Summary: If Paul’s and Epaphroditus’ experiences are any indication, fighting battles are a normal part of the Christian experience. You’re engaged in warfare today. The church is engaged in a fight today as we endeavor to take back enemy-held territory in people’
Opening Statement: One would think that God would make some special allowances for a man who dedicated his life to planting churches throughout the Mediterranean world. It only seems appropriate that God would have blessed this man with great health, the nicest of accommodations, a fantastic salary, and a popular position within the government. Satan should not have been allowed within a hundred miles of this guy. But it never happened. Instead, we read about a man in the New Testament who was beaten, ridiculed, imprisoned, shipwrecked, isolated, and afflicted by something he called “a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan.” Yet, his resolve never faltered and he finished fighting the good fight of faith. Perhaps, this is the reason that Peter Jennings, who was once asked whom he would like to interview among all the people in history, replied: “The Apostle Paul.” As you read through the book of Acts and the letters that he wrote, you can conclude that he had very little going for him, except for a couple of things. First, he had encountered the Resurrected Jesus and that stopped him dead in his tracks and forever changed his life’s path. Second, he did not have to do the work and fight the battles alone. God brought to him some devoted partners that stood by him in the worst of times and he is always referencing these partners in his letters. He does this in Philippians. In fact, one of the primary reasons that he wrote this book was to express appreciation for a man by the name of Epaphroditus, who suffered and endured many problem as well.
Transition: If Paul’s and Epaphroditus’ experiences are any indication, fighting battles are a normal part of the Christian experience. You’re engaged in warfare today. The church is engaged in a fight today as we endeavor to take back enemy-held territory in people’s lives. In addition, partnering with others in the fight is also a normal Christian experience. You are in a fight, but you don’t have to fight alone.
Background: A month ago, we began looking at something that I entitled Christianity in Action as it was embodied in a man by the name of Epaphroditus. Ep was a reputable and trustworthy man and he showed leadership potential. The church actually sent an offering to Paul via his hands to support Paul’s ministry efforts in Rome as well as to pay Epaphroditus’ salary to stay in Rome and be Paul’s assistant (4:14-19). Unfortunately, Epaphroditus had become physically ill after arriving in Rome. This news had gone back to Philippi. This caused Epaphroditus a lot of pain. He did not want the church to worry about his health and he wanted so much to fulfill his mission to Paul there in Rome. Paul, knowing all of this and needing to write them a letter anyway, decided to use this opportunity to send Epaphroditus back to Philippi with the letter as soon as he was well enough to travel. Paul knew what the Philippian believers had intended for Epaphroditus. For Epaphroditus, this whole affair could have been a potentially embarrassing situation. He had to return home without completing his term of service. To help ease this fear of embarrassment and to help answer any second-guessing on the part of the church in even sending Epaphroditus in the first place, Paul wrote a very glowing testimony for him, commending him for such incredible service.