Devotional

“Epaphras” (Part 2)

Spring display at Audrey's 2/5/19With temperatures in the 50’s, when we visited Audrey’s yesterday morning, we got spring fever as we walked through the aisles featuring spring and summer decor.
 
“Epaphras” (Part 2)
 
Message summary:  Let us be faithful in prayer for those who have not yet yielded their lives to Christ. And let us also be faithful in praying for our brothers and sisters in the faith. We are grateful for many of our readers that uplift us regularly in prayer, our ministry as well as our personal challenges.
 
Listen to our message on your audio player.
 
“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. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis” (Colossians 4:12,13).

Yesterday we wrote about Epaphras, a little-known member of the Colossian church, who is mentioned in both chapter one of Colossians and in today’s verse.

Antonio FigueiredoAntonio Figureiredo was a devout Portuguese believer who is now with the Lord. He faithfully attended the church we served in New England back in the nineties  Several years after we moved to Lancaster County we went back to visit the church. What a joy it was to see Antonio again as well as others in the congregation we had served for over seven years.

Before the service he warmly shook Brooksyne’s hand, looked directly at her with tears welling up in his eyes and meekly said, “I still pray for your family.” He then softened his voice in a timid, half-apologetic tone and proceeded to say, “I pray for you every day in my Portuguese language.” (As if that made any difference to God! In fact, it was heartening to know that God was hearing prayers offered up for our family in a language unknown to us.)

Our brother’s words uplifted us and made us thankful for the spiritual “long snappers” God has placed in our lives (see Monday’s message). Long Snappers are by no means prominent in the Body of Christ, but truly a team member who is vital. Another analogy is “the spiritual adhesive that keeps the building blocks of any Christian foundation from crumbling”.

Al & Thata BookMany of you are familiar with the term “prayer warriors”, used to describe those who have a special passion for prayer. These prayer warriors make such a valuable, unseen contribution to our lives and in the life of a church. I hope we all can identify these types of individuals in our lives who especially uphold us in prayer. They have one of the most important, yet often under-rated ministries. We recall Al and Thata Book, an elderly missionary couple who died in a vehicle accident in Africa. A stirring moment at their Memorial Service came when one of the grandchildren reflected upon the sudden absence of his grandparents. He, his siblings and cousins were assured daily of their grandparents’ faithful prayers on their behalf and they were certainly going to miss that.

Epaphras is mentioned just three times in the Bible (twice here in Colossians and once in Philemon). It appears that Epaphras initially took the message of Christ to Colossae (1:7), which is located in the southwest corner of modern day Turkey, and there he planted the Colossian church. The missionary journeys recorded in Acts do not mention Paul ever visiting this city. In Philemon Epaphras is mentioned as a fellow prisoner with Paul (perhaps the same person).

 
1) “Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings.”
  • “who is one of you” likely means he was from Colossae. What a connection Paul was making here. Wherever we reside we consider a special connection to people that were or are from our home town. In Epaphras’ case he had taught them the Word of God.
  • “and servant of Christ Jesus” which essentially repeats a point Paul had made in the first chapter, “a faithful servant of Christ” (v.8).
  • “sends greetings”. What a blessing these two words must have been to the original recipients in Colossae.
2) “He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.”
 
This gives us a glimpse into his prayer life and we note two aspects: its intensity and purpose.

Intensity: Paul says “he is always wrestling in prayer for you”. What a powerful description of intercessory prayer! The word the NIV translates “wrestling” is “agonizomai” from which we get our English “agony”. The original conveys “to struggle, to compete for a prize”, and figuratively “to contend with an adversary.” In using this word Paul is telling the Colossians how earnestly Epaphras is holding them up in prayer. What an example for us as we pray for those to whom we minister and for those who minister to us. I believe the wrestling aspect of prayer is often experienced when we personally know of the battle our brothers and sisters are waging. Or when the Spirit heavily burdens our hearts to pray vigilantly for one who is struggling against temptation, sin, difficulties, or unbelief. When we want to breeze hurriedly along in our prayer time it is rather easy to pray, “Bless ’em” type of prayers.

Purpose: But the purpose of Epaphras’ prayer is so unlike the typical “bless ’em” prayers we might quickly say for another in the faith. Intercessory prayer was a priority in his walk with God. So much so that his spirit wrestled in prayer as he regularly engaged in a spiritual tug of war with the devil, the believer’s combative enemy. To examine each of the elements of content in this prayer would violate a fundamental premise of this devotional (brevity). But I want you to take note of the rich spiritual interest that he expressed in the phrase, “that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured”.

 
Charles Spurgeon describes wrestling in prayer for the unbeliever like this: “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. If they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees. Let no one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”
 
Let us be faithful in prayer for those who have not yet yielded their lives to Christ. And let us also be faithful in praying for our brothers and sisters in the faith. We are grateful for many of our readers that uplift us regularly in prayer, our ministry as well as our personal challenges.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we want to stand firm in Your will, maturing in our faith, and we desire full assurance that You will lead us in the paths of righteousness for Your name’s sake. Just like Epaphras who wrestled in prayer for his brothers and sisters in the faith, help us to wrestle in prayer for our loved ones, and our brothers and sisters in the faith who wage war against the enemy. Our intercessory prayers are not waging war against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world. How reassuring that You have the ultimate authority to intervene and give us victory in these ongoing struggles with good and evil. Amen.

 
Our message got long today but for those still with us let us examine the final phrase from our daily text:
 
3) “I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.”
  • “I vouch for him”! What a blessing for Epaphras to have the commendation from Paul.
  • “That he is working hard for you” The sense in which he was working hard is difficult to understand since he was in prison with Paul, though much could be gleaned by Paul during conversation with Ephaphras during their time of captivity. What’s more prayer is hard work!
  • “And for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis” This reveals his big heart. Although Epaphras was from Colossae his ministry extended beyond that city to the region. Both Laodicea and Hierapolis” were in the same region as Colossae and relatively close by (Laodicea is about 9 miles west (here on a Google map) and Hierapolis is about 12 miles north (here)


Kelly Ave mailbox 2/5/19Yesterday we shared a photo of a new mailbox in our neighborhood and thought we would also post a head-on view since viewers glean ideas for their own home projects. As I took the photo I noticed the solar light attached to the log cabin/mailbox and even the vented cupola on top.
Old Windmill Farm turkeys 2/3/19
These two turkeys cause Ester to panic each time we stop in at the Old Windmill Farm. She always has Brooksyne or me shooing them away until she can safely reach the house. It’s the ruffling of their some 3500 feathers or their incessant gobbling that sends shivers up Ester’s spine. But, really, turkeys are much like dogs that run and bark when visitors arrive; only turkeys strut and gobble.
 


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
 
“Somebody’s Praying For Me”  Video  Don Moen
 
“Can I Pray For You”  Video  Mark Bishop

“Pray On The Little Days”  Video  Mark Bishop
 
“Sunday Morning Gospel Jubilee”  Video   Brooksyne’s note: This song sure caught my attention yesterday as I heard it for the first time. Growing up in Tulsa, OK we always turned on “The Gospel Jubilee” on Sunday mornings as we got ready for church. Southern Gospel groups like “The Happy Goodmans”, “The Florida Boys”, “The Singing Rambos”, “The Downings” and many other groups sang gospel songs for half an hour. We had a small house so we’d turn up the TV so we could hear the singing even as we got dressed in our bedrooms. It sure added to the joy of getting up on a Sunday morning and helped prepare our hearts for worship with fellow believers after we arrived at church. These singing groups made their way to downtown Tulsa for concerts fairly regularly and we attended many of them. Thankfully, Bill Gaither featured many of these singers over the past 30 years in his homecoming videos before most of them took up residency in heaven.
 
“And Can It Be”  Video  Calvary Church Choir and Orchestra  Another note: This is one of my favorite songs that so inexplicably describes the amazing grace that saves us so completely from the penalty of sin: “Amazing Grace, how can it be, that Thou my God, shouldst die for me.” The choir leads our congregation in this song and I believe it will bless your soul as it did mine when I sang with the choir this past Sunday.
 
From a reader:  Yesterday we shared a photo that Ester took from our front window of a curious squirrel. David Penley, a friend from Texas wrote:

“You are absolutely right about making pets out of squirrels. However, when I was a boy, my grandfather, who lived on a farm in central Florida gave me a baby squirrel that had fallen out of a tree. He taught me how to take care of it, using a toy baby bottle at first to give it milk, quickly going to crushed nuts, and then to nuts in shells, which he instinctively knew how to open. Part of God’s amazing plan. We tried to let him go, but he kept coming back, so my dad and I built him a squirrel house on our screened-in back porch. He loved to go play in the palm trees in our back yard, but always came back in the evenings to his home. He would come sit on my shoulder, climb on my head, and so forth any time I was outside or he came in. So that’s as close to a pet as you can get with a squirrel.”
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