Prayer with God – Colossians 4:12-13

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.

Selfless Servant

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.

Strenuous Struggle

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.

Sturdy Stand

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.

Made Mature

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.

Serious Striving

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.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – Matthew 7:21-23

Obedience is the Key to Discipleship

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”

Only Obedience

Anyone who would call themselves a disciple would be obedient to their master.  Disciples would follow along behind their master and copy everything they did.  They would even copy how they went to the bathroom.  In the time of Jesus, disciples would want to learn EVERYTHING about their masters so that they could replicate their success.  Obedience is more than just mentioned in scripture – it is a foundational principle of discipleship:

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

“We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.

But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.

He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

Knowledge without obedience is a trophy.  It sits on the shelf of your mind, gathering dust, pretty to look at, but of no real value to the one who ignores its commands and calling.  Sanctification comes through obedience to the Word, not just knowing the words.  A person can read every book and manual on how to create software through coding.  But if they never put it to use, how much software do you think will come out of it?

Wasted Works

We are declared righteous through the perfect blood of Jesus.  Our works are as filthy rags.  It is only through submission to the Holy Spirit that He is able to do His work through us.  We may try to do great and mighty things in God’s name, but it is us who are doing it rather than God through us.

Works do not ingratiate us with God.  God desires relationship with us.  When we have that relationship, we are in tune with what God wants to do with us and through us.  Many will say that they have been doing things for God.  But what they are really doing is going off on their own.  People may see the miraculous, but we are also told that Satan will perform signs and wondersSatan has already performed false miracles.

Anything that we do in the flesh will be counted as hay and stubble, and will burn up when tested by fire.  It is only what God does through us that will withstand the test of fire and be shown to good and lasting.

Character Counts

Without obedience, we will go and do our own thing.  We will not experience sanctification, nor will we, through relationship and the Word of God, be transformed into the character of God.  We will not be able to experience Him, and who He is, if we are not obedient to His Word and His Spirit.

God will rightly declare us evil in His sight if we do not obey Him.  Without character and relationship, all of the works in the world will be meaningless.  If anyone tells you that your good works will get you into heaven, be forewarned that Jesus has already addressed that heresy:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are we being obedient to God, or trusting in our “good works”?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You for the example that You have given to me in Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me Father that I may live a life of total obedience and submission to Your will.  Help me to humble myself that I may be totally obedient to Your Word and Your will.  Remove from me the desire to rebel, and replace it with a desire to serve.  Strengthen me in my walk today that I would learn and grow in Your grace and mercy.  Show me the way everlasting, and forgive me for my many sins against You.  Help me to turn from sin and turn to righteousness.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Surrender to God – Luke 9:23-24

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”

We are given three instructions for discipleship:

  • Deny yourself – Stop acting like the universe revolves around you, see to the needs of others, live according to the Spirit √
  • Take up your cross daily – Bear up under the burdens (responsibilities) of your faith and the responsibilities you have accepted either willingly or as a result of your actions √
  • Follow me – Wait!  What?

How can we follow if we don’t see where the other person is going?  In order to follow Christ, we must walk in His footsteps.  The Greek word for this is akolouthei.  It is an imperative command.  We are expected (commanded) to do it.  The meaning is to walk alongside someone, in lockstep, hips next to each other.  We are to do what Jesus did:

  • Yield every aspect of our lives to the Holy Spirit, regardless of our estimation of our ability to do it by ourselves
  • Depend completely upon God to provide for our every need
  • Spend regular time communicating with our Father in Heaven in prayer
  • Getting direction from God for our daily activities
  • Fast and pray regularly to draw close to our Father in Heaven
  • Study God’s Word to be an approved workman
  • Request that God reveal His calling in our lives, and fulfill that calling, even if it means going to our death

There are others, but this is a good starting point.  To follow Jesus does not mean to walk ahead of Him.  When we do that, we can’t see where He is going, and may miss a critical turn or stop. To walk behind Him at a distance is to miss what He is doing and not being a part of what He has planned.  It is only by akolouthei that we are in the right place, at the right time, doing the right things, for the right reasons, that the outcome would glorify God.

So, let’s ask the question: where am I in my akolouthei?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I come before You to spend time with You today.  Please see to all the needs of Your servant.  Grant me strength to do what You have called me to do today.  Reveal Your will for me as I offer my body as a living sacrifice to You, that I will be able to fulfill it with Your strength, guidance, and discernment.  Help me to walk alongside You as You work in the world today.  Show me where You are working so that I may join You and use the gifts that the Holy Spirit has provided to me to glorify Your Name.  May all praise, glory, honor, strength, and dominion be Yours and Yours alone, forever and ever.  Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?