One of the things that I love about the Bible is that if we examine it closely, it is rich with examples that are relevant to our daily lives and relationships. My recent study has been in Philippians, and something that jumped out at me was the story of Epaphroditus.
The church in Philippi sent Epaphroditus with a gift to help provide for Paul while he was in prison for sharing the gospel, and the plan was for Epaphroditus to stay to help and support him. Plans didn’t quite go as expected, as E got so sick that he almost died.
News had traveled of his illness, and everyone was concerned. Paul said that between his and E’s concern for the church, and the church’s concern for E, he was sending him home (even though he had recovered). But then he said,
So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.”Philippians 2:29, 30
How often do our plans go exactly the way we expect? How do we feel when we aren’t able to complete what we started, or do what other people expect? How often do we look at what other people accomplish, and measure us or them?
I think I’m guilty of judging by my idea of complete and successful, but Paul says not to. God’s standards may be different, and I don’t know what He knows.
What I do know is that if Epaphroditus had not returned to the church at Philippi instead of staying with Paul, we might not have this rich letter as part of the Bible to guide and encourage us in Christ. E intended to serve Paul, but his shortened mission served God’s purposes, and served so many more brothers in Christ than he would ever know. Paul said to honor people like him as heroes of the faith.
A few months ago, Revive Our Hearts interviewed Stephanie Wesco about her family’s journey to becoming missionaries to Camaroon in Africa. After years of building their family, and traveling to raise support to serve in Camaroon, they excitedly moved to their new home. They were only there for 12 days when Stephanie’s husband was hit by gunfire while driving, and he died. She and her eight children came home to the US.
While it seems like such a waste, Charle’s Wesco gave his life for the cause of Christ. It wasn’t what he thought it would be, but Stephanie shares how God had prepared him, and even honored his heart’s desire in the way he gave for Jesus. Looking back, she shared, their real ministry had been to the churches and families they had developed relationships with in preparation to go… they just had not realized that they were already sent.
If your heart aches with feeling like you are not accomplishing all that you have anticipated, or today is not what you wish it could be, be encouraged. I’m not talking about how you are BEING with Christ. I’m talking about what you are accomplishing. We can neglect relationship in pursuit of “doing” for the Lord. Do relationship first, and then following His lead becomes natural. Yet, understand that the big picture isn’t always what it looks like from here. What seems small to us can be huge in the grand scheme and in the life of another that we touch. Be faithful in all things, and trust God to use it. There is peace in this.
God honors this.
I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”Philippians 1:6
Photos curtesy of Pixabay.