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10/3/21- Philippians 2: 25-30 (NIV)- "Epaphroditus"

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Epaphroditus is the topic of discussion today. We’re going to look at the passage from Philippians today ascribed to him, discuss why he was so important, and the applications that we can make to our own lives today as we learn from the life that Epaphroditus lived.

I invite you to stand for the reading and hearing of God’s word this morning from Philippians 2: 25-30 (NIV)

25 But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. 26 For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. 28 Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. 29 So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, 30 because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.
You may be seated.

Who was Epaphroditus?

Epaphroditus was a fellow Christian missionary of St. Paul's and is mentioned only in Philippians 2:25 and 4:18.
Epaphroditus was the delegate of the Christian community at Philippi, sent with their gift to Paul during his first imprisonment at Rome or at Ephesus.[10] Paul, in 2:25, calls him "my brother and fellow-worker and fellow-soldier." "The three words are arranged in an ascending scale: common sympathy, common work, common danger and toil and suffering."[11] He is described as an authoritative delegate (messenger) but the word apostle (ἀπόστολος) is used in Philippians 2:25. He was sent also as minister (λειτουργός) to Paul's need (2:25), doing for Paul what the Philippian community was unable to do (2:30). The designation leitourgos derives from Greek civic use, indicating “public servant,” often one with financial resources to fulfill his functions, so Epaphroditus may have been not only an official of the Philippian church, but a person of means, able to supplement that community's gift to Paul (4:18).[12]
On his arrival, Epaphroditus devoted himself to "the work of Christ," both as Paul's attendant and as his assistant in missionary work. So assiduously did he labor that he lost his health, and in the words of Paul, "he was ill, and almost died." He recovered, however, and Paul sent him back to Philippi with this letter to quiet the alarm of his friends, who had heard of his serious illness. Paul besought for him that the church should receive him with joy and 'honour men like him'(2:29).

Notice something very important at work here: Epaphroditus was from Philippi and risked his life to bring help to Paul that the Philippians could not supply as it says in 2:30.

Another version of the Bible says of 2:30, that Epaphroditus was sent “To supply your lack of service toward me” - Not that they had been indifferent to him, or inattentive to his wants, for he does not mean to blame them; but they had not had an opportunity to send to his relief (see Philippians 4:10), and Epaphroditus therefore made a special journey to Rome on his account. He came and rendered to him the service which they could not do in person; and what the church would have done, if Paul had been among them, he performed in their name and on their behalf.
Epaphroditus was by definition a servant, which is a representative who performs duties for someone else . He was a representative of the Philippian people to Paul, and later, from Paul back to the Philippian people. He was a homegrown Philippian product who risked his life in order that the Kingdom of God might grow. He went freely and willingly without thought of his own health so that others could learn about Jesus.

Aristotle (born: 384 BC) once said: “the essence of life is to serve others and do good.”

You and I know that we need to take that a step further and to realize that we serve in order to build God’s Kingdom. Serving others and doing good is important, but the end goal is to connect them to Jesus.
I am reminded of the very familiar passage found in Joshua 24:15 which states, “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Who knows who the Times Person of the Year was in 2003? Answer: It was a US Soldier.
In making this determination, Times said, “In a year when it felt at times as if we had nothing in common anymore, we were united in this hope: that our men and women at arms might soon come safely home, because their job was done," Gibbs wrote. "They are the bright, sharp instrument of a blunt policy, and success or failure in a war unlike any in history ultimately rests with them."
We call our soldiers men and women “In the Service” for a reason. They serve without thought of themselves, ready to fulfill the mission and objectives given to them by a higher power. It may be messy. Life may get hard. But they continue to serve until the job is done and the mission for which they are placed into service is accomplished.
I was reminded of this all to important lesson of service when I had the chance to tour Gettysburg. If you’ve never been, you should go sometime. Take time to walk some of the fields. There are huge monuments strewn across wide open grass fields where the North and the South fought so hard for what they believed in. I was especially struck by this one tall granite sphere that said, “All of this regiment were wounded.” Wow. Every single service man went into battle with the expectation of taking the field. They were willing to give of their own lives in order to accomplish the mission. They left behind families and friends. They left behind the normalcy of every day life. And while some probably made it home, their lives were forever changed by what they experienced.

Epaphroditus knew his mission and he was willing to die for it, just like Paul.

As a reminder, Paul said in an earlier verse of Philippians, “To live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Epaphroditus was so locked in that his own health was secondary. The mission was like our current mission in the South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church… “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
In the early Methodist Church of America, God had some of the most awesome servants of all in Circuit Riders. They did their ministry on horseback. Circuit Riders. They would travel 200 to 500 mile routes on horseback. At times, they preached every day. Sometimes circuits were so large that it took six weeks to complete a cycle. Exhaustion, illness, animal attacks, and unfriendly encounters were constant threats.
Isaac Borg, a Circuit Rider, wrote in 1829, “While riding through the rain and dark, with no human being with me, my soul was comforted on the reflection of the omnipresence of my Saviour: I felt he was near to bless and preserve me”
Being a circuit rider was a difficult and often short life. Prior to 1847, nearly half of Methodist circuit riding preachers died before the age of 30. But their passion for saving souls was unprecedented, then and now.
We don’t face those risks, but I am with you that even today it takes a lot to step out and serve the Lord.

Like Epaphroditus, are you willing to serve the Lord whatever the risks?

Epaphroditus was a Philippian who was sent back by Paul to to his own hometown to share Jesus. He was a servant leader.
There are many Biblical examples of servant leaders including Moses, David, Paul and Jesus Christ. In the church, servant leaders are called to serve God and the people by leading their congregation and community for the glory of God- Yahweh, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
There is a saying churches that 20% of the people do 80% of the work. What would happen if we could reverse that trend? What would happen if 80% of people did 100% of the work? I can tell you what would happen! If the 20% continued to do what they do and 60% more jumped in, we could do exponentially more to bring people to Jesus every day! As it’s been said over the years, what would happen in this very room if each and every person here dragged… I mean invited and brought… someone to church with them next Sunday? We would double in a week!
In any church, it’s often easy to keep the same people doing the same things.

It is a challenge for the leadership to continually have an eye for empowering new leadership and for the flock to respond when needed.

How do we respond?
We can respond within the Church:
1) Leadership for 2022
-I will begin the process of calling many of you very shortly to serve in Leadership in the 2022 calendar year. I ask that you go ahead and pray about God’s will so that when I call, you can be ready to serve by saying an enthusiastic, “YES!”
2) Christmas Light Extravaganza
-we are looking for it to run each night beginning December 6 and running through December 23. December 24, we will conduct our Christmas Eve Service followed by turning the lights on. Then, we will continue to turn them on each night for a few nights beginning Christmas day. I hope we will offer the lights as well as opportunities for people to receive Coffee and Hot Chocolate and for the kids to take pictures with Santa on the front lawn of the Sanctuary. It will be a great opportunity to serve our community as we increase the visibility of White Bluff exponentially in Savannah.
-point: We are going to need many servants to jump in a to take at least one night. In Cairo, Ann Laurie Carlisle is famously quoted as saying, “Many hands make light work!” And she’s right! You don’t have to be Epaphroditus and risk your life, but I do ask that you serve where you can.
3) We are beginning the process of exploration into a fully licensed, all day preschool. There will be opportunities very shortly for you to say “yes” to using your talents in bringing in the youngest of ages and their parents into our church
4) Serve in the Savannah community:
-The Bridges of God and Donald McGavran
-point: there are certain bridges that only you can cross to family and friends. A servant of the Lord is willing to take inventory of those who don’t know Christ and to to do as Paul did when he said in 1 Corinthians 9:22, “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”

It all starts with a knowing Jesus yourself, intimately and personally, falling in love with Jesus just like you would a significant other.

To begin your relationship with Him today or to recommit your life to him, pray silently as I pray aloud this prayer, “Jesus you died upon the cross and rose again to save the lost. Forgive me now of all my sin, come by my Savior, Lord, and Friend. Change my life and make it new, and help me Lord to live for you.”
If you prayed that prayer today, all Heaven and all Earth rejoice. Now is the time for you to launch into the next chapter of your relationship as you read your Bible daily and pray. And, serve the Lord just like Epaphroditus!
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, AMEN!
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