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Taking Risks for Christ
Living examples: Epaphroditus–part 3, Philippians 2:25-30
Are you a risk taker? Risk is the potential of gaining or losing something of value, or the intentional interaction with uncertainty. Are you a risk taker? You’ve read the slogans–“When we stop taking risks, we stop living life” . . . “Take a risk, make a mistake, learn something new” . . . “Take risks–if you win you will be happy, if you lose you will be wise.”
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Jimmy Carter said, “Go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is.” Mario Andretti said, “If things seem under control, you are just not going fast enough.” Wayne Gretzky said, “You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Risk takers change the world and risk takers impact others for Christ.
Some of you are saying, “What a minute, godly people don’t take risks!” Au contraire, my friend–John Piper writes this, “Is taking risks unwise and unloving? Maybe. But maybe not. What if the circumstances are such that not taking a risk will result in loss and injury? It may not be wise to play it safe. And what if a successful risk would bring great benefit to many people and its failure would bring harm only to yourself? It may not be loving to choose the comfort of security when something great may be achieved for the cause of God and for the good of others.”
Let me ask you–what if Esther had not risked her life to come before King Ahasuerus? What if Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had not risked telling king Nebuchadnezzar, “No matter what, we will not bow down to your golden statue?” What if Paul had not risked going to Jerusalem, though he was told he’d be arrested; then delayed, shipwrecked and finally under house arrest in Rome? There would have been no letter to the Philippians, which we’re studying today.
Open your Bibles to Philippians 2 and follow in your outline. Taking risks is part of living by faith. Taking risks is what impacts others for Christ. Today, let me introduce you to a Christian, a layman, a regular dude who took great risks for Christ. He is found in Philippians 2:25 to 30 and the name of this living example is Epaphroditus.
Epaphroditus models a worthy walk by taking risks for Christ. The church at Philippi is being persecuted by Romans, under doctrinal attack by legalists, and being eaten up with division in the church family. So Paul charges them to walk worthy of the Gospel. What a worthy walk looks like involves walking obediently (verse 12), dependently upon a sovereign God (verse 13), guarding your mouth (verse 14), living holy in order to be a witness (verse 15) and depending on the living Word of God to transform lives (verse 16).
After that description, the temptation would be for any sane believer to say, “No way–no one can live like that.” But Paul does something brilliant. He gives us three living examples of men who walk worthy. First Paul uses himself in verses 17 to 18. Second, the young, flawed Timothy in verses 19 to 24. Finally today, the third living example of a worthy walk, Epaphroditus in verses 25 to 30.
Epap was not an apostle like Paul, nor an apostolic assistant like Timothy. We don’t know anything about his family, background, conversion, service to the churches or even how long he’d been a believer. But we do know he took risks for Christ. Epaphroditus was sent by the Philippians to Rome to bring finances to Paul and to minister to Paul in any way.
While engaged in getting to Rome and serving Paul, Epap became dangerously ill. His friends in Philippi heard about his illness and became alarmed. In turn, Epap learns about their concern over him. God graciously restores Epap’s health and he desires to return to the church which sent him, in order to allay their fears over his health. And Paul in complete agreement sends Epap back to Philippi, calling them to give Epap an appropriate welcome home.
Epap is most likely the one who carries the letter you are looking at in your Bible (Philippians) back home to Philippi. Epaphroditus is a Greek–his name means belonging to or favored by Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, whom the Romans called Venus. His name was common and later came to mean loving or lovely. Because the Philippians chose Epaphroditus to bring their gift to Paul, this church family obviously held Epap in high regard and trusted him.
He may or may not have held a high position in the church of Philippi, but they were convinced he was a man of integrity who could minister to Paul and with Paul. And Epaphroditus became a lot more as a risk taker. He is a living example of the layman walking worthy. We need models to follow. We need living examples–people are influenced more by example over exhortation. For sixteen verses Paul wrote principle–now in verses 17 to 30 Paul gives practice.
Read what Paul wrote about this risk taker in verses 25 to 30, “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; 26 because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. 27 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. 28 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. 29 Receive him then in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard; 30 because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me.”
This is like listening to a testimony. How can you live for Christ as a layperson? Epap is a model man. Not a macho man, not a pretender, not an indifferent millennial, not a gender blender in skinny jeans, nor a Peter Pan man looking for Never Never Land, but a risk taking model godly man.
#1 The RESUME of a risk taker
Verse 25, “But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus.” Epaphroditus is a man of courage–he was willing to go to Rome while Paul was still in prison. If Paul had been confirmed as guilty, then guilt by association, so would Epaphroditus. Now Epaphroditus is better, Paul will send him back to Philippi.
Paul says it’s necessary, compulsory, unavoidable–I have to get him back to you. But it will be costly for me to send Epap back–why? Epap is valuable, impactful and personally encouraging. Read verse 25b, “He is my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need.” Wow–Epaphroditus is . . .
Whoa! Epap is a spiritual brother in the Lord, a fellow-child of God. He’s family. More than being a fellow-Christian, Epap and Paul had become brothers in the sense of having a profound personal affection for each other. They had developed an abiding friendship and camaraderie as they served the Lord together.
Epap is family. There are many people who attend FBC who are family. Not because I know them, but because they’re so interconnected to others in ministry, in relationships, in discipleship, in serving, giving, caring–everyone knows who they are. I call them, like Paul calls Epaphroditus, my brothers and sisters.
Sometimes men are so wrapped up they have no time for Christ. A man who is all wrapped up in himself is not a daddy–he’s a mummy! All wrapped up? I waited all morning for that. Epaphroditus is a brother–he’s family. And next he’s . . .
Fellow-worker emphasizes their common spiritual labors. Fellow-worker is a term almost totally unique to the Apostle Paul. Used thirteen times in the New Testament, all but one are used by Paul. When he uses fellow-worker, it has the idea of affectionate partnership. Fellow-worker describes labor, service, energy, deeds, actions and achievements for Christ.
But only as we function together in ministry are we fellow-workers. Epap is a fellow-laborer for Christ.
He is a participant, not a spectator. Epaphroditus is actually walking, not merely watching. He is laboring, not merely listening. He is active, not merely attending. This risk taker doesn’t make excuses, he trusts God to make the time and jumps into ministry. Epap is a fellow-worker. Epap is also a . . .
When you came to Christ, you became an enemy of the devil. Fellow-soldier speaks of joint struggles against a common spiritual enemy. The Greek compound word here means soldier with, describing a person who serves in the same army as another, focusing on the trust and friendship which develops between soldiers in battle. Epaphroditus and Paul are fighting the enemy together. Epap was in the trenches with Paul, defending, protecting and supporting him, because ministry is a battle. As a soldier, neither of them float–they fight. If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything. As a fellow-soldier, Epaphroditus was a man of conviction.
To make a difference for Christ in this world, you must become a man of conviction–a man who can’t be bought. Beliefs are truths you hold, convictions are truths which hold you. And men of conviction cannot be bought at any price. They say, “This is right, this is wrong–and as for me and my house, we are going to follow Christ.”
They are men of consistency who put character before conformity. They’re not wishy-washy. They’re committed to the Scripture–the Bible forms their values. Listen men, if you dabble, if you float, if you’re half-committed to anything, you are committed to nothing. Proverbs 10:9, “He who walks in integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will be found out.” Epap was a fighter. Next in verse 25, Epap is . . .
FAITHFUL–verse 25, “who is also your messenger”
Epap is your messenger–what? Paul says to the Philippians, Epap is yours. He came from you to me as an apostolos. This term describes two kinds of people in the New Testament. First, the highest position a human being can hold–an apostle, the men who’d seen the risen Christ and were directly chosen by Christ. And the second use of apostle is special messengers, who were chosen and sent by churches–that’s Epap.
Epap is a willing and faithful messenger from Philippi who came to bring support and minister to Paul. Epaphroditus was faithful to travel from Philippi to Rome–an 800-mile, typically six-week trip. A month-and-a-half to get there, deliver their support, then do whatever was necessary to serve Paul and the work of Christ. Then travel back another 800 miles for six weeks. Epaphroditus didn’t quit, he didn’t give up, he didn’t stop, he didn’t call in sick, he didn’t forsake his responsibilities–even when it meant he might die. Epap was faithful. Plus he ended up becoming a . . .
FRIEND–end of verse 25, “minister to my need”
Epap went over and above. We know this because the word ministry is unique–the Greek word gives us the English word liturgy. This Greek word ministry was used by the Greeks to describe a public official who was so passionately dedicated to his duties, he discharged his duties at his own expense. As a result, this man was highly respected and honored by his fellow-citizens.
This was Epap. He might have traveled from Philippi on his own dime. Then, when he delivers the financial gift, the shock to Paul is Epap is more than a delivery boy. He becomes a useful servant–so much so, Epap himself became the most valuable gift he brought to Rome. Better than support money was the person Epap himself. And as he gave himself to serve Paul, he and Paul became friends. They worked together.
If you have a heart to do great things for Christ, it will be as you learn how to work with other men. There is tremendous power in unity. This risk taker has an impressive resume and Epaphroditus is also an amazing . . .
#2 The EXAMPLE of a risk taker Verses 26 to 28
Epap made tough choices, which turned him into a model to follow. How?
First Epaphroditus practiced SELFLESS HUMILITY
In verses 26 and 27, Epap was distressed about the Philippians hearing he was sick, “because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. 27 For indeed he was sick to the point of death.”
He was not tired of serving Paul, nor was he homesick. He was not concerned about his own welfare–no, he was longing for the Philippians because he was distressed. He was emotionally anguished. His heart ached. Why? He learned the Philippians had heard he was sick and were really worried about their messenger, Epap.
Do you see his heart here? Epap wasn’t concerned about his near-death illness. Wow! “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” No, Epap was distressed over their distress about his sickness. How sick was Epap? When it says in verse 26, “he was sick,” it comes from the negative “a”, plus the word “strength”, meaning literally without strength. Sick is the same Greek word used to describe the diseases supernaturally cured by Jesus’ healing ministry, like Luke 4:40, “While the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and laying His hands on each one of them, He was healing them.”
The Philippians had good reason to be worried about Epap’s health, because verse 27, “He was sick to the point of death.” Are you glad Christ died for you? Are you willing to die for Him? Would you ever put yourself in a situation where you might die in the process of serving Christ? Epaphroditus did. This willingness is the expectation of every real Christian. Mark 8:35, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Are you willing to die for Christ?
God is looking for Christians of commitment. Men and women who put a cause of Christ before comfort. Paul uses Epaphroditus as an example of this—“He is your messenger whom you sent to take care of my needs. And in this task, he almost died.” Paul is under house arrest in Rome and the believers in Philippi collect an offering to help Paul with his ministry. Epaphroditus says, “I’ll take the offering.”
Eight hundred miles and six weeks later–on the way or after he arrived, he caught a disease or infection. It was deadly–he nearly died. This word sick in verses 26 and 27 is the same sick to describe Lazarus’s illness. This is not a runny nose or a post-nasal drip. He is major sick. Have you ever gotten sick while you were on a trip? You know how miserable that is? There’s no hospital, no clinics, no drug store. He’s away from home, but Epaphroditus is persistent in spite of his pain.
He says, “I have a job to do and I’m going to get it done. I don’t care how I feel. The cause of Christ comes before comfort.” Some people are great starters. They say, “Yea, I’ll go,” but they never show—they never finish. They quit ministry because it becomes inconvenient or expensive or uncomfortable or requires effort.
The fact is, ministry always costs. There is always a price tag. God is looking for men who put the cause of Christ before comfort. Men, today–kill your passivity, take responsibility and live courageously for God’s approval, not man’s. Epap was a man of action, who put the cause of Christ before personal comfort. This made . . .
Second Epaphroditus was an important SERVANT to Paul
Epaphroditus got well, which ministered to Paul in verse 27b, “But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow.” Although Paul exercised the apostolic gift of healing early in his ministry like in Acts 19:11 to 12, he didn’t use it to heal Epap. Perhaps that initial apostolic era where the sign gifts were active was now over at this point.
Even a few years later, Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 4:20b, “Trophimus I left sick at Miletus.” Even with the amazing apostle Paul, the gift of healing was used in a limited manner. But when God spares a believer from death, it is always a reflection of God’s mercy, because “the wages of sin is death” and every human being is a sinner who must die.
When people desired Christ to heal them in the gospels, they asked for mercy. “Jesus, master have mercy on us” (Luke 17:3). Our God still heals, not through healers–but every time God heals, it is always a testimony of mercy. God had mercy on Epaphroditus, causing him to get well and God had mercy on Paul who loved this fellow-worker.
Verse 28, “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.” The Philippians had not asked Epap be sent home, but their happiness in having him back would bring Paul relief and joy to them. Epaphroditus is a man of character, seen from his, #1 Resume, and he is also a #2 Living Example of a worthy walk. But Paul also shows us, Epap is a risk taker.
#3 The DRIVE of a risk taker Verses 29 to 30
Paul commands the Philippians to receive and respect Epaphroditus as he returns–there are two commands in verse 29, “Receive him then in the Lord with all joy and hold men like him in high regard.” Receiving Epap back means to gladly accept him back. By using the Greek words he does, Paul is telling the Philippians to receive him back the way Jesus receives sinners.
Why? Because of the gamble of Epaphroditus–read verse 30, “because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life.” Epaphroditus came close to death for the work of Christ. Here is a man of courage. God is looking for men of courage–men who put service before security.
Today we speak service, but we value comfort. The whole goal in life is to become secure. “I want to be financially independent.” God is looking for men who have courage, who are willing to risk for the Kingdom of God and who are willing to serve God with reckless abandonment. Look at verse 30, “because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life.”
Circle the word “risking”–the Greek word literally means “hazarding his life.” It is a gambling term, meaning to stake everything you’ve got on a dice roll–that’s what it’s saying. Epaphroditus was God’s gambler. He gambled everything for the Gospel. He risked his life and almost died for the work of Christ. With total disregard for his own welfare, he continually put his life on the line for Christ.
A good risk is one which is biblical, Spirit-filled, confirmed by the church and for God’s glory. You and I must put a stop to wimpy Christianity. Wimp faith has no goals, no purposes, no challenges, no ministry adventure, no “let’s saturate this community with the Gospel”, no “let’s plant FBC ten churches in this region, no “let’s train twenty international pastors in the next ten years.”
Christianity has lost its teeth. Christianity for many is simply a series of meetings and events, a little fellowship, a little coffee, and we’re good to go. There’s no risk, no challenge, no commitment, no courage and no cause–nothing encouraging you to be all that God wants you to be. In contrast to most Christians, many of you are committed to the cause of Christ–faithful to the ministry of the Word, supporting our missionaries, training men, investing into international pastors, giving to our future campus on Clinton Keith and the 15, to discipling men or women and being trained for ministry in the TC.
There are those of you ministering to men and women, to new visitors, reaching out to the needy, to the jail, ushering, investing into the next generation and so much more. I’m so thankful for our faithful FBC family. But not all of you are committed to the cause. And today is the day for you to step up and risk. Epap was willing to gamble his life for the cause of Christ. What are you willing to gamble? Verse 30, “risking his life.”
Soon after New Testament times, a group of Christians banded together in an association they called “the gamblers”. Taking Epaphroditus as their model, they visited prisoners and ministered to the sick, especially those with dangerous diseases whom no one else would help. And they boldly proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ wherever they went.
The father of modern missions, William Carey, said, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” Are you serving when you don’t think you have time, giving when you know it will cost you, loving when you don’t have it in you? Not only did Epap inspire others with his willingness to risk, he also finished his goal, what he was sent to do. Verse 30b, “to complete what was deficient in your service to me.”
Do you know what Paul is saying here? This is so cool. Paul is telling the Philippians this–your help given to me is deeply appreciated. If there was anything lacking in your kindness to me, you have certainly made up for it by sending me this wonderful brother, warrior and servant, Epaphroditus.
1 Risk becoming FAMILY
Like an organ is to the body–get involved enough to be known. Get connected enough to be vital to the body. Be a functioning member of the family of God. Join a ministry.
2 Risk stepping up your COMMITMENT
Be willing to put the cause of Christ before comfort. God is looking for believers who are willing to risk for the Kingdom of God and serve God with reckless abandonment. Choose to serve over security.
Speaking of giving, of late I have mentioned it but have not clarified our situation clearly. For years we tried to build out an existing facility. Now we own an awesome piece of property all paid for, off Clinton Keith and the I-15. We’re now seeking to build on it–waiting longer has no advantage for us.
At FBC, we’ve done things differently. There has been no campaign, no thermometer, no external pressure–merely trust in Christ to provide through his people, you. Thus far, apart from a few special offerings, the land and prep work has all been paid for by everything over and above our regular giving. All giving over our regular budget goes to the building. Our elders have been good stewards.
We have also sought to communicate clearly, but of late I have failed–so allow me to clarify today. Right now is the time to step up your giving. We are now, right now, at a crucial juncture. The bank will be looking at our monthly giving to determine how much we can borrow, which determines what we can build.
We are not designing the Taj. My favorite phrase is “maximum bulk, minimum price”–not Downton Abbey, but it will be nice. Not the Opera House, but a place which would give us more seating and more parking to allow us to grow, but not crazy. I even have an old Christian friend, the president of a lighting company, who is considering doing all our fixtures and lights as a ministry. We are seeking to build a base to reach this region, along with getting out from obligation to our government.
Because we own 24 acres and it is not flat, but hilly with a fault line, we first must invest money into prepping the land. We’re currently working with the city and very soon, determining the land then building. Yet our giving is not quite sufficient to build the minimum livable, workable facility. Our regular monthly giving is close, but it’s not there.
So this AM, I’m asking you to be Epaps (Epaphrodituses). If every single and family gave $20 more per week, $50 more, $100 more or more, we’ll get there. Right now–not next year. Right now–we need you to act right now. Be an Epap right now. Some of you don’t give. Some give a little, whatever is extra–no sacrifice, no risk, no commitment, no eternal investment.
It’s time for you to make a difference for Christ–like Epap, to invest your life in this process of advancing Christ’s purposes. Do not put your hope in Trump, put your hope in Christ. You know what we’re all about–teaching the Word as written, training laymen in ministry, investing into international pastors, discipling each other, impacting churches to be training men, caring for people, planting churches here and around the world.
The Lord has led us here and we continue to follow Him. Give to that purpose. This is not about money, legacy, a memorial, or thinking we’re all that—no, it is about giving to cooperate with what Christ has been and is doing. Our goal is for everyone who can give to now give to this project. Faithfully and sacrificially, weekly, over what you have been giving–$20 more, $50 more, $100 more per week. It is crucial right now. We need our giving to be elevated right now in order for us to build the building. We are right now on the edge–and the more you give now, the more we can do. Better parking, better kids’ classes.
Be an Epaphroditus. Risk for His purposes. Let’s get on the property in three years and let’s get the next season of FBC started. Believe me when I say, how you respond to what I am saying in the next weeks and months will determine our future. We need every single and family to respond in some measure.
3 Risk pursuing your DREAM for Christ
Ephesians 2:10, God has already prepared good works for you. Discover your gifts, pursue your passion for Christ. Share with others your dream for Christ’s Kingdom.
4 Don’t risk your SALVATION
The Bible says, “Test yourself to see if you are in the faith.” And the test is not to pray a prayer, make a decision, go to church, start to live moral–no, is Christ in you? Let’s pray.