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Prayer, Behavior, Commendations

Prayer, Behavior, Commendations

Colossians Series #8 of 8



For the past several Sundays, we have been concentrating our message times on the New Testament Book of Colossians - a letter written by the apostle Paul to Christians in the city of Colossae.


As has been discussed, Paul at times complimented those to whom he wrote. He also described Jesus as the great creator and the head of the church. 


Paul encouraged the Colossian Christians to be rooted in Jesus, built up in Jesus, and established in Jesus, which he also worded as being determined to rely on Jesus and Jesus alone. 


Paul challenged his audience to put to death and put away the bad things of the world and put on the good things of God. That included that they seek and set their minds on the things of God.


Paul extended his call to rely on Jesus to the realm of work. He taught that workers are to obey their bosses and that bosses are to treat their workers well. And to the most intimate part of our lives. How we live as families. Paul challenged wives to respect their husbands, husbands to love their wives, children to obey their parents, and parents to not provoke their children.


I have enjoyed the series of messages on the Book of Colossians. I hope we have all benefitted for this series because the teachings of Paul are also important for us. Including the call, over and over again, that we beware false teachers. All that Paul taught, some contradicted, but what Paul taught is Biblical. It is therefore from God and therefore the truth that is to be adhered to.


All of which brings us to today’s passage, which is most of the final chapter of Colossians. A passage that has three purposes - to encourage prayer, to give instructions about how to behave around those who do not believe in Jesus, and then commend some people for the Christian service.


First, encouragement to pray. Verses 2 through 4 of Colossians 4.


Verse 2, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”


Continue steadfastly in prayer. That means to persevere in prayer. To keep praying, no matter what.


Does it ever seem to you that your prayers are not being effective? Paul taught to keep praying anyway.


Does it ever seem to you your prayers reach no higher than the ceiling? I once heard a minister answer that complaint. It was the reminder that God is everywhere. Since that is true, that includes Him being beneath the ceiling, which means He heard even the prayers that seem to us to be doing nowhere. So again, keep praying.


Being watchful means being serious about praying. Keeping our attention on what we are doing when we pray, being careful to not let other things enter our minds when we pray.


And hey, I know the difficulty of that. Sometimes I find my mind wandering, forcing me to ask the Lord what we were talking about.


What a sad commentary that is compared to Jesus.


For instance, in Luke 6 a time is recorded when Jesus prayed all night. He had a lot on His mind, but He was watchful, doing so all night.


And remember what Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane right before He was arrested. He prayed. He did not think it better to do something else. He did not let His mind wander. He continued in prayer steadfastly. He kept His attention on His purpose of praying.


I was not picking on myself a moment ago about my mind sometimes wandering when I pray. It is more a reminder to myself that I need to grow in the discipline of prayer. Perhaps you have the same need. Let’s pray for one another about that.


Let’s not forget the call for thanksgiving. Let’s be thankful to the Lord as He helps us with obeying the call for steadfast, watchful prayer.


Paul added a specific prayer request in verse 3. “Pray for us also.”


“Us” included Timothy, who was withe Paul at the time. It also included Paul himself. Isn’t that interesting? Paul - the great Paul - the active, energetic Paul - the Paul known throughout that part of the world - asked for prayers. Isn’t that amazing?


But he went on. He did not ask for prayer for his release from prison, where he was at the time, or that his upcoming trial would be favorable for him, or for a little rest and peace. His prayer request was that God would open to him and to Timothy a door for the word of God so they would be able to declare the mystery of Christ - verse 4 - making it clear so those who heard would understand the message of Jesus.


Continue steadfastly in prayer. Be watchful in prayer. Be thankful. Pray for Paul and, expanding that part of the passage to today, pray for all who preach so we may all have opportunities to tell about Jesus and be clear in what we say so that others will be attracted to believe in Jesus. That is the first part of today’s passage.


The second part of the passage features instructions about how to behave around those who do not believe in Jesus. There are three instructions, the first two in verses 5 and 6.


“Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time.”


Be wise. Behave with wisdom toward those outside the church. That is a call to be a missionary. A missionary, not only with a message, but also with tact, knowing when to speak and when not to, never displaying superiority or criticism, but love.


I read in a commentary the point that few people have ever been argued into Christianity. No doubt some have. In fact, we will hear of such a time a bit later in this message. However, usually it is not arguing that convinces someone about Jesus’ love. It is more often how we who are Christians live our lives that will attract - or repel - others to - or from - Jesus.


Jesus used His life to attract others to salvation. He did that when He performed miracles and when He taught through parables and when He refused to get angry when He was mistreated. Concerning that last example, there were a few times when Jesus did get very forceful, but that was always when religious leaders either picked on people or refused to hear Jesus’ message of love.


Jesus acted wisely. That is what we are to do. As Paul wrote, “Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time,” which means being on the lookout for opportunities to work for Christ and serve others in His name.


Act wisely. Take advantage of opportunities to serve Jesus. And - verse 6 - “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.”


Salt provides taste, so our speech is to add flavor to those around us. Including those around us who are not Christians. They should feel better because of our words.


Salt can be used as a preservative. We are to preserve God’s word.


The benefit of gracious speech - the benefit of developing more and more grace in what we say - is that we will be able to know how to answer everyone who needs to know about Jesus.


Remember a moment ago the word “tact” came up? Tact as in knowing when to speak and when not to? That applies here as well. There may be times the Lord will give us nothing to say because there is nothing that can or could be said to a certain person, perhaps because that person is not ready to hear.


But when we are free to speak for Jesus, the call is still to be wise when dealing with those who are not Christians. Here is a story that relates to that.


A minister was teaching a group of prisoners about prayer, using The Lord’s Prayer as a model. The minister was explaining the opening words - “Our Father” - telling the men though they are God’s offspring because He created them, they could become God’s children, but only when they placed their trust in His Son, Jesus Christ. Only then would God truly become their Heavenly Father.


The minister admitted to struggling to get that point across then suddenly, one of the prisoners said, “Let me tell it.”


The prisoner said, “Listen up. God made you, OK? But that does not mean you’re not going to Hell. You can only become God’s child if He saves you. To get that, you gotta trust in Jesus. And if you haven’t done that, you better get it done now.”


After that explanation - as forceful as it was - three prisoners trusted in Christ. The minister said later he learned a lesson that day. When we present the Gospel, we need to use terms and concepts that are familiar to our audience. We must tell about Jesus clearly, simply, accurately, and in ways that our listeners will be able to understand. That will not always be easy, so we need to ask God to help us make His message clear.


Be wise when dealing with those who are not Christians. Look for and take advantage of opportunities to let others know about Jesus, doing so with our words and by our actions. When we speak, may our words also be gracious. That is the second part of today’s passage.


The third part - verses 7 through 17 - has commendations for some people regarding their Christian service.


Tychicus. Described as a beloved brother - a very close fellow Christian. A faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord, including, apparently, visiting Paul in prison.


Remember Paul was in prison when he wrote Colossians. Apparently Tychicus visited him. That had to be the case because Paul wrote that Tychicus would tell the Colossians how Paul was doing.


Consider the risk faced by Tychicus. It was dangerous being a friend of a prisoner. It took courage to visit Paul and be seen as being on his side. Tychicus took the risk. He was soon going to travel to Colossae to tell the Christians there how Paul and Timothy were doing, the hope being the Colossian Christians would be encouraged to also stay true to the Lord, no matter what.


With Tychicus would come Onesimus, also described as a faithful and beloved brother. One of yourselves, which also identifies him as being a fellow Christian.


But here this. We know from another New Testament book that Onesimus was a runaway slave. He had reached Rome and met with Paul, who was sending him back to his master. However, Paul did not refer to him as a runaway slave. Paul called him a faithful and beloved brother. What a reminder to look beyond the social status of others and concentrate on the spiritual heart of others.


By the way, I am trying a bit of subliminal messaging. Have you seen in this and the previous slide the question, “Who can you commend?” Let’s think about that. Who can you thank for being a good Christian friend? Someone who either serves you or others you know about. Will  you take time to express to that person or to others how important that someone is? Who can you commend?


Aristarchus. We know from the Book of Acts he had been with Paul in Ephesus when people rioted against Paul. It was such a violent scene, Aristarchus was captured by the mob. He was fortunate to have escaped the riot alive. Aristarchus had been with Paul when he had set sail as a prisoner for Rome. He might have been Paul’s slave for the voyage. According to verse 10, he was, at the time Colossians was written, a fellow prisoner of Paul.


Aristarchus often was there when things were grim for Paul - when he was in trouble.


Mark. That is an interesting name because some years earlier, Mark had started out with Paul and Barnabas on a missionary trip, but had dropped out to return home. Paul had become very angry about that and had refused to let Mark join a later missionary trip.


I am not sure there is any indication of a softening of Paul’s stance toward Mark - until verse 10, where Mark is mentioned for commendation. Had Mark done something to redeem himself? We are not told, but Paul asked the Colossians to receive Mark, thereby to not hold Mark’s past against him. Apparently Mark had forgiven him. He encouraged others to forgive Mark as well.


Remember the subliminal messaging. Is there someone you know who has failed who can now be commended? Will you tell that person, or tell someone else about him or her?


Jesus who is called Justus. There is nothing known about him except his name, but he is identified as a man who had comforted Paul in some way.


Epaphras. Another fellow believer. Another one described as a servant of Christ Jesus.


Most likely his work was as the minister of the church in Colossae and some nearby areas. A man further identified as a man of prayer. A man who prayed earnestly, including for the Christians in Colossae. Prayers that they would be able to stand mature, fully assured in the will of God. A man who worked hard in his ministry.


Luke. A beloved physician. A doctor who no doubt could have made a lot of money in private practice, but instead traveled with Paul to tend to him and to have opportunities to preach Christ.


Demas. From the Book of Philemon we know he was a fellow-laborer of Paul.


But about him, this needs to be mentioned. In yet another New Testament book - II Timothy, written five years after Colossians - Paul reports Demas had deserted him because, Paul wrote, Demas has fallen in love with this present world, which means he had gone away from what taught in Colossians. 


The end of the story of Demas is not good, but at the time the letter to the Colossians was written, Demas was a fellow-laborer.


Then comes the name Nympha. The only woman on the list.


Once again the subliminal messaging. Is there a woman or two or three you can commend for spiritual work done? What Nympha did was provide her house for a meeting place for the Christians in Laodicea, one of the towns near Colossae.


Next on the list are the brethren - the church members - at Laodicea. To me, that is significant because there were some who were not important enough to be named, but were important enough to be commended by Paul.


Here is a devotional that related to that.


James Deitz was an artist who produced paintings of airplanes and their crews so realistically they look like photographs. His works hang in many aviation galleries in the U.S., including the Smithsonian Institution.


One of the paintings by Deitz is titled Unsung. It features a crew of World War II mechanics working on a dive bomber. They are out of sight, far below the flight deck of an aircraft carrier somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. The pale, serious-looking, grease-stained men are working to get the plane ready to go back into battle.


We may at times perform unnoticed tasks as we do our spiritual work. In fact, with many volunteers, many of them difficult to recognize, no church could do its ministry effectively.


Are you working “below the flight deck?” Would many people in the world be hard-pressed to name you individually? Remember that your service for Christ, whatever it is, is essential. Even if no one shows appreciation for your work, know the Lord notices.


Yet again the subliminal messaging. Is there someone no one else recognizes as being important you can commend? Will you tell that one, or tell about that one. By the way, in today’s bulletin is a little piece of paper. It is provided for you to write a commendation, which you can give someone today. Or mail it. Or jot a not remember to email or text that person.


The final one on the list is Archippus. He was important enough to receive a special challenge. “See that you fulfill the ministry which you have received in the Lord.” What a wonderful reminder that when God calls us to work for Him, that task is worthy of being fulfilled. How good it was for Archippus to know Paul was encouraging him. How good it is for us to encourage one another.

 

*       *       *       *       *


In chapter 4 of Colossians, Paul taught the Christians in Colossae - and he teaches us - to do a good job of praying for themselves - and ourselves - and for Paul and for those who do the Lord’s ministry now. Paul taught us to be wise among non-Christians, taking advantage of opportunities to serve in the name of and preach about the Lord. And Paul listed a number of people worthy of commendation because of their spiritual work.


Paul then closed Colossians by signing the letter, thereby establishing its authority. He asked to be remembered. And he wished the Colossian Christians grace.


At the end of the first in this series of messages on the Book of Colossians, we sang the hymn I’ll Live for Him. It seems appropriate to end this series with the same hymn, giving us the opportunity to pledge ourselves - those of us who are Christians - to live for Jesus, about whom Paul wrote to the Colossians.


But wait. If you are not a Christian, do not make that pledge. Instead, accept Jesus. Then make the pledge.


For those of us who are Christians, let’s be willing to accept the Lord’s strength, which is the only way we can fulfill the pledge to live for Jesus.


I’ll Live for Him, verses 1 and 3.


My life, my love I give to Thee,

Thou Lamb of God who died for me;

O may I ever faithful be,

My Savior and my God!


I’ll live for Him who died for me,

How happy then my life shall be!

I’ll live for Him who died for me,

My Savior and my God!


O Thou who died on Calvary,

To save my soul and set me free,

I’ll consecrate my life for Thee,

My Savior and my God!


I’ll live for Him who died for me,

How happy then my life shall be!

I’ll live for Him who died for me,

My Savior and my God!


Pray. Be wise. Work well, knowing that even if no one else notices, Jesus knows what you do for Him. With that, may we rely on Him and Him alone, today and always living lives worthy of Jesus. And yes, as we see others do that, let’s commend them, as together, we grow in our faith. Amen.