Let me go back to the end of chapter two for a minute. I don’t think I’ve ever been in danger of working myself to death. No, I’m not that diligent! My father nearly did that. He was a workaholic if there ever was one. He grew up in the great depression and died young (64), but 22 fearless2I think it was primarily due to a harsh lifestyle rather than overwork. Yet while remodeling the house he had an electrical accident that took his right arm and nearly killed him. So he really did almost work himself to death. We don’t know what happened to Epaphroditus but Paul says in Philippians 2:30, “he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.” I don’t think we appreciate the danger believers had in those days. They were attacked on both sides. First the Jewish leaders tried to kill them, and then the Roman authorities wanted to silence them also. It’s possible that Epaphroditus fell into the hands of one or the other and suffered a serious injury which almost cost his life.

Whatever happened, it was because of his work for Christ which was completing the Philippians ministry to Paul. This ministry could very well be the financial gift he brought to Paul in Rome. He had witnessed Paul’s attitude as described in Acts. Luke records Paul’s words in Acts 21:13, “For I am ready, not only to be bound (put in prison), but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” (21:13). Paul and Barnabas are described as “Men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (15:26). Epaphroditus became one with them in being willing to risk his life for the cause. The defining characteristic of the Apostles and their disciples was “fearless service.” They were always ready to face hardship, pain, sickness and even death if necessary for the advancement of the gospel.

John the Baptist’s father prophesied at his birth about the deliverance the messiah would bring and which would be proclaimed and pointed out by John. The Messiah (Luke 1:73-75) would fulfill for us “the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.” In Philippians 1:14 we read about how Paul’s example had inspired “… the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” When all fear is gone, true joy can reign freely. John MacArthur writes, “Does your joy ebb and flow according to the tide of earthly benefits? Do pleasure, possessions, prominence, prestige, reputation, comfort, and fulfillment or your own ambitions propel your joy? If they do, your joy will ebb and flow according to the shifting tides of life. But if your joy is tied to the progress of the gospel, it will never diminish. Fix your heart on the progress of the gospel, and your joy will be constant.”