25 I think it is also necessary to send Epaphroditus to you. He is my brother, coworker, and fellow soldier; and he is your representative who serves my needs. 26 He misses you all, and he was upset because you heard he was sick. 27 In fact, he was so sick that he nearly died. But God had mercy on him—and not just on him but also on me, because his death would have caused me great sorrow. 28 Therefore, I am sending him immediately so that when you see him again you can be glad and I won’t worry. 29 So welcome him in the Lord with great joy and show great respect for people like him. 30 He risked his life and almost died for the work of Christ, and he did this to make up for the help you couldn’t give me.
There are a lot of hidden costs to the life of discipleship. Sometimes our efforts go unnoticed. Sometimes, we expend more time, energy, and frustration than we expected. Sometimes, we pay a price we did not expect to pay.
Epaphroditus was a member of the church at Philippi who apparently carried a gift of support to Paul during his imprisonment (v. 30). Based on what we can glean from this passage, he stayed with Paul for some time beyond his arrival and assisted the apostle in his ministry, perhaps by copying letters or carrying out other tasks. And in the course of either his travels or this work, it seems that he became gravely ill – nearly to the point of death.
I wonder what Epaphroditus thought? Facing such circumstances, I might have wondered: what did I get myself into? Why did I agree to this? How could God let this happen to me?
There are certain costs of following Jesus that we expect to pay. For example, we know that we’ll have to learn things like humility, forgiveness, and control over our tempers. We know there will be a literal cost as we become more generous people and learn to part with some of our money. Everyone who follows Christ will have to learn these things.
But it’s the hidden costs and sacrifices we pay for the sake of the gospel that truly command my attention. I’m thinking of those who toil behind the scenes, putting in hours and hours of work for a church event without any public recognition whatsoever. I’m thinking of worship musicians who rehearse for hours in order to play a 10-minute set. I’m thinking of soup kitchen volunteers who come in before dawn to prepare a hot breakfast for dozens of hungry people. And I’m thinking of those who, like Epaphroditus, put their lives on the line for the sake of the gospel.
Truly these are worthy of “great respect.” When have you gone out of your way to show an Epaphroditus in your life this kind of respect?
By Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Can you think of someone you know who goes out of their way to live out their faith? Will you take a minute today to notice them and say, “thank you?”
Prayer: Lord Jesus, you have called us to follow you. Today, let us be willing to pay all the costs of discipleship – even the hidden ones that may seem like inconveniences, challenges, even hardships. As we serve, help us to know that we are not alone, but rather surrounded by countless others who offer themselves in ways we never even see. Amen.