I recently heard a ministry leader share this idea: The first thing pastors lose after entering into the ministry is someone who will pastor them. In other words, you become the shoulder for other people to lean on, while missing out on having someone to lean on yourself. He then went on to mention the spiritual attacks pastors and their families often endure—the enemy’s attempts to knock them down and prevent the gospel message from spreading.
As Christians, we all face spiritual struggles, and sometimes isolation, because of our faith. Even Jesus said that we would be hated by the world because we are not of it (John 17:14–16). Our shared calling as believers is one of consistently serving others and sharing their burdens—a burden all its own that is not to be taken lightly, especially for those who are called to teach (James 3:1).
During Paul’s ministry, he traveled across the Mediterranean preaching and then being thrown in prison. But he rarely endured this alone; Paul was constantly in the company of fellow believers who were also doing God’s work, working alongside him to spread the good news about Jesus.
Two of these assistants were Timothy and Epaphroditus. Paul mentions these men in a few of his letters, especially when he was sending one or both on a mission to a local church. He likens Epaphroditus to “his brother,” and urges the Philippian church to “welcome him in the Lord with great joy and hold people like him in honor” (Philippians 2:25, 29). He extols Timothy’s likemindedness and his “proven character” as he carries out his mission (Philippians 2:20, 22; 1 Corinthians 16:10). Clearly, Paul wanted those who would receive his brothers in the faith to treat Timothy and Epaphroditus with care and respect.
In Paul’s day, the missionaries spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ depended upon local churches for a lot. As they traveled, Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus relied on other believers to provide them food and shelter. They existed on God’s charity and the goodwill administered to them through the kindness of other believers. And although Paul could not always be with his brothers on mission, he wanted them to be held in high regard “because of their work” for the kingdom (1 Thessalonians 5:12–13).
This missional work was difficult, but men like Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus persevered because they were serving a God who loved them and a community of people who supported them. Likewise, each of us needs the Church, the body of Christ and all its parts working together, to carry out the call God has placed on our lives (1 Corinthians 12:12–14). The world has changed a lot since the first century, but the Great Commission hasn’t. So, while our challenges are different than those faced by Paul and his friends, we still need the grace of God—and one another.
Written by Robert Carnes