GRACE AND PEACE TO YOU
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse: Grace and peace to you from God our Father. We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints– the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit (Col. 1:1-9 NIV).
Reading through the book of Colossians for the umpteenth time, for some reason this morning it was as though Jesus read it to me, through His eyes and without my filters and brain fog. I will listen closely to what my Shepherd will speak to me through this Word.
Scripture is replete with prayers prayed throughout the centuries by the men and women who loved their God, and their prayers can also serve as a model for me, particularly when I am at a loss for my own words. If Hebrews 4:12 tells us anything, it tells us that the Word of God is alive. It is “God-Breathed” (2 Timothy 2:13 NIV) and just as His breath (Hebrew “pneuma”—breath), imparts life and power, so too His God-breathed living word imparts life and power. Speaking this living word aloud releases that Holy breath and is more powerful than any man-made weapon against our invisible enemy. As Beth Moore emphasizes “Get My word in your mouth!”
Grace and Peace to You
Here in this first chapter of Colossians as in many of his letters, Paul begins by speaking a blessing, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father.” The Holy Spirit has been pressing on me the profound power in speaking blessings over others. To speak blessings, even upon our enemies, releases divine power and at the same time cancels the curse of anger, bitterness and hatred of our enemies toward us. When Shemei (whose name means rumor or loud report), of the house of Saul, came out cursing David, his mighty men wanted to kill him but David would not allow it. David’s answer was essentially “Who knows but that this is from God?” (2 Sam. 16). Even these things can be used by God to drive me to run to Jesus, to seek His comfort yes, but also to seek His opinion about those things; was there some hidden message in the offense that reveals something God wants me to see? We’re swift in running to Jesus for comfort, to tell Him about our hurt feelings but how often do we run to Him for correction? Can I thank Him even for the offenses? And what would happen if I did? What would happen in their lives if I lifted up their names and asked for His grace and peace to be upon them? I am thinking I would receive grace and peace within my soul (mind, will and emotions), because these offenses are producing dis-ease in my soul, causing deep roots of bitterness, anger and depression in my life. Let us then speak Grace and Peace to you from God our Father.
We Thank God for You
In prayer, the temptation is to rush past a few words of praise and worship and then begin pouring out requests. Paul thanks God for those in the body and this also should become our habit. “God, I thank You for those in the body of Christ; for my pastor for his faithful service to You and to us; bless him and keep him and cause Your face to shine upon him and be gracious unto him. I thank You God for my husband. I thank You God for my children, for my friends, parents, even for my enemies—for those who wish me harm, who don’t like me, who spread bad reports about me, who offended me, Thank You Lord, for ______, and may Your grace and peace be upon them.”
Growing and Bearing Fruit—Being Fruitful and Multiplying
What will we do with what God has given us? God sometimes allows terrible storms in our lives to release His life in us for the purpose of increase into other lives. The first Adam was given the command to go into the world and increase (“be fruitful and multiply”), and he meant for them to increase physically and prosper materially. The Last Adam sent His Holy Spirit into individuals to increase in Spirit, not in material prosperity. As we die to the self-life, His Life increases in our life which then spills out into the lives of others.
Epaphras’, whose name is derived from a word meaning “devoted to,” was an otherwise unknown follower of Jesus whose love and service to Jesus Christ was such that he was named in God’s Word. What makes Epaphras unique and special enough to be called by name in Paul’s salutation to the believers at Colossae? I think there is a clue in chapter 4:
Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. (Col. 4:12 NKJV).
A bondservant was one who had been set free by Christ from bondage but who chose to remain as a slave to Christ for the remainder of their life. Slaves in the Bible could be set free to depart from any further service to the master. A bond-slave was a slave set free, and then chose to return and serve their master with no further thought for themselves. Epaphras “labored” in prayer. So prayer is labor? I have often heard it said that since God is sovereign and His will is going to be done anyway, why pray? Or, at the very least, we don’t need to “labor’ in prayer—we simply lift up the name of the person and that is sufficient. While there is truth in this in general, overall, this philosophy seems to ignore vast amounts of scripture on the value God places on “effectual, fervent” prayer, i.e. James 5:16b, the “effectualfervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (KJV). “Effectual, fervent” is from the Greek “energeo” which means “to be active, efficient, powerful.” James follows this up by using that great prophet Elijah as an example of this kind of prayer— I don’t know about you, but I certainly have not reached the caliber of prayer demonstrated by Elijah. Prayer is labor. In Galations 4:19, the only other place where this term is used, Paul compares it to the labor of giving birth—he “labors” for them in prayer so that Christ may be “formed” in them. The Greek for labor, agonizomai, means “to struggle, to compete for a prize, to contend with an adversary, or to endeavor to accomplish something, fight, labor fervently, strive” This is not passive, it is active—sometimes a struggle, sometimes contending with the adversary, sometimes a fight. This is intercessory prayer, which is only one element of our prayer life. Intercessory prayer is often labor intensive.
The labor is intense, but the words are few: Epaphras labored for them “that they may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” What a simple, yet power-packed prayer. I pray this prayer often for my sons, their wives and children. That they would “Stand” (abide, continue, covenant, establish, hold up; in a horizontal posture; an upright and active position); “perfect” (in growth, mental and moral character) and “complete” (to make replete, to cram, to furnish or imbue, influence, satisfy, execute an office, finish a period or task, accomplish, fill up, fulfill, fully preach, supply), in all the “will” (determination, desire, pleasure) of God. When they are facing pressures, trials, sorrows, temptations, this prayer become a labor of love.
I think that says it all.