We've been looking at some of these skills as the Apostle Paul, arguably the greatest leader in the history of the church, highlighted them in the lives of two men in Philippians 2:19-30. First, he says of Timothy "I have no one like him. He is unselfish and he has proven himself trustworthy." For a deeper look at these two attributes read Followship = Real Leadership Pt. 1.
In Philippians 2:25, Paul shifts our attention to the other man named Epaphroditus. Apparently, the church in Philippi wanted to send Paul a love offering and a report on their progress. Epaphroditus volunteered to take the dangerous 800 mile trek to deliver this message to Paul in Rome. Look at what Paul says about him:
Philippians 2:25-30 (NIV) 25 But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-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...30 because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.
In these few verses, we can discover three more traits of great followship. In verse 25 Paul says of Epaphroditus “He’s my brother, my fellow worker and my fellow soldier.” Each of these three metaphors has something in common. What they have in common is cooperation.
- A great follower is a team player. A great attribute of followship is cooperation. When you see someone who says, "I don’t need anybody else. I’m a lone ranger." He’s not a great follower and will not be a good leader either. John Maxwell says, "One is too small a number to achieve greatness." It's true! Because nobody has it all together. We need each other. You have strengths that I need, I have strengths that you need and we need each other. It's interesting that Paul uses these three metaphors - a brother, a worker, and a soldier. These three metaphors describe the nature of church life perfectly. We are to treat each other as family, as brothers and sisters, placing a high value on our relationships with each other. We are to co-labor together, as workers, building the Church. And we are to fight the good fight with each other, as soldiers, taking on our common enemy while advancing the Kingdom of God forward.
- A great follower is considerate of others. In verse 26 Paul says of Epaphroditus, “He longs for all of you and he is distressed because you heard he was ill.” What’s going on here? Paul was the founder of this church in Greece in the city of Philippi. Now Paul is 800 miles away in prison in Rome. So the church in Philippi takes up a love offering to send to Paul. They must have asked for a volunteer to make the trip to Rome with their gift. One of the business men in the church, Epaphroditus volunteers to go. This is no small gesture. He’s going to have to walk. There are no planes, trains, automobiles. He’s going to have to walk all the way from Greece to Italy. He will face bandits and wild animals and there aren't going to be any motels or hotels along the way. Plus, he'll have to leave his family and his business behind for a few months while he goes and does this. He’s doing this at great personal expense.On the way Epaphroditus gets sick and nearly dies delivering the offering which the people entrusted to him. Just the fact that they trusted him says a lot about the character of this man as well. They trusted he wouldn't spend it. He wouldn't rip them off. He would deliver it to the place it needed to go, because he was a man integrity. But on the way he nearly dies. Word gets back to the home church that he nearly died. Apparently on the trip he gets deathly ill and they were all worried. What is his reaction? He is distressed by their distress. He is concerned about their concerns. He’s worried about the fact that they’re worried about him. He’s not thinking about himself. He’s thinking about how his actions and his words are causing grief to other people.This is another characteristic of a great follower. They are considerate. Considerate means you think of how what you say and how you act is going to affect other people.
- A great follower will sacrifice for others.
In verse 30, Paul said Epaphroditus "risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me." He risked his life, almost died for the work of Christ. Notice what he risked his life over. His courage was not for his own benefit. He took enormous risks for the benefit of others and the kingdom of God. All kinds of people are willing to take risks for themselves. They’ll go climb mountains and surf gigantic waves or bet the farm on a business deal as long as they’re going to personally benefit from it. But I’m not talking about doing risky stuff so that you can get a an adrenaline rush from an extreme sport or risking something so that you can get the glory. I’m talking about taking risks for the benefit of somebody else.
There aren’t many people like this today. It’s very rare. Most people say, "I’ll live for Christ when it’s convenient. I love church as long as it doesn’t interfere with any other part of my life." Think of the excuses Epaphroditus could have used, “I’ve got a business to run. I’ve got a family to take care of. I have kids in school. You’re asking me to leave my work, to leave my shop and to take two or three months to travel to another nation to help another church?”
God uses courageous people who put people before profit and who put courage before comfort and convenience. Great followers put service before security. They'll take risks for others and for the kingdom of God. They serve God and others with reckless abandonment. That’s great followship. And Paul says men like this are worthy of honor.
Question: Is your commitment to Christ deep enough to cause you to risk anything in your life for it?