I Am a Walking Reference Letter for Jesus (Philippians devotional 4)

By Nick Osborne

“I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.”
~ Philippians 2:20 ~

artist unknown
artist unknown

As a pastor, there have been many times I’ve been asked to supply a reference for a person applying for a job or school.  Usually people ask beforehand if they can use my name, and if I feel I cannot supply a good reference (either because I do not know them well enough or because I do not have enough positive things to say), I’ll tell them.

When the potential employer or school calls, I am as positive as I can be, but I am also honest. I don’t exaggerate, and if the interviewer asks if I have any concerns or if I would hire the person, I tell them.  Often I am able to give what one would call a “glowing recommendation.” On rare occasion, I’ve told the interviewer to look for another applicant.

If there were someone who knew us well inside and out (both our endearing and callous qualities), and if that someone were to supply an honest reference, what would they say?  Don’t be hard on yourself when you answer that question.  Don’t be naïve either. Be honest.

At this point in his letter, Paul gives his own referral.  He tells the church in Philippi that he is sending two fellow-workers to them: Timothy and Epaphroditus.  Timothy will return to Paul with news about the church. Epaphroditus, who is from Philippi, will remain there.

Paul is effusive in his words about these two men.  Regarding Timothy, Paul gives his ultimate endorsement: “I have no one like him who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.”

This commendation tells us two things. First, it tells us that one of the highest qualities a follower of Jesus can emulate is care and concern for the well-being of others, especially other followers of Jesus. In his book on Philippians, NT Wright makes the great point about what Paul doesn’t say. Paul doesn’t say, “Timothy is a great preacher,” or “He has incredible business acumen” or even “Timothy is very pious.” He says that Timothy cares.

Are you the kind of employee, employer, friend of which could be said, “I have no one who cares like him / her”? Would our spouse or children say, “There is no one more genuinely concerned for my welfare than him / her”? Would your church family?

Second, Paul’s recommendation of Timothy tells us that when we walk in partnership with God – when he is at work in us giving us the desire and power to do his will, and we are working out our salvation with fear and trembling – people notice. Whether we like it or not, people notice.  They notice our growth, or lack of it.

When we carry the name “Christian,” we become a walking advertisement for God.  Our actions and attitudes reflect on him and his work in the world.  Paul’s recommendation of Timothy was also a commendation to the power and faithfulness of God.  It is not natural to put others before ourselves. Through God’s faithful work in him, and his own hard work to grow, Timothy had learned to do this, and Paul noticed. So too would the church members in Philippi.

Will the people you encounter today notice the same about you?


  • Think: I am a walking reference letter for God
  • Do: Write (on paper or in your head) a reference letter for yourself, honestly noting your endearing and callous qualities. Thank God for his ongoing work in you to bring out these positive qualities. Commit to work with him to live out as best you can a “I have no one else like him / her” kind of life.

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