Identifying with the church of the Lord Jesus Christ in a society that is becoming increasingly hostile towards Christianity takes courage and determination. As faith is privatised and pushed out of the public arena, it becomes increasingly challenging to live holy and Christ-honouring lives.
Serious religious decline in the nation together with things that were once forbidden and illegal now receiving the support and approbation of our national leaders cause us great concern.
The Old Testament prophet, Habakkuk, had found himself in such a situation, with not only religious deterioration, but also moral, political and social decline in the affairs of the nation of Israel.
Habakkuk complains to the Lord as to why he allows such things to happen. At first, he is bewildered why God does not act. The Lord reminds Habakkuk that ‘the righteous will live by his faith’ (Habakkuk 2:4); and, by the end of the prophecy, we find Habakkuk declaring, ‘I will be joyful in God my saviour’ (Habakkuk 3:18).
The situation had not changed, but he declares, ‘The sovereign Lord is my strength’ (Habakkuk 3:19). Surely, here is the encouragement for God’s people to get on and serve the Lord in our nation even though it is in such moral and religious decline.
Those who are adopted into God’s family are integrated into a working unit, and the task of being a Christian is hard work. In writing to the Philippians, Paul speaks of his ‘fellow worker and fellow soldier’ Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25).
Epaphroditus was not afraid to be identified with Paul, although it meant associating with a man in prison — no doubt, a dangerous thing to do in Roman society.
These two brethren worked together for the Lord, and to work with Paul was no easy option. Paul was known to be bold and fearless, but Epaphroditus considered it an honour to be working on the front line.
Any Christian who seeks to serve the Lord faithfully is going to be aware of the enemies around us, but too easily we look at the difficulties and problems that confront us rather than looking to the author and perfecter of our faith.
The Christian is called to be a soldier of Christ, to be strong in the strength that he supplies — as Habakkuk had found.
There is a cost in serving our gracious Saviour. Epaphroditus found this. He wore himself out for the sake of the gospel and exposed himself to all kinds of dangers in carrying out the work he was sent to do.
Paul goes as far to say of Epaphroditus that ‘he almost died for the work of Christ’ (Philippians 2:30). Yet, behind this seemingly ‘reckless’ devotion was surely a confidence that his future was safe in the Lord’s hands.
Such things are a challenge to believers in our 21st century comfort zones. Are we willing to risk ourselves and our possessions for the gospel’s sake? Whenever we find ourselves holding back in serving the Lord, perhaps we should remember how Epaphroditus risked his life for the cause of Christ.
Few believers will be called to the point of putting their lives at risk in the work of Christ’s church, but we are all called to play our part. Every believer is called to use the gifts that the Lord has given, to serve Christ to our utmost ability.
No doubt, as we get older we do not have the same energy and strength we had when we were younger, but that does not mean this is an excuse to stop being useful in the work of the church.
Paul not only described Epaphroditus as a ‘fellow worker and fellow soldier’, but also as ‘my brother’. They both shared the same faith, and were both part of the family of God in the same way that all Bible believing Christians are brothers and sisters of one another.
It is through the atoning blood of Christ that we are united together into the family of God. So Paul is not ashamed to call Epaphroditus his brother. But then we read the Lord Jesus himself is not ashamed to call all true believers his brothers (Hebrews 2:11).
Such a truth brings challenges. If we are united together in Christ by virtue of his precious blood, then we are ‘fellow workers and fellow soldiers’ with Christ in his work in the world in which we live.
Can there be any greater incentive and encouragement to use our time, our substance and our being in the worship and service of such a great Saviour?
As Habakkuk found, ‘The sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights’.
The author is a director of
Evangelical Press’ French and Russian work and has recently retired as pastor of Aycliffe Evangelical Church