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Short Christians

Ephesians 6:21-22 - But that you may also know about my circumstances, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother in the Lord, will make everything known to you. And I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts.

Philippians 2:25-30 - But I think it is necessary to send Epaphroditus back to you, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger whom you sent to take care of my needs. 2or he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only, but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.

Colossians 4:12-13 - Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always laboring earnestly in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.

Do you remember the song "Short People," which was popular in the late 1970s? It's a satirical put-down on people who are physically small. Some short people laughed it off, but some were upset because the song made them feel inferior and stepped on.

Some Christians have a "short people" complex--not because of physical measurements, but because of spiritual qualifications! These Christians perceive themselves as being below normal in natural talents or spiritual gifts. Of course the Bible assures us that there is no such thing as an inferior or insignificant or unimportant Christian. Every Christian has responsibility in the Kingdom of God and a function in the Body of Christ. However, there is always a tendency for the Christian who is not loaded with unusual natural talent or an outgoing personality or up-front spiritual gift to feel "short." Do you ever feel that way--inferior, insignificant, unimportant? Does the question, "Where was I when the Lord passed out the gifts and talents?" ever cross your mind? Well, take heart, because the Bible indicates that people who feel like "short" Christians are very important and very necessary for the proper functioning of every Christian fellowship and ministry.

In the Scripture mentioned above we have three "short" Christians who were associated with the apostle Paul--Tychicus, Epaphroditus and Epaphras. Paul was the dynamic leader and the center of attention. Paul was the great teacher and preacher and missionary. Paul was the outstanding gift which the risen and ascended Christ gave to His Church. But there were many apparently "short" people connected with the great apostle. Their names appear very briefly in the pages of Scripture, but enough is said about them to show us that they were not "short" at all--they were a very important and very necessary part of the ministry! Tychicus, Epaphroditus and Epaphras were just three of these "short" Christians who were used by their Lord for special and significant service.

Tychicus was a "beloved brother" (Ephesians 6:21). He was the kind of Christian you like to have around--good attitude, helpful, easy to love. Not all Christians bring with them an atmosphere of love. We need more beloved brothers and sisters like Tychicus. They are the all-important and necessary "oil in the machinery" of our local churches and Christian ministries! Are you a "beloved brother," or would other Christians be glad to see you move on?

We also read that Tychicus was a "faithful servant." He was dependable and reliable. He could be trusted to get the job done. No wonder Paul chose him to carry the letters to both Ephesus and Colosse (see Colossians 4:7-8). Suppose this mail had been lost! Little did Tychicus realize how important a role he was playing in God's plan for completing the Scriptures. Perhaps the "insignificant" things the Lord has called you to do are far more significant and important than you ever imagined! In 2 Timothy 4:12 we learn that Tychicus was faithful right to the end. 2 Timothy was written by the apostle Paul just a few months before he was martyred. By this time many believers had forsaken Paul for one reason or another (see 2 Timothy 1:15 and 4:10), but faithful Tychicus hung in there! Dependability and reliability are needed more than ever in the Christian ministry today. "The grass is always greener" or the ministry more exciting someplace other than your local church or the student fellowship where you are now. But this may be exactly the ministry where the Lord expects you to be faithful week by week.

One other thing we learn about Tychicus from Ephesians 6:22 is that he was able to bring comfort or encouragement to fellow believers. He was not only a letter and news carrier--he was an encourager! Brother Tychicus had just the right personality and demeanor and few words necessary to comfort and encourage other Christians. Maybe you're like Tychicus. Many Christians whose gifts and talents are more publicly visible than yours are total misfits when it comes to comforting fellow-believers in times of sorrow or stress. Perhaps the Lord has gifted you with the very important ability to comfort that Christian friend whose close family member has just died, or to encourage that believer who is struggling or wavering in the faith. What an important and significant ministry!

In Philippians 2:25-30 we read of another "short" Christian who was associated with the apostle Paul. His name was Epaphroditus. The church at Philippi had sent him to deliver a financial gift for Paul's ministry. But no sooner had Epaphroditus arrived in Rome than he became very sick and almost died. Apparently Epaphroditus was upset about this because he thought that the people in the home church might look on him as a failure! Here they had entrusted him with a simple mission, and he couldn't even stay healthy long enough to make the round trip! He may have felt quite dejected and demoralized at this point, thinking "What good am I--for anything, let alone Christian service?" Have you ever felt like that? Everyone else seems to be able to do a normal job for Christ, but you always blow it in one way or another--you may even have gotten sick at the wrong time!

But wait a minute! Before you throw in the towel, take a look at the divine commentary on Epaphroditus in verses 29-30. This "short" Christian was to be held in high regard! He was to be given a hero's welcome when he returned home! Why? Because he risked his life for the work of Christ! How about that?! Epaphroditus wasn't knifed on a street corner in Rome for preaching the gospel, and he wasn't thrown into the arena with savage lions for the sake of his faith. No, he just got very sick while he was doing a job for the Lord--maybe he just caught the Roman flu! But God's view of Epaphroditus should be a real encouragement to us. Epaphroditus thought of himself as a failure, but God's Word honors him as having traveled the road of a martyr for Jesus Christ! For growing Christians who feel like "short" Christians, it's a real blessing and encouragement to read this! While we should take reasonable care of our bodies as far as health or other risks go, we can be sure that if we face danger or illness in the course of Christian service, God counts it as suffering for His sake. Burning out for Christ is commendable!

Epaphras was still another "short" Christian who worked with the great apostle Paul. Epaphras was not a great teacher or a great preacher, but he was a great prayer. Colossians 4:12-13 tells us that he labored earnestly in prayer for his fellow-believers. How often do we labor in prayer for fellow Christians? We probably must confess that our prayers are usually self-centered--our family, our particular friends, our problems, our needs, our wants. When was the last time we reached out in our own private prayers to earnestly pray for the spiritual growth of the Christians we know? Have we ever "labored earnestly" in our prayers for others--even to the point of tears? Laboring in prayer for others is a very important part of the Christian ministry, and it is one that we all can perform, regardless of our natural talents or spiritual gifts.

Epaphras is also mentioned in Philemon 23. Here Paul refers to him as "my fellow prisoner." Now this is quite interesting. When Paul wrote Philemon (as well as Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, which are known as the four "Prison Epistles") he was under house arrest in Rome. This meant that while he was free to live in his own rented quarters, he was chained to a Roman guard at all times. Under these trying conditions Paul continued to spread the gospel and wrote letters while he waited for his trial before Caesar (see Acts 28:30-31). The fact that Paul refers to Epaphras as "my fellow prisoner" indicates that most likely Epaphras voluntarily submitted himself to imprisonment in order to assist the apostle in that situation. Perhaps he and Aristarchus (another "short" Christian referred to as "my fellow prisoner" in Colossians 4:10) took different shifts, and among other things wrote for Paul as his secretaries. In any case, it appears that Epaphras may have voluntarily given up his own freedom to assist Paul. Would you do that--give up your freedom to help another Christian in his or her ministry? Or would you feel that you must do your own thing, and "make a name for yourself" in Christian circles? Perhaps God is calling you to a supporting role in some Christian ministry or in your local church--a "behind the scenes", but very important job!

No Christian should have a "short people" complex. God's Word clearly shows us that all Christians are significant and important. In fact, all Christians are potential giants in Christian faith and in service for Christ--as far as God is concerned.
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