Timothy and Epaphroditus
Open Your Bible
Philippians 2:19-30, Acts 19:21-22, 1 Corinthians 16:10, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13
It was an early morning in June when I logged into my work computer at our university library. I hadn’t been online for more than a minute before seeing tributes pouring in from church leaders, moms, and others whose lives have been enriched by this one woman and her heart for God. Elisabeth Elliot had died.
Elisabeth’s writing helped guide my spiritual formation after I stumbled across her work somewhere around the age of twenty years old. An American missionary, wife, author, and speaker, she was a modest saint, one who would never call attention to herself. She saw our lives as “chalices” or “empty vessels willing and ready to be filled with the life of God.” But on this June morning, people seemed to think it right to honor her long walk of faithfulness.
During his missionary journeys, the apostle Paul honored his ministry partners in a similar way by speaking well of them. When he wrote to groups like the one in Philippi, he vouched for his friends and elevated their good qualities so there would be no question of their credibility. Timothy was a “like-minded” man doing the Lord’s work with “proven character” (Philippians 2:20, 22; 1 Corinthians 16:10). Epaphroditus was his “brother” who should be welcomed with “great joy” (Philippians 2:25, 29). Paul also asked these churches to recognize and hold in high regard those among them who were risking their lives for the kingdom (1 Thessalonians 5:12–13).
Jesus tells us, “You will have suffering in the world.” (John 16:33). I’ve always found it strange when we describe life as having seasons of trials and tribulations. Instead of life being a static plane of serenity with intermittent times of trial, it sometimes seems that life itself is the trial with intermittent times of serenity. One thing that gives us strength while following Jesus is our friendship with others and their encouragement on the journey.
I hope people pointed out the good they saw in Elisabeth Elliot while she was alive. I imagine that her modest personality was challenged now and then by opportunities to focus on affirmation from others. But even if not, I hope her story inspires us to follow Paul’s model and affirm the God-honoring qualities we see in our brothers and sisters. This isn’t to draw self-serving attention or make them arrogant; it’s an opportunity to build up the Body of Christ in a world so often marked by anything but serenity.