Long before there ever was a Federal Express there was the Pony Express. A privately ran company of horseback riders that carried and delivered mail by the ounce. St. Joseph, Missouri was their home terminal in the east while the western terminal was in Sacramento California. If the weather was good and the Indians aimed badly, a single piece of mail would take about ten days to make the nearly two thousand mile journey across the country. The riders would ride almost one hundred miles a day stopping only to change horses every fifteen to twenty miles. Obviously not a job for the weak, in fact, it’s a wonder anyone would ever take on such job like this. Once a well-known San Francisco paper ran an ad for Pony Express Riders it read something like this “Wanted, Young, skinny, wiry fellows not more than eighteen, must be expert riders willing to risk life and limb daily. Orphans preferred.” Believe it or not, the Pony Express Company never had a shortage of qualified riders.
Much like those Pony Express workers in that day, today for us spreading the Good News, and serving God is not a job for those who are only looking for part-time causally employment. Serving God can prove to be both rewarding and costly. For a person to fulfill the Great Commission and live the Great Commandment it will involve risks and sacrifices, it is very demanding work. Just take a look at the instructions from Jesus in Matthew 28: 18-20 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The gospel message of a dying Savior cannot be shared or spread powerfully by those who want to play it safe and are only concerned about keeping or saving their lives. In Matthew 16:25 Jesus explains it in this manner “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” You mean I must be willing to lose my life for someone else. After Jesus said those words He was asked this question in Matthew 22:38 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” His reply in verse 37 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Risking it all for the sake of Christ and those without Christ was the hallmark of early Christianity – Acts 15:26; Rom. 16:4. When the Titanic was sinking it was seemingly everyone for themselves, however, a strange thing happened as people were safely in the lifeboats, they begin trying to save others. When you are sinking, when your life is in near ruin, and you’re given a lifeline once you have gotten safely into your lifeboat you reach out to those who are drowning around you to help them to safety. You know you’re saved when your desire is to help your fellow man to their salvation “Love your neighbor as yourself.” What I am saying, simply this, coming to the cross of Christ for salvation for the early Christians meant coming away with a cross of their own -Luke 9:23. Theirs was not merely a religion like many religions today where it appears that we are only interested in securing our salvation.
When you look in Phil 2:25-30 at the life of Epaphroditus, what you see is disregard for life for the sake of Christ. When Paul wrote to the Philippians he is careful to commend the chivalry of this selfless servant of Christ who came very close to dying when he desired to bring a gift from the Philippians to Paul – Philippians 2:30. Epaphroditus risks his life to fulfill the desire of the Philippians to meet Paul’s needs in prison. He literally gambled with his life for the sake of Paul’s life. When Paul talks about him “not regarding his life,” he is using a word that speaks of gambling, of rolling the dice, of risking it all. It was a word that was used of those who nursed the seriously sick and buried the dead. It was a word that was used of merchants that chanced death for the sake of material gain. It was a word that was used of those who risked their lives in advocating for a friend before the emperor. Epaphroditus was God’s gambler.
What you, me, I mean we, risking it all for the souls of men other than ourselves, the good of His church, and the glory of God? Playing it safe is death to God’s work in our lives. Like a racehorse running a close race, you’re gonna have to stick your neck out if expect any progress.