FFF 8:9 (Sept 1962)
“Parents attempt to give away a a six months old baby at a shopping plaza!” Such was an item heard on a news broadcast recently. This absence of “natural affection”, although extreme, is nevertheless indicative of the spirit of this age and not only is it characteristic of the ungodly, but sad to say it is in evidence among us who profess to be the people of God. Paul wrote of it in his day to his son in the faith, Timothy, “At my first answer (defence) no man stood with me, but all men forsook me” (2 Tim. 4:16). How often we too have failed our brethren and sisters in Christ when they sorely needed our help and care!
While Paul experienced the lack or absence of care, yet he also had cause for rejoicing in the tender care shown him by the saints of God as seen in his letter to the Philippians, “But I rejoice in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again” (Phil. 4:10). Mr. Vincent, in his “Word Studies in the New Testament,” gives this literal translation, “Ye caused your thinking on my behalf to bloom anew.” Expositor’s give it thus, “You let your care for me blossom into activity.” The care and thoughts of the saints at Phillipi blooming anew and blossoming into activity brought joy to the Apostle Paul at a time when all seemed to have forgotten and forsaken him.
Let us think of Paul’s condition as he writes. He is an old man now, surely an object of care. He is incapacitated and unable to move about as he once did because he is a prisoner. Further, he had physical defects (possibly poor eyesight) which handicapped him, and caused him great exercise and concern before God (cf. 2 Cor. 12:8).
Paul is a picture here of so many people of God today who need our care and help. We think of the aged, the sick, the infirm, the lonely, and those who are passing through mental anguish from various causes. May God exercise our hearts and cause our care for all such, and for all His saints, to bloom anew, to blossom into activity.
We shall consider how the care of the Philippians for Paul blossomed anew in a twofold way. First, they met his emotional needs by sending to him Epaphroditus. Notice how Paul responded to this when he spoke of Epaphroditus in chapter 2:25 as “my brother, and companion in labour and fellowsoldier.” It was a great joy to Paul in his loneliness to have one whom he calls “my brother.” What a comfort and consolation to have with him a brother, one with the same interests, one who thought similarly and understood him, one with whom he could converse and in whom, he could confide, “my brother!” Paul spoke of him as “my companion and fellowsoldier,” sharing the loneliness during his imprisonment. We can only surmise what this meant to Paul if we were under the same circumstances. So many times just a visit to a saint of God in need, a short letter or a card from a brother or sister has meant more to one than any words can express. Thus the Philippians met Paul’s physical and temporal needs, for again in chapter 2:25 he writes of Epaphroditus as “your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants.” The word “minister” suggests priestly service and, whatever it involved, Paul recognized in Epaphroditus one sent by the Philippians to minister to his physical and temporal needs as a Priest. This brought further comfort and joy to Paul as he received the necessities of life from the Philippians by the hand of Epaphroditus. He says in chapter 4:18, “Having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you.” It cheered and delighted him as he saw in Epaphroditus one serving him as a priest from God. Thus they met Paul’s need (cf. 4:17).
How many there are of God’s people today who stand in need of such care! They have emotional problems and physical needs. It is our privilege to meet these as the Philippians met Paul’s. Alas, it seems often that those who need our care and interest most are forgotten, whether intentionally or thoughtlessly. May God help us to be ready, regardless of circumstances, to encourage and help all God’s children.
Let us see the spirit in which such care is to be administered. Chapter 2 of Philippians gives us examples of true Christian service. First, it is to be in lowliness of mind and self-sacrifice as exemplified by our blessed Lord (chap. 2:5-8). He sacrificed His all for others, in the dreadful death endured on the cross. This should be evidenced in our service and care — looking “on the things of thers.”
Second, our service is to be in selflessness as seen in the example of Paul (chap. 2:7). Paul was content to be as the drink offering poured upon the sacrifice, which quickly disappeared. Such a spirit is to be manifested in our service and care —not to obtain glory and praise for ourselves, but simply to serve the saints of God.
Our service is to be likewise sincere as seen in the example of Timothy (chap. 2:20-21). Paul speaks of him as one “who will naturally (genuinely) care for your state.” This is to be the character of our care for others.
Last, our care for others is to be without regard for personal safety, as seen in the example of Epaphroditus (chap. 2:30) who had risked his life to minister to Paul.
This type of service is a wonderful way in which to care for those who belong to the Lord. Beloved brethren and sisters, how is it with us? Do we have this care for all our brethren and sisters in Christ? What is our motive? Are we seeking self glory and the praise of men? Or is our desire simply to be like our blessed Lord, serving in lowliness of mind with self hidden, in all sincerity, and without regard to personal safety and comfort?
There are, however, compensations in such unselfish service. One can understand the joy of the saints at Philippi as they read Paul’s words, “I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at the last ye caused your thinking on my behalf to bloom anew” (chap. 4:10). When we see those rejoicing to whom we have ministered, that same joy fills our souls and is compensation for service. Paul writes further that it was “an odour of a sweet smell” to God (chap. 14:18). Surely, this would reward the Philippians for their service. However, that is not all. Paul writes that it is “a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.” Finally, he tells them that it is fruit to their account (chap. 4:17). Such was the rich compensation then, and it is no less now. Our heavenly Father sees every act of kindness. Our blessed Lord said, “Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily, I say unto you he shall in no wise lose his reward” (Matt. 10:42).
Lest it seem impossible to so serve one another, God gives us a word of encouragement as to the source of ability and strength, “My God shall supply (satisfy to the full) all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (chap. 4:19). Thus not only are we given the example of these beloved saints at Philippi, but we have the encouragement and the promise that in so doing, God will supply to the full all our need by Christ Jesus. What more do we require?
Would to God, we in this day could adopt the motive of the Philippians! In place of this, many times we hear unkind words, backbitings, the belittling of one another, Such was not the way of the Philippians. Others might speak of Paul in an unkind way, deny his apostleship, accuse him, of guile, of false motives, and wrong methods, etc. The saints at Philippi, nevertheless, lavished their care on him unselfishly.
May we learn like the Philippians to have a care for one another. If we do, happiness and joy will fill our souls and rich compensations will be our portion.
May we look upon the saints of God in their individual needs and may our care for them bloom anew for His Name’s sake.