Let me be the first to admit that when I have a cold or any annoying ailment, I am not so fun to be around. I get caught up in the sickness and it becomes my focus. And that is just with the common virus that we all fight throughout the year. Now, step it up a notch and give me a sickness that requires me to see a Doctor and I get all wrapped up in myself! This is a battle that I have always fought. A small illness afflicted me just this week and I was amazed when I began reading this chapter and heard about a man name Ephaphroditus and how he served the Lord with joy even through his sickness. My daughter can attest, I was not serving the Lord with joy when I was feeling ill.
Today we are reading Philippians chapter 2. The main theme of this chapter is finding joy in serving Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to express his gratitude and affection for the Philippian church, his strongest supporters in his ministry. Paul drafted this letter during his two years of house arrest in Rome.
Paul had established the church in Philippi approximately 10 years prior, during his second missionary journey recorded in Acts 16. His tender love for the believers in Philippi is apparent in this writing.
Today, as we focus on Chapter 2, I want to look at a man named Epaphroditus. He is only mentioned 2x in the Bible, first in chapter 2 verse 25 and then again in chapter 4 verse 18. The church at Philippi had sent gifts to Paul while he was in chains. These gifts were faithfully delivered by Epaphroditus. He was a leader in the Philippian church who ended up assisting Paul with his ministry in Rome. At some point while serving with Paul, he became dangerously sick and nearly died. After his recovery, Paul sent Epaphroditus back to Philippi carrying with him his letter he wrote to the Philippian church.
This is part of what Paul wrote:
“Meanwhile, I thought I should send Epaphroditus back to you. He is a true brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier. And he was your messenger to help me in my need. I am sending him because he has been longing to see you, and he was very distressed that you heard he was ill. And he certainly was ill; in fact, he almost died. But God had mercy on him—and also on me, so that I would not have one sorrow after another. So I am all the more anxious to send him back to you, for I know you will be glad to see him, and then I will not be so worried about you. Welcome him in the Lord’s love and with great joy, and give him the honor that people like him deserve. For he risked his life for the work of Christ, and he was at the point of death while doing for me what you couldn’t do from far away.” (Philippians 2:25–30 NLT).
To the Philippians, Epaphroditus was a messenger who delivered a package. To Paul, however, he was so much more.
He was a “brother” belonging to the same family.
He was a “co-worker” laboring toward the same goal.
He was a “fellow soldier” sharing the same trials.
Epaphroditus was a man of obvious devotion, faithfulness, and self-sacrifice. He put the interest of others before himself and in doing this he modeled the mind of Christ.
“Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” (2:4-5)
Epaphroditus took no thought of himself. Rather, he was distressed because his church had heard of his illness, and he did not want them to worry.
There is such a lesson for me in the life of Epaphroditus. We all will face sickness, some of us to varying degrees. But the demonstration that he showed even when experiencing such a severe illness is a model for us all. He gave himself for the sake of God’s kingdom and many people benefited. Even when we are facing hardship with our health (to any degree) we need to keep our focus on serving the Lord with joy and remeber this man as our example.