Summary: Sermon 8 in a study in Colossians
“For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument. 5 For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.”
I recently celebrated the anniversary of my birth. I do that once each year. On a day near that date I received a card in the mail from a man in the Colorado Baptist Convention, congratulating me for having another birthday.
Now on the one hand I could receive that card as just a polite and thoughtful acknowledgement from this representative of the CBGC that he probably sends out to all of the pastors he works in association with, and say to myself, ‘Well, that’s nice that he takes the time and effort to recognize the pastors on their birthday and send out this form of encouragement to them’, and leave it at that.
But at the bottom of this card there was a personal note, a brief one, but one that ended with the words, ‘Please know that you are prayed for’. Now what makes this a special blessing to me is that I know that this man in particular says exactly what he means, and that this was not an empty promise.
I paused after reading those words and thought to myself that even though I seldom see his face and only talk to him a handful of times in the course of any given year, he is praying for me and for the ministry in which I am engaged.
That thought caused me to consider that although I do not stop often to think about it, there may very well be others who pray for me also, as I also pray for some folks I seldom see or talk to just because I know they are as in need of the Lord’s help and leading and strengthening and encouragement as I.
You see, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all warriors in the same army under the same King and we are engaged in a very real war; and in war no one fights alone.
When Paul writes to the Colossian believers that he is in a great struggle on their behalf, it is not to boast or to engender pity among them for him in his imprisonment or his personal sufferings. It is to encourage them, as he specifically states here in the text.
Now if we think about his physical circumstances his usage of the word ‘struggle’ may sound out of place, until we come to realize that he is referring to a spiritual struggle, in a spiritual battle.
In the last verse of chapter 1 he used the words ‘labor’ and ‘striving’ in reference to the power of God working within him. This verse 1 of chapter 2 is only a continuation of that thought.
And I think it is important to note here that the people he is saying this to have never seen him in person nor has he ever seen them.
Paul understood and taught something that often escapes our thinking, but actually should guide much of our thinking and our practice if we were to constantly have this truth before us. That is, that since we do not war against flesh and blood but, as he tells the Ephesians, ‘against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places’ (6:12), and since our Christian existence is not of the temporal and spatial as are our physical forms, we ought to be thinking and praying and spiritually struggling for our brothers and sisters everywhere, whether near or far, whether we know them by name or not, whether we are acutely aware of their present circumstances or not.
Because Christians, the Bible tells us all we need to know in order to understand that the Spirit of Christ lives in all believers and the spirit of the world is anti-Christ, therefore their spiritual needs and struggles and concerns are exactly the same as our own. There is no need to wonder how to pray for the brethren in any given place; we only need pray for them as we would covet their prayers for us.