If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care -
then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends.
Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead.
Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.
He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what.
Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human!
Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death - and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion.
Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever,
so that all created beings in heaven and on earth - even those long ago dead and buried - will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ,
and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.
What I'm getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you've done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I'm separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God.
That energy is God's energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.
Do everything readily and cheerfully - no bickering, no second-guessing allowed!
Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night
so I'll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You'll be living proof that I didn't go to all this work for nothing.
Even if I am executed here and now, I'll rejoice in being an element in the offering of your faith that you make on Christ's altar, a part of your rejoicing.
But turnabout's fair play - you must join me in my rejoicing. Whatever you do, don't feel sorry for me.
I plan (according to Jesus' plan) to send Timothy to you very soon so he can bring back all the news of you he can gather. Oh, how that will do my heart good!
I have no one quite like Timothy. He is loyal, and genuinely concerned for you.
Most people around here are looking out for themselves, with little concern for the things of Jesus.
But you know yourselves that Timothy's the real thing. He's been a devoted son to me as together we've delivered the Message.
As soon as I see how things are going to fall out for me here, I plan to send him off.
And then I'm hoping and praying to be right on his heels.
But for right now, I'm dispatching Epaphroditus, my good friend and companion in my work. You sent him to help me out; now I'm sending him to help you out.
He has been wanting in the worst way to get back with you. Especially since recovering from the illness you heard about, he's been wanting to get back and reassure you that he is just fine.
He nearly died, as you know, but God had mercy on him. And not only on him - he had mercy on me, too. His death would have been one huge grief piled on top of all the others.
So you can see why I'm so delighted to send him on to you. When you see him again, hale and hearty, how you'll rejoice and how relieved I'll be.
Give him a grand welcome, a joyful embrace! People like him deserve the best you can give.
Remember the ministry to me that you started but weren't able to complete? Well, in the process of finishing up that work, he put his life on the line and nearly died doing it.