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HUMAN RESOURCES, EARLY FIRST CENTURY By Fred Stehman

Read: Philippians 2:19-30

Reflect:   We often read and study the Bible as we seek guidance for Christian living or to develop a deeper relationship with God. There are many different approaches. Some find meditation on the Scriptures as a way to grow their faith and find clarity of purpose for life.  Others may join a small Bible study group for the opportunity to engage in discussions which can give multiple perspectives into a particular passage from the Word.  Still others will follow a daily devotional guide enhanced by journaling as a means to have a steady diet of spiritual food.

Today’s reading provides such nourishment but only after digging beneath the surface of what seems to be personnel move in the form of a job assignment for Paul’s understudy Timothy. It is believed that Timothy was with Paul when he wrote this letter and partnered in ministry with Paul when the church at Philippi was planted. Paul thought highly of Timothy’s abilities, character, and caring heart for the welfare of the Philippians and Timothy seemed to come by these qualities quite naturally. (It is interesting that after concluding his thoughts on shining bright for Christ in verses 12 – 18, thoughts of Timothy quickly come into Paul’s mind.)  

As an elder tradesman trains a younger apprentice, Timothy, the successful and worthy student, was now trained and prepared for Gospel ministry in Paul’s absence. Their journey together in service was marked by Timothy’s great respect for Paul, as well as a great tenderness and kindness toward Timothy on the part of Paul. This was an admirable example to elder and younger ministers united in the same service.

In this passage, Paul turns his attention to Epaphroditus in what seems at first to be a peripheral personnel issue. Paul acknowledges and commends Epaphroditus for being a brother and for his faithful work and courage as a devoted soldier for the church. (It is believed Epaphroditus delivered money from the Philippians to Paul and then returned with this thank you letter to Philippi.) Paul was deeply touched by the hardship (brush with death) endured by Epaphroditus in selfless service to the church. Paul conveys the sincerity and depth of his gratitude as he implores the Philippians to welcome and comfort Epaphroditus upon his return. As Paul communicates his anticipation of the Philippians joy in receiving him home in Christian love, as he also teaches/reveals the need for a communal heart and spirit for sharing the trials and challenges of ministry in a larger Kingdom context beyond the local church. (Can you say first century prayer chain?)

Apply:  Pray for your pastor! Surely we pray for our pastor as the shepherd of our church. We also look to him for spiritual guidance in his teaching and deliverance of spiritual nourishment in his weekly sermons. We rely on his abilities to provide care and comfort in times of heartache and grief, as well as wise counsel through the struggles of life. Consider also, praying for his responsibilities for managing people and church staff under his charge. As Paul mentored Timothy and prepared to maneuver him into a higher level of ministry responsibility, pastors must also mentor, manage, and maneuver his people into areas of maximum ministry effectiveness. As Paul appealed to the collective heart of the church at Philippi to rally around and support Epaphroditus with the healing comfort of Christian love, pastors also need to effectively love, edify and encourage their flock to unify in a caring spirit of Christian love. As personal Bible study, meditation and prayer can bring strength to your faith, prayer for your pastor’s managerial skills can bring strength to him and the ministry purpose of your church.