Aloha Friday Message – March 1, 2013 – A Perfect Fit

1309AFC030413 – A perfect fit

Read it online here, please.

Colossians 4:12 Epaphras*, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling [ἀγωνιζόμενος] in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.

* Epaphras [Ἐπαφρᾶς] = “lovely” 1) a Christian man mentioned in Paul’s epistles (Colossians 1:7, 4:12, Philemon 1:23); Epaphras {ep-af-ras’} contracted from Ἐπαφρόδιτος = Epaphroditos {ep-af-rod’-ee-tos or e-pä-fro’-dē-tos} = “Devoted to Aphrodite” or “Lovely/Handsome”

ἀγωνιζόμενος = agōnizomenos to endeavor with strenuous zeal, strive mightily, vigorously oppose any adversary

bible-bite  Jeremiah 15:15-21   15 O Lord, you know; remember me and visit me, and take vengeance for me on my persecutors. In your forbearance take me not away; know that for your sake I bear reproach. 16 Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of Hosts.** 17 I did not sit in the company of revelers, nor did I rejoice; I sat alone, because your hand was upon me, for you had filled me with indignation. 18 Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will you be to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail?

19 Therefore thus says the Lord: “If you return, I will restore you, and you shall stand before me. If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall be as my mouth. They shall turn to you, but you shall not turn to them. 20 And I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail over you, for I am with you to save you and deliver you, declares the Lord. 21 I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked, and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.”

 

**Jehovah, Elohim Sabaot

 צְבָאֽוֹת׃ אֱלֹהֵ֥י יְהוָ֖ה

ṣə·ḇā·’ō·wṯ  ’ĕ·lō·hê YHWH

Epaphras: He most likely is not the man named Epaphroditus, the “brother and fellow worker” Paul mentions in Philippians 2:25; because Epaphroditus was a messenger from Philippi in Macedonia, and Colossae was in Asia, that seems unlikely. He was obviously a close associate of Paul. We can learn a few things from his prayer-life because he was a vigorous intercessor – a Prayer Warrior!

First, it was persistent. He was always praying. The second thing to notice about his prayers is that they were intense. They were explicit; they were “for you.” Sounds like a job description of a Prayer Warrior, someone who commits to continuous ardent prayers for others. These are Servant Prayers – prayers made by one who lays aside all of his or her life to bless the life of others. He was the perfect fit as a coworker with Paul and the citizens of Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis. He had a reputation of being the go-to guy for prayer, support, and evangelization. It seems he may have eventually stayed for a prolonged time with Paul as a “fellow prisoner” in Rome.

Epaphras was one of those church members who was right in the middle of the main effort, part of the core group that got things moving and kept them going. It seems that has always been a fairly small group – Twelve Apostles (13 with Paul) generated thousands of converts to The Way. From that core group, others were commissioned – volunteers in the Holy Spirit – to work diligently to spread the Gospel. Is that something you might be called to do?

intercessionseries-02  Do the people around you think of you as someone who is so dedicated to Christ that your day-to-day activities are all about the Gospel? Is your speech characterized by endless prayer or praise and intercession? Are your actions those of a servant of God? Are you an instrument of his peace? Is that your reputation? If you know someone like that, do you think they are “a little strange,” maybe “too Baptist,” or “too evangelical,” or “too Catholic?” Who do you know that is known to be a student and proclaimer of the Word, someone who studies, understands, and teaches every chance s/he gets? Do you know someone who is a person of prayer like Epaphras, diligently striving to present others’ needs to Jesus and to share the joy of discipleship by setting an example? Is there someone you know whose unrelenting service to others ends up changing lives and thereby changes the community around them? Is there someone whose compassion is so deep that many people – even complete strangers – confide in them and draw comfort from their caring and gentle wisdom? If you know these people, you know they are a perfect fit for the lives of others.

Sometimes you can be injured emotionally, and even physically or spiritually, if you devote your entire life to serving others. “How so?” you might ask. Hard-working, well-intentioned Christians can acquire a sense of self-importance if they are not careful. That can lead to emotion pain for them and their loved ones; if your god is church, you may need to reassess your priorities. Sometimes the people we minister to are so resistive to what we say and do that they can lash out against us even physically. We certainly have plenty of examples of that in scripture and even in the history of the Church; these are people whose Christian witness is a martyrdom – suffering and sometimes even death – for the sake of the Gospel. What about spiritual injury? Can you remember times when it seemed you were cut off from God, as if he wasn’t listening, or times when you were so discouraged that the Light seems to flicker out and die in you? Many a “power-house” Christian has experienced these “Dark Nights of the Soul.” That brings us to Jeremiah’s situation.

Jeremiah was facing a tough audience. They wanted to trick him, denounce him, embarrass and discredit him, and even to kill him. Despite all that, he kept relying on God and kept putting the Word of God right out front where anyone could see it. They hated him for that. But throughout the prophesy he delivered, Jeremiah consistently showed that he work was not his mission – it was God’s mission. God reassured him: You don’t have to do everything yourself. I am here to help you. When Jeremiah said he wasn’t up to the task, God not only reassured him, but also touched him with the Word so that he would. Jeremiah was as fervent about his vocation as a prophet and leader as Epaphras was about his vocation as an intercessor and evangelist. God told him he would meet vigorous, painful, persistent opposition, but that he would prevail over all his attackers. Nonetheless, there were some pretty tough days for Jeremiah as we can derive from the quote at the opening of this study.

Jeremiah accused God of not helping him when he really needed it. Jeremiah had taken his eyes off God’s purposes and was feeling sorry for himself. He was angry, hurt, and afraid. In response, God didn’t get angry at Jeremiah; he answered by rearranging Jeremiah’s priorities. As God’s mouthpiece, he was to influence the people, not let them influence him. There are three important lessons in this passage: (1) In prayer we can reveal our deepest thoughts to God; (2) God expects us to trust him, no matter what; (3) we are here to influence others for God. And God’s response to Jeremiah’s complaint was the same as his response to Israel – and to us when we feel neglected and oppressed. “Trust me. I am taking care of it. You’re going to be OK. I’ve got your back. Just trust me!”

So, from these two men we can see some things that make our mission – our vocation – here both worthwhile and doable.  First, use your gifts. Epaphras had gifts of preaching, instruction, and administration and he used these to found churches in the Lychus valley and to serve Paul in his mission. Jeremiah had the gifts of God’s words, and he used that gift to help Israel understand why they country was subjugated to Babylon, and to inspire the hope that God would rescue them.

Second, these men saw the problem and made their lives available to God to help ease the problem. Epaphras prayed aggressively on behalf of the people in the church at Colossae, and worked day and night to ease their burden and to help Paul build the church among the gentiles. Jeremiah came back again and again – denounced by his relatives, beaten and imprisoned, opposed by a false prophet with a false message that made everyone’s life worse, held prisoner by the king, defamed and threatened with death, and lowered into a cistern to die. And still, despite all this, he was a perfect fit for the job. Why were Epaphras and Jeremiah so well-suited to these missions?

The missions they took up were not their mission; they were God’s missions. The two men were open to the word of God, trusted that God had called them, and obeyed that call. The soon found out that the work they took up was never really “finished.” There was always more to do, and they found others who would help them. The stuck to the fundamental purpose of the work God gave them: Remind the people that they are God’s and God wants them to acknowledge that by serving him through serving each other. They were given all the skills, gifts, and power to do what God required. In fact, all they had to supply was their devotion and service. It was not they who would change the world. It was God, and each of them was the perfect tool, the ideal instrument, for God’s work.

How about you? What is your call? Have you answered? Or do you mock and insult God by saying, “Far be it from me to presume that I can be your servant?” Beloved, he wants you,  yes YOU. You cannot begin to imagine what wonderful things await you if you can simply say, “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.” Remember, he is there to keep you safe and prosper the work of your hands.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved.

Please remember CML this week. She took a nasty face-first fall and fractured two cervical vertebrae (1 and 7). She is uncomfortable – to say the least – and dealing with progressive paralysis. Well-advanced it age, she is also a perfect fit in her community and family. Ask God to grant her and her family relief and hope.

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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