Colossians 4: “A Colossian Praying for Colossians”

Daniel Nash (1775-1831)

Daniel Nash pastored a small church in the backwoods of New York for six years, and traveled with and prayed for a traveling evangelist for seven more years until his death. As far as we know, he never ministered outside the region of upstate New York during days when much of it was frontier. His tombstone is in a neglected cemetery along a dirt road behind a livestock auction barn. His church no longer exists, its meetinghouse location marked by a historical marker in a corn field; the building is gone, its timber used to house grain at a feed mill four miles down the road. No books tell his life story, no pictures or diaries can be found, his descendants (if any) cannot be located, and his messages are forgotten. He wrote no books, started no schools, led no movements, and generally, kept out of sight.

Yet this man saw revival twice in his pastorate, and then was a key figure in one of the greatest revivals in the history of the United States. In many ways he was to the U. S. what Praying Hyde was to India. He is known almost exclusively for his powerful prayer ministry.

“On one occasion when I got to town to start a revival a lady contacted me who ran a boarding house. She said, ‘Brother Finney, do you know a Father Nash? He and two other men have been at my boarding house for the last three days, but they haven’t eaten a bite of food. I opened the door and peeped in at them because I could hear them groaning, and I saw them down on their faces. They have been this way for three days, lying prostrate on the floor and groaning. I thought something awful must have happened to them. I was afraid to go in and I didn’t know what to do. Would you please come see about them?’ “‘No, it isn’t necessary,’ Finney replied. ‘They just have a spirit of travail in prayer.’”

J Paul Reno,  “Prayer Warrior for Charles Finney”

Epaphras

I was reminded of the story of Daniel Nash after reading in Colossians 4 about one of Paul’s leaders, Epaphras. Paul indicates in v. 12 that Epaphras is, “a member of your own fellowship.” It’s presumed that Epaphras may have been converted in Ephesus under Paul’s teaching there, and then returned to Colosse, his hometown, to establish the church. After he founded the church in Colosse, Epaphras probably then moved to Hieropolis and Laodicea to establish churches in these areas as well.

Lets take a second and look at what Paul has to say about Epaphras:

  • Servant of Christ Jesus
  • Always prays earnestly for his church
  • Asks God to make his church strong and perfect
  • Asks God to make his church fully confident that they are following the whole will of God
  • Paul assures Epaphras’ congregation that he prays hard for his churches

I like how the NIV reads, “He is always wrestling in prayer for you (v. 12)” The word for wrestling here is the same word found in 1:29 and 2:1. It describes physical striving and conflict, like an athlete in an arena. Like Daniel Nash, I envision Epaphras on his knees physically crying out to God on his face. The language and usage to describe how Epaphras prayed showed not only his deep love for his church, but also the fact it wasn’t a one time event. Rather, Epaphras would pray and interceed for long stretches of time, doing battle with spiritual adversaries.

Prayer Warrior

For all pretense and purposes, Epaphras can be described as a Prayer Warrior. Ready, willing, and able to do his fighting on his knees. Here was a Colossian praying for Colossians! Here was a dedicated leader who interceeded on behalf of his people.

Maybe today you need to lock yourself in a room, get on your knees, and pray for God to do something that only God can do. Maybe you need to follow Epaphras’ example and wrestle in prayer for your church, your family, and your friends.

Colossians 3: “Who Signs Your Check?”

If you’ve been following along in the daily reflections, you may have picked up that I have had a lot of jobs. This means that I have had a lot of paychecks! Don’t get ahead of yourselves, in some cases we’re talking $20 a day, cleaning three meals a day worth of pots and pans for a Christian campground! I just did the math, but from July 1991 till May 2016, there hasn’t been a month I haven’t gotten a paycheck for working! No, seriously! That’s 300 months of work, and at least one paycheck, sometimes two a month! I’m blown away right now!

I told the story to my wife the other day about my dad walking me up to the local bank to open my first checking account at 12-years-old. I remember meeting with the bank manager and the clerk who would help me not only open my first checking account, but would also give me my first checkbook. They also showed me what I needed to do in order to make a deposit. This is an important feature to a person with a checking account.

One day, I walked up to the bank to deposit my check and did all the things I was taught to do. I don’t know why, but I was ALWAYS nervous about this whole process. After handing the teller my check and deposit slip, she says, “Oh, I’m sorry we have a problem.” Not words you want to hear at the bank. She continued, “It looks like your check isn’t signed.” Funny, I remember just a few seconds ago intentionally signing the back of my check. I laughed and told her, “Oh, turn the church over, my signature’s on the back.” She gave me one of those, thanks Captain Obvious looks and said it wasn’t my signature missing, it was the owners. Wait… What? Realize at that point I’m holding a really fancy piece of paper that was only worth the amount of printing.

It hit me as I think back on that moment; I worked to earn the amount on that check. By signing the check, the owner was verifying not only that I worked, but that I was worth the amount on that skinny slip of paper. However, by not signing the check, my work was worthless…or was it?

Here’s the thing, just because the check wasn’t signed didn’t change the work I did to earn the check. In fact, there’s a real reality-check when you think, would I be willing to do all that I did to earn that check again…for free? Now, grant it, some would say, no, that’s not smart business. Shoot, I don’t necessarily think that’s good business. But what I’m talking about here goes beyond smart business, but to a much deeper issue, your heart. The deeper reality is this: My boss may physically sign my paycheck, but it’s Jesus’ signature I’m more concerned about. Let me ask you, who signs your check?

Colossians 3:23 (NLT) 23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.

Lets just be honest, this verse has moved from relevant to cliché, especially when you feel like you’re being manipulated in it’s usage. I think it’s become cliché because we’ve forgotten who it’s written to. This verse isn’t written as instruction for you and me; unless you’re currently a slave with a master…and I’m not talking about your current boss.

This verse is written to slaves who literally had earthly masters. Slavery played a huge role in the Roman world. It wasn’t just legal, it was common and even expected that everyone had a slave. But what happens when either the master or the slave became a Christian? This… this is what Paul is addressing in this context. Paul here is not condoning or condemning slavery, instead he’s indicating, WHATEVER, meaning if it’s associated with your job or not, do it for the Lord! Paul was communicating a higher standard of living in a Christian household. In Paul’s day, women, children, and slaves had very little rights. In this section (v. 18-25) Paul is communicating the necessity to be caring, regardless of your context or even lack of voice.

At the end of the day, it may be your boss who signs your check, but it’s Jesus signature that gives it value.

Colossians 2: “Rooted and Built Up”

It’s All About the Roots

I never cease to be amazed by the power and frailty of a garden weed. Just the other day I was weeding around the house and remembering how blown away my children were to see the shallowness of a weeds roots. They could see I was wearing a glove due to the razor sharp barbs on the leaves and stem, but couldn’t believe how quickly and effortlessly I was able to pull the weed from the ground. The look in their eyes said, surely something that nasty and large would dig in a little deeper to hold its ground!

Not one to try and miss a teachable moment, I turned their attention to a set of trees on the parkway in front of the house. I shared with them the amazing truth that the root system of a tree is twice as wide as the width of the branches we see above ground. I also shared in some cases the roots are as deep as the tree is tall! Their little 7 and 10 years old minds were swirling with visions of what they could possibly look like. I concluded our little lesson with helping them understand the difference between a weed and a tree, and how they handle adversity. Simply put, it’s all about the roots.

Colossians 2:6-7 (NLT) And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.

Paul uses a couple of different metaphors in these verses that I want to break down, but if we stand back and look, we can find a progression that I believe is vitally important to our relationship with Jesus.

Accept  →  Follow (Walk with Him)  →  Root in Him  →  Build on Him  =  Strong in the Faith

Rooted

The first thing Paul calls for after accepting and following is to Let your roots grow down into him. Just as plants draw nourishment from the soil through their roots, Paul is urging believers to do the same in Christ. Have you ever seen a tree growing on a toxic waste dump? No! Because toxic waste doesn’t provide sustainable nutrients for the life of the tree. In that situation the Tree dies every time!  Paul’s word choice here is important because he’s indicating a present state based on a past action. A more accurate translation would be, “having been rooted.”

Built

Paul continues with his metaphor and indicates that the Colossians should have lives that are firmly built on the foundation of Christ alone. Like Paul’s word choice for “rooted,” “build on” describes a continuous action. It’s like if a person were a house, you would want to ensure the right material was used for the new addition. This is similar to the point Jesus makes in Matthew 7:24-25 (NLT) 24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 

Strong in the Faith

The third metaphor is actually borrowed from the legal term “established,” meaning to describe a binding contract. Paul not only desired the people would be built up, but that they would be established in order to stand up against the false teaching in that area. Just like many of the other city’s, the Colossians were dealing with an even scarier teaching, “Gnosticism.” Literally translated “having knowledge,” Gnostics believed that they can make/earn heaven based on their own power and understanding. This is a very rudimentary definition, but Paul will tackle the Gnostics many times through his letter. Example: Colossians 2:18-19 (NLT) 18 Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things. Their sinful minds have made them proud, 19 and they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body.

So let’s check the strength of our roots today, after that, check your foundation; one last thing, test to see if you’re strong in the faith.

Colossians 1: “We Always Pray for You”

A Man of Prayer

(adapted from Praying the Bible by Donald S. Whitney)

George Mueller (1805–1898) is widely considered one the greatest men of prayer and faith since the days of the New Testament. He lived nearly the entire nineteenth century, two-thirds of it in Bristol, England. He led four far-reaching, influential ministries, but we know him best today for his orphanages.

During a time in England when most orphans lived in miserable workhouses or on the streets, like Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, Mueller took them in, fed them, clothed them, and educated them. Through his orphanage in Bristol, Mueller cared for as many as two thousand orphans at a time—more than ten thousand in his lifetime. Yet he never made the needs of his ministries known to anyone except to God in prayer. Only through his annual reports did people learn after the fact what the needs had been during the previous year and how God had provided.

Mueller had over fifty thousand specific recorded answers to prayers in his journals, thirty thousand of which he said were answered the same day or the same hour that he prayed them. Think of it: that’s five hundred definite answers to prayer each year—more than one per day—every single day for sixty years! God funneled over half a billion dollars (in today’s dollars) through his hands in answer to prayer.

It Starts with Prayer

If you know anything about me or my church, you will learn very quickly about the power and importance of prayer. In fact, I can’t think of anything else that is as important to the health, vision, purpose, and power of a church than prayer.

Although, once again, there are a lot of things I would love to write about in this chapter, there was one that stood-out above the rest. You guessed it, prayer!

Colossians 1:3 (NLT) We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Colossians 1:9-11 (NLT) So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.

11 We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy,

How to Pray for Others

Paul here provides an excellent model of how to pray for others: To end the reading today I want you to stop reading and start praying. Quiet your mind for 2 minutes and allow the Holy Spirit to call to mind the people He wants you to pray for. Write them down as quick as they come to mind. Then pray through the nine points below for each person.

  1. (v. 3) Thank God for them
  2. (v. 9) Pray they discern God’s will
  3. (v. 9) Ask God to provide them with wisdom
  4. (v.10) Pray that they honor and please God
  5. (v. 10) Pray their lives will produce every kind of good fruit
  6. (v. 10) Pray that they come to know God better and better
  7. (v.11) Pray that they will be strengthend with God’s glorious power
  8. (v. 11) Pray for their endurance and patience
  9. (v.11-12) Ask that they be filled with Joy and thankfulness