Who are your good friends and how do you choose them? Yesterday I touched on a verse about Epaphroditus or “E”, today let’s look at him once more. As Paul was writing about his friend he also said this about him, “For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye heard he had been sick. . . because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.” (Phil.2:26, 30). Let’s hit a couple more touch points of a good friend.
No one who is truly dedicated to the Lord in his life will lack what Paul describes here first as embodied in the words “longed” and also “full of heaviness”. “E” was DEEPLY COMPASSIONATE. He couldnt help but be, he was a “brother” or saved but also a brother who was growing in his walk with God. These words reflect patterns in his life as opposed to mere passing concerns we may get when a tragedy comes to mind or we hear of an acquaintance who has contracted cancer. For “E” this was now a part of his makeup as his relationship with Christ was not perfect but right. The “full of heaviness” word in the original is in fact one of three words used for depression in the New Testament. It’s the strongest as it was also used to articulate to us the depth of Jesus’ sorrow at the Garden of Gethsemane as He wept over the prospect of the soon to come ultimate sacrifice on the cross and separation from the Father as He hung there paying for our sins ! What Paul is saying of his friend is that “E” deeply loved people because he deeply loved God ! Sometimes as we age we become jaded and cynical towards people because let’s face it, people can hurt us, they are sinners. What kept “E” from such human “hardening of the spiritual arteries” was his genuine passion for Christ.
Paul had a high respect for his pal “E”, he said, “receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness and hold such in reputation” (vs.29) but the next verse explains why, “because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death. . .” This man was TOTALLY SACRIFICIAL as he went beyond the normal call of duty and gave himself to the point of his physical limitations to serve the Lord and this meant serving the Philippians (his church flock) “. . .not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me” What words of high praise yet at the same time a scathing indictment of what the church folks should’ve been doing alongside of “E” in the ministry too. Not many in our culture know this type of work, sacrifice and commitment. Serving the Lord to many is what “I like, or want to do, what’s convenient for ME or MY schedule”. Some would look at “E’s” decision to serve to such a breaking point as foolish because after all you do need to take care of the body, its the temple of the Holy Spirit. While there is merit to that idea, I believe God does call us at times to serve with excruciating rigor (remember Gethsemane or how about Calvary?) and sadly but understandably we “work hard” at avoiding what maybe God may want us to accept and enjoy the fruits of ! The lump of coal becomes a diamond under intense pressure does it not? It seems as if “E” served so hard because it was something needing to be done and others weren’t willing to assist. It was more than one man should bear but perhaps they viewed “E” as having it all together so “we’ll let him handle it” when the load should’ve been shouldered TOGETHER ! Look around your church, isn’t it true a few tend to do most of the work? Could you shoulder more, or perhaps bring a younger Christian alongside and teach them to work on the project together rather than become like bitter Martha “Lord why arent you making her help?” When others are scurrying around to get what needs to be done finished are you sitting or are you pitching in?
So who are your best friends? HOW do you select them? Maybe I ought to ask, would “E” be your close friend? Are you becoming a friend that looks like Epaphroditus? You can by God’s enabling as each day you let Him have His way with YOU !!