This Week's Scripture & Reflection: Colossians 4:12-13
Where would we be in life without those special individuals who labored with us at various stages in our development? For every athlete, there is that one special coach. For every student, there is that one special teacher. For every employee, there is that one special supervisor. He or she stepped into our lives and endeavored not only alongside us, but also within themselves to ensure that we would reach and even exceed our greatest potential! Even when we did not see them working, they were toiling behind the scenes to set us up for success! Ultimately, they labored with us because they cared for us!
While the apostle Paul deeply loved and appreciated the saints at Colossae, there was one individual whose commitment to this particular group of saints stood out even greater. In his letter to the saints at Colossae, the apostle Paul introduces a gentleman by the name of Epaphras as a “faithful servant of Christ Jesus” and a “beloved fellow bond-servant” (cf. Colossians 1:7). Epaphras served as a representative of the apostle Paul, and an intermediate between him and the Colossian saints, constantly informing Paul about their steadfast faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the love they had for all their fellow saints in the Holy Spirit (cf. Colossians 1:3-4, 8).
More notably, Epaphras taught the gospel message (the word of truth) to the Colossian saints, more specifically the grace of God in truth (cf. Colossians 1:5-7). Epaphras was also a Colossian himself (“Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ”...). Certainly, his dedicated service to these saints stemmed from their mutual residence within this prominent city. In verse 12, Paul emphasizes Epaphras' servanthood unto Jesus Christ for a third consecutive time, thereby affirming his commitment to the advancement of the true gospel and the selfless manner in which he did so.
While sitting in a Roman prison, the apostle Paul informs the Colossians that Epaphras is “always laboring earnestly for [them] in his prayers...”. Epaphras had traveled to Rome to minister to Paul during his imprisonment, and so Paul witnessed firsthand the great extent to which Epaphras prayed and interceded on behalf of the Colossians. In the Greek language, the phrase “laboring earnestly” means “to struggle” in three different regards: “to compete for a prize”, “to contend with an adversary”, and “to endeavor to accomplish something”. In all three regards, there are varying degrees of struggle involved with the ultimate goal being to conquer and win. In all forms of competition, the aim is to beat all the other competitors and claim the ultimate prize. Contending with an adversary certainly involves struggle because both individuals are fighting to gain the upper hand and subdue the other. Likewise, endeavoring to accomplish a goal certainly does not transpire without opposition and difficulty. In essence, the apostle Paul made it clear that when Epaphras went to intercede on behalf of the Colossian saints, he went to war!
Moreover, Paul emphasizes the frequency in which Epaphras labored earnestly for the Colossians: always! This term “always” in the Greek contains no hidden meaning; it literally means “at all times”. Epaphras prayed for the Colossian saints devoutly; it had become as innate as breathing to him. He developed the discipline of prayer through consistency! With all of this contending, striving, and warring in prayer, certainly Epaphras was contending for something specific on behalf of the Colossians: “that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.” Ultimately, Epaphras hoped that through his prayers the saints at Colossae would stand firm, mature, complete and confident in the will of God for their lives!
In verse 13, the apostle Paul informs the Colossians of the source of Epaphras’ intense intercession: “For I testify...that he has a deep concern for you...”. It was Epaphras’ profound care and concern for his fellow Colossians that fueled his faithful intercession on their behalf. Having been the first to share with them the gospel of Jesus Christ, he was concerned for their well-being as they sought to guard themselves against the false teaching that was running rampant throughout their city in his absence. Yet and still, Epaphras prayed that He who had begun a good work in the lives of the Colossian saints through his service would continue to perfect and complete it.
As demonstrated by Epaphras, one of the keys to laboring in intercession on behalf of your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ is developing a fervent desire to see them become all that God has ordained them to be! Yearn to see them walk in a manner that is worthy of the Lord and their calling in Him, to be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to please Him in all respects, and to bear fruit in every good work they set their hands to do (cf. Colossians 1:9-10). While it is ultimately their responsibility to ensure that they walk in such a way, you can uplift them in prayer as they seek to do so!
You must yearn for your fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord to grow and excel in these areas and others just as much as you desire to do the same in your own life! Furthermore, we should labor earnestly in prayer for unbelievers alike, that they would respond to the Father’s call to draw near to Him so that they might ultimately receive Jesus Christ as their Lord & Savior! Consider the joy and comfort you experience when you know that others are praying for you, especially during those seasons when it is difficult to pray for yourself! He or she may not know it, but they are being held up by the power of God through your very prayers because you’ve been laboring on their behalf as if your very life depended on it! We as believers should continue to pray and intercede without ceasing for we know that the effectual, fervent prayers of the righteous availeth much!