We had a term in basketball for the guy who did well in practice but not in the game when it mattered most. We would say that he would “choke.” I was that guy for a time. When the pressure was on and I needed to act, I caved in and choked. Timothy was not such a guy. We would say that he would come through in the clutch.
One of the greatest challenges for believers is to come through in the clutch. The walk of faith is a life of living in the clutch, or choking as most do. Jesus, our shining example of walking out the faith, exemplifies humility in the clutch. He “did not count equality with god a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:5-7). And, as if being a man who serves the lowest of men was not enough, Jesus humbled Himself even more “by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8).
Jesus is the high example of low living. His perfection is so perfect, that we can be tempted to think that such humility is inaccessible to the likes of us. So, the Lord graces us with more lowly examples of high humility like Timothy. This way, we can look and say to ourselves that it is indeed possible to be a humble person. In Paul’s description of Timothy, we have learned that a humble person possesses a submissive attitude toward God (Phil. 2:19), a sympathetic concern for others (Phil. 2:20), a singular focus for Christ (Phil. 2:21), and a substantiated worth in ministry (Phil. 2:22). For our final look at Timothy’s example of humility, we will look at his significant courage to act in the clutch.
I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. I hope therefore to send him 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.Philippians 2:19-24
It takes guts to act, particularly when the deck is stacked against you. However, for the one who trusts in God, the deck is never really stacked against you. Christ is Immanuel, the God who is with us (Matt. 1:22-23). And, when God is with us, we are never short handed or outnumbered. Timothy recognized this reality and was filled with courage. It was not that he was fearful, but that he was confident in the Lord. In this final look at Timothy’s example, we see that he was willing to put his humility to work.
A Timely Faith
By way of reminder, Paul is writing to the believers in Philippi who were in need of a strong boost of divine joy. He knew that humility was the key to unlock this joy, and desired to visit in order to personally instruct and encourage them to a life of humility. However, his present situation prevented him from doing so. He was imprisoned. So, he planned to send Timothy in his stead. His confidence in Timothy was well founded. Timothy had proven worth among the Philippians and was intimately trained in gospel ministry by Paul himself. Paul had “no one like him” (Phil. 2:20). It was clutch time and Timothy was called into the game.
“I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me” (Phil. 2:23). Evidently, Paul was unsure as to when he might be freed from prison, but he was confident that he would be (Phil. 1:19; 25-26). Most commentators believe that he was waiting for his trial and unsure when it would happen. However, he was sure of his own innocence and the likeliness that the authorities would set him free after they realized it. Timothy was serving Paul in his imprisonment and as soon as it was fitting, he would, to continue our illustration, put Timothy in the clutch.
A Sure Confidence
Sending Timothy to Philippi required a great deal of confidence on Paul’s behalf. One is not put in the clutch when assurance is lacking. Timothy’s proven worth would be proven yet again and Paul was eager to see the fruit of such work. He says, “I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also” (Phil. 2:24). Paul was confident in the Lord completing the work through Timothy (Phil. 2:6) which would result in more joy for himself (Phil. 2:17-18).
We learn from Acts 28:30 that Paul was indeed released from prison, so it is possible that he visited the church to find them experiencing divine joy after putting on the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5), which is the mind of humility. But, the best way to end this series on humility is to remind you as a believer that the humility of Christ is your’s to put on as well. It is all for nothing that you learn what makes up a humble life if you only choke when it matters most. So, here are some practical ways to prepare yourself for the clutch.
First, prayerfully consider the humility of Christ and ask God to help you put it on. No one wants you to be humble than God. He has an unlimited storehouse of grace to lavish upon you. You need only ask with a sincere heart, eager to put your faith into action.
Second, look for immediate ways to stir up the humility of Christ in your life by serving in ways that cripple your pride. Find the lowliest of people in your community or church and volunteer to meet their needs no matter the cost.
Third, keep an open eye and an eager heart for God’s goodness and thank Him. Nothing crushes pride more than giving God thanks for the blessings He has given. Often, these blessings exist in the “white space” of life, in between the negative circumstances.
Fourth, listen to others, really. Do not be thinking of what you will say next while others are speaking to you. This shows that you do not value what they are saying. Instead, listen closely with the intention of learning, even learning about them.
Fifth, consider others before yourself. Whether it is seeking their preferences in the mundane, or facilitating their joy in Christ by drawing closer to Him, put others first. This is best done when you have a singular focus on Christ while extending yourself to man.
Finally, be encouraged. Humility is found in the grace of God to which all of His children have access. You may not be as humble as Christ, but Timothy’s life is proof that ordinary people like us can grow in humility. Just get in the clutch.