For The Kingdom: Joy-Filled Living In Difficult Days | Day 45
“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
In our previous post, we looked at Timothy, the first Kingdom Worker that Paul mentions by name and considered 3 Relationships Every Disciple Should Have. Today, we will consider Epaphroditus and 4 Characteristics of A Kingdom Worker Worthy of Honor.
Kingdom Worker: Epaphroditus A member of the church of Philippi, Epaphroditus had been selected and sent by the church to bring goods and attend to the needs of Paul while he was in prison. This was a dangerous task, both in the journey and in the destination. It is not an overstatement that Paul considered Epaphroditus a fellow soldier. Not only was it a dangerous task, but it was an arduous one. He could not just Zoom Paul, UPS some goods to him or even hop on a red eye. For Epaphroditus, this was a sacrifice that would cost him time, money and even the relational cost of being away from friends and family. We can understand why Paul would refer to him as a fellow worker and brother! We know that in his journey and service to Paul, Epaphroditus became so ill that he nearly died, but later recovered and was sent back to Philippi by Paul to continue his ministry there.
Paul commends Timothy and Epaphroditus and in doing so, gives us some wonderful descriptions of what a Kingdom worker who is worthy of honor looks like. We should all strive to embody these characteristics in our own lives and celebrate when we see them in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Four Characteristics of a Kingdom Worker Worthy of Honor:
1. Genuine concern for the welfare of others: Timothy was the embodiment of Philippians 2:4- “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Even more, Timothy sought the interests of Christ and not himself (v. 21). This is what Christ is talking about when he said “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33.) To be genuinely to be concerned more for the interests of Christ and the welfare of others above yourself is a distinguishing mark of a JOY-ful Kingdom worker. Jesus first, Others second, Yourself third, is the pattern for joyful kingdom work we should each strive towards.
2. Humble service in the Gospel: Timothy did not need to “prove” his worth as the man.” He understood the role and season God had put him in and he responded humbly to Paul as a son to a father. Many young men in life and ministry today struggle with the prideful desire to be recognized as “the man.” Not that they want to be a man (with the responsibilities), they just want to be seen as a man (the recognition). In the early days of their time with Jesus, the disciples argued over who would be recognized as “the man” in Jesus’ Kingdom. Jesus taught His disciples that if you want to be great, you must become a servant.
Once, a woman of disrepute once came to Jesus and sacrificially poured out expensive perfume over His head in an act of humble worship and adoration. Chastised by the disciples for her “wastefulness,” Jesus rebuked them, “She has done a beautiful thing to me… she has done what she could, she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly I say to you, wherever the Gospel is proclaimed in the whole world what she has done will be told in memory of her.” (Mark 14:6, 9). Jesus honored her humble service in the Gospel and we too should honor those who live in this same manner.
3. Live as one sent by God– Four times in this passage we see Paul use the word “send.” Our God is a sending God. It is intrinsic to his character and His mission. We refer to it as the “missio dei”, the mission of God. “Missional” may be a relatively new ministry buzz word, but it is an ancient principle conceived by an eternal God. To be missional is to live as a sent one by God. We are all called to live as “sent ones” to our families, friends neighborhoods, workplaces, schools and communities. With the great commandment (love God and love others) as our motivation, the Gospel as our message and the great commission (go and make disciples who make disciple) as our mission, we all have a role to fulfill in God’s plan to redeem mankind.
4. Persistent in Sacrifice: Epaphroditus nearly died for the work of Christ because he was willing to risk his life to complete his calling (see verse 27-30). This kind of lifestyle is unfamiliar to most of us. Rarely are we concerned with pesky problems like, starvation, being thrown in prison for our faith or enduring sickness in a third world culture with no access to medication or clean water. However, this does not mean we should not strive to learn what it means to live sacrificially. Romans 12:1 teaches us that living sacrificially is a holy and acceptable act of worship. This may mean sacrificing time, sacrificing comfort, sacrificing financial or material things in order to glorify God with our lives. We should strive to live a sacrificial lifestyle, but we should also recognize that for some this is a much greater reality. We should pray for and honor those Kingdom workers who suffer in difficult places for the Gospel.
Do you have a Timothy or an Epaphroditus in your church? How can you honor them? In our next post, we will look at 5 practical ways we can honor Kingdom workers. Today, begin by praying for them and saying, “thank you.”