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The supporting role

I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. — Philippians 2:20-21

One thing to be said in favor of the Academy Awards—the Oscars—is that while they acknowledge star quality and have probably done as much as anything to elevate people to superstar status, they do not overlook the value of the supporting role. Oscars are awarded for “best picture” and “best actor,” but “best costumes” and “best actor in a supporting role” are also recognized.

This is not just a matter of even-handedness; it is a recognition of the fact that there would be no superstars without someone playing the supporting role. There are no superstar quarterbacks without offensive linemen! Violin virtuosos need someone playing the second fiddle well.

Paul would have been horrified at the thought that he would eventually achieve superstar status in the worldwide church. Nevertheless, it is a fact. It is widely recognized, as far as we are able to ascertain, that no man, with the obvious exception of the Lord Jesus, has done more than Paul to establish the eternal kingdom. And yet even a casual glance at Paul’s letters reveals his deep indebtedness to his supporting cast.

Take Timothy, for instance. This young man was exemplary. Paul said, “I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ” (Philippians 2:20-21). Paul had found in Timothy a kindred spirit. Paul, who was never reluctant to admit his times of discouragement, actually looked to this young man to cheer his heart and considered him a “son” to him in his advancing years.

Then there was Epaphroditus, “a true brother, a faithful worker, and a courageous soldier” (2:25). When Paul was lonely, he needed a brother alongside. When the work was overwhelming, he needed another pair of hands. And when the battle was raging, he needed someone watching his flank. So young Epaphroditus was there—a brother, worker, and soldier.

The Philippians knew their apostle well, and when they were concerned about him, they sent Epaphroditus. Paul acknowledged gratefully that Epaphroditus had come “to help me in my need” (2:25). Despite his serious illness, Epaphroditus, who was more concerned about his family worrying about him than he was concerned about his illness, carried on faithfully. Even mortal illness did not deter him.

Paul managed wonderfully well without the Internet, cell phones, and laptop computers. But I doubt if he could have managed without his Timothys and Epaphrodituses! Neither can we today.

For further study: Philippians 2:19-30

Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.