Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Mercy and Comfort

Devotion: Philippians 2:25-27

The Apostle Paul, moldering physically in prison, had been sustained by his ministry associates and by a gift carried by Epaphroditus. This gift had been a blessing to Paul in many ways beyond the physical sustenance it provided. He was encouraged by the remembrance of him by the Philippians. He was comforted that he did not bear his suffering alone. More than any other comfort, however, was the comfort that his labor in, for and with the Lord had not been in vain. Indeed, the Gospel of King Jesus the Redeemer had taken root in the hearts and minds of the Philippians and it was bearing fruit. In his suffering, he found comfort that the service he had rendered to his God was of value. So it was disheartening to the Apostle when Epaphroditus, this messenger of comfort, fell ill. Here is how the Apostle puts it:
"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, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 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 2:25-27 ESV 
The Apostle Paul made plans to send Epaphroditus back to the Philippians so that they too may be comforted by their brother. He speaks well of a man well-known already to the Philippians and some questions why he would need to do this. Yet haven't we all had something or someone in our lives that had been disregarded and overlooked for a long time until value and worth come to the fore. I can think of a time in algebra class when I wondered when I would ever use such information in my life. As an adult, I can say that the value and worth of being able to solve an equation has shown itself many times (planning a garden, doing taxes and calculating costs to name just a few). I have also been given gifts that I thought were of little to no use until the time came that I needed that tool and all of the sudden I had a new appreciation for the gift. Sometimes it takes someone else to reveal the use and purpose for us to come to appreciation. Even more, it can take someone else pointing out the qualities and gifts of another person that we already know before we realize just how valuable they are. That is exactly what Paul is doing for Epaphroditus.
Even still, the Apostle reports to the Philippians that sending him back almost did not happen. Epaphroditus had fallen ill. Whatever this illness was, it was serious enough that he could have died. All of the wonderful things and purposes that the Apostle saw in Epaphroditus could have come to an end in this world, yet the Apostle reports that God had mercy to remove from Paul his possibility of deep sorrow. The Lord, in his great mercy, restored Epaphroditus to health and thus prevented the already languishing Apostle from a deeper sorrow.
As we think through the passage, it seems to lead us to seek the Lord's mercy and the comfort God provides himself in Christ Jesus through the ministry of fellow believers. We will have sorrows in this world. Pain and suffering are part of the human condition (no matter how hard we try to avoid such things). In that pain and in that suffering, we need to seek God's mercy. We need to find ourselves in the arms of the one who created all things and in Christ Jesus makes all things new. Is someone in your life in need of God's mercy? Provide comfort with a kind word at the very least. Be creative in how God could use you to help others. Are you need of mercy and comfort? Turn to the Lord in prayer and receive the missionary work of fellow believers even if it means risking sorrow.

News for You:

  • Small Groups are starting a six-week study the week of January 22. We will be studying 'Saved,' published as part of the Gospel Project. Plan to sign up for a group this Sunday! We have books on order for 60, but if you prefer a digital copy, just click the link and follow the directions.
  • The bathrooms upstairs at CPC are undergoing a refreshing. That means we are putting down new flooring (the old flooring was original and has served its useful life) and painting the walls. We have other needs like this in our facility and will be doing them from time to time to maintain the facility for the use of giving glory to God. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

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