Calvary Road Baptist Church

ďTHE DEVELOPMENT OF COURAGE, SUCH AS WAS DEMONSTRATED BY EPAPHRODITUSĒ

Philippians 2.28-30

Sir John Glubb, a British military officer, who created the Arab Legion and was a student of history, remarked that the rise of feminism is one of the certain signs of a declining empire.[1] An article that quoted Sir John Glubb went on to claim that Americaís ruling elite certainly is correspondingly effeminate. It is excessively concerned with material comforts and physical well-being, neither of which are traits of the warrior. Our countryís ruling elite thinks that the worst thing you can say of somebody is that he is ďinsensitive.Ē If thatís not an effeminate characteristic I donít know what is. The article went on to say that effeminate men can be cruel, but they are not brave. Shooting a woman holding a baby, as was done at Ruby Ridge in 1992 was cruel, it was not brave.[2] What the government is doing to our citizens since the government shutdown is cruel, but not brave. Bombastically meddling in the affairs of small countries, like Libya and Syria, while kowtowing to larger and more powerful countries is typically effeminate and cowardly.

However, we are not only a nation with effeminate leaders. Look around you and take stock of the so-called men of God you see on television, hear on the radio, and who preside over so many churches. Do you see many spiritual warriors in Christendom? Where are the men of courage? Where are the men of bold action? Where are the men in positions of leadership and authority who are willing to lay it all on the line for Christís sake? You see a great deal of posturing, but whereís the beef? Step back in time with me to the early 1970s. What would have happened had the prominent men of that day had even one tenth the gut level courage that Martin Luther King had? Had those leaders, had any one or two of those men, gotten arrested for picketing an abortion clinic years ago when the time was ripe, we would not have legalized abortion in this country today. Sadly, no one in a position to do anything about the problem had the courage to do anything about the problem.

Consider men who are not Christians, and their faux masculinity. If they ever went to church, of course they quit church. They had to quit church in order to pretend to be what they will never be, manly and courageous. Rather than man up and being spiritual leaders, the effeminancies pretend to be bad boys by drinking beer, by smoking a little weed, by getting a tattoo here and there, by styling in what they ride or drive, and doing all kinds of macho man type posturing. However, the one thing they will not do is man up to their bossy mommas and be the man of the house, be the spiritual leader, do the right thing with respect to God and Jesus Christ. Tough when it comes to physical courage and looking bad, oh so bad. However, when the requirement is for moral courage, they cower at the thought of facing down the woman who cut them out of the herd and selected them for marriage. They are, to put it bluntly, effeminate on the inside where it counts.

I am so thankful for the men of this church, who are really and truly manly. Churches all over the world need such men as we have here. The men of our church are such incredible guys that my fear is that some men who have darkened our doors have left or future attenders will leave for fear they cannot measure up to the spiritual stature of our men. What they neglect to consider is that no Christian man is the man that he is but by the grace of God. To bring the discussion to scripture, Oh, that God would give us more men like Epaphroditus. Oh, that God would give us men who think enough of the cause of Christ to lay their lives on the line. Oh, that God would give to us that kind of Christian again throughout the land. What wonderful men we have in our church, many of whom are very similar in my mind to Epaphroditus, lacking only the opportunity that Epaphroditus was faced with.

Want to know how it is that God gives to us that kind of Christian, whether man or woman? How are we to see more men and women who exhibit the courageous characteristics of an Epaphroditus? Let me tell you, but first turn to Philippians 2.25-30, where we learn of the man named Epaphroditus:

25     Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants.

26     For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick.

27     For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.

28     I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful.

29     Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation:

30     Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.

IT ENDS WITH COURAGE

To have an Epaphroditus type of Christian you have to have a courageous kind of Christian. What Epaphroditus displayed when he put his life on the line for the cause of Christ, when he regarded not his own life, when he did not stay home from church because he did not feel good, was courage. Would to God more churches in our country had Christians with such courage these days. You will remember our friend informing me that the women of his congregation in sub-Sahara Africa first learned to stay home from church when they did not feel good from an American Christian woman. Terrible. Never before they were shown such conduct had they the slightest inclination toward unfaithfulness for such a reason as a headache. Does it show Christian courage to stay home from church because you feel badly? I donít think so.

You do not necessarily need to forfeit your life, because God doesnít always require of His people that we forfeit our lives. However, the fortitude to live the life that He has set before you is the important thing, to present your body as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service, Romans 12.1.

Bless God, churches everywhere need more such Christian men who are Christian men. As well, they need Christian women who are real Christian women. Whether men or women, believers and church members need to be courageous enough to be humble instead of proud, and courageous enough to ask forgiveness when they have done wrong. Who needs the obstinate refusal to acknowledge the wrong that everyone knows you to be guilty of? We need more Christians who are courageous enough to tithe even when the money gets tight, instead of cowering and whimpering in fear that God is incapable or unwilling to look after His own.

BUT YOU KNOW WHERE COURAGE COMES FROM, DONíT YOU? COURAGE IS BORN OF COMMITMENT.

Courage is the product of someone setting a personal goal and objective and determining that no thing and that no one is going to keep him from achieving that goal. Understand that it is not a foolish goal, like setting a goal for the number of souls youíre going to win to Christ, since only God knows how many sinners He will draw to Jesus Christ. I have had that kind of goal setting up to here, with unethical and naive preachers manipulating people to evoke responses they take to be conversion experiences in order to meet a numeric goal. Rather, goals should be matter you have some control over, such as the goal of how many people you will attempt to witness to, how many verses you will memorize, how many weeks by Godís grace you can go without missing a single church service, or how much you will give on a PayCheck Sunday as God supplies the bounty.

Epaphroditus was courageous to the point of risking his life because he had established for himself a legitimate and God-honoring goal. That obvious goal that he sought to meet was to arrive in Rome with the money he was conveying, without hesitation or delay. He knew that the Apostle Paul, the most important of Godís servants alive on earth at the time, was in financial straits and needed his help. Therefore, to meet that immediate goal of getting to Rome with the money as fast as he could, for Christís sake, he almost forfeited his life. That took courage born of commitment.

What about you? Do you ever display courage? Do you ever overcome great obstacles to achieve great things for God? No? Perhaps you donít display courage because there is a lack of commitment in your life. For courage to be displayed, a commitment must be made. And if there is no courage, it is because there is no commitment. If that be the case, you are a convenience Christian, not a courageous Christian.

Are you committed to attending church? Are you committed to reading Godís Word? Are you committed to praying? Are you committed to serving God? Are you committed to tithing and giving to missions? If you have no such commitments in your life, you may end up being one of those college kids who served God in high school and who will try to resume serving God after graduation, but whose life counts for nothing during college. Thatís too bad. You see, if youíre not capable of showing the courage to serve God during college, if your commitment is that shallow, then youíre not really college material, are you? We need courageous Christians in college, not just college students who say they are Christians, but who show no determination to serve God when they get tired or when they have some homework assignments due. As well, in the work force, the cause of Christ is advanced when Christ is wisely and courageously served in and around those you work with, while at the same time striving to be the best at your job you can be by Godís grace. If you have no commitment to serving God, what is the likelihood that you will honor any commitment to be faithful to your wife, or to your kids?

WHY IS THERE NO COMMITMENT AMONG SO MANY WHO CLAIM TO BE CHRISTIANS? ITíS BECAUSE THERE IS NO REAL CONCERN.

Let me briefly say that as I survey the spiritual landscape of our country these days I see very little concern for the God of my people. I see a great many people who say they are Godís people, who say they are Christian people, who say they are saved, but who display very little concern for God or the things of God. Doesnít it stand to reason that if a person is really saved he will demonstrate in some tangible way a concern for the God of his people? That being established, where is the demonstration of your concern for God? As well, how should someone show concern for the One he says is his God?

Second, there is very little concern for the people of my God. What concern is there for the people of your God, for those who are genuinely born again, with whom you will spend eternity as members of the family of God? Will you be faithful . . . for them? Will you sacrificially give . . . for them? Will you show godliness . . . for them? Will you pray . . . for them? I see more of that here than I see elsewhere, thank the Lord.

Thirdly, there is very little evident concern among most Christians for the lost around them. Ask the average Christian if some of his friends are lost. Are there not members of his family going to Hell? Does he not have unsaved children, unsaved mates, or unsaved parents? Excuse me, but the reason most have no courage as a Christian, to do right against what is admittedly minimal opposition, to go to church when he is tired or a bit discouraged, is because he has no concern for his friends, family members, or other lost people around him. His lack of concern for others results in a lack of commitment to the cause of Christ. And having no commitment, he therefore displays no personal courage in the face of discouragement, in the face of fatigue, in the face of unforeseen circumstances, etc.

WHY NO CONCERN, NO REAL CONCERN? NO CONVICTION. CONCERN IS DERIVED FROM CONVICTION.

You know that conviction is a work of the Holy Spirit in a personís life.[3] And though the Holy Spirit works to produce conviction in the lives of some unsaved people, it is certainly true that conviction, once produced in an unsaved personís life, will remain with him even after he is saved. Every genuinely saved person has personal convictions. Conviction, it must be understood, is not an emotion. Conviction is the absolute certainty of certain things, whether that certainty produces an emotional response or not. Let me mention three things about which you must have conviction in order to be concerned enough to commit yourself and eventually produce courage:

First, you must have a conviction about the holiness of God. God said, ďBe ye holy, for I am holy.Ē[4] No one who is truly born again can have serious doubts or reservations about the holiness of Almighty God. God is holy.

Second, you must have a conviction about the horror of sin. The Holy Spirit reproves lost people of sin, righteousness, and judgment to come.3 Surely, in some way, this means that a Christian will come to believe and will retain his certainty that sin is wrong, is always wrong, is only wrong, and that sin is damnable, damning, and hateful in Godís sight.

Third, you must have a conviction that Jesus Christ is both Savior and Lord. How can a saved person doubt (except for short episodes that plague many Christians at times) that Jesus is Savior? How can a saved person doubt that Jesus is Lord? If God is holy and man is sinful, and if Jesus only can save, what must that mean about your friends, loved ones, neighbors, coworkers, relatives, and family members who are not saved? They are doomed, are they not? We know that without holiness no man shall see the Lord.[5] Do not convictions about God, sin, and Jesus produce concern for the unsaved? Does not concern for the unsaved produce some kind of commitment? And does not that commitment result in courage to achieve those worthy goals when obstacles stand in your way?

BUT CONVICTIONS SUCH AS THESE ARE CARRY-OVERS FROM CONVERSION.

Can a person be converted without the Holy Spirit reproving him, convicting him, of sin, righteousness, and judgment to come? I donít think so. I know that folks donít always have to be terribly emotional and wrung out to be saved, but thatís an emotional response that conviction sometimes produces. Conviction has to do with being convinced about some things. You will not be converted unless and until you are convinced that you are sinful, desperately sinful, in the sight of God. You will not be converted unless and until you are convinced that you stand on the brink of Godís wrath and judgment for your sin. And you will not be converted unless and until you see Jesus Christ as the only Savior of sinful menís souls. To be sure, you can be convinced of all these things and never be converted, but you will never be converted until you are first convinced of all these truths.

Could it be that you are not a courageous Christian because you have no commitment? No commitment to attend church on Wednesdays when you are tired, no commitment to tithe when money is tight, no commitment to serve God when you are severely pressed for time? You see, courage is born of commitment. I think we have so many effeminate Christian leaders because we have so many who have such a low level of commitment that no moral courage is ever displayed.

Could it be that your lack of commitment is due to a lack of concern for others? Oh, perhaps you are sentimental. But is there real concern, the willingness to inconvenience yourself kind of concern? Have you a concern for the God of your people, for the people of your God, and for the lost around you? Thatís why there is no commitment. You have concern only for yourself.

Oneís lack of concern for the cause of Christ, and for the destiny of others, is because there is no real conviction. Such a person is not really absolutely convinced of anything, certainly not absolutely convinced of the holiness of God or the sinfulness of each and every man. Thatís why so few are convinced of the need of every man and every woman to be saved by Jesus Christ, the only Savior. At least not convinced enough that it will move them to any concerted or consistent action on their behalf.

The reason for that, the real reason for that, the undeniable reason for that, the only rational reason for that, is that so many are not really converted, after all. A man who is converted has convictions. A man who gets converted is a man who has already been convinced of things that many professing Christians are sadly not at all convinced of. Thatís the real problem, is it not?

What courage is required to act like a bad boy, to drink some beer, to smoke some weed, to get a tattoo, to use foul language, to disobey your mommy (er, your wife) while being too cowardly to provide spiritual leadership in the face of her Jezebel-like resistance? So many tough guys, but so few men of real courage.

My friends, recognize that what Epaphroditus did when he laid his life on the line was commendable, but it was not unusual. It was not extraordinary. It was not a rare act or deed. As a matter of fact, it was common in Paulís day and it is common in our day, in China, in Vietnam, in Cambodia, in Tibet, in Russia, in Mali, and in Nigeria. You see, you donít need to be anything special to demonstrate the kind of courage Epaphroditus displayed as a result of his commitment, produced by his concern, that arose from his convictions, springing from his conversion. You just need to be saved.

Therefore, if someone doesnít even have the kind of courage necessary to make it to church on Wednesday nights when he is not working or going to school, to tithe when the money is a little tight, to witnessing though he is feeling a bit timid, in all likelihood he is just lost. I say this because converted people have convictions, which produces concerns, that leads to commitment, that gives rise to courage. The real reason there are so few courageous Christians these days is because there are so few genuine Christians these days. Think about it. I thank God for those in our church who display their convictions and their concerns through the appropriate and spiritual manifestations of real courage.



[3] John 16.7-11

[4] Leviticus 20.7; 1 Peter 1.16

[5] Hebrews 12.14

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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org