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How to Live a Lovely Life

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How to Live a Lovely Life

Philippians 2:25-30

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - Sept. 2, 2012

*Pastor Frank Harrington told about a little girl who kept a daily notebook. And one day her dad noticed that she had drawn a picture of him in her book. Underneath, she had carefully printed his name and address.

*When he asked her why, she told him that she had been watching a movie about amnesia. And she said, “If I ever forget who I am, I want everybody to know who I belong to.” (1)

*As Christians, we want everybody to know that we belong to our Heavenly Father. And the best way we can let them know is to live a Christ-like life.

*That’s the way Epaphroditus lived. That long Greek name simply means “lovely” or “devoted to love,” so you could call him “Mr. Lovely.” And he lived a lovely life. We can too. These verses show us how.

1. First: Be willing to serve the Lord.

*Epaphroditus was the kind of Christian who was willing to serve the Lord. We get a glimpse of this good quality in vs. 25, where Paul said: “Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need.”

*Remember that Paul was in trouble when he wrote this letter. He was under house arrest in Rome, on trial for his life, and chained between two Roman soldiers. When the Philippian church found out about Paul’s trouble, they realized that he needed their help.

*So they gave what they could, and Epaphroditus said:

-“I’ll take it to him.

-It may be a long, hard, dangerous trip.

-But I’ll take it to him.

-Put me where you need me.”

*So Mr. Lovely became their “messenger and the one who ministered to (Paul’s) need.” Paul called him “my brother,” my “fellow worker,” my “fellow soldier.”

*“Put me where you need me.” -- Mr. Lovely was that kind of Christian.

-And that’s the spirit we need to serve the Lord in church.

*“Lord, I’ll go where You want me to go.

-I’ll do what You want me to do.

-I want to stand in the gap any way I can.”

*When she was 11 years old, Summer Waters of New Zealand wrote a poem about Christians like that:

“I saw Jesus last week.

He was wearing blue jeans and an old shirt.

He was up at the church building;

He was alone and working hard.

For just a minute, He looked like one of our members.

But it was Jesus. I could tell by His smile.

I saw Jesus last Sunday.

He was teaching a Bible Class.

He didn't talk real loud or use long words.

For just a minute, He looked like my Bible teacher.

But it was Jesus. I could tell by His loving voice.

I saw Jesus yesterday.

He was at the hospital visiting a friend who was sick.

They prayed together quietly.

For just a minute, He looked like Brother Jones.

But it was Jesus. I could tell by the tears in His eyes.

I saw Jesus this morning.

He was in my kitchen making breakfast

And mixing me a special lunch.

For just a minute, He looked like my Mum.

But it was Jesus. I could feel the love from His heart.

I see Jesus everywhere.

Taking food to the sick.

Being friendly to the newcomer.

And just for a minute, I think He is someone I know.

But it's always Jesus. I can tell by the way He serves.” (2)

*We can have a lovely life by serving the Lord.

2. But also sympathize with other people.

*Epaphroditus was the kind of Christian who sympathized with other people. We see this quality in vs. 25&26. Listen again to what the Apostle Paul said about Mr. Lovely.

25. Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need;

26. since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick.

*Epaphroditus longed to see his friends in Philippi again, but that’s not all. Paul said Epaphroditus was “distressed.” The KJV says he was “full of heaviness.”

-And why? -- Not because Epaphroditus was sick.

-But because his friends at Philippi heard he was sick.

*I can hear him now: “Paul, I want to stay here and help you, but I really need to go home. You know my people heard that I was sick, and I am concerned about them. I am greatly troubled, because I don’t want them worrying about me.”

*Epaphroditus dearly loved the people in his church back home. He sympathized with them. And even though he had been sick to the point of death, Epaphroditus was more concerned about his church family than he was for himself.

*I heard a strong echo of his concern down at M.D. Anderson this past Tuesday. While Billy was back in surgery, Dena and I talked about a lot of different things. And one of the things she said about Billy was that he was more concerned about her and the rest of the family than he was for himself. I told her that Billy was like the man I planned to preach about on Sunday night.

*Mr. Lovely and Billy Ellis are the kind of Christians who sympathize with others, Christians who care more about other people than they care for themselves.

-God wants us to be like that too.

-We can have a lovely life by sympathizing with other people.

3. But also be willing to sacrifice yourself.

*Listen again as Paul talked about Epaphroditus in the first part of vs. 27: “For indeed he was sick almost unto death. . .” Now skip down to vs. 29&30. There Paul told the Philippian Christians:

29. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem;

30. because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me.

*Epaphroditus was sick not because he was bad, but because he was good.

-He was sick, not because he was sinning, but because he was serving the Lord!

*He was willing to sacrifice Himself for the good of others.

-He was willing to be broken and spilled out for Jesus.

-And that’s the way God wants us to be.

*You’ve probably never heard of Beppino Giovanella. He is the Laboratory Director at the Stehlin Foundation for Cancer Research down in Houston. And “Reader’s Digest” once told how this biologist had tested a powerful cancer medication on himself.

*No one put a gun to Giovanella’s head and said, “Take this or else.” It was his desire to find a safe and effective dose that made him swallow a gelatin capsule containing 100 milligrams of an experimental cancer drug.

*He temporarily lost his hair. But he found that doses of cancer drugs effective in animals were too much for people. And Beppino said, “As a biologist, you become acutely aware that drugs at times act very differently from one species to another. That is why I always test new drugs on myself first. It wouldn’t be very nice to risk another person before I risk myself.” (3)

*That is an amazing sacrificial spirit. I wonder if he is a Christian. I wouldn’t be surprised, because he is a living picture of the Lord’s willingness to sacrifice Himself for us. So was Epaphroditus. He modeled the sacrificial spirit of Jesus Christ that Paul described in vs. 5-8:

5. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,

6. who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,

7. but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.

8. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

*Think about the Lord’s sacrifice. One of the best places to see it is Psalm 22. There God pulled back the curtain a thousand years into the future to give King David a look at Jesus suffering on the cross for our sins.

[1] Jesus suffered great mocking on the cross.

*Listen to the Lord’s cry in Psalm 22:4-8:

4. Our fathers trusted in You; They trusted, and You delivered them.

5. They cried to You, and were delivered; They trusted in You, and were not ashamed.

6. But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised of the people.

7. All those who see Me laugh Me to scorn; They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,

8. "He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!''

*Matt 27:39-43 reports the fulfillment of this prophecy:

39. And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads

40. and saying, "You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.''

41. Likewise the chief priests, also mocking with the scribes and elders, said,

42. "He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.

43. "He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, `I am the Son of God.' ''

*On top of everything else the Lord had to endure for us, He had to listen to this mocking as He hung on the cross.

-Aren’t you glad Jesus didn’t come down from that cross!

-Except for His great love, it would have been easy for Him to do.

-But Jesus was willing to suffer this mocking.

[2] He was also willing to suffer great misery on the cross.

*Hear the Lord’s cry to the Heavenly Father in Psalm 22:11-18:

11. Be not far from Me, For trouble is near; For there is none to help.

12. Many bulls have surrounded Me; Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me.

13. They gape at Me with their mouths, As a raging and roaring lion.

14. I am poured out like water, And all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It has melted within Me.

15. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death.

16. For dogs have surrounded Me; The assembly of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet;

17. I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me.

18. They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.

*Jesus went through all of that for us.

-And now He calls us to have the same sacrificial spirit.

*So in Luke 9:23-24, we hear Jesus speaking to His disciples:

23. Then He said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.

24. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.

*Countless Christians have literally given up their earthly lives for the cause of Jesus Christ. Paul certainly did. Epaphroditus almost did too. But we know that Jesus is talking about more than physical death, because He tells us to take up our cross daily.

*Fred Craddock gave this great explanation: “To give my life for Christ appears glorious,” he said. “To pour myself out for others, to pay the ultimate price of martyrdom, -- I'll do it. I'm ready, Lord, to go out in a blaze of glory.

*We think giving our all to the Lord is like taking a $1,000 bill and laying it on the table. ‘Here's my life, Lord. I'm giving it all.’ But the reality for most of us is that he sends us to the bank and has us cash in the $1,000 for quarters. We go through life putting out 25 cents here and 50 cents there:

-Listen to the neighbor kid's troubles instead of saying, ‘Get lost’.

-Go to a committee meeting.

-Give a cup of water to a shaky old man in a nursing home.

*Usually giving our life to Christ isn't glorious. It's done in all those little acts of love, 25 cents at a time. It would be easy to go out in a flash of glory; it's harder to live the Christian life little by little over the long haul.” (4)

*But we can have a lovely life by sacrificing ourselves for the cause of Christ.

4. And we can do all of these things if we will see the mercy of Christ.

*Paul saw the Lord’s mercy in vs. 27, where he said this about Epaphroditus: “For indeed he was sick almost to death: but God had mercy on him; and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.”

*Our God is merciful, kind and compassionate. And we get a glimpse of His goodness when He heals people. Matthew 14:14 tells us that: “Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.”

*Matthew 20:30-34 tells us about two blind men sitting on the road to Jericho, and:

30. . . when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, saying, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David!”

31. Then the multitude warned them that they should be quiet; but they cried out all the more, saying, "Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!"

32. So Jesus stood still and called them, and said, "What do you want Me to do for you?"

33. They said to Him, "Lord, that our eyes may be opened."

34. So Jesus had compassion and touched their eyes. And immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him.

*Sometimes we see the Lord’s mercy when He heals our bodies.

-When He helps our friends.

-When He gives us the peace that passes understanding.

-But most of all, we see His mercy on the cross of Jesus Christ.

*There is a spiritual sickness in this world that is infinitely worse than blindness, cancer or any other physical disease. The sickness is sin: And there was only one possible cure: Somebody had to die. Somebody had to take the sin of the whole world on their shoulders.

*Nobody could do that but Jesus Christ, and that’s what He did when He died on the cross for us. Now the Risen Savior offers a lovely life to everyone who opens their heart to receive His forgiveness and mercy.

*More than anything else in life, we need to see the Lord’s mercy.

*But then we need to be like Paul and Epaphroditus.

-Be willing to serve the Lord.

-Sympathize with other people.

-And sacrifice yourself for the cause of Jesus Christ.

*Let’s talk to God about it right now.

1. Holy Week series: “Seven Days that Changed the World” #2: “A Day of Tears and Anger” by Dr. W. Frank Harrington - April 1, 1996


3. Sources:

“Readers Digest - Personal Glimpses” Nov. 1996 - p. 112-113 (Found in Dynamic Preaching sermon “Have You Seen God’s Heart?” by King Duncan - Revelation 1:4b-8; John 18:33-37 - Nov. - Dec. 1997)

4. KERUX ILLUSTRATION COLLECTION - ID Number: 2687 - SOURCE: Leadership - TITLE: “The Practical Implications of Consecration” - AUTHOR: Darryl Bell, Maple Grove, Minnesota - DATE: 1984 Fall

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