Page 281 was a Sunday and I had the privilege of preaching at the North Wayne Mennonite Church again today so that added to the joy of the day. My nights continue to be restless more often than not, so I found myself going through my sermon outline for today multiple times during the night. When I finally woke up, I spent more time refining the sermon before the drive up to Dowagiac to share in the worship gathering there. When I have the opportunity to preach, I’ve been doing a sermon series on living as the Lord’s servant. Most of the sermons have been brief character studies of individuals in the Bible who are described by themselves, or by others, as the Lord’s servant. Some of the people, such as today’s character, are more the seed for the idea than much of a look at their life — simply because not much is written about them.
Today’s message was titled “Serving With HONOR” and was taken from the brief introduction to a man named Epaphroditus, whom Paul said to honor men like him. While not much is written about him, the Bible has a lot to say about characteristics that deserve honor. So, today we looked at five characteristics that help us to serve with honor.
- Serve with Humility. Serving with humility means that we serve with a knowledge of who we are and who God has called us to be. Humility is not about demeaning our self, but about thinking accurately about our self as both a servant of God and a child of God. I suspect that one of the reasons we know little about Epaphroditus is because of his humility. He was able to serve the apostle Paul and not feel the need to make it all about him. We serve with honor when we serve with the humility shown by Jesus, who “knowing where He had come from and where He was going” washed the feet of His disciples.
- Serve with Obedience. Serving with obedience means that we will serve according to the will of God, not just when and how it suits our preferences. When we have to set all of the criteria for the “who, how, what, where, and when” we serve, we end up making the serving all about us rather than about the One we serve. Epaphroditus was both obedient in being sent to care for the needs of the apostle Paul and obedient in being sent back to the Philippians to reassure them of his own well-being as well as carry news from Paul. We serve with honor when we serve with the obedience shown by Jesus, who “became obedient to death — even death on a cross.”
- Serve according to Need. Serving according to need means that we make our service about the needs of others rather than about what we want. God wants our words, and our works of service, to be a benefit to the hearer according to their need. The entire purpose of Epaphroditus going to see Paul and serving even to the point of almost dying, was to be a representative of the Philippians in providing for the needs of the apostle Paul. We serve with honor when we serve according to need like Jesus, who “while we were yet sinners” went to the cross to pay the penalty for our sins.
- Serve at every Opportunity. Serving at every opportunity means that we pay attention to both what God has equipped us to do and to where that gifting and ability is needed. There is definitely no shortage of need when it comes to serving but sometimes we become aware of so many needs in so many different places that we simply don’t have the opportunity available to serve. It is normal to see tragedies and catastrophes covered in various news sources and wish we could do something to help. Sometimes we have the opportunity to serve in meaningful ways and other times we simply don’t. Unfortunately, we often fail to see the opportunities that we do have simply because they are in places too familiar to us. While we may not have the opportunity to help a hurricane victim, we often have the opportunity to serve our family, our neighbor, our coworker, a stranger, a church member, or a number of other people we cross paths with without paying the attention we ought. We serve with honor when we serve at every opportunity like Jesus, who looked into the lives of everyday people and met them where they were.
- Serve expecting Results. Serving expecting results means that when we serve as a child of God in the name of Jesus, we expect Him to be at work in a way that bears fruit. Sometimes it is easy to serve because we think we should, but we do so not expecting anything to come of our efforts. I wonder how often a lack of results is because we got exactly what we were expecting? Or how often our expectations are built around our view of results that has may have very little to do with kingdom results. I believe Epaphroditus served both Paul and the Philippians as he served God, expecting God would use this service to produce much fruit throughout the kingdom of God. We serve with honor when we serve expecting results like Jesus, who could boldly say, speaking of His death and resurrection, “tear this temple down and in three days I will rebuild it.”
After the worship gathering there was a carry-in dinner at the church, so we had lunch before heading home for a relaxing afternoon. As evening approached, we headed to the river walk in Mishawaka to finish out the day and photograph the sunset. Today’s photo is one of many sunset photos from tonight as it was difficult to quit shooting as the sun disappeared over the horizon. The beauty was present no matter which direction we looked as the setting sun lit up the clouds across the entire sky.
As I reflect on the day, here are some thoughts/lessons that stand out to me:
- If I can’t sleep, I may as well make those restless hours productive.
- I never think my preparation of a sermon is completed until after I’ve delivered it.
- Since God wants us to honor people like Epaphroditus, who do I know that needs to be given such honor?
- Humility is part of the foundation to serving in a way that should be honored.
- Obedience ought to be our response to the way Jesus has served us.
- Needs of others must be considered if we want to serve like Jesus.
- Opportunity is easily missed when we choose not to serve “the least of these”.
- Results of serving are best left up to God with the expectation that when we do so, He will not disappoint.
- God’s creativity and beauty put on display for all to see is a sight I never get tired of.