Attitudes Toward Those Who Serve

25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me. (Philippians 2:25-30)

As we go to the last few verses of Philippians 2 this morning, I want to make several points that may seem unrelated, but I don’t think that they are. All of the points I will talk about are related in that they are simply attitudes that Christians should have toward one another in ministry and service, or that we should have toward one another as we serve together, or as others serve among us, and as we all serve the Lord Jesus Christ. Again, attitudes we should have toward one another as they serve, as we serve.

You may ask, “Why is this important?” Good question, if you are asking that. “Why is this important?” may be asked because some, some including you and me, may think that “I’ll just serve, and whatever attitude comes out, well it just comes out, it is what it is, that is my attitude, I’m just called to be obedient and am not really responsible for what attitude may be behind my obedience.” So we may try to reason, “I’ll just do what God says, and He will be gloriously pleased by my obedience, happy that I’m doing what He wants, so what I think or feel about that service is irrelevant.” We may think that at times.

I believe biblically that our attitudes do matter, they do matter regarding our serving other people, and even being served by other people in the name of Christ. For example, I think when God gave us Mark 12:30-31, it speaks not of doing out of duty, but of doing with all of our being, with all of who we are engaged in that doing. The passage says:

30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)

From that very familiar verse, notice how it is that we are to love God – “with all your heart,” “all your soul,” “all your mind,” and “all your strength.” In other words, with our whole being we are to love Him. With our heart, which could be described as the seat of emotion. Our soul, our innermost self. Our mind, which is how we think and process. With all of our strength, which is energy, effort, and determination. With every part of who I am, all that is in me, all that makes me up, with every part of me, my mind, my emotions, my desires, my energy – love God. That is much more than, “Well, I guess I’ll go serve or minister or do something kind and helpful for someone. Well, I guess I’ll just go do that because I must, I guess God wants me to so…here I go.” Do you see the difference in attitude there? Attitudes, the engagement of our inner self, even our emotions, they matter in how we serve God and serve others.

We may quote these verses often, they are well known to most of us, but we may not all remember the context of them. Jesus had been approached by a scribe, and the scribe asked a question. The question was: “which commandment is the most important of all.” Good question. Jesus’ answer is recorded in the passage we read:

30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)

What follows is what may not be as familiar to us. That is, the scribe’s response to Jesus’ response:

32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions. (Mark 12:32-34)

This scribe had some unusual insight, spiritual insight that most of his contemporaries seemed to lack. And Jesus’ response was something like, “Wow, you may be understanding what I’m trying to say, understanding truth. You may actually be getting it here.” Jesus said that this man answered wisely. And his answer had to do with, I think, the difference in acting simply out of duty and acting from the whole of the heart, soul, mind, and strength. I think distinctions were being drawn there that burnt offerings and giving of sacrifices were important under the old covenant, and they did show obedience to God’s law, but this thing about love was something that showed more than simple duty, but could show and demonstrate where a person really is with God.

What is the attitude associated with our obedience? What should it be? It’s never perfect, I get that. It’s never perfect, but what does it say about our relationship to God? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” This is really getting “into” love, obedience, serving, getting into this with all of who we are, not just with a dutiful attitude.

Jesus expresses this and the scribe got it, and Paul, Timothy, Epaphroditus, and the Philippian church demonstrate this very thing for us in Philippians 2. My hope and prayer is that we get it and demonstrate it among each other as well, as we serve here within our church. Here again is our passage for today, Philippians 2:28-30:

28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me. (Philippians 2:28-30)

So here are the attitudes I’d like for us to look at from our passage this morning. Here is what we see demonstrated for us:
1. A desire that one another have joy
2. A desire to honor those who serve well
3. Thankfulness toward those who serve in ways that we cannot serve

First, a desire that one another have joy – “I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious.”

Paul was sending Epaphroditus back to his church home in Philippi. He had been with Paul, and Paul was sending him back. Epaphroditus had been ill, near death, and the people who had sent him from Philippi were extremely concerned for his health. He was better now, he had recovered, and Paul thought it best to send him back to the church at Philippi so that they could do what? So that they could see him and rejoice at what God had done in his life.

Paul evidently was concerned over Epaphroditus’ illness as well, and how that had affected his friend. He was deeply concerned. They, the church, were troubled by this, and Paul wanted to ease their minds by seeing that Epaphroditus was okay. Paul knew they would be joyful over what God had done, and they being joyful would also give relief to Paul himself. They would be relieved by the witness of Epaphroditus and say, “Look how God has worked this out. God has taken care of everything. Here he is, rejoice with me in this. God has healed him, so let’s get that news out, let’s spread that! Look what God has done!” There are many things in life to be sad over, to be concerned about, but now this was not one of those things, so he can set things straight. I think that is where Paul is going with this.

There is a warmth among this circle of friends. And there should be, because they are all family, and they are all connected together in Christ. If we can be a part of bringing relief of mind to one of our brothers or sisters in Christ, we ought to do that. We can’t promise outcomes of future things, but if we know something, if we have some news that might help a brother or sister in Christ to rejoice, we should deliver that news. This takes being connected with one another, being in each other’s lives, knowing of each other’s concerns, helping them, pointing out what is true, or how to think through an issue biblically. This connection is so evident. Paul was simply relieved knowing that others will be relieved.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15)

How do you do that unless you’re connected with them? Unless you know them, unless you’re entering into peoples’ world, going with them, knowing others better so that we can more effectively understand how to bring relief to each other and leading them into a godly joy? Paul was concerned, but joyful, that his fellow saints would be joyful when they found that Epaphroditus was okay, and had been taken care of by God.

Secondly, a desire to honor those who serve well – “So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life”

Paul instructs the church on how to receive Epaphroditus. Epaphroditus had been faithful. He had served well under extreme pressures and conditions. He nearly lost his life in ministry. He was a man who gave, gave of himself. Perhaps he is a man we could think of when we think of an example as we read in Matthew 16.

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matthew 16:24-26)

Epaphroditus was not a man caught up in the comforts of the world, he was a soldier of the Lord.

3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. (2 Timothy 2:3-4)

Epaphroditus was not entangled in the things of the world, but was focused on God’s work. Paul says, “When you find men or women like this, honor them.” This honor is not simply a humanistic praise. Ultimately, honoring another person is honoring and being grateful to God, or respecting another because of their God-given position, or God-given ability to serve in particular ways.

Scripture says there are others we are to honor. We are to honor our parents, as God has appointed them as our parents for our nurture and our good. Husband are to honor their wives – 1 Peter 3:7 – honor the one, the most important person God has put in our lives. We’re even to honor one another, from Romans 12:10, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”

Why? It shows that we respect God, and those God has specifically put in our lives for our good. So to honor people is to be rooted in honoring God as the sovereign one who strategically places people in our lives. In other words, it is recognizing God as the one who is in control. In the case of Epaphroditus it is perhaps simply a recognition of and thanksgiving for his faithful service, his cooperation with the Lord in ministry.

I have heard first-hand some church leaders indicate that no one should ever be publicly thanked or recognized in a church setting, even for faithful service. I think that is a shame, I don’t think that’s a biblical way. When we see God at work in someone’s life, we ought to say so. It doesn’t have to be publicly, but we can rejoice in what God has done and accomplished through His people. We can give honor to one another as Paul urges the church in Philippi to do.

Lastly, thankfulness toward those who serve in ways that we cannot serve – “for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.”

The people in Philippi loved Paul, but the whole church could not go to Paul and minister to his needs. The church wanted to help Paul, but instead of complaining that they could not all go, they sent one, and this one was Epaphroditus. I want to point out the obvious here, and maybe point out what may not be our attitude regarding the obvious. What is obvious is that we cannot all go outside of our church and minister to everyone in the same way. We cannot all go to Joni and Friends family camp the first week of July this year and serve families afflicted with disabilities. We can’t all serve at Hope Resource Center in McKinney, ministering to young mothers who are trying to come to grips with an unexpected pregnancy. We can’t all go to Tulsa this summer, working with impoverished inner-city children. We can’t all adopt a child from a foreign land, or even locally for that matter, for the spread of the gospel. We can’t all go to Indonesia and serve among the native people there like David and Theresa Searcy do. We can’t all go to China and serve at an orphanage this year, or to Uganda and do the same, to help abandoned children.

Some can do the things I mentioned, and some will be doing those things, but some of us will never do any of those things, but will serve in other ways. That’s just an obvious point, isn’t it? We can’t all do everything, we aren’t called to do everything. The entire Philippian church could not all go to see Paul and minister to his needs. But one could go, and he did as one sent out from among them, representing them. Epaphroditus was a representative going out on behalf of his church, he was an extension of the church, doing what they all may want to do but they could not all do. The church worked out a way to make ministry happen, and they did so by sending Epaphroditus. 

What may not be our attitude regarding the obvious – that we cannot all go – might be the truth that when others go from among us, it is as if we all go. I just don’t know that we normally see it that way, that we’re a part of ministry even when we stay here. It is not just that “so and so” is going here or there, like it is just their thing, just going and doing what they are passionate about, but it should be more like that we are all passionate about that – even if someone else goes and we are unable to – that we are just as passionate about that ministry as the one who goes, that we are all involved in helping them get there, or praying for them while they’re there, or encouraging them while they prepare, while they go, and when they return. It can be and should be as if we are all in that effort together, no matter what it may be or where it may be. We minister on behalf of each other in the name of Christ.

I am in a most unusual position, I mean as a pastor of this church, one of the pastors of this church. And this is true for all pastors, not just unique for me. What is unusual – I mean unusual in that it is not true of the rest of you as church members – is that I get paid from the church to often times do what most of you cannot do on a regular basis. In a practical sense, you don’t have work time dedicated to ministry the way you have freed me up to do that. And so I get to, on your behalf, every day, minister in the lives of people in God-given, significant ways. And in a sense it is like what Epaphroditus was doing and what many of you do on short-term missions efforts, or even daily mission efforts here at home. I, you, we go out and serve, minister on behalf of one another for the sake of Christ and the gospel. But just because one goes does not mean it is his or her thing, it’s our thing. We are completing, at times, what may be lacking in what others are able to do. It’s a team, a family, joint ministry.

My only point is really that when we see others from among us ministering, we should be ecstatically rejoicing that they are being faithful and completing, so to speak, what maybe you or I cannot do in serving others in the name of Christ. Being excited to see other people serve, and encouraging them in that service. That we would be as excited about the next mission trip – those of us who stay here – as those who are going. Because they’re going out from among us, and we can be a part of that in a lot of different ways.

Attitudes regarding one another as fellow servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. What kind of attitudes should we have toward others who are serving Christ? A desire that each of us have joy, a desire to honor those who serve well, and thankfulness toward those who serve in ways that we are not able to serve.

28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me. (Philippians 2:28-30)