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How to Treat Good (but Imperfect) People
Philippians 2:25-30
Skip Heitzig

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Philippians 2 (NKJV™)
25 Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need;
26 since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick.
27 For indeed he was sick almost unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.
28 Therefore I sent him the more eagerly, that when you see him again you may rejoice, and I may be less sorrowful.
29 Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem;
30 because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me.

New King James Version®, Copyright © 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Technicolor Joy: A Study through Philippians

Some of the greatest people I have ever met have been relatively unknown individuals. They serve diligently behind the scenes with no desire for the limelight. Their names are not known to men, yet they are known to God. But even the choicest servants of God are not perfect. We all have our blemishes, shortfalls, quirks, idiosyncrasies, and oddities. Paul gave us an excellent way to treat such people in his words about his friend Epaphroditus.

In the series Technicolor Joy: A Study through Philippians, we learn how to find joy in the most unlikely places as we discover that God can add color to the most black and white moments in life.

Outline

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  1. Acknowledge Their Strengths (v. 25)

  2. Accept Their Shortcomings (vv. 26, 28)

  3. Affirm Their Sacrifice (vv. 27, 29-30)

Study Guide

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Recap Notes: October 1, 2017
Teacher: Skip Heitzig
Teaching: "How to Treat Good (but Imperfect) People"
Text: Philippians 2:25-30

Path

Pastor Skip noted that some of the greatest people he has met have been relatively unknown individuals. They serve diligently behind the scenes with no desire for the limelight. Men don't know their names, yet they are known to God. But even the choicest servants of God are not perfect. We all have our blemishes, shortfalls, quirks, idiosyncrasies, and oddities. Paul gave us an excellent way to treat such people in his words about his friend Epaphroditus. Pastor Skip offered three principles on how to treat good but imperfect people:
  1. Acknowledge Their Strengths (v. 25)
  2. Accept Their Shortcomings (vv. 26, 28)
  3. Affirm Their Sacrifice (vv. 27, 29-30)
Points

Acknowledge Their Strengths
  • Epaphroditus was a Gentile convert, named for Aphrodite, the Greekgoddess of love and fertility.
  • Epaphroditus was a member of the Philippian church, sent to Rome to help Paul.
  • Paul described Epaphroditus in the following ways:
    • Fellow worker: Epaphroditus came all the way from Philippi to work next to Paul in jail.
    • Fellow soldier: The Christian life is a battle. An effective Christian will be a target of Satan and needs fellow soldiers for support.
    • Messenger: The word Paul used means delegate and ambassador. Epaphroditus volunteered to make a dangerous 800-mile trip to represent the gospel.
    • Minister: The word Paul used is the same for liturgy, a word used of priests in a sacred duty. Epaphroditus' service was a sacred duty.
  • Learn to see people through the lens of their most desirable attributes and strengths.
  • Probe: Using Epaphroditus as an example, discuss your personal strengths (worker, soldier, messenger, minister). Think of them as abilities God has given you to do His work. How are your strengths being used for the gospel?
Accept Their Shortcomings
  • Shortly after Epaphroditus arrived in Rome, he became ill.
  • The Philippians worried. Epaphroditus found out they were worrying and his reaction was to become "distressed" (v. 26).
  • The word used for longing indicates a deep, intense desire. In other words, Epaphroditus was homesick, so Paul decided to send him back to Philippi.
  • Paul's attitude toward Epaphroditus shows that he had grown in grace since his first missionary journey and subsequent falling out with Barnabas over John Mark, another homesick young missionary.
  • Everyone has strengths and faults. Friendship flourishes at the fountain of forgiveness.
  • Probe: Just as you discussed your strengths, now discuss your weaknesses. Think of them as things in which God can show His strength in you. What steps can you take to make your deficits into assets?
Affirm Their Sacrifice
  • Epaphroditus placed his very life in danger. The word regarding refers to a throw of dice, taking a chance—so, in a sense, Epaphroditus was a gambler for God.
  • Having affirmed his friend's sacrifice, Paul then asked for the appreciation of the Philippian believers (see v. 28).
  • "Hold such men in esteem" (v. 29): Paul was referring toservants who sacrifice for the gospel. We are to respect and admire them.
  • Honor up, honor down, honor all around: Learn to be a servant. Learn to bless a servant.
  • Probe: To honor means to show respect or esteem. Using Jesus as an example, what characteristics are worthy of honor? Bible.org lists the following honorable characteristics:¹
    • Willing to lead by example
    • Committed to seeking God's will
    • Willing to obey the Lord's commands
    • Willing to sacrifice and be uncomfortable
    • Committed to building God's kingdom
    • Serving without receiving glory on earth
    • Committed to respecting and serving others
Practice

Connect Up: As Pastor Skip said, "Friendship flourishes at the fountain of forgiveness." Discuss how forgiveness has both a vertical aspect (relationship to God) and a horizontal aspect (relationship to others). Why do you think Jesus placed so much emphasis on forgiveness (see Matthew 6:14-15; 18:22; Luke 17:3-4)?

Connect In: The church is full of imperfect people (including you), yet the Lord continues to use imperfect people to further His gospel. Consider the following people Jesus used: Paul, Peter, Thomas—each with his own flaws and foibles. How has God used your imperfections for His glory, benefiting the church?

Connect Out: Missionaries are the obvious example of those who reach out with the gospel, leaving the comfort of home and family to build God's kingdom. First, what practical ways can you support missionaries? Second, take a moment to pray for the missionaries you know, asking the Lord to care for their every need. Third, next time you get the chance, thank your church missionaries for their work and take time to listen to their needs.


¹ Gregory Brown, "12. Characteristics of Honored Servants," August 19, 2016, https://bible.org/seriespage/12-characteristics-honored-servants, accessed 10/01/2017.

Transcript

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Hello and welcome to this teaching from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Albuquerque. We pray this message strengthens your relationship with the Lord. And if it does, we'd love to hear about it. Email us at mystory@calvaryabq.org. And if you'd like to support the ministry, financially, you can give online securely at calvaryabq.org/give.

Some of the greatest people that you'll meet are those who serve diligently behind the scenes with no desire for the lime light. But even the choicest servants of God are not perfect. In the message, "How to Treat Good but Imperfect People," Skip shares Paul's advice on how to treat such people. Now, please turn in your Bible to Philippians Chapter 2, as he begins.

It's great to be with you today. Would you please turn in your Bibles to the book of Philippians, Chapter 2. The New Testament Book of Philippians, that's the book we've been studying. We ask you to find a seat, and keep that, and not be a distraction to people as we study God's word together out of Philippians Chapter 2. Let's have a word of prayer.

Father, we just want to-- the next several minutes, push distractions away, and focus on a very simple text about a very unique individual. Lord, I pray that you would help us to understand it, and not only understand the words, but to apply the truths because what we ultimately desire, what you ultimately desire, is transformation, change. For us to change our thinking, our attitude, and our behavior. So we pray, Lord, along with understanding, you would give us the power of your Holy Spirit for that to happen. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Well, in Philippians Chapter 2, we read about a guy named Epaphroditus. Now, that's an unusual name. In fact, Epaphroditus at first, sounds like a disease. You know, appendicitis, diverticulitis. I have a bad case of a Ephaphroditus.

But Epaphroditus was not a disease. He was a dear friend of Paul the Apostle, who was also a servant of Paul. We're introduced to him here in Philippians Chapter 2, but he's unknown to most of us, and that's because his name only shows up twice in the Bible, and both of them are found in the book of Philippians.

But that brings up what I would consider an important point. Some of God's choicest servants go unnoticed. They serve behind the scenes. They're content to be active, but behind the scenes. Their name isn't in lights. It's not on the bulletin. You've never read their books or heard their music, but they are servants, and they are important nonetheless.

And Epaphroditus ideas falls in that category. We would call him a layman. That is, he had no official position in the church. He was not a deacon, that we know. Or at least he wasn't an elder. He wasn't a pastor. But he was a friend and a servant to Paul the Apostle.

So if you have a worship folder with you, you'll notice that I am calling this message "How to Treat Good but Imperfect People." "How to Treat Good but Imperfect People." And what Paul is doing is giving a good example of a greater principle. The good example is Epaphroditus. The greater principle is the principle of serving, loving, humility.

He begins this thought at the beginning of Chapter 2. He opens up the chapter by saying if there is therefore, any consolation in Christ, any comfort of his love, any fellowship of the spirit, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, the same mind.

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind. Let each consider others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interest of others. That's the first four verses of the chapter.

Now, that's the principle. After giving the principle of humility, lowliness of mind, he then gives us examples. And the first example is the best example-- Jesus Christ. So Verse 5 begins, let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation.

After that example, that is in the next several verses, he uses example number two of humility, and that is of his own sacrificial service. He says down in Verse 17, if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad, and I rejoice.

Now, the readers who are getting this letter hear that principle being spoken of, and read about the two examples that are used-- Jesus and Paul-- and some might be tempted to say, well, great. You just gave me two examples I could never be like. Jesus is the Son of God. I know you told me to be Christ-like. The problem is actually being Christ-like. He's Jesus, I'm not.

And even Paul the Apostle, good example, but unattainable. He's that great apostle who has done more for Christianity than probably anybody else. So they may be thinking as they're getting this letter, do you have anybody else that I can relate to? And perhaps, Paul, knowing that they would think that way after listing Jesus as an example, and himself as an example, he gives two more.

Timothy is the first one, we covered him last time, and Epaphroditus is the second. Verse 25 of Philippians 2 begins, "Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need; since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick almost unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.

Therefore I sent him the more eagerly, that when you see him again you may rejoice, and I may be less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem; because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me.

Now, looking at this text, what I want to do with you is show you some principles of getting along with people. Treating other people. You'll find this, I think, helpful in treating people who are your neighbors, your colleagues, other Christians within the church, even members of your own family. Because one thing you know about every family, there's not just one temperament per family. There is one temperament per individual in that family.

A few years ago, two counselors, John Trent and Gary Smalley, did some seminars that made its way into a book where they talked about temperaments within a family, and they creatively linked the family temperament to the temperament of certain animals in the animal kingdom.

So for example, they talked about first, the lion temperament. The lion temperament, they say, is the strong-hearted, determined, resilient individual. Decisive, opinionated, and usually loud. That's the lion temperament.

Then there is the golden retriever-- care-giving, compassionate. This one doesn't make any demands. You can unload on the golden retriever. He'll lie right down there and understand. Next is the otter, the fun loving kickback otter. Usually, this is the youngest in the family. You know the otter. Aw man, it doesn't make any difference. You know my older brother, he'll handle it. Just go and see him. I'm kicking back, baby. This is no big deal.

Fourth is the hard-working beaver. Diligent, responsible, organizing. Beavers don't have one briefcase, they have two. And they're not the slim, thin little ones. They're the expandable ones that look like small luggage, and they need dollies to carry them. They know exactly where they're going. But you get a beaver and a lion combination, and look out.

Now, there are different temperaments within the body of Christ as well as within a family. And the principles you're going to see with me are principles in treating other people, imperfect people, and treating them well. Now, a few words about Epaphroditus.

Epaphroditus was a convert of Paul the Apostles. Epaphroditus was a Gentile. That is he was not a Jewish person. He was from the pagan world of Philippi. His name gives it away. Epaphroditus, if you were to Google that name, don't even do that now, please. But if you were to Google that name, they probably would say things like charming, or lovely, or handsome, but that's a stretch from the original meaning because Epaphroditus means beloved of Aphrodite.

Anybody know who Aphrodite is or remember the name? Ever heard of Aphrodite? The goddess of love, the Greek goddess of love and fertility. The Roman equivalent was Venus. So Epaphroditus means somebody who belongs to or who is favored by the pagan goddess, Aphrodite. So he had a pagan background, and he was saved on one of Paul's missionary journeys in Philippi when he went to that city.

Paul is in jail. As you know, he is in two-year prison incarceration in Rome, which means he's under house arrest. He's chained to a Roman soldier, but people can come and go. So Epaphroditus in Philippi hears about what's happening with Paul, and he volunteers to go to Rome, and minister to Paul.

Now, with that in mind, we're going to look at these verses, and I'm going to give these principles in principle form, and then we'll probe down into the text. First of all, when it comes to treating good, but imperfect people, number one, acknowledge their strengths. Acknowledge their strength.

You will notice in Verse 25 that Paul the Apostle writes no less than five titles for his friend, Epaphroditus. Five strengths that he lists, and it's kind of written like a crescendo, one on top of the other. So look at the first one. Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother. That's who he is, first of all, my brother.

Now, if you're not getting along with another Christian, you can at least acknowledge this. That person is your brother, your sister. In fact, this will help you treat them well because if you look at that brother or sister you're not getting along with, think this thought. I have to spend eternity with that person. You mean I'm stuck with you forever? Yeah, you are. And because of that, it should behoove you to try to get along a little bit better now before you get to eternity.

Now, this whole brother-sister thing was a new concept in the ancient world. In the ancient world, the Greeks thought they were better than everybody else. The Greeks divided the whole world into two classes, Greek and barbarian. If you were not a Greek, you're a barbarian.

The Romans divided the world into Roman citizens and slaves or subjugated peoples. And if you weren't subjugated, you will be soon. That was their mentality. So they were divided by class, they were divided ethnically, by race, and so there were feelings of superiority.

And into that Greco-Roman culture comes the church, which treats people who are saved at the same level. Doesn't matter what your background is, doesn't matter how much money you make, doesn't matter if you're a King, or a pauper, doesn't matter your ethnicity. You are a brother, you are a sister in Christ, and I believe this really is the answer to our polarized society.

Instead of saying well, there's blacks, and Hispanics, and whites, or Democrats, and Republicans. Listen, if you're a Christian, you're my brother, you're my sister. We're in God's family. In fact, you will notice that sometimes you are closer to your spiritual family than even your physical family.

I know I've found that to be true when I first came to know the Lord. I thought my parents would be all excited that I'm born again. They weren't. I thought at least my brothers will think this is really cool. They didn't There was an alienation, and Jesus even promised a man's enemies will be those from his own household.

So God has provided a family for us to grow close to, to walk true life with. Remember the time when Jesus was teaching, and his actual brother, and sisters, and mom came to see him, and Jesus looked around the room, and said, who is my brother, my sister, my mother? For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven the same is my brother, my sister, and my mother.

So the first thing he says is he, Epaphroditus, is my brother. Look at the second title that he gives him. Fellow worker. Epaphroditus, my brother, comma, fellow worker. OK, Epaphroditus went all the way from Rome-- excuse me, from Philippi to Rome. That's 800 miles. In ancient times that was six week journey. He volunteered for the job. He volunteered to work for Paul the Apostle.

Now, I want you to turn to Chapter 4 for just a moment, and look at the only other verse that has Epaphroditus's name in it because we're trying to construct a profile of what this guy was like. Chapter 4 of Philippians, Verse 14. Nevertheless, you have done well, and that you shared in my distress.

Now, you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving, but you only. For even in Thessaloniki, you did send aid once and again for my necessities.

In other words, nobody else financially supported me on this mission except you guys. You've done it again and again. Verse 17-- not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. Indeed, I have all and abound. I am full having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice well pleasing to God.

You get the picture? He went on behalf of the Philippian church with money and supplies to help Paul while he was in that incarceration in Rome, and to serve him personally, and to serve alongside of him. He put his back to the work. Epaphroditus wasn't like the guy who said I like work, it fascinates me. I can watch it for hours. He actually said, Paul, I'm here to serve. I'm here to work.

Years ago, growing up, before I had my own wheels, I used to hitchhike. So you've got to picture a long haired kid in California trying to find his way to different places, and I thought, thumbs are cool. You just stick it out and people will give you a ride. One day it dawned on me that we hitchhikers were in effect, telling people this. You buy the car, you repair the car, you pay for the insurance, you put gas in it, and I'll ride along for free.

That's my job. I get a free ride. You do all the work, and if you get in an accident, you're on your own, and I'll probably sue you. And so what Paul wants the Philippines to know is Epaphroditus came as a worker. He's not a spiritual hitchhiker. He put his arm and his back to work to serve alongside of him. So he calls him my brother, and fellow worker.

Third title he gives him, fellow soldier. Now, when you hear the term soldier, you ought to be thinking of a battle, and that's because the Christian life is not a bed of roses. It is indeed, a battle. And when you're in a battle it's great to have a friend with you. It's great to have people who will stand next to you.

Especially for Paul because if you know anything about Paul's journeys in the Book of Acts, you know that wherever Paul went, that guy got in trouble. He was opposed wherever he went. He was beaten up several times. He was stoned. That is, he had rocks thrown at him. He wasn't stoned. We're not in Colorado. We're in an ancient world here. And he was thrown in jail quite a bit.

And I've often made the joke that whenever Paul went to his city, his first question is, where's the jail? I need to know where I'm going to spend the night tonight. Because he was always getting in trouble, and that's because he preached boldly in the name of Jesus, and people didn't like his message. He was intelligent, he was gracious, he was articulate, but he was bold.

And when he was bold, and got himself in trouble, it's great to have fellow soldiers who will say Paul, I'm in this battle with you. I'll walk through this battle with you. I'll stand with you. And so when Paul wrote to Timothy in Second Timothy Chapter 2, Verse 3, he writes endure suffering along with me as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

Now, there's an obvious point to be made, and that is an effective Christian will be a target of the devil. If somebody says well, you know, I really don't think about the devil much. He never bothers me. That's not a good sign because the Bible says all who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. Paul was right up at the top of that list, and Paul was grateful to have Timothy, and Epaphroditus standing alongside of him in that battle.

If you have somebody in your life who stands with you when things get rough, when you're fighting a spiritual battle, would you please acknowledge them, and thank them? Thank them for that. One of my favorite scenes in the movie The Gladiator is when the Roman soldiers were in battle, and they're shooting those fiery arrows out at the enemy, and the enemy is shooting the fiery arrows back at the Roman soldiers.

But the Roman soldiers had a very unique practice of locking their shields together when the arrows are being lobbed at them. So they would stand against the arrows, and put their shields a little bit aimed at the sky where the arrows were falling, lock their shields together so it formed a protective wall, and then they would march forward singing songs.

The songs were meant to encourage and bolster the courage of the fellow soldiers, but they would advance singing, locking shields together. That's a good picture of how we ought to fight our battles. There are some people who love to sing battle songs, but not get into the battle. Sing the songs, but then get into the battle, and encourage one another as Epaphroditus did for Paul.

Paul acknowledges that. That's one of his strengths. My brother, fellow worker, fellow soldier. There's a fourth description, a force strength of Epaphroditus. Verse 25, but your messenger. Your messenger, it means your ambassador, your delegate. The word apostellein, we get the word apostle from that. Somebody set out on a task. So Epaphroditus volunteered to be the guy set out by the Philippians to make a six week, 800-mile journey to serve Paul. To be their messenger.

There's something I'd like you to do. Next time a missionary comes to town, and we have our missionaries from the field come back during the year, they set up a kiosk often in the foyer. Sometimes we'll, on a Wednesday night, bring them up, and pray for them, and hear from them.

Next time you see a missionary back home, would you mind going up to them, and just give them a good word of encouragement? Thank them for going to the field on your behalf. You go on my behalf? Yes, on your behalf. You're not there. You didn't go. I didn't go. So they're sent out by us, from us, and they're out there in very difficult situations. And it's always great when somebody acknowledges that they did that. You thank them for that.

My dad was a fisherman. I mean, he was into fishing, and he had his buddies, and he tried to get us into fishing. And it's like whatever, I really wasn't into it, and sorry if you're a fisherman, and you hear that. I've disappointed you, perhaps. But when they would talk about fishing, man, they were just so into where they would go hunting or fishing.

Let's say you are a fisherman here. You're really good at it. If I were to ask you, OK, think of the best place you can think of in your mind right now. Best place you've ever gone fishing. You probably won't say Shady Lakes over here, although that's a great place for your family because they stock it full of fish. You can throw your little line in there, and get fish any day of the week.

But it's probably not your favorite. I'm going to hear something probably like this-- oh man, I know this place, but it's so far away, and it's hard to get to. And once you get there, you've got to hike in, and camp out, and it's kind of difficult, and dangerous.

But man, the fish are hungry. That's mission's. That's missions, willing to go to another difficult place because the fish are hungry there. So treat your ambassadors, your messengers, with respect and love.

Well, there's a fifth that Paul mentions about Epaphroditus, and that is also in verse 25. The one who ministered to my need. Look at all five of them. Brother, fellow worker, fellow soldier, your messenger, and the one who ministered to my need. Paul isn't just throwing that in. He's using a very particular term here for ministered to my need.

The word he uses is the word leitourgos. We get the word liturgy from that. It speaks about a sacred duty. Like a priest would perform a sacerdotal duty, a sacred duty of a priest. So what the Apostle Paul is doing with his friend and brother, Epaphroditus, is taking his service, and elevating it to the performance of a sacred task.

Now, I have a question for you. Have you done that with your occupation? Do you go to work and go, I hate my job. God, why do I have this job? Or do you go to the job, and say I am here by divine appointment. God called me to this, and I am embracing this as a calling of God to discover what people he wants me to reach.

When I used to work in medicine and radiology, and I would share the gospel with people when there were breaks, or we had time to have discussions, I remember one guy came up to me that I worked with and he said Skip, you ever think about getting out of this thing, and getting into full time ministry?

And I remember I said to him, let me let you in on a little secret. I am in full time ministry right now. He said what do you mean? I said well, I'm talking to you. I've invited you to church. You won't go to church. So I'm here right now talking to you, and I see this is my full time ministry.

And I love that Paul does that with Epaphroditus. Takes his service, his ministry, and brings it up to the level of a sacred duty. Like the housewife who had a sign above her sink that read divine service rendered here three times daily. She saw that as a calling from God to minister to her family a sacred duty from the Lord.

So all said, learn to look at people through the lens of their strengths, of their attributes, of their beneficial qualities. Don't always notice their faults. Start noticing their strengths. Now, I have to say something. This won't come naturally for some of us.

For some of us, we have been conditioned to be so negative that if you put us in a situation, or we meet new people, we immediately go negative. We pick out all the faults, all the problems, all the reasons it can't be done, blah, blah, blah. So you need to be trained by God's grace, and hopefully, this message will help a little bit. So start looking for positive traits because you can find positive traits in the worst people.

So there was a woman who always complimented everyone, and it drove her friend nuts. And one day her friend said, you know, I think you would probably even compliment the devil. And she thought about that and said well, you've got to admit, he is persistent. So it can be done, and Paul did it. He acknowledged his strengths.

Here's the second principle in treating good, but imperfect people. Not only acknowledge their strengths, accept their shortcomings. Accept their shortcomings. OK, let me tell you what's happening here because you read it. Epaphroditus makes an 800-mile journey, six week journey, he comes to Rome.

He gets sick, and the word is a very strong word. It's the same word used of Lazarus when he got sick and died. Paul says Epaphroditus almost died. So he comes and gets sick either on the journey or while he is in Rome, and Epaphroditus finds out that the Philippians found out that he was sick.

So when they found out that he was sick, they got all distressed. Well, when Epaphroditus found out that they found out, and that when they found out they got distressed, he's distressed because they're distressed. He's anxious because they're anxious. He's concerned because they're concerned. And so watch this, Verse 25. Yet I considered it necessary to send it to you Epaphroditus. Epaphroditus came from Philippi. He's sending him back to Philippi.

Verse 26-- since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you heard he was sick. Go down to verse 28. Therefore, I sent him the more eagerly that when you see him, you may rejoice, and I may be less sorrowful. Normally, when a guy gets sick, and gets better, you just write a letter, and say he's better now. Don't worry yourselves. He's good. He's healthy. Everything's great.

What Paul does, he goes, I'm writing this letter, and you, Epaphroditus, are taken aback. I'm sending you back. You stay back home. Why? Well, look at Verse 26 just once more time. He was longing for you all. The word means a deep intense longing, a deep desire, a yearning for-- so the new English translation renders it he greatly missed all of you. Here's what I think is happening.

I think that not only did Epaphroditus get physically sick, he has a bad case of homesickness as well. He's yearning for them. He misses them. He misses home, and now he hears that they're distressed that he was distressed. He goes oh, he's pining away. So Paul says you know, I found it necessary just to send him back home. I'm sending him back to you. He's coming back, therefore receive him.

Now, I see this as Paul's gracious attitude in overlooking a young man's weakness. He's not making a big deal of it. He's honoring and building him up, but he's sending him back home. He's yearning for you. I'm sending him back home. Now, follow me here. I believe Paul the Apostle, himself, has grown in grace a little bit. What do I mean?

Well, on his first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas take a young man, Barnabas' nephew named John Mark. John Mark gets home sick, runs back to Jerusalem. When they went to Pamphylia, he goes I'm outta here. He goes back home.

So when the journey's done, and Paul says you know, Barney-- that's Barnabas-- we ought to go back and visit all those places one more time, and see all those people who made their decisions to follow Christ. And Barney goes awesome, I'm going to take John Mark my nephew, again. Paul goes, no you're not. He left us the first trip. He flaked out one time. He is not going back with us again. Well, an argument broke out between Barney and Paul, and they went their separate ways.

That was then, this is now. Now we have Epaphroditus who was longing for you all, and Paul says, I'm sending him back home, but he does it very graciously. He makes it easier for Epaphroditus to go back home. He does not say I'm sending Epaphroditus, the wimp, back to you, the weasel, so he can stay with you in Philippi, the guy who couldn't cut it. He's very gracious with him. He makes it easy for him to go back home.

There was a family, and the kids decided to give dad, for his birthday, a geological record of his family history. He had always wanted to know who was relatives were in the past, where he had come from. So the kids got together and said, let's give that gift to dad. They hired a biographer to look in the records, and find out the different family tree.

Well, the biographer came to the family, got the kids aside, and said well, we have a problem. It seems that in your family history, there's this uncle George who down in Alabama, killed somebody. He's a murderer, and he was sentenced to death by the electric chair.

And they thought oh man, that's a blot on our family record. That's the black sheep of the family. We don't want that in there. At the same time, that's part of our history. You have to write about it. So they said just go ahead and include it.

Well, when the biographer was done, and presented the journal of the family records, they were delighted in the way he treated uncle George. He put it this way. Uncle George occupied a chair of electronics at an important government institution.

He was attached to his position with the strongest of ties, and his death came as a real shock. Come on, you've got to hand it to the biographer for adding a little finesse, and grace to the story of Uncle George. Making the truth a little easier.

Now, you remember that Paul the Apostle calls the church by the title, the Body of Christ. And he said, the church is like a human body. There are parts of it that are noticeable. There are parts of it that you don't see, but are very vital. And so he writes this, Verse Corinthians 12.

Those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those parts that we think are less honorable, we treat with special honor. See, everybody has strengths, and everybody has weaknesses. Everybody has assets, everybody has deficits. Everyone is gifted in some area, everyone is not gifted in other areas.

But friendship flourishes at the fountain of forgiveness, and when you can overlook certain people's faults and foibles, it goes a long way. That's how you treat good, but imperfect people. Acknowledge their strengths, and accept their shortcomings. Let me give you a-- please, go ahead. I'll let you respond, sorry.

[APPLAUSE]

Let me give you a third, and we'll close. Affirm their sacrifice. Now watch Verse 27. Paul says for indeed, or really, man, he was sick almost unto death, but God had mercy on him. And not only on him, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.

Verse 29-- receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem for because of the work of Christ, he became-- or he came close to death, not regarding his life to supply what was lacking in your service toward me.

Now, consider something for a moment. Paul the Apostle says, I got a guy here with me who is working with me who got really, really, really sick, and he almost died. Really? A guy with Paul got sick? Paul the Apostle, the one who moved in the miraculous. Paul the Apostle, the one the Bible says had sweatbands taken from him laid on sick people, and they got better?

How do you get somebody with Paul who's sick? Because Christians get sick. Don't ever think, well, if you're a child of God, and you have faith in Jesus, you just get snapped on the forehead, hallelujah, and you're healed. That's just weird. Epaphroditus got sick, and he almost died, Paul said. He admitted it.

And it wasn't just Epaphroditus, there was Timothy that Paul writes a letter to and says, hey, I know you have a stomach problem. Take some wine for it, which was in antiquity, medicine. Take some medicine for your stomach, not come to a healing service. If you have enough faith, you'll be healed. Just take medicine.

So you've got Epaphroditus and Timothy both got sick. Not only that, but Trophimus the Ephesian, it says in Second Timothy Chapter 4, Paul says, I left him at Melita sick. So not only was he sick, Paul left him sick, and walked away. So not only Timothy, not only Epaphroditus, not only Trophimus, but even Paul got sick.

Paul talked about a thorn in the flesh, Second Corinthians 12. And adversity, an infirmity that he had. He said I prayed three times that the Lord would remove it effectively. God said no because he said my grace is all you need. And so he said I will then glory in my infirmity. I'll glory in my sickness. I won't glory only if I am healed of it, but godly people can get sick too. It doesn't mean you lack faith.

Now, I will say I do not understand physical healing. I love when it happens, but if you ask me to give you a formula, I can't. And if you say, well, you ought to say just have enough faith, and you'll be healed, I won't because that's not biblical. I prayed for people and I've watched them get healed before my eyes on some occasions.

I prayed for other people and they got worse and died on other occasions. So this is what I know. God does want our faith, and does engender our faith, but healing is according to God's sovereign plan and purpose period. So he was sick, and he affirms that this guy sacrificed almost to the point of death.

So verse 30, look at it. For the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life. The two words, not regarding, is a word [GREEK]. I don't expect you to ever remember that word. It's a Greek word that means to throw the dice, to gamble, to bet on, to put all of the chances upon. He's saying Epaphroditus placed his very life in danger, risking it all, putting all of his chances on God.

You might say a gambler for God, and he made it all the way from Philippi to Rome. Got sick. I'm sending him home, but you've got to affirm that he made a sacrifice. And so Paul says therefore, receive him-- Verse 29-- in the Lord with all gladness. Receive him like Jesus would receive him. And he says, hold such men in esteem, those servants who sacrifice for the gospel. Respect them, admire them.

Verse Thessalonians 5, Paul said respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord, and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. We have a little saying around here that we teach our staff about honor. It goes like this. Honor up, honor down, honor all around.

So we want those above you to be honored-- your supervisors, your bosses, the one who cast the vision, the one who hired you. You honor them. You honor spiritual leaders, but you also honor down. You don't say I'm to be honored. You go no, how can I honor and serve you? Those that you give directions to, those who help out in a variety of ways, you honor them. You affirm them.

Honor up, honor down, honor all around. The guest speaker, honor the guest speaker. A guest musician, honor the guest musician because it's so easy to overlook those who serve. Ushers, those who take care of your kids in the Sunday School room, people who smile at the doors, and walk you from the parking lot, and the VIP treatment.

The security, thank them. Don't cop an attitude. No, you can't look in my backpack. None of your business. Yes, it is when you bring a backpack into a group of people where you could hide something dangerous in it. May I please see it? Don't cop an attitude, thank them, honor them. Affirmed their sacrifice.

Listen, a pat on the back, though only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants, is miles ahead in results. A few more pats on the back for these volunteers, not kicks in the pants. So learn to be a servant, learn to bless a servant.

And let me just end by saying to you no matter if you're a lion, or a golden retriever, or an otter, or a hardworking beaver, on behalf of heaven, thank you. Thank you for serving God, and serving God's people, and being willing to take time, and give to them, and help us all grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. Thank you.

Father, we thank you for your great grace poured upon us. Thank you that we have the opportunity to read your word. Thank you that we have the opportunity to meet together. Thank you that we have such great servants who serve you here, great worship leaders.

People who are greeters, and ushers, and security personnel, and people who watch over children in the nursery, and in Sunday school, teaching them lessons, doing it with joy, impacting their lives. Thank you for the family of God, the body of Christ. In Jesus' name. And we all said, Amen.

As the body of Christ, it's important that we treat each other well, regardless of our blemishes, shortfalls, and quirks. Did this message encourage you to change your response to your imperfect brothers and sisters in Christ? Tell us about it.

Email us at mystory@Calvaryabq.org. And just a reminder, you can give financially to this work at Calvaryabq.org/give. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Skip Heitzig of Calvary, Albuquerque.

Additional Messages in this Series

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4/23/2017
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A Joy Unexpected
Philippians 1:1
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
Life doesn’t have to be easy to be joyful. In fact, ease of living and joy of heart have little to do with each other. Joy is not the absence of trouble but rather the presence of Jesus. Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi is a letter dripping with joy and surprisingly so—it’s not what anyone would expect given the circumstances surrounding the author and the recipients. As we dip our toes into the joyful waters of this epistle, it’s my prayer that your smile will grow bigger and your heart will become lighter.
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4/30/2017
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News Flash: You’re a Saint!
Philippians 1:1-2
Skip Heitzig
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You've heard it before. Someone excuses his or her crude behavior by saying something like, "Well, I'm no saint, but I do the best I can." Or, "She's so wonderful; she's a saint!" The idea most folks have is that saints are those who've died and attain special status because of their unusual accomplishments while they lived on earth. Nothing could have been further from Paul's mind when he wrote this letter to living "saints." I hope you're one.
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5/7/2017
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The Family Business
Philippians 1:3-8
Skip Heitzig
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No matter what you may do for a living, there is a higher purpose for your life. No matter what you do for work, God is at work in you and through you. You may have a career in mind, but God has a calling in mind. These are not contradictory paths but complementary ones. The apostle Paul assured his audience of God's work collectively, personally, and practically. We are the objects as well as the instruments of God's work in the world.
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5/14/2017
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Pray for Love
Philippians 1:9-11
Skip Heitzig
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Love is the subject of more songs than any other topic. It's a word that falls off countless lips effortlessly and often without thought. But as someone noted, "One of the great illusions of our time is that love is self-sustaining. It is not. Love must be fed and nurtured, constantly renewed." The great apostle Paul had a deep love for the Philippian believers, and they for him. But love must be understood and developed intelligently. On this Mother's Day, when we celebrate the unique love of a mom, let's also consider how our love can become mature and God-honoring.
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5/21/2017
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The Happy Prisoner
Philippians 1:12-14
Skip Heitzig
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What does it take to steal your joy? To answer that question honestly, you would need to discover what you're passionate about--what drives you and what your expectations of life are. Why is this so important? Because things won't always go your way. Unfavorable winds will toss the ship of your life around on the ocean of circumstances and heartbreaks. What do you need then? The right perspective! Let's learn these truths from Paul's prison cell in Rome.
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6/11/2017
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Pest Control
Philippians 1:15-18
Skip Heitzig
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Every group—whether it’s a club, a corporation, a homeowner association, or a church—has its share of problem people and detractors. Such can be touchy, irritable, irrational, unreasonable, contentious, or legalistic. Their words may hurt us deeply. Their actions may confuse us greatly. So how do we handle these pesky folks? Most importantly, what should we do or not do with those who name the name of Christ but act like pests?
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6/25/2017
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Can You Predict Your Future?
Philippians 1:18-21
Skip Heitzig
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If you were going to sit down and write a short description of what you wanted your future to look like, what words would you choose? Let me suggest four that come straight out of Paul's experience: joy, confidence, hope, and life. After musing over past events that brought him to prison, Paul looks ahead to his uncertain future. But these four words sum up what he expected his future to include--even if it meant his possible execution.
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7/9/2017
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Living on Earth; Longing for Heaven
Philippians 1:22-26
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Knowing what Paul knew about heaven made him think very differently about earth. As Thomas Watson said, "Spiritual things satisfy; the more of heaven is in us, the less earth will content us." It's like a kid eating his vegetables while eyeing the chocolate cake promised after the meal (the salad becomes a means to an end). Jesus taught us to pray, "Thy kingdom come," indicating we should be longing for heaven. So how do we effectively live on earth with heaven ahead?
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7/16/2017
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How to Stand When They Want You to Fall
Philippians 1:27-30
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The truth is, we’re surrounded and outnumbered! The vast majority of the people we encounter in life don’t share our values nor worship our God. The difficulty of the Christian life is that we’re called to stand up for Christ when the rest of the world wants us to sit down or fall flat. They would much rather that we keep our mouths shut and conform to their standards. Let’s consider four spiritual weapons that will help us in the fight to stand strong in our faith.
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7/30/2017
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Being Around People--While Still Being Sane!
Philippians 2:1-4
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Relationships are hard. They take a lot of work. If you think about it, every person in the world is incompatible with every other person. Enough time together would reveal this truth. Because of this, tensions rise, emotions flare, and bad responses ensue. Every friendship, every marriage, every family, and every organization (including every church) has its relational challenges. The church at Philippi did, too, and it was that disunity that tested Paul’s joy. Let’s consider the basics and the basis of successful relationships, and move from surviving them to thriving in them.
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8/6/2017
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What Would Jesus Do?
Philippians 2:5-8
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The campaign What Would Jesus Do? has been around for years, challenging Christians to think about what Christ might actually do in any given situation so they might do likewise. Before us, we have an example of what Jesus actually did do. His example of humility and self-sacrifice is Paul’s illustration to fortify his exhortation of loving people through lowering ourselves.
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8/13/2017
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Be Humble or You'll Stumble
Philippians 2:8-11
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Humility is that slippery quality that once you think you have it, you don't! Also, the pathway of humility is a hard one. For Jesus, it meant the cross. But humility will always be rewarded. Using Christ as our ultimate example, Paul demonstrates how Jesus' voluntary humiliation was compensated by the Father’s lavish exaltation. So even though humility doesn't come without a price, without it, there will be no harmony, no unity.
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8/20/2017
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How to Have a Great Workout
Philippians 2:12-13
Skip Heitzig
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Every day in every city, people go to the gym to get in a workout. Running on a treadmill, spinning on a cycle, working the stair-climber, and lifting weights are becoming more and more frequent in our health-conscious culture. But money spent on a gym membership is pointless unless we take the right approach. In this message, I want to consider what it means to have a healthy spiritual life by showing you what it means to "work out your own salvation in fear and trembling." Let's be determined to stay in top spiritual shape.
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8/27/2017
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Glow in the Dark!
Philippians 2:14-18
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To make an object glow in the dark, a phosphor that will energize by ambient light and have a very long persistence (like zinc sulfide and strontium aluminate) must be applied. For a Christian to glow (shine the light of truth and salvation) in a dark culture, there are four considerations that will energize us. Today let’s study how we can penetrate a murky world.
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9/17/2017
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A Little Help from My Friends
Philippians 2:19-24
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Life without friendship is like the sky without the sun. Paul knew the value of having true friends who stuck with him during difficult times. And right in the middle of this letter, he mentioned two of them—Timothy and Epaphroditus. These two guys helped shoulder the burdens for the apostle and brought him great joy. As we consider Timothy's friendship profile, see how many of these qualities are present in your own life.
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10/8/2017
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Has Your Joy Sprung a Leak?
Philippians 3:1-3
Skip Heitzig
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I have a bicycle pump in my garage that stands constant guard to reinflate my tires. It seems that I have a slow leak in one of them. Perhaps from a very small thorn or a defect in the tube, the air slowly leaks out, leaving the ride spongy. Spiritual thorns that deflate joy can also threaten our Christian experience. Let’s consider some simple principles that firm up our life journey and keep "the joy of the Lord" intact.
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10/15/2017
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Get a Real Testimony!
Philippians 3:4-8
Skip Heitzig
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I have heard various people give their testimony over the years. A testimony is the story of how you came to believe in Christ personally. What is your story? Could you tell it to someone? You should be able to trace the steps you took in your life’s journey from aimless wandering to purposeful living as a Christian. These verses are Paul’s personal testimony. Let’s consider three essential ingredients to building a real testimony.
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There are 17 additional messages in this series.