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Care and Cares of a Servant of God

Philippians 2:19-30

This is one of the “personal” passages of the New Testament: filled with information about the people who were really there. As such, it should command our attention by way of example. In it, we shall see the care, and the cares, of the servant of God.

(Phil 2:19-30 NIV) I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. {20} I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. {21} For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. {22} But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. {23} I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. {24} And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon. {25} 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. {26} For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. {27} Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. {28} 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. {29} Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, {30} because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.

Three Servants

We must consider the three men who are in this passage, and what each shows us here.


Paul’s character is much studied, but we may glean these points here:

  • Paul was Timothy’s mentor – “father in the faith.” How many great servants of God were brought to their high position by the careful mentoring of those who went before! Each such leader needs such a one. Well might Paul say that he has no one like him.
  • In the prior passage Paul has expressed his concern for the Philippians. To show that these are not simply polite words, Paul now sends Epaphroditus (immediately) and will later send Timothy – once he is certain of the outcome of the legal proceedings. His concern will cost him his comfort, a price he willingly pays.
  • While he is confident of his release, he makes it clear that this confidence is “in the Lord.” His plans are always subject to God’s care and revision.
  • Note most especially this: the most noted of the Apostles seeks the comfort of his friends. This is not an exercise in masochism.
  • We may note that Timothy served with Paul, as son to father. It is a mark of humility, a most necessary requisite of the true servant of God.
  • He has a genuine interest in the welfare of the Philippians – recall that he first joined Paul at Philippi – so he is not just being sent as messenger boy.
  • The highest praise is this: he is looking out for the interests of Christ.

Serving in second place is not easy; indeed, it may be harder than being the leader in an organization. Timothy models that for us very well.


In this passage, this is the man who glows. Consider what this man has done:

  • He has been near death. We award Purple Hearts to the wounded, and with good reason.
  • This has been for Paul’s sake, not for his own. It’s one thing to suffer as you build your own fortune, entirely another to suffer in supporting someone else in their work.
  • He has done this while carrying the load of representing someone else; namely, the Philippian church. Again, his suffering is on behalf of someone else.
  • All this has been in the cause of Christ – the theme is repeated: suffering for someone else.
  • And note most especially this: what’s this guy worried about? That his friends back home would be worried about him!

Paul knows the man, and he gives us five descriptions of him which could be the picture of the servant of God:

  1. He calls him “my brother.” It is a sign of the closeness these men have.
  2. He also calls him “fellow worker.” The Greek word here is the one we have transliterated as “synergy” ( “syn” = same, “erg” = energy). More literally we might say that the same energy, or perhaps the same power, drives them both.
  3. He is also “fellow soldier.” Those who have been in the military know how close the bond is between soldiers in the same unit. They also know that such a bond is forged in the fires of sacrifice.
  4. He is said to be their (the Philippians) messenger – the Greek is literally “apostle”. The sense here is that whatever is the core message of the Philippian church, this man carries it in the flesh.
  5. He is also a minister (the Greek is the word from which we get “liturgy” – worship and service are the same thing, remember?) – one who cares for the needs of others.

It is a pretty complete picture of the true servant of God in the full time ministry. Note that this particular servant is not well known in the church today; He represents the typical servant, not the famous one. Next, we must consider our reaction to such a man.

The Treatment of the Servant

It is a curious fact: we are ambiguous in our treatment of such a servant of God. On the one hand we are usually aware that honor and respect should be paid such a man; indeed, we might even go so far as to quote the passage that says “the laborer is worthy of his hire.”[1] We may also expect him to toil in poverty, telling him that he needs to know how to be both abased and abounding. We seem willing to respect such persons, but often not at our expense.

Perhaps this comes from two things:

  • In every age and time there will be the wolves in sheep’s clothing. Suspicion attaches itself especially to those whose personality is anything but completely modest. The nagging doubt that he may be in this to gratify his ego is very difficult to eradicate.
  • More often, there is an implicit comparison made – me versus him. If my ego is big enough, it may not have room for the example of his humility.

With such things in our minds we may be prevented from doing what is right for God’s full time servants.

Our need to give

It is the fact: God has chosen to do much of his work through men like Epaphroditus. It is our pleasure and privilege to support such men, and to do so generously. The fact is simple: we need to give much more than God needs them to have the gift. For if we will not, he will provide (got Paul a ticket to Rome at his enemies’ expense, didn’t he?). But then we will not have the good work of having given.

But once given, such a gift becomes not only blessing but example, and is thus multiplied. God is extremely fond of taking our gifts and using them as seed for the kingdom.

Such to be welcomed.

Paul here tells us that such a man – remember, he’s talking about Epaphroditus, who is practically anonymous – should be welcomed with great joy and honor.

  • Joy, for such a man’s life is a victory for God. When we hear of God working a miracle of healing, what is our reaction? Should we not have the same reaction when we see God’s work in a life?
  • Honor, for it is their due. Whatever your politics, you would not fail to be respectful to the President. You would honor the great office he holds, even if you would not honor the man. Surely, then, you should honor a man who holds both office and the service that matches it.
Pray for them

It sounds trite, but so often it is so important. Be specific in your prayers for such men. Take them to God, lifting up their burdens and tasks, so that your thought and heart might be added to the cause. It will bring you up; it will move the Lord to grant them even greater things.

Examples, not idols

All such are human. Each has his faults; if his wife is a gossip there will be no shortage of lists of same. We are not to worship them, but rather use them as examples in our own life.

Do you remember when you were a child, how you used to pretend to be some sports hero? If you are a child of the faith, there are still such heroes to imitate.

To Be Such A Servant

To admire such a man is one thing; to be such a man is another. At the least we can see what makes them admirable. But what advice might we give someone who is contemplating the call of such a life?

  • The great need of the servant of God is to know that he is needy. So often those who serve the Lord become puffed up in what they think is their own strength. Such a man needs to know, every day, that his strength comes from the Lord. One way to learn that lesson is to be obliged (and thankful) to depend upon someone else for “daily bread.”
  • Whatever else might be said, such a person must have sincere concern for the needs of others.
  • Where does such a concern come from? From putting the things of Jesus Christ ahead of all other things. This is essential.
  • A sense of humility – a willingness to serve, no matter the position – is another key requirement.
  • Finally, there must be a willingness to sacrifice yourself for the cause of Christ – whether that is in long service, or in death.

I have had the privilege of knowing many such men and women. Those who “seek first the kingdom” know that all things are added unto them.

[1] Luke 10:7, King James Version

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