Epaphroditus: A Confident Plodder 8/29/99

Philippians 2:25-26

Jesus Christ said, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).

In an agricultural society this is better understood. A person plowing a field wants to have straight rows. However, if he keeps looking back he can see where he has been but can’t see where he is going and the row gets crooked quickly. The idea is full steam straight ahead for there to be progress. It is an appeal to make a valid decision and murder the alternatives. Go for it! Keep on keeping on.

A plodder is a person who persistently progresses in pursuit of a purpose. They set their objective and consistently pay the price to achieve their objective. Many of life’s most productive persons have been admirable plodders.

The most dramatic and popular iron man race in the world is the Hawaii Iron Man. Contestants swim 2.4 miles, ride a bike 112 miles, and run 26.2 miles. Thomas Hellgrin is a world class iron man contestant with a number of victories. In the Hawaii race he was a favorite. In the swimming he did extremely well, in the bike portion he floundered a bit. In the last segment as he set out on the 26 miles running his body reacted on him as never before. He slowed to a trot, finally a walk. Eventually had to be taken to an emergency station. Thereafter they made him stop at every medical check point to be sure he wasn’t risking his life. As he staggered the last miles of the race many of his friends and competitors passed him as he plodded along. Seeing his agony every one of them simply said, “Finish the course.” As one of the last competitors he crossed the finish line having finished the course.

Spiritually our Lord is pulling for you to stay the course and finish the course. Every Christian should be a living exhortation to every other one — FINISH THE COURSE.

NO failure is final until you accept it as such. There is no failure other than within. There is no failure except in no longer trying. Only passion with a purpose can elevate a person to great things.

When driven by a definite desire the body, mind, and will are focused and working together. They are plodding toward one objective. When your overarching desire is to please the Lord in all you do that colors all of life as tea in a bag permeates the whole cup.

In the evolving history of the American military there was a day when persons were given a rank depending upon how many men they enlisted. In the Black Hawk War a young man from Illinois was made a Captain in the army. One day he was drilling his men and they came to a gate in a fence. So inept was he that he didn’t know the command to give to cause the men to march through the gate single file. He simply commanded the company to halt, fall out, and reassemble on the other side of the gate. This young captain was so deficient they soon made him a private. BUT, he was a plodder. His name was Abraham. He knew many failures in life.

1832 he lost his job and failed in his race for state legislature.
1833 his newly founded business failed.
1834 he enjoyed the success of being elected to the Illinois legislature.
1836 he had a nervous breakdown.
1838 he was defeated as speaker.
1843 he was defeated in the nomination for Congress.
1846 he was elected to Congress.
1848 he lost his bid for reelection.
1854 he was defeated for U.S. Senate.
1856 he was defeated in his bid for Vice President.
1856 he was again defeated for the U.S. Senate.
1860 he, Abraham Lincoln, was elected President of the United States.
He was a plodder.

Journey with me now into the ranks of obscure Bible characters and let’s learn from a productive plodder. His name isn’t a household name: EPAPHRODITUS.

He was a trusted courier sent by the church in Philippi to share their financial support for Paul and encourage him.

EPAPHRODITUS would not have been Exhibit A of the prototype of a helper to be sent. However, we should rejoice that our Lord is accustomed to using unlikely people who are willing.

In the novel by Alexander Irvine entitled, “My Lady of the Chimney Corner” a lady went to comfort a neighbor whose child had died. Irvine writes of the moment:
“As gently as falls an autumn leaf, she laid her hand on Eliza’s head: ‘Ah, woman, God isn’t a printed book to be carried aroun’ by a man in fine clothes, nor a cross danglin’ at the watch chain of a priest. God takes the hand wherever he can find it, and just does what He likes with it. Sometimes He takes a Bishop’s hand and lays it on a child’s head in benediction, and then He takes the hand of a doctor to relieve pain, the hand of a mother to guide a child, and sometimes He takes the hand of a poor old man like me to give comfort to a neighbor. But they’re all hands touched by His Spirit, and His Spirit is everywhere lukin’ for hands to use.’”

Plodders like EPAPHRODITUS make their hands available and the world stands amazed at their use. Four fabulous compliments are paid this man in one brief statement.

The meaning of this expression is they shared a spiritual life. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).

Spiritual life requires a new birth. Jesus stated it three times when the inquiring Nicodemus probed Him: “You must be born again…”

When two persons trust Christ as Savior they both become the children of God. They have the same Heavenly Father. That means they are brother or sisters in Christ. This is blood kin that last beyond this earthly life.

The Gospel of John uses an expression repetitiously that explains how this process begins. “Believe in His name.” In the Gospel of John the word “believe” is always used to emphasize an activity, something to be done. The New English Bible translation of this verse makes it clear what is to be done: “To those who yield to Him their allegiance, he gave the right to become the child of God” (John 1: 12).

You can drive to heaven in a go-cart easier than you can get to heaven without believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. It would be easier to put the North Georgia mountains in an aspirin box, easier to put the Pacific Ocean in a Coke bottle than to get to heaven without believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.

John makes it clear how this process of new birth is accomplished.

It is “not of blood,” that is, it is not of GENERATION. It isn’t inherited as a result of being born of Christian parents.

It is “not of the will of the flesh,” that is, it is not of REFORMATION. It isn’t by simply gritting your teeth and determining to change your nature by reforming your habits.

It is “not of the will of man,” that is, it is not of CONFIRMATION. Man-centered planning can achieve it.

It is “of God,” that is, it is by REGENERATION. When we yield our allegiance to Jesus Christ God the Father adopts us as His born again children.

Epaphroditus was a —

The word “fellow” translates the Greek SYNERGON. In that word can be heard our word synergy which means to work together.

The church always needs additional workers. I am reminded of the pastor who said he spent most of the week looking for a teacher for the “Willing Workers” Sunday School class.

We can learn much from the world of sports. In sports a team isn’t successful unless it has a unified vision. It doesn’t matter how talented the members of a team are they don’t win championships if they have different agendas.

These two are examples of all who share in the dangers involved in standing for Jesus Christ. Biblically we are warned we are in spiritual warfare.

To be spiritually victorious we must have a warrior mentality.

Of all the secret intelligence forces of the cold war the most effective was the East German STASI.

They had a technique for cultivating and recruiting traitors who would become undercover agents for them within our military. They used an acrostic for the four things used to recruit American spies: MICE. How do you catch a mouse?

The devil uses the same things to cause spiritual defectors.
M oney.
I deology
C ompromize
E go

MONEY is still a primary cause for persons defecting. “The love of money is the root of all evil.”

The East Germans believed they could recruit almost any person in our military by offering them only two to three times their annual salary. People still abandon their allegiance to Christ in efforts to get rich quick.

Put a “NOT FOR SALE” sign in the yard of your will.

IDEOLOGY contrary to Scripture dupes some into defection. Humanism, secularism, pluralism, pantheism, and materialism are ideological dark holes into which many are pulled. There is a critical point at which many

Christians stumble. As a child, say ten years of age, they gave Christianity a reading. They were very mature spiritually for a ten year old. Thank God for those who are.

However, along the way they quit reading and studying the meaning of Scripture. The one day as a young adult they pick up a book containing concepts contrary to Scripture. Perhaps it is even occult material. They give this false teaching a mature young adult reading and try to counter it with their ten year old reading of Christianity. In most instances a ten year old reading of Christianity isn’t mature enough to answer the adult reading of false doctrine. All of life though give Christianity a contemporary reading. Keep maturing in your faith. Plod through the desert of dry doctrine to get to the oasis of refreshing and inspiring truth. Remembering all along the doctrine is essential territory to be traversed to truly appreciate the inspirational.

COMPROMISE is a slow and subtle slide away for Christ. It is here those recruiting counter intelligence agents use sex and blackmail to induce persons to forsake their allegiance.

EGO plays a large part. A person who feels under-appreciated, unrecognized, or underpaid seeks acceptance and approval. It is for that reason we must embrace one another.

In talking with persons who have left churches to join a cult they have one thing in common. It is not the ideology of the cult that attracts them. They say of their new support group they accepted me, they treated me like I was somebody, they made me feel welcomed. That is what the church is to do.

Every person has an ego. It is the gift of God. Individuals must control their own ego. We should by common grace and spontaneous love help satisfy that ego.

Epaphroditus was —

This plodder made the perilous journey from Philippi to bring a message to Paul. He boldly identified with Paul, a man imprisoned for his belief.

Jesus Christ was a MESSENGER who became a MAN.
Epaphroditus was a MAN who became a MESSENGER.

We are each messengers of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are His couriers to convey to the world the good news of His love.

There is an old film entitled, “Missionary to Walkers Garage.” It is the story of a mechanic who was converted and dedicated his profession to the Lord. It is a thrilling account of how the Lord used the mechanic to influence others for Christ. How about your biography? Might it be entitled, “Missionary to ….” where ever you live, go to school, or work.

There are no easy mission posts. Some persons unwisely consider the pastorate a shelter from life’s problems. No pastorate is. My first one is typical in many regards. Most churches have a sign out front and on it written the pastor’s name. My first church was on a dirt road just off a gravel road. On the sign out front was written my name. I was so proud until I noticed it was written in chalk. The chairman of the deacons sat on the front row each Sunday playing with the eraser.

Epaphroditus was —

In faithfully leaving his beloved friends and familiar home to go to Paul in Rome Epaphroditus became very ill. In risking his life for Christ he nearly died (Vs. 30).

Epaphroditus was faithfully serving the Lord and suffering. There is a non-Biblical principle being advocated by some ministers today. In summary it is called atonement healing. The concept is that if you are free of sin and serving the Lord you won’t be sick.

Epaphroditus was 800 miles from home, a six weeks trip, serving the Lord and sick. Paul didn’t heal him. His suffering was a witness to the faithfulness of God even in our weakness. Often He doesn’t deliver us in order to develop us.

Epaphroditus should be an encouragement to the many dear Christians who will never enjoy full health, total relief from pain, and a dynamic lifestyle. They are worthy of commendation for bearing witness of the enabling grace of God.

He had more regard for Christ’s mission than his own life. He kept plodding along under the gaze of death itself.

One lovely young furloughing missionary said when you are working among the deprived of third world countries you forget about yourself. It is no longer important how I look in this, how much money I have in the bank or when can I next go shopping. Those things have their place but it isn’t first place.

Co-plodders, be faithful, finish the course.

Knowing that EPAPHRODITUS was sent by the church in Philippi to be Paul’s servant there would be questions about him returning home. Because he nearly died Paul thought it appropriate to send him home. The description given of him in our text is noble. A “brother, fellow worker, and fellow solider, and messenger” are titles conferred on him. Of such a valiant one a message of commendation is appropriate. The church was exhorted to welcome home such a courageous servant of the Lord.

Let’s aspire to live as plodders so some day there will be a commendation awaiting us when our Lord welcomes us home.