2 Timothy 4:19,20
Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus stayed in Corinth, but Trophimus I have left in Miletus sick. NKJV
In the modern and western armed forces the unwritten contract between the volunteer fighter and his commanders are that he will fight for them and they will not leave him behind on the battlefield or in enemy territory. Even today in these times of financial cutbacks, small budgets are still spent on maintaining some semblance of Combat Search and Rescue and of body and bone retrieval of a nation’s long dead battle corpses left in foreign countries after wars have spent themselves. Ultimately, all the bones of every Joseph are attempted to be brought up from Egypt by the victors or survivors enjoying the promised land.
It was in the British colony of America, some twenty years before the nation’s Independence, that ‘Rogers Rangers’ fought against the French and their Indian allies to retain the colony for the British Crown. These frontier fighters were in effect the first American Special Forces, a tight fighting unit, one of which standards were, you guessed it, ‘to leave no man behind.’ The current US Ranger forces hold to that same standard as do many other units within western armed forces. Tonight, I do not want to comment on the failures of such a policy within the military, nor the pragmatic abandonment of such policies when the situation dictates the same, but rather, speaking in spiritual terms, I want to ask if this policy of ‘leaving no man behind’ was ever practiced by Christian soldiers and especially Christian special forces, that is, those missionaries functioning in foreign and enemy territory. I put it to you that it was not practiced and that the obvious conclusion of its non-practice is that the mission is more important than the man.
Our text for tonight speaks of a comparatively unknown soldier called Trophimus. I say comparatively unknonw because though little is known about Trophimus to us today, indeed, he is to us now, mostly an unremarkable, unknown and obscure person, I nevertheless do suspect he may well have been very well known to a vast majority of the early church and held in remarkable high esteem by them. Indeed, I wonder if Trophimus may well have been the brother of 2 Corinthians 8:18 whose ‘praise in the Gospel was known throughout all the churches.’ Trophimus was a Ranger, a spiritual fighting companion of Paul, who had no doubt seen amazing conversions and mighty miracles at the hand of that same Apostle and brother in arms. Yes, Trophimus was a valued and respected fighting member of the missionary team having no doubt experienced several tours of duty. Even so, look now, for the apostle Paul left sick Trophimus behind at Miletus. Why?
First, note that Trophimus was simply sick. There is no further comment as to how or why, simply that he was sick. We Christians are not exempt from the stresses and strains or diseases and disasters common to all sinful men and women under this most fallen and sinful sun. Trophimus was sick. End of story. And as far as this ‘abnormal’ but universal experience of fallen humanity is concerned, Christians are in no way exempt from sickness! However inconvenient to witness and mission, to family and friends, Christians get sick and die. Like it or not, disease and death are the common companions of all people, including Christians. In this, we connect with all people, for this is our joint and common lot this side of the redemption, and as the ‘Apostle of Balance,’ Pentecostal preacher Donald Gee rightly noted, “The apostle who manifested when in company with this friend and co-worker such outstanding miracles of healing also faced the mystery of sickness among his intimate associates.” A bullet of sickness incapacitated Trophimus; therefore, Paul left him behind at Miletus. Why? Because the mission was more important than the man.
Secondly, note that signs and wonder gifts, especially those of healing, had their primary use in Evangelism. Indeed, even the immunity from poisoning had its manifestation in attention getting Evangelism, (Acts 28:5). No, these healing miracles were primarily for the glory of God among the lost and not chiefly for the medical benefit of the church. Now, some of you are feeling rather annoyed about that last statement, but please don’t get narky with me! Take it up with God who allowed the continuing chronic pains of Paul to be the messenger of Satan manifest as a giant slayer of pride and presumption in his own life. Yes, go take it up with God who allowed Epaphroditus to overstretch himself in the work of the Lord and to break his own body and nearly die in harness because of it! Brethren, the gift of healing is primarily used as an attention getter in Evangelism. Of course, God heals people in the church.
Sometimes. But not often. In the case of Trophimus, presented to us tonight, Paul could not heal him. I think he would have if he could have, but he couldn’t and he didn’t! That meant that Trophimus needed physically attending to. Trophimus needed physical nursing. The Apostle Paul’s mission was not to be a physical nurse to Trophimus. Therefore, he left him behind. Why? Because the mission was more important than the man.
For sure, in times past, Paul had already previously called the elders of Ephesus to meet him at the port of Miletus, and Trophimus was a man of that fair city, yes, he was an Ephesian. Therefore, we can maybe assume, just to make his being left behind a little more palatable to us, that help was not too far away for Trophimus and some kind of CSAR team had already been called for. We do not know, but it is not an unreasonable assumption that this happened. However, we can ask this question, “Was the apostle Paul simply like one of Joab’s mighty men, who dragged intestine speared Amasa, wallowing in his own blood with his guts pushed out, off the road, whilst covering him with a blanket to die in his own fetal position groaning, so as not to be a distraction to other warriors who needed to complete the mission? (2 Sam 20:12)” Yes, in many respects Paul was acting in that way. Paul left Trophimus sick at Miletus. Why? Because the Mission was more important than the man.
God’s commands, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the mission entrusted to you to complete, is more important than family, more important than friends, more important than fellow workers. These are the hard facts for the font line functioning of the Christian soldier. Know this.
Therefore, you must make sure you are crystal clear in knowing what your personal orders from the Lord are. Make sure that your church, your group; your fellow workers are also most thoroughly conversant with the commands and the cost of the mission you have been sent upon.
May I recommend your mission and its command parameters are written down. Let it then be known to those who need to know. Then my friend, ‘get buy in’ from your team, and fulfill your calling no matter what. Let nothing move you. Remember, the mission is more important than the man. Soldiers are expendable and so are you.
In the end friends, in the end that matters, no man shall be left behind. Each one of us Christians shall safely and happily appear before the Lord. Meanwhile, I say again, the mission is more important than the man. Count the cost and get om with it.
Listen: Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.” John 10:25-30 NKJV
Pray: Lord Jesus, deliver me from a merciless and mercenary spirit. Help me to be a servant and a good Samaritan at that. However Lord, where Your mission and command take precident over all, help me to make sure that my faithful obedience to You comes first. Amen and let it be so.