"The Attitude of a Servant"

Philippians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  42:21
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At St. Bede’s Episcopal Church in Santa Fe, New Mexico, there is only one door into the sanctuary. Over that door is a hand-lettered sign that reads, “Servant’s Entrance.” There isn’t any way in or out of that church except through the servant’s entrance! I think that this helps us understand that as believers in Christ we are all called to serve the Lord. In Mark chapter 10 verse 45 we see a wonderful example that the Lord gives to us.
Mark 10:45 ESV
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
My point is this church. Being a servant of Christ is not an option. It is the calling of every believer. In my own life there are times where I can become selfish. I don’t want to go and serve today. This is my day off, or I wish someone else would go and help out. So, because we all are selfish by nature, we have to cultivate the heart of a servant as we grow in Christ. Paul, Timothy and today as we look at this man named Epaphroditus, illustrate men who had servant’s hearts.
We know that these men were focused on the Lord and serving Him. Paul tells us that, unlike many others, Timothy was not seeking after his own interests instead of those of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:21). Timothy served with Paul for the furtherance of the gospel (Philippians 2:22). Jesus Christ and the gospel were at the center of Timothy’s life.
Epaphroditus also was a faithful servant whose focus was on the things of Christ. We know that he had pushed himself almost to the point of death to bring the gift to Paul from the Philippian church. We don’t know all the details, but maybe he got sick on the six-week journey from Philippi to Rome and pushed himself to the point of death to reach Paul. Or, maybe after arriving he came down with some type of illness, but he kept pushing himself in his service to Paul in the cause of the gospel. We also know that he had a longing and concern for the church back in Philippi. All of this reveals his servant’s heart for the things of Christ.
Let’s dive in and take a look today at what Paul tells us specifically about this man named Epaphroditus? Look at verse 25 with me.
-Well first of all Paul tell us that he is my brother. This does not mean that him and Paul were actually family, but that this relationship had to do with him as a believer. Brothers in Christ.
-The second thing we know here about Epaphroditus was he was a fellow worker. Him and Paul labored together in ministry. There is always and importance of ministering together and not alone even though there are times we must do this. Labor and work together with others.
-The next thing Paul mentions is that Epaphroditus is a fellow soldier. In ministry we are fighting and waging war together in the Lord against a very real enemy. Satan so often comes against us with the temptation to sin, for our families to be divided, our mental health, for us to fuss and fight with others. People who are serious about the Lord, and serving in ministry always have a target on their back. We have to armor up and stand strong in this battle.
-He is also a messenger and minister. Paul calls Epaphroditus a “minister to my need” and tells us that he had completed by his presence what the Philippians could not do in their absence in service to Paul.
Today as we think about the example of these godly men what is the application here for us? What do we need to understand today about having an attitude of service?
A Servant will:

1. Go anywhere God leads us.

Philippians 2:25 ESV
I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need,
Philippians 2:28 ESV
I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious.
Two different times here Paul talks about sending Epaphroditus to the Philippians. First, we see that Paul thinks it necessary and then we see in verse 28 that he is eager to send him. What this shows us is that Epaphroditus was willing to go and serve wherever he was needed. Last week we learned about Timothy. We know that it wouldn’t have been easy for Timothy to leave the side of his beloved friend in the faith in order to go to Philippi, but he was willing to go if that was God’s will. It hadn’t been easy for Epaphroditus to leave the comforts of home and journey to Rome, but he did it. Now, it also would be difficult for him to leave Paul and return home, but he was willing to go where the Lord wanted him.
What does this look like in our own lives? Has there come a time in your life where you told the Lord, God where do you want me to serve? How can I serve you? Maybe you have not had that conversation with the Lord because you are fearful of what the answer may be. Have there been times where you know what and where God is leading only to resist the place or the people He is calling you to serve?

2. Serve wherever we can.

Philippians 2:25 ESV
I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need,
I don’t know about you but there are times where people let me down. I get frustrated and even discouraged. I don’t want to be nice, and I surely don’t want to go and help them out or serve them. But, as the Lord works in my life I am reminded of how many times He has given me second and third and 400th chances. I’m reminded that I am not always easy to work with and I need people to be patient of me. Serving and ministry can be messy at times, but we are called to go and serve others wherever we can even when it’s not easy, or the people we work with are difficult. Timothy served Paul, but he was willing to go and serve the Philippian church if needed. Epaphroditus served the Philippian church, and then as he was called on to take a gift to Paul, he was willing to go and serve him. He reminds me of Philip, who was being used by God to reach great multitudes in Samaria, but who was willing to go to a deserted road where the Lord used him to reach the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts chapter 8. Ask yourself today, where is it that God is calling me to serve? Who is it that I should serve.
-Family, a friend, or coworker?
-A local mission.
-Here in the church. There are many ministries.
My prayer is that we would see the needs around us and be praying that God would show us where to get involved and then go and serve with all of our heart, soul, and mind.

3. Recognize and be thankful for God’s mercy.

Philippians 2:27 ESV
Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.
Mercy is defined as God’s goodness toward those in misery and distress. And this is exactly where Epaphroditus and Paul find themselves. They were in need of God’s mercy.
I was having lunch with a friend on Friday that I had not seen in a while. He had gotten Covid a while ago and was not doing well. I talked to his daughter a few days before we met and she told me that her dad had almost died. I did not know about this so it was good to see him and hear the report first hand that he was doing a lot better.
Here in verse 27 Paul tells us how severe Epaphroditus’ illness was, it was near death. It was seriously bad!!! But, the second thing he explains is the amazing mercy of God. We need to keep in mind here that the church at Philippi knew that Epaphroditus was sick. They knew that it might be really bad and there was a chance this could lead to death. Back then there was no instant message or FaceTime or cars, trains or planes. It could take months or years to find out how your loved ones were doing. I’m sure that this church was wondering how is he doing, could we please get an update or report on what is happening? As Epaphroditus begins to get better Paul knew that it would be important for him to go back and now experiencing his arrival the Philippians could say that God had mercy on him. Today, we may not think that this is a big deal with all of our medical technology, but back then fewer people recovered from sicknesses. God did have mercy on Epaphroditus, God did a miracle in his life and healed his body.
The second area of mercy that Paul talks about here is that God had mercy on Paul as well. God spared Epaphroditus’ life so that Paul would not have sorrow upon sorrow. Paul had a care and love for his friend and he knew that God could choose to take Epaphroditus home to heaven. So, Paul expressed his gratitude for the mercy that God has shown toward him as well. Paul is great-full for his friend in the Lord and for all the help that he has been to Paul.
My point in explaining these two different situations to us is the fact that there are many times that we have experienced God’s mercy in our own lives and may have not recognized it. God may have even spared your life in order for you to come to know him and serve him. Let me ask you today, where has God shown His mercy to you? Has He given you another chance? Yes! What are you doing about it?
-Take time today to thank the Lord for His mercy. As you have realized this in your own life pray for others to see their need for God’s mercy.
-As you recognize God’s mercy ask him to show you where you can begin to serve and use your gifts.

4. Be willing to sacrifice everything.

Philippians 2:27 ESV
Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.
Philippians 2:30 ESV
for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.
Timothy had given up his own interests to become a servant of Christ. Epaphroditus almost lost his life in his service for the Lord.
In Acts chapter 20 Paul is speaking to the Ephesian elders and has this to say.
Acts 20:24 ESV
But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
These men were willing to give up everything including their lives. Now I am not saying today that this is what you will have to do, but there are things that we have to sacrifice. Has there ever been a time in your life where you said, “Lord forgive me, I’ll give up everything for you. I will give up my desires, my ambitions, my comforts, my time, my money--to serve You”?
You see church, a servant’s heart is centered on the things of Jesus. If we have any other motive or reason for Christian service, we will eventually burn out or blow up. We can get angry and be hurt because of the way people treat us; we can get frustrated and grow weary of the hardships we have to endure. I have see so many people quit in disgust or disappointment because they are serving for other reasons than the Lord. We serve because we are in awe of God and His mercy. We serve because our hearts are captivated by what Christ has done for us.
There have been many stories and even movies told about the lives of coal miners. This story stands out to me in particular. In Northeastern Pennsylvania miners went down into the deep mines, they would take a caged canary with them. They kept careful watch over the bird, knowing that when it started gasping for breath (or died), they had little time left to get out of the mine. Oxygen was running low, and deadly gasses were increasing, so death was imminent. These miners knew that breathing anything besides oxygen wasn’t an option; trying and surviving without it would lead to critical illness, if not immediate death.
What’s the point of this gloomy metaphor? Unlike these coal miners, I think we try to spiritually survive on something different from the figurative “oxygen” we were meant to breathe. God created human beings to live and breathe in communion with him, the Creator. As believers we are called to serve the Lord until He calls us home. But how often instead of living for the Lord and serving Him are we tempted by sin and selfishness?
My prayer for us today is that we would run back to Philippians and look at these examples of what a servant looks like. That we would be reminded of what Christ himself went through for us. Let us strive to have the attitude, mind, and heart of a servant.
(Close in Prayer and Lead into Communion)
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