I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.
(Philippians 2:25-30 ESV)
When Epaphroditus arrives back in Philippi Paul wants the church there to receive him with “joy” and “honor” since “he nearly died for the work of Christ”. Epaphroditus risked his life to complete his mission.
Notice that Epaphroditus’ task was not anything deeply spiritual. He was a messenger. Not every believer is called upon to be Billy Graham. Most of us are called to do simple, everyday things like taking care of our kids, or doing our job. Sometimes we may not feel like these things are important. But when we view them as “the work of Christ” they take on a whole new meaning.
The same is true of serving in our church. Simple acts such as being a greeter, or setting up chairs are not unimportant when we do them for Christ. God works through people to reach other people. We can be most effective when we are all willing to do our part.
We don’t know all that much about Epaphroditus. From his name we know that he was born into a pagan household and therefore must have become a believer later in life (the name “Epaphroditus” is derived from the name of the Greek goddess Aphrodite; Christian parents would not have given such a name to their child).
We do know he was a godly man – otherwise the Philippians would not have sent him to minister to Paul. On top of that he was a hard worker who didn’t give up because the going got tough. Yesterday we established that he was compassionate and concerned for others.
Epaphroditus is just the kind of person God is looking for: compassionate and hard-working. Someone who is willing to do things for Jesus’ glory at the expense of his/her own.
While most of us will not have to risk our lives, most of us will fly under the radar. Sadly, even in the church there can be people who are unwilling to do that. Too many people want to be noticed. Few people are willing to just roll up their sleeves and do what needs to be done.
The theme of this letter is humility. Humility is often expressed in doing things that go unnoticed by other people – like the work of Epaphroditus. But nothing goes unnoticed by God. God will honor everything we do on His behalf.
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