As a young man Beethoven’s music instructor said, “As a composer, he’s helpless.”
As a boy Thomas Edison’s teachers said that he was so stupid he couldn’t learn anything.
When F.W. Woolworth was 21 he got a job in a retail store, but they wouldn’t allow him to wait on customers because they said he didn’t have much business sense.
Walt Disney was once fired by a newspaper editor because he was thought to have no good ideas.
Harry Truman was 38, in debt, and out of work. Twenty-three years later he was the leader of the Free World.
Such stories make us shake our heads. How could so many people be so wrong about such luminaries? Miss such potential? How could they be so wrong? The answer turns, in large measure, on one’s definition of success. How do you define success? What make someone successful in your eyes?
I remember, years ago, coming to Hebron and meeting many people who had adult children who had moved away. When people would speak of them, they’d often tell me how successful they’d become. One was the CEO of a major American energy company. Another was the national sales director for a multi-national chemical corporation. Still another was an industry leader in software development. The stories went on and on, with a knowing nod of the head when the adjective “successful” was applied to them.
But were they? It all depends on how we define success. What’s the proper definition? What’s the right measuring rod? Moreover, what are the fruits of success? Are they material? Are they relational? Are they spiritual? Isn’t it true that every one of these questions on the surface seem simple to answer, but when you dig a little deeper they are confounding?
This week we come to the final verse of Philippians 2 where Paul shifts gears a bit. From the outset of chapter two he’s addressed the apparent conflict that is rife in the church at Philippi. But beginning in verse 19 Paul turns personal, revealing his hopes and dreams. It’s in verses 19-30 that Paul refers to two men – Timothy and Epaphroditus – who are to play a key role in the Philippians further growth in Christ. Timothy, as many of you know, is Paul’s protégé in the faith. At an early age the Holy Spirit linked Timothy to Paul. Timothy’s name means “one who honors God,” and after being linked with Paul he lives up to his name. Timothy first appears in Scripture in Acts 16 (the same chapter that details the origins of the Philippian church). His mother was a believer, but his father was a Greek. He was a third generation Christian after his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois. His spiritual father in the faith is Paul. Epaphroditus is a leader in the Philippian church. He was sent to Rome during Paul’s first Roman imprisonment to deliver gifts to the apostle.
When you examine both men in light of all of chapter 2, and all that Paul says about them, you discover the apostle’s insight into the proper definition of success. Indeed, Philippians 2:19-30 gives us a whole new way of looking at success that links Paul’s description of Christ’s work in 2:5-11 with all of chapter 3.
In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Joy in Serving”, you may wish to consider the following:
1. Read Matthew 25:14-30.
2. How would Jesus define success in this parable?
3. What does the statement, “Well done good and faithful servant mean?”
4. Do you agree with this statement: “Today, more than any other idol, personal success and achievement lead to the belief that we are God”?
5. What is personal success? Is success personal?
6. From verses 19-30 can you glean any defining characteristics of real success? (Hint: There are at least five of them.)
7. How does Paul’s description of success here in these verses differ from what you normally think success is?
8. How far did Epaphroditus travel to get to Paul?
9. Why does he stay in Rome for a time?
10. What does it mean to “honor” him? (See verse 29.)
See you Sunday!