It’s Time To Wrestle With God
12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 13 I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.
Paul commends his fellow worker in Christ, Epaphras, in this passage. He commends this saint in Christ, and tells the Colossian church that he sends greetings. This was common in Paul’s letters, and was an encouragement to the churches. In the dark times in which we find ourselves today, it is a blessing to hear from disciples in other church plantings and to know that they are thinking about us. After all, the church is not any specific group of believers, but rather all disciples taken as a whole. Let us not forget that when one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers with it.
Epaphras was a prayer warrior. He was engaged in a type of prayer that we should all be engaged. He wrestled in prayer. The Greek word for wrestled is agOnizomenos. This can be translated as wrestles, struggles, or contends. We get our English word agonize from it. Epaphras agonized in prayer for the saints. The burden on his heart was so great, that he was agonizing over the other disciples, and was noted for his burden with the church in Colossi.
This level of prayer goes way beyond the simple thankfulness prayer, or general request for something. This is a type of prayer where the heart is deeply moved and dedicated to seeing a specific result. This is the type of prayer where you are praying for the very life of your child to survive some terrible injury or illness. Epaphras was gifted with the ability to feel that way about the saints, and was commended by Paul for doing so. Such prayers can be cathartic, but are very demanding and difficult, and take a lot out of the person. Epaphras was commended for ALWAYS contending in prayer for the brothers and sisters in Colossi. That IS commendable.
The first aspect of discipleship that concerned Epaphras was that the church of Colossi stand firm in the will of God. It is so easy to be distracted by the call of culture and duties that we can take our eyes off of the goal. We are bombarded daily with the call of the world, the flesh, and the devil. We need to be focused more upon the will of Almighty God as the day of reckoning approaches. Each of us needs to fill our lamps with oil, so that we will not be caught unprepared. We each need to put on our wedding clothes in preparation for the return of the groom so that we may join Him in the wedding celebration.
One of the characteristics missing from Western Christians is maturity in their faith. We are called to grow in Christ, and to draw close to Him. However, there are many who believe that they are good where they are. They are happy with the spiritual progress that they have made so far, and think that this is good enough.
However, even Paul had said that he had not yet arrived. If the writer of most of the New Testament, martyred in Rome for his faith, stoned to death and resurrected, did not arrive, why should any of us think that we have? There are Christians (and I am specifically using this word rather than disciples) who say that they are baby Christians. Some of these “babes in Christ” have been walking with God for more than a decade, but are still only ready for the milk of the word.
Not only are we to eagerly desire the milk of the word, we are meant to grow up and mature, tasting and chewing on the meat of the word. We are to grow into mature disciples, fully and firmly rooted in the word of God. Staying a babe in Christ for so long is much like living well into adulthood as a child in your parent’s basement. There is no impetus to grow – as long as the behavior is coddled or ignored, the person never reaches maturity, and as a result, is not productive in society.
While it should not be taken that extended families are in some way wrong as living arrangements, we should have reasonable expectations for our children to grow up and mature, and be useful, productive members of society. How does the family benefit when a 35-year-old man sits in a basement playing (the latest version of) Halo, doing nothing else but eating their parents food, buying clothes with their money, and ignoring them and everyone else for the enjoyment of a video game?
Maturation is a difficult, time-consuming, arduous endeavor. It comes with a lot of bumps and bruises, but also with intentionality, discipline, and purpose. And discipline is the key. The child does what pleases the child. The adult does what is good for the family. It is time that the “babes in Christ” wake up, and take a serious look at their spiritual lives. There is much to be done, and the rest of the body is trying to cover for you.
Paul further commends Epaphras for working hard. This is a characteristic of the mature Christian disciple. Jesus tells us that we are not worthy if we look back from the plow at what was left behind. We are to keep our eyes on the goal, and to strive with great purpose towards the way and will of God. For the path is straight through the narrow gate to life, and broad is the gate and wide is the road towards destruction. We each need to choose our path. Paul urges us in the example of Epaphras to choose whom we will serve this day. Make that choice, and press on towards the goal. Set your sights upon hearing these words from your Lord and Savior: Well done, good and faithful servant.
A Qualifying Question
Let’s ask a question: Am I becoming the person that God has called me to become?
A short prayer of preparation:
Father in Heaven, Thank You for the examples that You have provided to me in the Bible. Help me to research and understand the life of Paul and the ministry of Epaphras. Guide me and instruct me in the ways that I should go. Help me to be more intensely engaged while I pray to You. Give me the heart of a servant, that I may be Your bond-slave. Stir my heart for my own spiritual development, as well as the spiritual development of the rest of the body of Christ. Give me a burden upon my heart for the awakening of your disciples who have taken their eyes off of You. Help me to greatly desire their maturity, as well as my own. Place upon my heart the desire to spend more time with You each and every day in prayer and study of Your word. This I ask in the precious and holy name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.