By James Metsger
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 (Philippians 2:25)
Some people tend to be a little intimidated by Paul—as if he’s the perfect Christian who sits high on his holy mountain preaching complex theology for like-minded deep thinkers. But sections of his letters like this in chapter three, verses 19-30, give us a glimpse into a personable side of Paul—the side that cared deeply for his friends and needed their encouragement. Paul called for us to be mindful in how we interact in our church community, and he lived it out himself.
In these verses, Paul speaks tenderly about two men very close to him: Timothy and Epaphroditus. Though we may be tempted to skim over these verses because he’s dealing with more personal topics, they give excellent insight into what Paul valued. We would do well to strive for the same as we create or embrace a community of believers in our lives. Let’s look at Timothy first.
…for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. (Philippians 2:26)
It’s easy to take for granted certain freedoms or abilities until we don’t have them anymore. What becomes normative for us becomes mundane. And what is mundane is often under-appreciated…until it’s lost.
If the recent COVID lockdowns and quarantines have taught us anything, it should at least show us the importance of being in the joyful fellowship of other believers. We should love God’s people and long for community. Under normal conditions, we have the luxury of living in close connection with other believers, yet we often let our busyness get in the way of those connections. Paul and his co-laborers did not have that luxury, and it resulted in a deep longing to be with one another. We should pray that God restores that longing to us.
Notice also how Epaphroditus lived out the “you before me” principle. He was distressed because the church heard he was ill. In fact, he was near death! Epaphroditus was sick to his stomach that his near-death experience caused distress to the church. Wow! “I’m near death and I feel horrible…that you’re so worried about me!” This is Philippians 2 personified!
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 2:29-30)
The Philippians wanted to support Paul in his ministry by sending him gifts and financial help. Epaphroditus was the messenger who delivered these gifts to Paul on their behalf, but he did so at risk to his own life. For this, Paul was grateful. I love the example Epaphroditus gives to the church. Live a life of gospel urgency because your life is secure in the hands of God. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Our temptation will be to hunker down and keep our little world safe but aspire to be the kind of man or woman who risks for the gospel. Pray that God may surround you with such men and women.
Therefore, by brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. (Philippians 4:1)
Do you have a Epaphroditus in your life? If so, give God thanks and let him or her know!
If you long for that kind of friend pray, “God, send me someone like Epaphroditus!”