Earlier this morning I read from a daily devotional Bible that Alaine and I have used for the past few years. We almost always read together in the evening, but last night we were just too tired to do so. One of the assigned readings from Seasons of Reflection came from Paul's letter to the Colossians. As Paul wraps up his epistle, he writes:
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.
My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. 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. Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.
After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.
Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.”
I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.
Let's be honest, we tend to skip over these parts of Paul's epistles. By "we" I mean most of us, including pastors. But that is a big mistake. I've started to treasure these passages that are found at the end of most of Paul's letters. What we see at the end of Colossians is a prime example of what Lutherans call the mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren. We see Christian encouragement and admonition on display. Living by faith is hard. It has always been this way. As in the New Testament era, we need to encourage and admonish one another in our life with God.
Colossians is one of Paul's prison epistles. Not only is Paul in prison, he is in chains for the sake of Christ (4:3 & 4:18).
Prayer is on Paul's mind. He mentions this several times. He encourages the Colossians to devote themselves to prayer. He then makes a specific prayer request of them. He requests that they intercede for him, specifically that a door would be opened so that he can continue to proclaim the mystery of Christ clearly. A little later, Paul makes reference to a man named Epaphras. Epaphras is with Paul during his imprisonment. He is well known to the Colossians for he is one of them. Paul has something remarkable to say about his good friend and co-worker: "He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured." (This would be a great prayer for us to use for one another.)
As Paul concludes his letter, he mentions a number of people by name: Onesimus, Aristarchus, Luke, Demas, Nympha, and Archippus among them.
As I write this morning, I'm thinking of you. Keep the faith. Serve the Lord. Amen.