Have you ever celebrated the faithfulness of someone else; perhaps even celebrated the faithfulness of someone you do not even know? It is an interesting concept to consider, but one that we see Paul, at the beginning of Colossians, take very seriously. The encouragement Paul provides for the church in Colossae (which he has likely never met) is vital to the role he knows he is playing in God’s Kingdom.
Writing his letter to the Colossians from prison, you would assume that Paul would find himself deeply discouraged. Not only is he locked away behind bars and away from the people he loves so much, but the closest he can come to carrying on the work of the ministry is through reports and letters. And yet, because of his faith in Jesus Christ and the transformational power of the Holy Spirit, he is deeply encouraged about what is happening so many miles away.
Here is what Paul says in Colossians 1:3-6 (ESV):
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the Gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth.
God’s Kingdom is on the move, and behind bars or not, Paul knows that movement forward cannot be stopped. He is simply a humble witness to what is happening. Hence, he finds himself encouraged and excited about the faith of those who are faithful to God’s Word and fired up to see where it eventually leads.
But if that were not enough, Paul goes a step further. He prays faithfully and powerfully. Though Paul cannot be present with the church in Colossae and his “beloved fellow servant (Col. 1:7)” Epaphras, he can strengthen their faith and resolve from afar—something increasingly difficult to do in a hostile culture. Here is how he continues to make his point in Colossians 1:9-12 (ESV):
From the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
This brings us to today, and the journey we will be on over the next eight weeks. As Pastor Josh Argubright discussed, kicking off our new series in Colossians, all of us at Harvest Christian Church are a part of something much bigger than ourselves. We may not always recognize it, but Jesus Christ is alive and well, and He is doing profound things all around us. Whether or not we want to join Him in those efforts, though, is up to us.
Wherever you find yourself in relation to understanding the Gospel, this much is true: We need God’s presence more than ever … in our lives, our communities, our country, and in the world at large. We also need each other, because for those of us who want to stand strong and grow into the people God created us to be for such a time as this, there is no better way to do so but together. We need to pray for each other. We need to spur one another forward and, ultimately, experience together how God is far “Better Than” anything else the world can offer; for as Paul concludes this section in Colossians 1:13-14 (ESV): “[God] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
And as we will continue to see in the weeks to come, there is nothing “Better Than” the gift of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
So let us stand strong, pray, lock arms with one another, and experience Him together. For at a time when we need God the most, His Word never falters, and neither must we if we cling to what He promises in both the good times, and the bad, for those who seek Him.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. (Ps. 1:1-3, ESV)
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF:
- What can we gather from Paul’s acknowledgement and kind words about Epaphras?
- What are some of the things that encourage Paul about the church in Colossae?
- What can we learn from Paul by way of what he writes in this introduction passage in Colossians?
- How can you strengthen the faith of others?
- Where do you most need others to strengthen you?
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