"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Monday, April 15, 2013

Messengers of Joy

Throughout history, there have been people who have stood out for their vision and self-sacrifice on behalf of future generations.  Small towns and great cities sometimes honor such people with parades and speeches. Even Jesus said there is no greater love than to lay down one's life on behalf of others. We call people who do such things "heroes," and rightly so.

In his thank you letter to the Philippians, Paul highlights two such men. He has just commended Timothy, saying "I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare." Timothy's concern for them was extraordinary in that he had no personal relationship with them, yet was highly motivated on their behalf. Next, Paul speaks of Epaphroditus, a messenger they had sent with financial support for Paul and, who will now return to them with this letter:

But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not only him, but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. 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. Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give. (Philippians 2:25-30)

Paul called him brother because they were both adopted into God's family by faith in Christ. He was a fellow worker who did whatever was needed for the ministry of the gospel. He was a fellow soldier in that he put his life on the line, not only  for the Philippians but for the message of Christ everywhere. As the messenger of the church in Philippi, he brought not only financial support but, also joy. It is this same (now deeper) joy that Epaphroditus will bring back to them. Everyone can stop worrying about him, and Paul exhorts them to receive Epaphroditus with joy and honor. As a soldier of Christ, he laid it all down for Christ on their behalf. He deserves a hero's welcome.

We cannot honor too highly those who lay down their lives for the message of joy in the Lord. Some go to other countries to do so and, others do so in their own communities. Take joy in their examples. They are not sitting by passively while the nation sinks into depravity. They are poking holes in the darkness with the sword of God's Word.

There is another inevitable homecoming. Each of us who follow Jesus will enter a gate. Beyond the gate, a throng of joyous people will welcome us. Above the crowd, there is One, even more radiant than the rest. He is eager to greet us and say "Well done good and faithful servant! Come, enter into your reward!"

Nothing else matters. Lay it all down for the joy of the Lord. Be salt and light; be messengers of joy. As we go out on his behalf, he is with us, even to the end of time.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:2-3)