We could spend all our time bemoaning our circumstances, thinking, we are better than this or that; thinking we deserve more, better. We sometimes compare ourselves to others. We ask God why “those people“ have all the good fortune.
Paul, writing from prison no less, for simply preaching the Good News, doesn’t feel sorry for himself. He doesn’t spend his time criticizing and judging “those people.“ Those preachers, whose egos are bigger than life, who are free to go where and when they want. No. Paul sees the bigger picture. He trusts God completely to care for, guide and use him. Lord, I surrender my circumstances to you. May I not complain, but stand in faith and rejoice in knowing that you are always at work for my good and your glory.
This is my free translation of Paul’s message in these few verses. “I’m in prison but everything that has happened to me here is helping to spread the Gospel. Everyone here in prison knows my mission to spread the Gospel…even the prison guards. Believers here with me in prison are emboldened to share the Gospel message – WERE WINNING! NO FEAR!“
Never underestimate the power of your influence for Christ. Your voice, your countenance, your message, your encouragement, your passion for sharing Jesus can help others to face their troubles and fears. What great opportunities to share the Gospel await me every day. Lord, may I face every situation, not with fear but, with fearless faith.
What is the prayer, that “holy hug,” that Paul expresses for his beloved friends in Philippi? He prays that the love of Christ might pour out in abundance from them to others. He prays that they will continue to grow in their knowledge of Christ, that they might live moral upright lives. He prays that they will be filled with the fruit of salvation (the righteous character of Christ). The ultimate goal of all of this is that they will bring much glory, praise, to God.
So, following Paul’s example, I pray for my family, friends and nation that Christ love might abound in them, knowledge of Christ will continue to grow, that Christ-likeness will be revealed in them and that ultimately, God will be glorified in their lives. And Lord, may my love, Christian character and witness also bring glory to the father.
Paul continues his affectionate greeting. He communicates his prayers and encouragement to the Philippian believers. It his way of embracing those far away from him and giving them a spiritual hug, a “holy hug.”
So it has also become my joy to pray for and write to those for whom I pray – my wife, my children, grandchildren and spiritual adopteds; my neighbors, friends, leaders in my church, leaders in our nation, state, county and city; for all others whom the Lord gives a reason for me to pray.
This is the call of the prayer sentry, to search God’s word daily, to hear and receive from him my assignments in prayer. Then to pray for these beloved family, friends, leaders and others.
Dare I say that there is a moment, a slice of time in my day, when I come as close to perfection as humanly possible?
It is my Morning Watch, between the hours of 4:30 and 8 AM (or thereabouts). It is that time of day when I bring my broken and fallen self to the table of self-examination.
It is those moments when the Holy enters into my daily dialogue and from Scripture the Lord counsels me, comforts me and challenges me. He speaks perfectly clearly from his Word. His Spirit interprets perfectly clearly (Rhema) to my heart. His Son perfectly clearly calls me to obedience. These are moments unmolested by the trials and the challenges of the day which await me. They are crouching at the threshold just outside the closed door of sweet communion.
For these few unmolested moments I am free of sin (for the most part; I am human). Like a “storm chamber,“ to which one goes for protection and cover from the storm, I am sheltered from the elements outside which batter the humble shack above. I am free in these moments from the demands of the flesh. I am entirely focused upon my Heavenly Trio of Friends: Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
Ah yes. For these few moments, when things are perfect, I can hear clearly, perfectly. Then, having put on a new self, with a bound, full of grace and truth, I step out from the chamber, my cathedral of personal praise and devotion. Then, standing watch at the end of my driveway, I courageously answer the call to give my all for Christ another day.
This may be Paul’s most tender greeting of all his epistles. His affection for the Philippians leaps off the page. “God will most certainly finish his work in you at Christ’s return.” Paul appeals to God himself as a witness of the deep and abiding love he has for these believers. Why? Because they have drunk deeply together at the well of faithful ministry (good times and hard times).
It has been my honor to serve with some of God’s choicest servants. We have in common great ministry opportunities to defend the gospel and to introduce others to Christ. That also includes men and women who have generously donated such ministry. Our love for each other was forged in the crucible of ministry. Our affection for each other can only be described as an encounter with the compassion of Jesus. Thank you Father for the extraordinary bond we share.
Prayer is a constant focus of the apostle Paul. He always has someone, some church, some group of people on his mind in prayer. Thanks is another virtue of Paul. He is forever thankful…to God, to partners in ministry and for those who have given their lives to Christ. Paul never takes for granted the work of the gospel nor the partners and fellow workers in ministry.
A sure sign that one may be an intercessor is his/her thankful heart and joy in always being ready to pray for someone or some group. It is his/her delight to pray. That is the intercessor. This is the seminal work of the prayer sentry. Father, I shall never forget those days in which you called me to the ministry of intercession.
Paul greets his Philippian readers with the words, “grace and peace.” The New Living Translation Bible study notes say, “Inside the tiny package marked ‘grace and peace,’ we find an inexhaustible treasure of God’s daily presence in our lives.” Grace and peace are at the source of all joy.
Everything I read as an introduction to the epistle of Philippians leads me to reflect on the subject of “joy.“ Yet, it is not joy that I seek as an end in itself. No. But it is the Giver of joy unspeakable whom I seek. Joy is the by-product. First Peter 1:8 underscores this appellation as descriptive of the experience of knowing Christ. I do not strive for joy. It it is a surprise gift that comes naturally as I strive to know Christ in all of his fullness. Father, may I know first hand the depths of grace and peace in relationship with you.
*Title of a book by CS Lewis; the story of his conversion to Christianity
Prayer: Stand faithful to the call of God on your life (Col 4:17,18). #AChargeToKeep #StandFaithful #LastWords
MORNING WATCH NOTES:
These are Paul’s last words to the Colossians. They are directed to Archippus: “Carry out the ministry the Lord gave you.” A similar charge is given to Timothy (2Ti 4:5). It is not known for certain what role Archippus played in the Colossian church. He was an early convert to Christianity. He may have been the pastor of this church. To be faithful to the call of God was a solemn “Charge To Keep” by Archippus.
Finally, Paul, in his own handwriting, asked that the church “remember [his] chains.” He asked that they be mindful that he is in prison for preaching the gospel and to pray for him. He may also have meant that he was giving his very life for the truths that he has expressed in this letter to these Colossians. Father, the prayer sentry can give no less to his/her call to ministry and the living out of faith.
*It is worthy to note that George W Bush, then Governor of Texas (1999), wrote a book entitled, A Charge To Keep; named for the old Methodist hymn** by Charles Wesley – 1762 (based on Lev 8:35).
A painting of the same title (by artist WHD Koerner), on loan to Bush, hung in the Oval Office of President George W Bush. Bush states that the scene of the cowboy charging up the hill “epitomizes our mission. We serve One greater than ourselves.” Also interesting to note is that a closer look at the painting reveals that the charging cowboy looks a lot like Bush himself.
Epaphras (likely founder of the church in Colosse) – Paul opens his letter to the Colossians with a note about Epaphras (1:7). He mentions him again in the closing (4:12,13). Epaphras is noted as a faithful servant and man of earnest prayer. It is said that he “always labors fervently for you in prayer…“ That is, on any and every occasion Epaphras was ready to pray.
Epaphras was not only ready, he prayed “fervently.“ That is, he prayed with painstaking accuracy and knowledge. He was an earnest and sincere intercessor. Epaphras was “moved” by God towards deep heartfelt prayer. This is the goal of the Prayer Sentry. Lord, may this sentry, every prayer sentry, take every opportunity to sincerely pray for the welfare of others, that they might stand mature in the will of God.
In the closing lines of Paul’s letter to the Colossians he speaks kindly of eight men who are standing with him in the call to preach the Gospel. Some are in prison with him in Rome. Some are ministering to him in his incarceration for the Gospel. But prison for Paul, rather than a place of doom, gloom and defeat, has become a busy center for flourishing ministry. (“What [men] meant as evil against me, God meant for good, that many people should be kept alive – Gen 50:20)
From prison Paul plans ministry and prays for many. He teaches, disciples, exhorts, sends others out and serves Christ from prison. No matter his circumstances he is “content” (Phi 4:11 – written from prison). For Paul the place is here and the time is now. He finds ways to continue to spread the Gospel message. Prison holds no bars for the man or woman of God. Lord, though limited in my elder years, this duty sentry is determined to be as engaged as ever doing what he can to pray, share the Gospel and to encourage the people of God.
After you have prayed in private it is time to live your Christian life publicly. So, Paul says, Get Practical. Be prudent in your actions before a watching world…for the sake of the Gospel. Do not waste any opportunity to speak for Christ. And when you do speak, strive to flavor every conversation with grace (Eph 5:15,16).
Listen carefully to what people say so that you might give the best most appropriate response (Eph 4:29). Lord, fill this old sentry with your Spirit, that I may be prudent, alert, attentive, gracious and relevant. Enable my best sensory responses to those around me.
Aside from the general need to be devoted in prayer, alert to any specific circumstances requiring prayer – pray with a humble and grateful heart. Paul also makes a request for prayer for his own efforts, even as he is in prison.
Paul requests prayer for open doors to share the gospel; that he might speak clearly for Christ and the Gospel message. How mindful am I of many ministries, mission efforts and church planting teams? It should be my goal to spend time praying for these organizations, the men and women who lead these efforts. Lord, give this sentry open doors to share the Gospel and be clear in the message.
Prayer is inspired by the Holy Spirit as he speaks into my life. Each day I come to the Scriptures looking for, listening for, inspiration to pray – how to pray, what to pray, for whom to pray. When I read the prayers and exhortations to pray from Paul, I am inspired, moved, to do as Paul did (as Jesus did – Luke 5:16; as the apostles did – Acts 2: 42). STAY PRAYER CENTERED.
Prayer turns the focus from me and from my self-interests, from my perspective, to God’s perspective. This is how I learn to understand my true purpose and role in this world. Daily Scripture reading and prayer keeps the sentry centered on God‘s point of view and his mission.