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Epaphroditus

A missionary friend of mine who served the Lord for many years in Nigeria used to tell of a leprous man who insisted on helping him one day when he was travelling through a dangerous part of the bush. He was sadly deformed by the disease but he so much wanted to run ahead to make sure there were no wild animals roaming near the path. When someone asked what he would be able to do anyway, if they did meet any wild beasts, he drew himself to his full height and said "Have I not a life to give?" Dear man, he had the right spirit, hadn't he?

Epaphroditus whom we read about in the epistle to the Philippians was a man of similar spirit. He was entrusted by the disciples in Philippi to carry their gift to, the apostle Paul in Rome and it was a hazardous journey he undertook. Whether he was taken ill on the way or became ill when he arrived is not clear. Certainly he was very sick, near to death, Paul says. But in the mercy of God he recovered and Paul sent him back to the Philippians so that their hearts would rejoice when they saw him again.

And he sent him back with this tremendous commendation, that for

the work of Christ he came near to death, hazarding his life. It's a stirring word, isn't it? It was used of those who nursed infected people at great risk to their own lives. That's just what Epaphroditus did - he risked his life. He had given Himself to the Lord Jesus and His service, and whatever that service demanded, he was ready for it, regardless of the cost. No wonder the apostle referred to him so affectionately as "my brother and fellow-worker and fellow-soldier". He himself once said "I hold not my life of any account as dear unto myself" and that just summed up Epaphroditus' feelings, too. Such men - and women - have caught something of the spirit of their Master. They count it an honour to serve Him, and nothing else matters.

There's only this one reference to Epaphroditus in the Scriptures, but its such a stirring one we can never forget him. As Longfellow the poet said,

Lives of great men all remind us

We can make our lives sublime;

And departing, leave behind us

Footprints in the sands of time.