Timothy’s Example – Philippians 2:19-24

James McConkey, author of The Threefold Secret of the Holy Spirit, used to tell this story.

Into the life of my brother came this experience. The winter was ending. The ice in our native river was breaking up. A few miles above our home was a small town at which an immense ice jam had formed in the river. Just below this was an island on which eleven people, men, women and children, were imprisoned.

Everyone knew the fate that awaited them. If the ice dam, with its great wall of water behind it, should break, it would sweep those unfortunate people down-river to their deaths.

When my brother learned of this situation he put fifty dollars in his pocket and hurried to the little town. When he arrived there he found the entire population lined up along the riverbanks waiting for the inevitable catastrophe. Standing among the crowd he offered the fifty dollars to any man who would attempt to rescue the imperiled islanders. But no one signified his willingness to make the desperate attempt. Again and again he repeated his offer, and each time it was refused.

Unable to induce anyone else to try the rescue operation, he sent to the village store for a length of small but strong rope. When it came, my brother tied this to his belt and offered to join himself to any man who would rope himself in an effort to save the lives of the doomed people on the island. Immediately four men stepped to his side, roping themselves to the same line of peril. And those five men picked their way across the great ice dam at imminent hazard of their own lives to bring back to safety those that otherwise would have certainly died. When he offered money, there was not a man who would take the risk. But when they saw him willing to give himself, and were touched by the life that counted no price too great, he drew them instantly to his side. 1

The seventeenth–century Puritan Thomas Brooks wisely observed that “example is the most powerful rhetoric”. 2

For the follower of Christ examples of Godly living can be powerful and encouraging. Christ lived a perfect and sinless life and we need to follow his example but as feeble human beings who don’t live in sinless perfection. It’s a good thing to be reminded of examples of Godly men who were able to put into practice some of the things Paul instructed the Philippian believers to do and which we are instructed to do as well. In our previous studies in the book of Philippians we saw Paul’s admonition in Philippians 1:27 to…

Philippians 1:27  Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.

We also looked at his instruction in Philippians 2:3-4.

Philippians 2:3  Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  4  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Making certain our conduct is worthy of the gospel of Christ and looking out for the interests of others are tall orders. In our study this morning we’ll be looking at Philippians 2:19-24 where we’ll see the example of Timothy who was putting these things to practice in his life. It’s one thing to tell people how to live. It’s far greater to show them how to live. It’s encouraging to read about the Godly life of a man like Timothy and to understand that if he was able to lead a Godly life there is hope for us to do the same.

Taylor and I had the privilege of attending our Michigan Association of Regular Baptist Churches state conference in Rochester last Monday and Tuesday and had the opportunity to listen to some great speakers. One of them is Dr. Colin Smith, a professor at BBC and Seminary in Clark Summit, Pennsylvania and the first time he was introduced the one who introduced him named the wrong school. It then became the standing joke and every time he spoke he was introduced by different people who would name a different school each time.

How many times have you heard an introduction for a speaker at an event where his long list of credentials is mentioned? Paul is going to send Timothy to the Philippians and instead of giving a list of impressive credentials, He lists some of Timothy’s character qualities.

Let’s look at Philippians 2:19-24.

Philippians 2:19  But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. 20  For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. 21  For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. 22  But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. 23  Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me.  24  But I trust in the Lord that I myself shall also come shortly.

In verse 19 Paul states that he is going to send Timothy to the Philippians in a short time. He then goes on to mention several character qualities of Timothy that commend him to the church at Philippi. We see the first of these in verse 20.

Like-minded (20a)

We see that Timothy is like-minded. No one else that Paul can send is like-minded in the way that Timothy is. Paul was not in a position where he could go to the Philippians himself. He could do the next best thing though and send Timothy. The word like-minded…

… literally means “equal–souled” or “one–souled,” referring to persons who are like–minded, of kindred spirit. The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) used the word in Psalm 55:13, where David speaks of “a man my equal, my companion and my familiar friend,” who had grievously betrayed him. 3

Paul didn’t have to worry that Timothy would say something that would contradict him. He didn’t have to worry about Timothy undermining his efforts on behalf of the Philippian believers. Timothy was like-minded. His passion for Christ was like Paul’s and they would be in good hands under Timothy’s care.

Caring (20b)

Timothy was also caring. Paul tells the Philippians that Timothy will sincerely care for your state. We’ve probably all heard the saying, “people won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” And like that quote is this one from Leadership magazine…

Those to whom you minister may not always perfectly understand what you say, but they will soon know whether you love them or not. The secret of many a successful Christian worker is not that he is skilled, knowledged, and has endowments which are superior to others, but that those to whom he ministers know that he really cares about them, not in some abstract way, or from sense of duty, but wanting with all his heart the best that God wants for them. 4

That is the kind of man Timothy was. He sincerely cared about the Philippians. It wasn’t just a duty to him but was a genuine concern. Being like-minded to Paul he had a passion for God’s best in the lives of others. People are not impressed with a list of accomplishments. What touches the lives of others is our genuine love and care for them.

Selfless (21)

Timothy was like-minded with Paul. He was caring and we see in verse 21 that he was selfless. Timothy wasn’t seeking his own interests. His passion was for Jesus Christ. The attitude that Paul had in 1 Corinthians 2:2 was true of Timothy.

For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Don’t we live in a world full of people looking out for their own interests? What is true in our day was true in Paul and Timothy’s day as well. Timothy stood out because of his passion for Jesus Christ. Instead of looking out for number one, Timothy was seeking the things which are of Jesus Christ. George Whitefield said,

A dead ministry will always make a dead people, whereas if ministers are warmed with the love of God themselves, they cannot but be instruments of diffusing that love among others.  This, this is the best preparation for the work whereunto you are to be called.  Learning without piety will only make you more capable of promoting the kingdom of Satan.  Henceforward, therefore, I hope you will enter into your studies not to get a parish, nor to be polite preachers, but to be great saints. 5

Timothy’s zeal for Christ equipped him to minister to the Philippians. He was a living example of the commandments found in Matthew 22:37-39.

Matthew 22:37  Jesus said to him, " 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38  "This is the first and great commandment. 39  "And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'

He loved God as he should and out of that flowed a love for people. That was why Paul could say of Timothy, he will sincerely care for your state. That is why Timothy stood out as a man who wasn’t bent on seeking his own interests but the things of Jesus Christ. John MacArthur commenting on Timothy’s single-minded focus on Jesus Christ says,

“It's not that people won't serve Christ and the church at all… They will. It's just that they're not single-minded.

MacArthur speaks of Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators, who drowned while successfully saving others. He notes that…

…when Billy Graham preached Dawson Trotman's funeral He was in particular interested on the focus on Dawson's single-mindedness. He said at the funeral, quote: "Here was a man who did not say these forty things I dabble at, but this one thing I do," end quote.

Timothy wasn’t side-tracked by the things of this world or his own selfish pursuits. His focus on Jesus Christ was clear and sharp.

Trusted Servant (22)

We’ve seen how Timothy was like-minded with Paul, how he was caring and selfless and finally notice in verse 22 how he was a trusted servant. Timothy wasn’t a recent convert. His character was proven. He had served along side Paul and had been found to be reliable.

Paul was sending Timothy to the Philippians knowing his proven character. The Philippians knew of Timothy’s proven character also. One of the qualifications for a pastor given in 1 Timothy 3:6 is that he not be a new convert.

…not a new convert, lest he become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. (NASB)

We need to make sure that new believers are nurtured in their faith and have an opportunity to grow and serve alongside those who have been walking faithfully with the Lord before thrusting them into leadership roles.

Timothy was a known quantity. He had proven himself to be a reliable and faithful servant as he worked with Paul like a son would with a father. 1 Corinthians 4:2 says…

Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.

Timothy’s faithfulness had been proven in his life. Paul was not taking a risk in sending Timothy to the Philippians. Timothy’s character had been proven.

Paul tells the Philippians in verse 23 that I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me.

It seems that Paul is probably awaiting some sort of legal decision in his case and once he finds out the outcome he will send Timothy. Paul wraps up his recommendation of Timothy with verse 24…

But I trust in the Lord that I myself shall also come shortly.

Paul hopes to visit with the Philippians shortly and we see his confidence is in the Lord.

We see in our passage this morning what a wonderful example Timothy is to us. He was like-minded with Paul, he was caring and selfless and he was a trusted servant. Paul outlines for us the wonderful qualities that were characteristic of Timothy’s life. Timothy was the kind of man who lived out the truth of Philippians 2:15.

that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

Do you want to shine as a light in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation? You don’t have to look far to see that we are living in a corrupt world. How encouraging to think that God uses regular people like us, like Timothy to shine as lights in the world. There’s no list of impressive credentials or accomplishments or talents of Timothy given to us. We are given a list of qualities that characterized his life that ought to characterize our lives as followers of Christ today as well.

Let’s not be named among those who are unworthy to be called on to do the work of the Lord as we see in verse 21 where we’re told there were those who cared only for themselves and not for what matters for Jesus Christ (NLT). There will be those who disqualify themselves as we see in Philippians 1:15, Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife. This should be no surprise that there are those who disqualify themselves, but let’s not be among them.

Focus on Christ like Timothy did and care about others. Prove yourself faithful in serving the Lord. It doesn’t matter how talented you are or how educated you are or how wealthy you are. If you have trusted Jesus as Savior you can live a life that is surrendered to Him and pleasing to Him. You can be a shining light like Timothy was. Timothy doesn’t just tell us how to live; he shows us how to live. May Timothy’s example be a challenge and encouragement to us today to be faithful servants of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


1 The Joyful Life, William E. Arp, Regular Baptist Press, 1994, p.65-66

2 Cited in I. D. E. Thomas, A Puritan Golden Treasury [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1977], 96,  MacArthur, J. F. (.). The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Philippians (electronic ed.) (Php 2:17).

3 MacArthur, J. F. (.). The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Philippians (electronic ed.) (Php 3:1).

4 Pulpit Helps. Leadership, Vol. 1, no. 4

5 George Whitefield,  Leadership, Vol. 9, no. 1.