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. 27 For indeed he was sick almost unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 Therefore I sent him the more eagerly, that when you see him again you may rejoice, and I may be less sorrowful. 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. NIV
Now this is not really an unknown guy since the Apostle Paul mentioned him twice in one letter, though Paul never wrote him his own letter like he did Timothy and Titus. Still you get the sense that Epaphroditus was quite a guy. Here is the backstory. Paul was imprisoned in Rome, and the church at Philippi wanted to send him a “care package.” Epaphroditus was the one who brought it to him. Instead of returning home, Epaphroditus stayed in Rome with Paul to help him in the work of the ministry while Paul was behind bars. Epaphroditus’ love for Christ and commitment to Paul caused him to go far above what he was initially asked to do. In fact in his labors he had become extremely sick; so sick it could have been fatal. But that did not deter him from his service to God. “Get through it and keep moving forward.” That was his mindset.
I don’t think they got “sick days” or “personal days” in the New Testament. Much different in our culture. It is pretty well known here in L.A. that “sick leave” usage spikes on the day of the Los Angeles Dodgers home opener of the baseball season. It’s called the “Dodger Blue Flu.” But here’s Epaphroditus who is so sick he could die, yet he’s not thinking, “I need some time off from ministry” – he’s still engaged. He’s not thinking about time off. He’s not thinking about himself. Even in his affliction he is thinking about serving the kingdom. In fact he is more concerned about the people who are worried about him than he is for himself. Pastor and author Warren Wiersbe writes, “Epaphroditus sacrificed himself with no thought of reward…”
Friend, that’s the heart of a truly selfless servant.
Is our faithfulness to serve God based on convenience, or whether there are more appealing options? Or is it simply based on the mindset that since Christ laid down his life for me, I lay down my life (which includes times of inconvenience or difficulty) for him and the sake of his kingdom? I certainly hope so. I believe we are all called to live lives much bigger than our own.
“How do we know if we have a servant’s heart?
By how we act when we are treated like one!”