Epaphroditus went on a mercy mission to bring help to Paul, bring him money from his friends in Philippi (prisoners had to pay for their own upkeep). It was dangerous, and he became desperately ill. He stepped forward, volunteered, for this task because he felt called by God to do so, and what happened? He became so ill, he almost died. What was his reaction to what he may have perceived as a lack of protection from the very God he was serving?
There’s an old story that helps me understand this: A king sought someone to serve him well. He discovered a man with a pure heart and sent his letter of protection to the man, asking him to come and serve him. On the way the man saw another being beaten and stepped in to help, but instead suffered the same fate himself. A little further on he stepped in to stop a robbery, waving his letter of protection from the king. The thieves ripped it up and took everything he had as well. By the time he made it to the king he was penniless, injured, and barely able to walk. He fell at the feet of the king and said, “I don’t understand. I want to serve you. I love you, but why didn’t your letter of protection work?” The king helped him to his feet, stood him in front of a full length mirror, and asked him what he saw. “Myself, looking pretty bad,” he said. The king put his hand on the man’s shoulder and said, “Look again.” The man was surprised to see the likeness of the king’s son gazing back from the mirror. The king told him, “This is my promise to you. I will never let anything happen to you that will stop you from becoming like my son, Jesus Christ.”
Philippians 2:25-30(New Living Translation)
Meanwhile, I thought I should send Epaphroditus back to you. He is a true brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier. And he was your messenger to help me in my need. I am sending him because he has been longing to see you, and he was very distressed that you heard he was ill. And he certainly was ill; in fact, he almost died. But God had mercy on him—and also on me, so that I would not have one sorrow after another.
So I am all the more anxious to send him back to you, for I know you will be glad to see him, and then I will not be so worried about you. Welcome him with Christian love and with great joy, and give him the honor that people like him deserve. For he risked his life for the work of Christ, and he was at the point of death while doing for me what you couldn’t do from far away.
Here’s how it works: Read the verses and pray about them. Is there a word or phrase the jumps out at you? Is there a picture that comes to mind? Do the verses remind you of something in your life? Draw a picture or write the words and let the Holy Spirit guide your thoughts.
Why study the Bible this way? If you take it into your mind and heart enough to translate it into a picture or word, it becomes part of you. If you add a sentence or two of explanation, you then engage another part of your brain which cements God’s words even firmer into your heart and mind.
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