But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me. – Philippians 2:25-30
We often take moments to celebrate. We celebrate birthdays. We celebrate victories in sports. Baby-Boomers found new ways to celebrate millennials just being present, especially if they participate. We celebrate the little victories. We celebrate the big moments. We forget to celebrate our anniversaries. Today is a very important day, today we celebrate our country’s veterans. Our veterans are men and women willing to lay their lives down for the sake of our country.
Yet, in our everyday lives when there are not particular moments it is easy to be slightly bitter and slightly hurt with what is not happening right. It is easy to focus on failures. It is easy to be distracted. It is the test of mature believers to focus on what is most important, Jesus and His unfashionable grace. The funniest thing about unfashionable grace unfashionable grace doesn’t even get frustrated when others are distracted from grace, it only aims to show more of it to them as well.
Paul was sending Timothy to care for the church of Philippi by pointing them to the gracious God whose love was transforming them for eternity. But, before Paul would send Timothy to this beloved church the church of Philippi had sent a different person to care for Paul.
This scripture presents us not only with another brother in the list of followers of Christ. It is one who has been eternally memorialized in the Word of God as someone who was willing to go. Yet, while serving the Lord he almost lost his life. We see how Paul and the people of God are called to respond to such a person.
We are called to celebrate such a person, a person who while suffering brought joy, a person who endured pain that was not caused by persecution but a sickness yet found a way to be a light still. We learn that risking our health and our lives to care for others leaves a testimony that brings joy. Who would have thought that tremendous acts of kindness do a tremendous amount of good?
Yet we must ask ourselves a question. Would I lay my life down for the name of Jesus? If I am willing to lay my life down for the name of Jesus than what part of my life am I not willing to give up for the name of Jesus? Believers in Jesus have a great hope and a great calling.
Recognize Who is Working for Christ Around You.
But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs.
Think about how you would describe a person that honored the Lord. Take a moment. Think of the godliest person you know and describe them. How Paul describes this follower of Christ is remarkable.
Paul’s sending of Timothy who was caring for him was not the end of it. Paul was sending another brother who cared for him. Paul was sending someone whom he gave a great deal of respect to.
Look specifically at these titles that Paul gave Epaphroditus. My brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier. He was also recognized as a messenger of the Philippians. These titles are not found together in the description of a single other person or group of people in the letters.
Paul calls a great deal of people co-workers from Timothy, Priscilla and Aquilla in Romans (Romans 16:3, 9, 21), the Corinthian church themselves are call co-workers (1 Corinthians 3:8-9), Titus is recognized a co-worker in the second letter to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 8:22-24), two women at the end of Philippians are asked to have peace with each other, Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus are all called co-workers (Colossians 4:10-11), and Timothy in particularly (1 Thessalonians 3:2–3).
Paul inspires Timothy to suffer like a soldier, but Paul does not refer to him as one. He calls on Timothy to not be distracted and to rather be firmly focused on the matter at hand, God. This is a great definition for a soldier of Christ, Epaphroditus, suffered and brought joy by coming through it okay.
Lastly, this term messenger is one that you might recognize, it is the Greek word Apostolos. Does that sound like a word you know in English? It is important to recognize this is not the title that was given to the 12 or Paul. But it also is important to recognize the significance of Philippi sending Epaphroditus.
The church of Philippi saw what kind of believer Epaphroditus. Paul saw what kind of character he had as well. We have spoken of the visibility of other believers like Timothy and Paul, but what would it look like if our church was filled with men and woman of God that were seen as family, as brothers and sisters willing to labor together for the sake of Jesus? What would it look like if every believer in this church in this community were willing to be broken every moment for the name of Jesus?
Yes, it is remarkable that one person was given all of these descriptors, but how much more earnestly should we strive to recognize and encourage those in our lives that live this out. We have been graciously given a great deal of teachers here at our church. We have numerous Sunday School teachers, of whom many of them serve in different capacities. One of our deacons and Sunday school teachers who was a missionary in Japan for years is now serving by preaching in Polk on top of all the ways he is serving here. John McKinney, is a wonderful example of a brother who serves whole heartedly for the Lord in his life. He has even helped out in various behind the scenes things at our church from technical equipment to getting the route set for the Turkey Trot. But, the greatest thing about John is not what he does, it is who he does it for.
We have a great opportunity next week to honor a man and his family that served here for years. A man our church took in at age 25, cared for, and was shepherded by for over 17 years. This brother in Christ now travels around the world sharing the Gospel and sharing with other followers how to study God’s word. We have the opportunity to support him more in this cause next week at the soup supper.
Today, reach out to someone who has encouraged and supported you or the cause of Christ. Make it a point to recognize those who have impacted your life and others lives for the name of Jesus. We are called to encourage one another to spur one another on to love and good works. There will be numerous moments in life where the struggle for the name of Christ can be discouraging. Help those who struggle for the cross see that what they do brings hope for eternity.
Sorrow and Relief from Sorrow Are a Part of Life.
For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety.
One of the more remarkable moments in this situation is that when a believer is in pain, that same believer still has concern for others also wants to make sure that others are cared for. Not only did the church seek to care for the one they sent out the one they sent out also aims to care for the community that sent him to care for others.
The text, the historical context, and the various other texts do not tell us just what happened, only that it was severe. One of the more frustrating things in the study of history is when we know part of a story. We know about a person by name, or we know that they were involved in something, but not enough to truly recognize them with today’s standards. We want to be able to measure a person based on what exactly what they have done.
The point that can be learned from this text is that whether someone is in pain that has gone out from us or whether we are the person enduring the pain we can find a way to encourage the other. Sorrow and hardship are known to almost every person in differing levels of severity and length or brevity, but no one is un familiar with it.
The Philippians sent someone of great quality and worth to help another. This is something familiar to that of scripture. God has commanded that we give the best of what we have and what we are to others. Similarly, Paul in sending this brother back to them is sending a brother who has shown his proven worth. This is what we are to do as well.
We are called to find a way to give our best for others. To find a way to give hope, to give encouragement, and to show love even when it costs us dearly.
This to not say that this is easy. This moment in particular which is full of potential sorrow is in stark contrast to the rest of Paul’s letter of joy. Paul continually reminds the church to find joy, to rejoice, to have peace in the Lord no matter the circumstance. Yet, we can see so vividly that loss and situations of despair are a reality that we do not escape through knowing Jesus.
How we react to the situations both great and insignificant display vividly where our focus lies though. Paul and this dear brother Epaphroditus had their focus on being the light of the Gospel to others whether in the church or not.
Honor Those Who Struggle for the Sake of the Gospel.
So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.
It cannot be understated. We must be ready to die for the name of Jesus. And, those ready and willing to put their lives on the line for the sake of Jesus name should be honored for such a task. It is one thing to be ready to die to protect your family, it is one thing to be ready to even die for your country, but it is a whole other persona to be ready to die for the Lord. This is not to risk everything for an ideology but for God.
We often speak of being afraid to talk about Jesus because we do not know what our friends, our co-workers, our insert relational tie might respond but how much greater a risk to go before the God of the universe and say I was afraid not of you but of men.
And so, celebrate those you know that step up and step out for the name of Jesus. Lift them up as an example of how to live. Those who share the grace of God with others at all cost to themselves are not fools rather those who fail to give the love of God with personal abandonment fail to see the hope set before them.
Question, do the broken people in your life, the filthy, the sinful, those filled with despair find you to be healing, healthy, kind, and a relief? That is what unfashionable grace looks like. It is someone willing to take others burdens upon themselves to relieve them even in the smallest way. Would you go? Would you be the one someone would send to care?
We have numerous missionaries. Many of us know this. How do we know this? There is a list of the missionaries you peruse over every Sunday in the bulletin. When entering the sanctuary, the largest piece of furniture in our church has all of their information on all the missionaries and missionaries we partner with laid out for everyone to see.
Look at our missions page or get one of their information fliers and reach out to them. You can call them, email them, some of them like the Jarmans are on Facebook. Make an effort to bring the Gospel to those that you know no matter the cost. Make an effort to bring hope when you are in pain. Make an effort for the sake of the Gospel.
This next week is one way that we annually support a missionary. Our Annual Soup Supper is a start. But we are equipped to encourage those who have given their all for the gospel. Emailing, calling, writing letters to our missionaries are ways, but prayer is essential. Pray for their hope, their confidence, their love, and their ability to show as well as give grace when it is hardest.
There are others like this brother in Christ as Paul says here. So I beg of you, honor and celebrate those who are giving of themselves even to death for the name of Jesus. Honor those around you who go out of their way to make the Gospel known and seen. Make an effort to share the Gospel, but also make an effort to honor those who share the Gospel where and how you cannot.
Questions to Consider
- What does it mean to do the work of Christ? (James 1:19-27; 1 Peter 3:13-22; 1 Corinthian 9:19-27)
- What excites you about doing the work of Christ? (1 Corinthians 15:50-58; Luke 10:1-20; Matthew 5:43-6:4; Romans 8)
- What prevents you from doing the work of Christ? (Matthew 8:18-27; Luke 12:1-34)
- What can you do for the name of Christ this week that you have been hesitant to do in the past? (Acts 15:36-40; Mark 4:21-25; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12)
- What ways can you encourage others who are proclaiming the name of Jesus and caring for others in His name? (Romans 14; 2 Timothy 2; Hebrews 10:19-34)