Christ’s Ministers

A Minister simply means Servant. So we are all ministers aren’t we?

They are also referred to as overseers and elders.

How do we know who are Christ’s ministers?

“You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant,who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf” Colossians 1 v 7

Let me use 2 other occasions Paul mentions Epaphras:

“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.”  (4:12)

“Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings.”  (Philemon 23)

So Christ’s ministers are:

  1. Fellow servants. Epaphras is the servant of the central figure: Christ.
    1. They get down into the dirt and wash feet.
  2. Faithful ministers of Christ: Epaphras has proven his worth.
    1. They stay the course.
  3. Represent others: Epaphras has given a glowing reference of the Colossian community.
    1. They speak well of others.
  4. Intercessors: Epaphras wrestles in prayer for the Colossians.
    1. They lead and are known as people who pray
  5. Knows suffering: Epaphras is also in prison or house arrest with Paul.
    1. There is evidence of the sacrificial life.
  6. Are ordinary: Epaphras does not have any special title but appears to have begun the work.
    1. They don’t use their titles or credentials to lord it over people.

If you can’t spot any of the above then question the validity of what is before you.

Christ gives Hope for Heaven

What are you hoping for? A better life?

I’m not sure who said it but we can quote it: “Too heavenly-minded for earthly good.” I wish we couldn’t quote it. I don’t really believe it.

Being heavenly-minded will not hinder our lives or stop us from reaching out to others. But being worldly-minded will. Being caught up with the desires and passions this world can offer will. The Apostle says, “we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven” Colossians 1 v 4-5

In 1991 we were singing Graham Kendricks ‘Heaven is in my heart.’ Is it still?

Let us be people consumed with the hope of heaven. No matter what beautiful experiences and treasures you have gained on this earth they are just a taste, a small example of what is laid up for us in heaven. Our world needs to see heaven again. Eternity needs to be born into our conversations and our prayers and our work. We declare our faith because of heaven and we love because of heaven.

Hope of heaven causes us to love. Heaven bursts onto our earth with the inspiration we need to love all of God’s people.

There are many who are bound and stretched in a variety of ways across the world but they are so with hope of heaven. This world is smaller today than it has ever been. Every nation reachable within hours and yet those who are pressed down today they can feel like they are the furthest point from earth. But heaven is in their heart. All that they have and actually perhaps what has got them into their predicament in the first place is their citizenship in heaven. But this is the most important thing and not just for them but for all of us who are Christ followers.

The powerful truth of our eternal citizenship is effective when we know it and live our lives so the enemy knows it too.

What can the enemy do when you declare who you are in God and your security in Him? The persecuted have lost everything but they are not destroyed.

You always live. You always have the last word. You may die but you will live. Heaven is in your heart. Christ gives Hope for Heaven

Christ’s gospel

Let me ask this question: Near you, is the gospel growing?

It would seem that the Colossians were being led astray by people using a gospel which was Jesus plus or perhaps anything but Jesus. Certainly Christ is not central and Paul addresses this by reminding them that they are part of a world movement where the gospel is expanding. He says, “we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world” Colossians 1 v 4-6

Throughout the whole world!

“All over the world the Spirit is moving” so we sang when I was a child. It was true in The Apostle’s day reaching India maybe Spain and then the next generation into Europe and the UK growing fast and bearing fruit. It is still true today. There are more than 1050 church planting movements which have been reported in the world this year. The top 10 countries with the largest Christian populations include Brazil, Russia, India and China. Iraq is the fastest growing Evangelical population at 19.6% (ten years ago). There are 1,392 Christian groups in the 10/40 Window. The largest being the Yoruba of Nigeria (34,362,000). The Jesus Film has been shown in 11,421 people groups in the world to a total of 7,136,000,000!

There is still so much more to be done but we can rejoice that throughout the world the gospel is growing. Is it growing near you?

John Knox 1514 – 1572: When his wife pleaded with him to get some sleep, he answered, “How can I sleep when my land is not saved?” He would often pray all night in agonizing tones, “Lord, give me Scotland or I die!” God shook Scotland. God gave him Scotland.

John Wesley 1703-1791 said these words: “Let us all be of one business. We live only for this, to save our own souls and the souls of those who hear us.” God used John Wesley to bring revival and transform thousands.

George Whitfield 1714-1770: He prayed, “O Lord, give me souls or take my soul.” It is said his face shone like the face of Moses when he sobbed that prayer.

William Booth 1829-1912: The King of England asked Booth what the ruling force of his life was. Booth replied, “Sir, some men’s passion is for gold, other men’s passion is for fame, but my passion is for souls. On to Calvary! On to death for the world! Let us not refuse the smiters! No halting! No rest! On suffering, sorrowing, weeping, dying for God and men, till the hosts of hell fly from this last defence and we march on over a burning world into everlasting glory!”

G Campbell Morgan 1863-1945 Nothing is more needed among preachers today than that we should have the courage to shake ourselves free from the thousand and one trivialities in which we are asked to waste our time and strength, and resolutely return to the apostolic ideal which made necessary the office of the pastorate.

John Stott 1921 –  2011   “Mission” is an activity of God arising out of the very nature of God. The living God of the Bible is a sending God, which is what “mission” means. He sent the prophets to Israel. He sent his Son into the world. His Son sent out the apostles, and the seventy, and the church. He also sent the Spirit to the church and sends him into our hearts today.

Billy Graham 1918-2018 “”The message I preach hasn’t changed. Circumstances have changed. Problems have changed, but deep inside man has not changed, and the gospel hasn’t changed.”

In this pandemic a lot of what we held dear has been stripped back. Our buildings have been empty but the Church continues. The corporate singing has been stopped but the Church continues. The ‘drugs’ of ministry that fuel the feel-good experience of Pastors have not been available: there are not many Amens and Hallelujahs returning to the preacher from the lens of a camera! What remains? It is what is central to the church. Nothing else should ever take its place. The good that comes out of this bad pandemic is that the Church gets stripped back and re-aligned and all that matters are those who do not yet know Jesus. The Church politics and arguments pre-pandemic have been shown to be worthless compared to the gospel going to the whole world. May they never return. Mission remains.

The promises of the world are eclipsed by the promises of God offered to people who will simply listen. May the gospel work continue today, near you and me.

Christ’s love

Who do you love? That might be a personal question. But is it everybody? Probably not as only God does that right?!

Read again what the Apostle says:

“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 God’s people” Colossians 1 v 4

He had never been to Colossae. He has not met these people and all he knows of them is from what he has heard. Yet he is already praying for them because of what he has heard. What he has heard has moved him. They love all God’s people. They don’t just love people who are their type of people they love all of God’s people.

There have probably been many of God’s people travelling through Colossae from many places. When they leave and tell of their travels they speak of the love of Christ shown to them by the Colossians.

This is Kingdom love. Christ’s Kingdom Love.

It has become public. It is not locked away in closets of opinion and interpretation of Scriptures. It is for all.

“We cannot all do great things” Mother Teresa once said, “but we can do small things with great love.”

The defining characteristic of any Christian is love. If you go to a gathered community of Christians and do not find love then Christ has been put to one side. Churches decline because they forget what they are meant to be fighting and choose to love themselves and not all of God’s people. When Kingdom love disappears so does the Kingdom. No Kingdom no Christ. Falling out over things that just do not matter does matter because when people witness it they don’t want anything to do with the Church.

When is the Church going to start to get uptight over poverty, racism, bigotry, persecution and hunger?

When will the Church get bloodied hands over those battles?

The day it does then the more troops will gather and the Church will rise to be the army of love it was always called to be.

Who do you love? What can you do?

Confidence in Christ

Where do you get your confidence from today?

Money? Relationships? Possessions? Self? Work?

The Apostle is thankful to God that the Colossians have confidence in Christ.

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 God’s people— Colossians 1: 3-4

I love how the Amplified helps us around the word faith: “how you lean on Him with absolute confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness”.

If there is one major threat upon the Church it is that they choose not to lean as much upon Christ.  Maybe through disappointment or failure and discouragement or perhaps through temptation of wanting what others seem to have there can be a tendency for our faith in Christ to take a back seat. We still believe but other things are what we talk about.

I found myself in the middle of a conversation with a group of seasoned Pastors the other day as they talked about some of their faith stories of their past. How refreshing it was to talk about what Christ did as they trusted him! I thought we need more of these faith stories being told today. Younger ministers need to know about the ancient paths of faith.

Last Saturday I conducted an induction of a Pastor which I am always privileged to do but especially this one seeing it was one of my church leaders of years gone by. The service only had a very few in attendance social distanced and everyone was watching it online. Towards the end of the service and as we were bringing things to close one of the leaders began to pray from where she was sitting. She had not been asked to do so and it wasn’t in the programme. But I felt stirred in my spirit and I grabbed the microphone so that those watching from their homes could listen. What stirred me was her confidence in Christ that He was going to do a new thing. He was going to build His church. He was going to move things forward. This Church doesn’t have much. Looking at them you wouldn’t expect anything naturally to happen there. But they have faith in Christ. Their confidence is in Christ Jesus and when I pray for them I do so thanking God for their confidence.

Today put your confidence in Christ.

Christ has sent me

You may feel unqualified to step into this new chapter of your life. Who am I to think I can do this new job? Do you ever have to pinch yourself because you think it must be a dream? Are you sitting with people around a table and wonder ‘why am I here, I don’t have anything to contribute?’ When people are going through a tough time and they say you wouldn’t understand because you have never gone through it, what do you say? Do we have to experience everything before we can speak in to the situation?

Paul had never been to Colossae but he writes to them as an apostle.

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ: Grace and peace to you from God our Father” Colossians 1 v 1-2

It is not where you are going but where you have been that counts.

It is not who you are speaking to but who has spoken to you that is important.

Where you have come from and who you have been with qualifies you.

Paul says I know who I am, I know who is with me and I know who I am writing to. However, more importantly than all that, I know whose I am.

Christ has sent me.

It matters not where Paul is writing this letter though he is obviously in prison and like his letter to the Ephesians, Tychicus, will deliver it (maybe he takes both letters on the journey). What does matter is who Paul writes about? That is Christ. The Colossians letter is very similar to the Ephesians one but perhaps the purpose is different. The Ephesians has the focus of the Church whereas Colossians has the focus of Christ.

This letter is still important today. Especially during this pandemic when we are restricted and locked down. When Church has become different than we have ever experienced. There is one constant. Jesus Christ. He is not first among equals He is supreme above and beyond all. He is not one of the ways to the Father He is the only way.

One of the most beautiful and well known paintings in the world is ‘The Last Supper’. But what is strikingly important in that picture is what is missing from it. In 1498 Leonardo Da Vinci sat back having completed the masterpiece. He invited a friend to comment on the work. The friend pointed out how the most beautiful part of the picture was the cup in the hand of Jesus. The friend believed the cup was truly worthy to touch the lips of Jesus. Da Vinci said goodbye to his friend and then painted out the cup and later responded by saying, “Nothing must distract from the figure of Christ.”

In the many voices of opinions and comments and there are many church guru’s offering help to get us through this pandemic. Experts telling us how things will be when we get back to ‘normal’. Further experts telling us what the new normal will be. Please let us not forget that however it looks like, whoever is with us and whatever the Church has become, it is not as important as making sure we have been with Christ.

Christ has sent me. I don’t know you but I know Christ. I am not that important. Timothy is not that important. I am writing to you because I want you to have every good thing from God. However, I write because of Christ. He is all in all.

I have Undying Love

So here is the last devotion of this beautiful prison letter. The 113th blog all starting with I.

I wish it was an even number it seems odd ending on an odd one!

I hope they have been a reminder of the beauty of God the Father, the mystery of Jesus Christ and the powerful help of the Holy Spirit.

If they have stimulated your thinking, encouraged your walk and if they have lifted your head to heaven then I am thankful.

On the days of offence then I hope not only for forgiveness but also that by seeing the whole landscape of what has been just short of 4 months that the provocation into the pursuit of truth is not destructive.

For those who regularly message a thank you to encourage, thank –you.

Okay Apostle Paul let’s finish this …

“Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.” Ephesians 6 v 24

Powerfully moving especially when we remember that around 40 years later Jesus says to the Church in Ephesus that they had lost their first love for Him.

I think this final message from the Apostle is crucial: stay in love with Jesus!

To stay in love will not come naturally in fact if we do not take action we will definitely grow cold.

We need to keep on choosing Jesus.

We need to keep on putting Jesus first in our decisions.

We need to keep on being blown away by Jesus’ love for us.

You will know the story of undying love of a not very successful preacher who married the love of his life. He had high hopes for this new chapter. They would share everything together. They would dream together, walk hand in hand into the future they would build together. But it wasn’t long before his loved one began to break his heart. She chose another man to be with. In fact she chose not just one. Were the children she bore his? He couldn’t be certain. But he turned from being a struggling preacher to a broken-hearted father, a betrayed husband and an embarrassed Pastor. But it got worse for him. His wife was abducted by the men she cavorted with. Was this God’s judgment on her? Was it God’s mercy on him? More questions raged in his mind until he was left with one conviction. He had to go and get her. He had to buy her back from slavery. He had to redeem her.

Their names are Hosea and Gomer. A story of undying love. A picture of God and His people.

God loved us though we were unfaithful.

God loved us though we wandered away.

God rescued us when we got ourselves into trouble.

God redeemed us when we found ourselves trapped.

God loved us when we stopped loving Him.

God’s undying love.

But let us step into undying love for Him.

So when it appears He has stepped away from us. When it feels He has let us down. When He is not doing what we think He should be doing: we love Him with a love that is undying and incorruptible.

It does not shrivel up, it is not spoiled; it does not decay for it has an unending existence. This is not a fad, nor an affair. It is an abiding emotion. The Apostle knew it. He knows that neither nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation will stop this undying love.

Let me close with this prayer from the Apostle:

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3 v 17-19)

I say Good- bye

“Never part without loving words to think of during your absence. It may be that you will not meet again in this life.” – A quote from Jean Paul Richter, German writer (1763-1825) who happened to be a romantic humorous writer though I don’t see anything funny in this quote, romantic perhaps!

“Every parting is a form of death, as every reunion is a type of heaven.” – Tryon Edwards, American theologian (1809-1894) great grandson of the famous preacher Jonathan Edwards, Tryon was more famous for his quotes such as this one, in fact he created a Dictionary of Quotes.

Throughout our lives we have had to learn to say good-bye and we have been helped by poetry, pictures and prose to do such that. Who remembers these lyrics?

There are places I’ll remember; All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better; Some have gone, and some remain
All these places had their moments; With lovers and friends, I still can recall
Some are dead, and some are living; In my life, I’ve loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers; There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning; When I think of love as something new

Though I know I’ll never lose affection; For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them; In my life, I’ll love you more

The Beatles, 1965. If you remember it then I’ve probably put the tune into your mind, sorry! But for those like me who weren’t around (just) well, it’s just another song of moving words of good-bye of which there are many.

We are drawing near to the end of the Apostle’s letter to the Ephesians. He is about to hand it to Tychicus to take it to them. How will he end it?

I love the Message translation, “Good-bye, friends.”

The NIV, “Peace to the brothers and sisters,and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ …” Ephesians 6: 23-24

What would you say if it was your final words to someone you love?

Perhaps the Apostle remembers the time when on the journey to Jerusalem he had called the Ephesians elders to travel to him so he could say good-bye properly to them. In Acts 20:37 “They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him.” Paul had said his farewell speech, they had knelt and prayed and embraced and then they all cried together.

Maybe this is in his mind, what does he now say to all the believers knowing he will never see them again? How do we say good-bye to someone?

Peace – it has been clear in his letter that Paul wants them to know they have peace with God and that they should also have peace with one another.

Have a total desire that the person you say good-bye to will know this peace in every circumstance and chapter of their life.

“Don’t be afraid, you are my brother/sister, you are in the family of God and you belong to Him. He will guard you and protect you. Peace. Step into wholeness, live with a clear conscience, move with integrity so you can withstand the accuser of your soul and the voices of doubt in your mind. Peace.”

Love with faith – do you remember how Paul started his letter? “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” That was his opening doxology and he ends with a blessing again from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Have a total desire that the person you say good-bye to will know the love of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Don’t forget you are incredibly loved, let your faith in Him fuel your knowledge of His love. It is His love. He is not angry with you so let go of your anger towards others. Breathe love. Be love. Love yourself. Don’t harbour hurts, forgive others and forgive yourself for the Lord Jesus Christ sacrificed His life that you may know you are loved.”

Grace to all – Do you remember how Paul has already spoken of our blessings regarding the riches of God’s grace? God’s grace is a daily reality for us all to explore.

Have a total desire that the person you say good-bye to will know courage that comes from grace enabling them to journey through whatever pain they experience in this next chapter.

“Don’t let go of grace. Fight for it. The Pharisees are everywhere, the grace-killers. The fight for grace is the fight against performance. Grace is treasure, you have it so don’t let go. It will give you endurance, it will secure you and will enable you. Go in grace.”

We all have to say goodbye. But how we do is really important. Paul blesses us with timeless and precious words. He says one more thing and we will see that tomorrow. But for now let me close this blog with the powerful words of Snoopy from the Peanuts cartoon!

“Why can’t we get all the people together in the world that we really like and then just stay together? I guess that wouldn’t work. Someone would leave. Someone always leaves. Then we would have to say good-bye. I hate good-byes. I know what I need. I need more hellos.”

I have a Friend

In 1971 James Taylor sang a song about having a friend “To brighten up even your darkest night” who will “come running to see you again” and when people “hurt you and desert you and take your soul if you let them” then “you just call out my name” because “you’ve got a friend.” A song written nearly 50 years ago is on my playlists today.

Let’s go back further as we have done, to AD 62 and we see friendship was deeply important. In every generation of the history of the world friendship has been sought, broken and found again. Times of deep loneliness as friends have walked out the door and times of huge blessing as friends have been made again. If you have a friend, treasure them. I am not speaking of your Facebook friends, you have loads of them, I am speaking of Tychicus’ friends. The name means fortunate or chance. Sometimes you do feel ‘fortunate’ to have found that friend by ‘chance’ but as followers of Christ you realise it was so much more than that.

“Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you.” Ephesians 6: 21-22

I have a friend

Someone who knows more than others know.

“will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing … that you may know how we are”

Loneliness is when you are not known. The enemy of your soul will try and make you an island, separated in either your thoughts or worse deeds, so that you have no one who truly knows you. To be known is to be safe.

Someone who is present in your prison.

“so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing … that you may know how we are”

Some people leave you when you are locked down. They were there for what they could get from you not for who you are. When you went into prison they didn’t follow you. The shame and embarrassment was too much. You can only talk badly about someone in prison to others if you are not there yourself. The fear of man is a snare.

Someone who has stood the test of time.

“Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord”

The Apostle’s friend was part of his team on his 3rd missionary journey as they carried the gifts of money to Jerusalem. He was trusted. Tychicus was considered by Paul to take on the leadership of the Church in Crete (Titus 3:12). He was trusted. And of course Paul was sending his friend to the believers of Colossae and Ephesians with the important letters. He was trusted. Time has many experiences and some very challenging ones. Who went in with you isn’t necessarily who comes out with you but those who have stood by you during the time are the Tychicus friends.

Someone who shapes your life.

“ … the dear brother …” Unlike myself who have often used these words for when I have forgotten someone’s name, the Apostle uses this word carefully! Tychicus is a brother. Do you remember when with his pre-conversion name Saul he met Christ on the Damascus Road and became blind? Do you remember how the Lord called Ananias to go and disciple Saul? Now, do you remember the very words Ananias used? It was “Brother Saul …” That must have made a profound impact upon him. There can be negative impacts on siblings growing up together of course but in terms of teaching social well-being, emotional development, the shaping of your life. There are few more influencers in your life than a brother or a sister.

Someone who is faithful.

“ … faithful servant in the Lord …” He was dependable. The Apostle could rely on his friend to speak about him. Do you ever wonder what people say about you? As a minister most of my working life I realised very early on that I do appear as a subject of people’s conversations and have tried my very best not to torture myself on what people are saying about me. Of course, I may be deceived and am not that important to have taken up anyone’s conversational time! What I do know is if you have found someone who you can rely on to speak well of you away from your presence then that person is a faithful friend.

Someone who is self-less.

“… servant in the Lord …” The word is literally a bond slave. Someone who doesn’t have their own rights but is under the control of their master. The Apostle uses the word a lot. His friend is not his bond slave but the Lord’s, just as he was, fellow servants, slaves to the Lord. We may struggle with some of these words in 2020 but nevertheless this person is someone who doesn’t think of themselves above others. Have you ever gone out for coffee with someone and all they do is talk about themselves and you wonder if they will ever ask a question of you so that you might for one moment be able to say something which may be slightly interesting to them about you?! (too many words in that question indicates this is a problem I have!) Have you ever gone out for coffee with someone and you always pay for the coffee? You get what I am saying. To journey with self-less people is a dream.

Someone who encourages.

“ … and that he may encourage you.” Finally, the friend who makes you feel better. You just know that they are a joy to be with, they lift you up, the speak well over you, they spur you on. The word encourage means ‘with heart’. We need friends who don’t just give us a pat on the back but who can give us a new heart and who brings the best out of us.

I have a friend, do you?

I’ve got a better question.

I am a friend, are you?

I need Prayer

“Morning Paul – praying for you today as you carry the burden of all the churches under your care …”

That was the text I received yesterday morning from one of my ministers. It was unexpected but not only was I immediately encouraged I understood that the ancient practice of praying for each other had not lost its power. The Apostle knew the power of praying for others. He says in this next verse, “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” (Ephesians 6 v 19-20

How many times do you say or have it said to you, “I’ll pray for you”? We all know that it is either a) often used out of a sense of care and because we love that person; b) it is focused on getting the person out of the situation, we want them to be healed immediately, we don’t want them to suffer or c) it means nothing!

“Pray for me” the Apostle asks.

There are evidences that Paul at times does ask for help to be rescued from deadly peril etc. But here is one of the many examples where Paul moves into another level of prayer altogether. So from these 2 verses what do they show us about prayer?

  1. Paul believes in it.

It is difficult to try and explain how prayer works. It seems a nonsense. How can someone like me in my small world be heard by God who seems not only invisible but is spoken of as so great and powerful that He couldn’t possibly be interested in giving me a good day?!

Unless!

Unless as Paul believes that when a person goes on being filled with the Spirit of God in their lives that God who is actually Spirit, Breath, like a Wind, resides in Christ followers. It is then when prayer (which is simply a conversation with God) becomes not only understandable but believable. That prayer does work. Prayer impacts our world. For God is here.

  • Paul knows the kind of conversations to have with God

Yesterday I was chairing the International board meeting for Elim Globally, which is always a huge privilege and totally inspiring for me and the 10 leaders from around the world who are at that meeting. As we have done in a previous meeting during this covid-pandemic we focused on the difficulties the Church is facing during this time. Over the last few months I have found myself discussing with my ministers the question around our buildings, “When should we go back?” Also what are we permitted to do when we do go back? Of course all the ministers under my care vary in their opinions about this. Nevertheless that has been the big conversation. At this meeting yesterday we didn’t have time to hear from all the nations but I was particularly interested in one of the hardest hit nations, India. The leader is called Rajesh and belongs to a Church denomination known as the Gospel Echoing Missionary Society and their history with Elim is a special one. I invited Rajesh to speak. He had often taught me how when persecution struck them as it has done on many occasions in their history that their vision and strategy for the gospel simply exploded with radical steps of faith so I was interested with how this pandemic had effected them. (India has now 5 million people infected with the virus with upwards of 100,000 being infected every day). He explained how a) they had taken the decision not to open their buildings till 2022; b) they had decided to ‘make every house a church’ with intensified Church leadership training and 2 households would make a church. They are envisaging a new explosion of growth with the gospel. At the same time they will carry on building new church buildings so that in 2022 they are ready when they emerge from their house churches. They are expecting huge growth of new believers.

Of course there isn’t anything wrong with praying for covid to leave this world; there isn’t anything wrong to pray about how we will navigate going back to our buildings; but the point is there is another kind of conversation to have with God around His mission. Rajesh knows it. The Apostle knew it, again, look what he says:

“Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”

He is not asking to be freed from prison. He is not asking to be sustained in prison. He is asking a kingdom prayer. He is wanting his words to be fearless. He is wanting to do what he knows he should be doing.

  • Paul knows that prayer brings a different perspective, God’s.

As we come to the end of this letter to the Ephesians Paul is saying the same thing as he commenced it with.

We have to go 109 blogs back and we find these verses, (Ephesians 1:1-3) Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus,the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul doesn’t start his letter about being locked down or contained or not free to travel. He begins with God and He ends with Him also.

“Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”

Prayer for Paul helps him realise who God calls him not what his circumstance calls him. He is not a prisoner of the Romans he is an ambassador of the gospel, a representative of the good news of Jesus Christ, in that prison and from that prison.

Around the world today there are prisoners, ambassadors of the gospel in chains, they were locked down years ago. This last week thankfully 27 Christian prisoners in Eritrea were released and in July there were others. In total there are around 500 ambassadors of the gospel in an Eritrean prison and there are around 30,000 Christians in North Korean labour camps. But where they are so is the gospel. Do we pray for their release, of course, but they teach us to pray for the gospel to be known fearlessly! (You could find out more from this section of a website: https://releaseinternational.org/lockdown-church/

So don’t be afraid to ask for prayer. But perhaps think through what you would like prayer for. Take your eyes off the obvious and have a different conversation with God from His perspective. Above all believe in it for prayer does work!