Thanks for being an encourager!
“Hmmm…that’s strange.” Those were his first words to me when I said thanks: “hmmm…that’s strange.”
After laughing at his response, he told me, “I just don’t think of myself as an encourager.” He just wanted to pass on to me what was given to him: encouragement in difficult times.
Based on Philippians 2:25-30, I call this “unintentional encouragement” the “Epaphroditus effect”.
25 But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. 26 For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. 28 Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. 29 So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, 30 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 2:25-30, NIV
The Apostle could not say enough about Epaphroditus (pronounce it like it looks: “ee-pa-fro-die-tus”). There are three descriptors he uses right at the beginning: “brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier”.
By calling him a brother, he was affirming Epaphroditus’ faith in Jesus and demonstration of the changed life he now possesses. This is a statement of affirmation based on the affirmation of Epaphroditus’ life.
He was a missionary-fellow with Paul. He wasn’t just an errand boy in the Kingdom. Instead, he furthered the mission of Jesus on earth by his Kingdom-expanding lifestyle.
Far from the sidelines of Christian ministry, Epaphroditus was bearing the sword of truth and the shield of faith right alongside Paul and the other missionaries. He was a soldier for the cross, waging war against the gates of Hell as valiantly as anyone else.
Wow! That’s high praise from the Apostle!
And it was in the hands of Epaphroditus this very letter to the Philippians was carried—even the Lord Himself trusted him to be the messenger of Scripture.
What I find remarkable is how unremarkable Epaphroditus is in the pages of history. Apart from these references in Scripture, we have no evidence of this brother’s existence. We don’t know of his wife and children—of if he even had them. Was he young or old? We know he was a gentile (by his name), but apart from what Paul says about him, we don’t know anything else.
Yet, look at the difference he made in the Kingdom—he actually made it into the Bible!
And Epaphroditus’ plans didn’t turn out the way he would have intended. He was sent there (probably volunteered) to care for Paul and carry the support of the Philippian churches to him. Instead, Epaphroditus falls ill. So ill he nearly dies.
Instead of caring for Paul, Paul had to care for him! And now he’s sending the recovered Epaphroditus back to them.
God’s perspective on success and failure take on different hues than the broad brushes we tend to see. Based on the mission he was sent on, he was a failure. But to Paul, Epaphroditus’ mission was incredibly successful and the goal was achieved. Paul was encouraged.
This brother in Christ still encourages me—often accidentally and unintentionally. And I want to be that for him and others.
May we work to have the reputation of Epaphroditus: brother or sister in faith, side-by-side worker, and dearly loved servant. Pray about how the Lord will use you to bless someone today with “the Epaphroditus Effect”.