(November 16, 2016) Brian Bell asks some challenging questions …
In the Old Testament there are many men and women whose names are well known and from whose experiences we are able to draw lessons of life and faith. The names of Abraham, Joseph and Ruth are examples of persons whose lives have often been studied.
The same can be said of New Testament characters among whom are numbered Peter, Stephen and of course Paul.
In Paul’s letters we find him naming people he has met, some like the well-known Barnabas and Timothy but he includes less well known persons from who we can take encouragement and be challenged.
One such person is Epaphroditus. This little meditation is taken from Paul’s letter to the Philippians 2: 25-27 (NLT). In verse 25 we learn of Epaphroditus’ characteristics. He was a …
This phrase speaks to me about relationship.
No doubt you will agree with me that the most important aspect of life, both family and in other areas is that of relationships.
Now we do not get to choose our family and even those relationships may not always be as smooth as we would wish!
However this short factual description used by Paul, the emphasis on the word ‘true’ enables us to ‘read between the lines’ and arrive at the conclusion that in Epaphroditus Paul found a person of significant character. How many people have known me and would they describe me as true or how many people have you known and could you describe them in this way?
This phrase with the emphasis on the word ‘faithful’ speaks to me about reliability.
A believer may be well educated, even talented. However a believer who is reliable need not have any specific educational attainment or talent to speak of but they will be worth knowing if work needs to be done because they can be counted upon to see it through.
When I examine my life, I would have to admit there have been times when I realise I may have been a disappointment to others – not because I set out to be so – perhaps because of lack of thought, commitment or immaturity I was not as faithful as I should have been.
Clearly this was not Paul’s experience of Epaphroditus. This challenges me to strive for a more consistent application of faithfulness in every area of life and faith.
This phrase emphasises the word ‘courageous’ and speaks to me about resilience.
You may have heard it said, courage is not the absence of fear it is going ahead despite it. In the context of these believers in the first century world dominated by the Roman Empire which even deified its emperors, there is no doubt they needed to be courageous – not easily thrown off track.
Those of us who live today in the relative peace and security of well-established nations may find we need resilience more to resist apathy and ease than direct persecution which some of our brothers and sisters in parts of the world still face. Can I say I’m a soldier of the cross and a courageous one?
This phrase speaks to me about resourcefulness.
The context of Paul’s words here tell us this is about much more than giving Sunday offering (a practice recognised by committed Christians and is a practical way to meet a specific church life need).
The emphasis in this phrase has to do with discerning general needs and, while there may be times it does involve a financial element, I believe it goes deeper and I wonder how I match up when it comes to discerning and helping with the needs of others.
This applies not simply to the disadvantaged or destitute whose needs may be more obvious to us, it includes the lonely, the fearful, the sick, the weak, the broken-hearted hurting people who may even be found in our church fellowships as well as outside the church.
Can I say I am like Epaphroditus and am I making any progress in discerning and meeting needs?
Challenge to all Christians!
You’ll notice that I’ve been challenging myself.
But there are challenges here to all of us, that when acted on others will be able to call us true brothers and sisters in the Lord, encouragers like Epaphroditus.
If like me, you find reading Paul’s commendation of Epaphroditus makes you realise you’ve got a way to go and you need to keep working at it rather than giving up, then I believe we are on the right track.
Incidentally, Epaphroditus means ‘devoted to.’ Whatever our known name means, may we be devoted to the same characteristics he was. May God the Holy Spirit help us become all we can be in him and through him.
Brian Bell attends Christ Church (Congregational) Abbots Cross, Northern Ireland and describes himself as ‘grateful for the privilege and opportunity given me to serve my Lord.’ Brian is also a volunteer with Disabled Christians Fellowship Ireland. Link: firstname.lastname@example.org