One of Ben Franklin’s many discoveries was that plaster sown in fields would make plants grow better. He shared this discovery with his neighbors only to be mocked. They argued that plaster would have no affect on grass or grain.
Not one who liked to argue Franklin let the matter drop and said no more about it. Early the next spring he did however go and planted some gain. Along a path which ran along his field, were he knew would be traveled by his neighbors he traced some letters with finger, he put plaster and then sowed seeds in the field.
After about a week or so the seeds began to sprout up. His neighbors were very much surprised to see, in brighter green then all the rest of the field the writing "This has been plastered". Ben Franklin did not need to argue any more with his neighbors about the benefits of plaster for the fields. For as the season went on and the grain grew, these bright green letters just rose up above all the rest until they were a kind of bas-relief in the field -- "This has been plastered".
I use this to illustrate the point that rather then argue what Mr. Franklin knew to be true, he simply proved his point by example. Because in reality that is the way people really tent to believe anything, through example. We may extol the virtues of being a Christian, we may argue the truth of the Christian faith until we are blue in the face, but if our example does not match up with our claims, no one is going to take us very seriously. We need to live are faith if we hope to win anyone to Christ.
Now last week we spoke of an example of a Christian that we could all follow and that was a man that Paul called his "son". Today I want us to look at another shall we say "ordinary" Christian by the name of Epaphroditus. Now like Timothy he was just like you and me. He was not an apostle in the sense that Paul was, he was not one of the original twelve, he was not even a Jew. Yet we can learn very much from his example.
Now till this point in the book of Philippians we have seen how Paul presents Jesus as the pattern which we should follow. He then tells us of the power and hows of following that pattern. Then we see in Timothy and the man Epaphroditus, that it is indeed possible to follow the pattern of Christ. We see that people just like us can make a great impact on others for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our passage today comes from page 1018 in your pew Bibles. We are once again in Philippians. We will be looking at chapter 2 verses 25-30. Reading starting with verse 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; since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. 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. Therefore I sent him the more eagerly, that when you see him again you may rejoice, and I may be less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem; 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."
Now here we have the only mention of this man in all of Scripture. And there are eight things which I would like to point out to that we can learn about this man Epaphroditus. As I stated earlier he was just an ordinary guy. Serving the Lord in his local church. And I am quite sure that it never entered his mind that people would be talking about him almost 2000 years later. Yet because of his service to the Lord, he we are talking of this man.
Now those eight things. First he was a spiritual leader of at the Church of Philippi. In our passage he is called "their messenger" which as we will see literally means, "apostle" thought not in the sense in which Paul was an apostle. Secondly, we can see that he was commissioned by the church to bring a gift to Paul. We will talk more on this later. Thirdly, while in Rome we see that he became very sick, almost to the point of death. The forth thing, his brothers and sisters in Christ had heard of his illness and had become concerned for his welfare. Number five, he in turn became alarmed at that concern, not wanting them to worry. The sixth thing we can see in our passage is that God through his abundant mercy restores his health. The seventh thing he wishes to return home to relief any fears they have concerning his health. And finally, Paul sends him back to Philippi, beseeching them to welcome him and show him honor.