Faithful in God’s service - 26 October 2020
By Ewald Schmidt
- Philippians 2:25-30
I have thought it necessary to send you our brother Epaphroditus, who has worked and fought by my side and who has served as your messenger in helping me. He is anxious to see you all and is very upset because you had heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill and almost died. But God had pity on him, and not only on him but on me, too, and spared me an even greater sorrow. I am all the more eager, then, to send him to you, so that you will be glad again when you see him, and my own sorrow will disappear. Receive him, then, with joy, as a brother in the Lord. Show respect to all such people as he, because he risked his life and nearly died for the sake of the work of Christ, in order to give me the help that you yourselves could not give.
God chose to build his church by using Spirit-filled believers as his co-workers. In Philippians 2, we read of two young men that helped Paul during his tribulation. One is a household name: Timothy, the young man who travelled with Paul and who later became the pastor at Ephesus. Paul had written him two letters included in our Bible. The second young man is lesser known: Epaphroditus.
In Rome, prisoners’ families and friends had to provide them with food and clothing, otherwise they would have starved or frozen to death. The church in Philippi heard about Paul being taken to stand trial in Rome. They knew of the hardships he would bear in the process so they sent Epaphroditus, all the way from Philippi, to be Paul’s helper at this time.
We can easily miss the implications of this part of the letter. As the crow flies, Philippi is 1 000 km from Rome across two dangerous seas. The better way to travel is overland, but that is a distance of 1 600 km. To put it into perspective, the French route of the Camino de Santiago in Spain is 790 km long. A fit person takes six weeks to complete it. Epaphroditus would have had to walk all the way to Rome, at least 12 weeks one way. During his travels, he also experienced hardships and became very ill in Rome. He might have been young and longed for his home. That is why Paul had sent him back home. He had fulfilled his mission and had helped Paul cope through this difficult time.
Why is this included in the Bible? Nearly nobody esteems Epaphroditus these days. But he is the kind of person God had used to build his kingdom all through history. Every church has those people whose names will not be written in history books. They shun the limelight. But through their faithful ministry, using their gifts and opportunities, they honour God and build his church.
We might feel that our contribution to God’s kingdom is minute. Remember, God has made us willing and able to serve (Philippians 2:13). Your willingness, combined with his power, creates a beautiful kingdom. You are making a difference in his story!
Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, that I am called to serve you with my life, my gifts and my time. Although I may feel small and insignificant, help me to remember that you build your kingdom with mustard seeds. Here I am, Lord, send me! Amen