was a man who lived his life as a citizen of heaven in a manner that was worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was a man who could be trusted to represent the kingdom of heaven faithfully. He was a man who was uniquely genuine in his concern for the well-being of others. He was a man who sought the interests of Jesus Christ alone unlike so many others in the Christian community. He was a man that could be trusted to stick around through the best and the worst of times.
And the question we are left with is: Are we this kind of person? Are we faithful men and women? Do we possess godly character? Where do we need the Spirit’s help in becoming more like Jesus?
Everything we see in Timothy was embodied perfectly by Jesus. Jesus is the most faithful man to ever live and he died because of his faithfulness so that unfaithful men and women could come to him by faith to be redeemed from the penalty of their sin and transformed into the image of their Savior; this is the essence of pursuing godly character.
Faithful men and women are hard to find but when the gospel gets into a man or woman’s heart then the outcome is godly character!