In the last half of Philippians 2 there are such wonderful examples of connections of love and friendship. Paul’s love is so evident in his joy in pouring himself out for them, and his high recommendation of Timothy speaks of his regard for both Timothy and the Philippians in sending to them someone he trusts so much. He writes the most about Epaphroditus, and in this description we see those strong ties of love interconnecting Paul, the Philippians and Epaphroditus. Their mutual care, regard and willingness to give of themselves to each other is a sterling picture of the way ministry should be in the church.
But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need; because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I have sent him all the more eagerly so that when you see him again you may rejoice and I may be less concerned about you. Receive him then in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard; because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me.
Epaphroditus was willing to risk his life to serve Paul, and even in his own illness he was concerned not for himself, but distressed for the Philippians. Connections of love mean connections of care for each another. When we disconnect ministry and service from love for our brothers and sisters, then it is no longer ministry. From our love for Christ should flow our love for each other, and out of love for each other, concern for the welfare of each other. Just prior to this example of the Philippians and Epaphroditus, there are these sad words of Paul’s about why he is sending Timothy to them:
But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father. Therefore I hope to send him immediately, as soon as I see how things go with me; and I trust in the Lord that I myself also will be coming shortly.
These words parallel his earlier command in verse four that they not look out only for their own interests, but also for the interests of others. What a stark contrast Paul must have been experiencing in Rome compared to what he had known amongst the Philippians.
I also noticed that their service of love was marked by joy. Paul rejoiced to pour himself out for the Philippians, and urged them to do the same. He told them to receive Epaphroditus with joy because of his service to Paul. The help they gave to each other wasn’t marked by a grim attitude, but by a love so great it was a joy to give.
You may be amongst the Philippians or you may feel as if you’re living in the loneliness of Rome. Serve as you can, with love and joy, and ask God even in the midst of your Rome to send a faithful Timothy and Epaphroditus to help you. I’ve know a number of years in Rome, myself. One of the ways God has sent friends to help me has been through Christian friends I’ve made online. A friend on Facebook posted the following end of the year message:
Please Copy and Paste if you have enjoyed the blessing of meeting people online that you never would have met any other way. This is my end of the year shout-out to the many “friends” I have never been in the same room with but who have inspired, amused, comforted, encouraged, and touched me in so many ways. I love you! Here’s to another year together.
My online friends have ministered to me and helped me so much this past year. I am grateful to them and grateful to God for sending them into my life. Someday we will meet face to face and we will share our joy together. Until then, thank you.
Remember, work where you are, through the gifts and the means God gives you, so that we can help one another live not in Rome, but in Philippi.
Original content: Copyright ©2010–2012 Iwana Carpenter