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.
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 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.
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.
The Lord Jesus is at the center of all domestic relationships. To say that Paul is not “Politically Correct“ is to miss his point entirely. He does not teach that women, children and servants are subservient to men. Nor that men are the undisputed authority whether right or wrong, honorable or maleficent.
The point is that the Lord (mentioned eight or nine times here) ought to govern every relationship. Spouses, parents, children, slaves and masters should all be guided by love, honor and mutual respect. Every relationship is subject to the Lordship of Christ. Father, make of this sentry the best servant of all men in my service to you.
The message here is to represent well the exalted Christ. Let your teaching, counsel [all your conversation] be ordered by the wisdom Christ gives. Let your worship and singing reflect a heart of thanksgiving to God for all he has done. In all you do (everything) honor the name of Christ. Lord, may I always bring honor to your name.
TRIBUTE: I used to tell my children, there were two rules in our house. One, you’re a Hollar you belong to me. Two, you’re a Christian, you belong to Christ. Honor both names wherever you go and in whatever you do. They are now grown, married and have three children each of their own. As far as I know they have always honored the Hollar name and the name of Christ. They still do.
“There is a way that SEEMS right to a man, but the end leads to death“ (Pro 14:12). Christ offers another way. His way is the narrow way, a way less traveled. It ends in life, mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
When one applies the new robes of Christ and his righteousness it will result in giving deference to others; forgiving their offense – doing for others what Christ did for me. I let unconditional love and the rule of Christ’s reconciliation (peace) govern my actions towards others. I should always be thankful – a thankful heart is a humble heart. Lord, I cannot but pay back your love for me by showing love to others. This is how I show my gratitude. This is how I pay it forward.
Now, having put on this new life in Christ, some things will change. You will notice that with a renewed heart will come a radical change in attitudes and conversations (Note Mat 15:18; Luk 6:45; Eph 4:29). As one grows in Christ, attitudes leading to ugly words will fall away: anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language and lying are examples. These are shed like an old dirty smelly coat.
The new nature is put on like a new suit of clothes. You will find yourself growing accustomed to the new suit more and more every day. Soon old attitudes and words towards others will become Christ’s attitudes and words in us. Lord, may my attitudes and words never dishonor your Spirit that lives in me, and in my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Someone has said, “Lord, fill my mouth with worthwhile stuff, and nudge me when I’ve said ‘nuff.”
Here, Paul moves from the ideal of “death to self“ (v3) to the practical working out of that principle in reality, in the believer’s daily life. Every day this body of flesh will challenge the right of God to be in control. This is nowhere seen more clearly than in sexual sin, immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed. All of these sins of the flesh say, “SATISFY ME!”
Self is obsessed with itself, the adoration and worship of itself. This is what brings God’s displeasure. These sins will not only be judged in eternity, they will also incur their own judgment here and now. Who has not felt that condemnation? Father, I rely upon your strength to turn from sin to you. I reserve the “right to refuse” service to self.
Real life, real living, begins with life in Christ. Existence is not life anymore than a house is a home or a father is a dad. A house becomes a home when it is filled with love, devotion and relationships. A father becomes a dad when love, devotion and relationships are sought and found by intentional compassionate trial, error and growth.
Mere existence becomes true life, real life, when love of, devotion to and a relationship with Christ becomes the primary focus. We die to an old existence. We shed the old way of existing. We are awakened to a new way, where Christ becomes our life, our all in all. Thank you Lord for my new life that is secure and protected with Christ in God.
In these verses, and those that follow, Paul addresses the primary heresy threatening the church in Colosse: Gnosticism that denied the deity of Christ. Paul makes it clear and uncomplicated. All the fullness of God dwells in Christ. He was/is the Son of God in human form. His humanity did not/does not diminish in any way his headship and authority over all creation.
Furthermore, the union of every believer with Christ is absolutely complete. In Christ my reconciliation with God is fully complete, my sins are forgiven and my future is eternally secure. God of Heaven’s Armies, the duty sentry has no greater assurance than that in which he/she has put their trust, that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We came to Christ by trusting the truthfulness of God (that’s “faith”). So when we are confronted with all the philosophies of the world we reject them and continue to trust in him and his word. His word is true, it will lead and guide me.
We must sink our roots down deep into Christ. That is, we draw nourishment from him and let his teachings inform our way of living. We must not be derailed by human reasonings. Do this and the truth in which we believed/trusted God in the first place, will grow strong within us. We will be overwhelmed by thankfulness. Lord, this old sentry would never trade new life in Christ for the world of human reasoning in which he used to live.
For this I came, to suffer any hardship for the cause of the Gospel. Paul clearly understands his call from God. That is, to proclaim the message of Christ – it is now no mystery. Christ came in human form. He died a real death, that all men might know the riches of the glory of God.
“Christ lives in you.“ Paul and every Christian are called to tell others of Christ’s love and forgiveness. It is up to me to use every resource God gives me in life to carry out this call. Lord my call is clear, “Do the work of an evangelist – influence men for Christ.“ Lord, with your strength, I will strive to fulfill my call, all the way to the end.
My peace with God comes as a result of the blood Jesus shed on the cross for my sins. In the Levitical law it is shown that the bloodline of man was infected with sin through Adam’s rebellion (Lev 17:11). So now, the shedding of innocent blood provides renewal of the life of God in me. (In the Old Testament the blood of an innocent lamb was shed for the forgiveness of sin; in the New Testament Jesus Christ was that innocent lamb removing man’s sin [Jhn 1:29]).
Forgiveness and eternal life comes through Christ to all men and women who put their faith (trusting the truthfulness of God) in him to redeem them. Christ was/is the only means of redemption. Christ came in the flesh to shed blood for the remission of sin. Though I was alienated from God, I am now reconciled because I have received by faith new life through the blood of Christ.
When Paul prays for the strength of the Colossians, coming from God’s power to them, he expects to see three results:
1) Their PATIENCE – the persistence to pursue the goal of following Christ in spite of any difficulty;
2) Their ENDURANCE – the virtue of quiet determination in the face of vitriol. It will not retaliate, but shows mercy and forgiveness;
3) Their JOYFULNESS – joy fuels patience and endurance. Joy is often seen In contrast to afflictions. It is the confident assurance of the soul, a state of mind, that rests fully in Christ. Even in the worst of circumstances.
Lord, the duty sentry depends fully on you to deliver unto him/her the patience, endurance and joy I need for every circumstance of life.
Paul prays for the believers in Colossae. His prayer is broken up into three parts.
1 of 3 – Paul prays that these believers would have a growing knowledge of God‘s will; spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then Paul explains how that would work itself out. [They did not have the advantage of the complete word of God as we do today] They would walk worthy of their call (honoring/pleasing God), they would produce good fruit in their lives (acts of service and goodness), and they would continue to grow in the knowledge of God (get to know God better and better).
It is important that we read and study God’s word. But not to accumulate or pile up more and more facts (we could pass a test). No, we read/study God‘s word to get to know him better and better. Knowing him, his ways and his will, we will be better able to honor and please him. We will know how to produce gracious acts of service in his name, that achieve good results. Finally, knowledge of him begets more knowledge, more honor, more good fruit…and so it goes.
I may not pray this specific prayer each day. But it is my desire that every prayer I pray over family, friends and country has the effect of their growth in the knowledge of God‘s will; spiritual wisdom and understanding.
When Paul says, “We have not stopped praying for you…“ he is not making some impromptu, casual remarks. He intends with all earnestness to point the Colossian church to the great God of all creation. Prayer is not a bargaining chip, an after thought or a therapeutic exercise in meditation. Prayer is the means by which God achieves his purposes in this world.
Paul speaks in the tradition of Jesus who instructed his disciples to “pray earnestly” (Luke 10:2); who taught that “men are always to pray and not faint” (Luk 18:1). Lord, prayer and the reading of your word is essential to sentry’s growth and effectiveness as a follower of Christ; to the advancement of the Gospel in this world.
God is not a compliant enabling father. He knows just when and how to discipline. He knows the limits of our ability to withstand testing and trials (1Co 10:13). Discipline is always an option (Heb 12:10,11). It is clear that God is always prepared to discipline his people to purge them from sin (though not every trial is for sin-Jas 1:12; 2Co 12:17; Rom 5:3–6).
In the end, like a loving father, God will come to his own and comfort them. You can count on that. The end result of God‘s discipline is to return to him, to love and worship him. Lord I have known your loving discipline and your comforting embrace. I look to you for the correction and reproof that I need.
Here the Lord when he says, “Be quiet and rest, silent and still, listen and reflect.“ But his people would not. Elsewhere it says, “[God] will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on him” (Isa 26:3). “Ask for the ancient way and walk in it. Travel that path and find rest for your soul. But his people would not” (Jer 6:16). “Come to me and I will give you rest“ (Mat 11:28). But God‘s people, we, who always have something to say, fill the silence, his quiet rest, with our own babbling.
Someone once said, “Blessed are those who have nothing to say and cannot be persuaded to say it.“*
God’s people disregarded God’s Word as trivial, nonessential and elementary. They boasted the great plans made of men. They, so liberated and free, will find God‘s Word to be the stone upon which they will stumble, fall and be broken in pieces. It will be the snare that traps them. Oh Lord, like Job, I have nothing to say. I have everything to gain by closing my mouth and waiting on you to speak (Job 42:1-6).
*Dobie, J. Frank, Cow People, University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas, (1964, 1984 – pg. 85)
Because of the nation of Israel‘s persistence in worshiping other gods, following the way of pagan nations and stubbornly refusing to listen to God‘s warnings of disaster, God “swept them away from his presence” (vv18,22). Assyria resettled the people of Israel by removing them from their land as captives. The Assyrians then re-populated the land of Israel by moving their own godless people into that territory.
But because these pagans did not worship the God of this land, the Lord [Lion of Judah] sent lions among them. Many were killed. The message was, they gained the land of God by his hand, they will live in the land of God by his hand. The desecration of what belongs to God will be met with disastrous consequences. Our provision and possessions gained by God’s hand are a sacred trust to respect. Father, I give you thanks and glory for all I have from your hand.
ANOTHER WORD: I just met a young warrior, Wesley, who will enter the United States Navy in about 6 weeks. I will be standing watch for him, his safety and the careful maintenance of his relationship with God. Bless you bro.
Following a ship wreck and three months delay, Paul and Luke, along with fellow prisoners, travelers and soldiers, left the welcoming island upon which they were stranded. Fairwinds delivered them to Sicily. Then up the coast of Italy to Puteoli. There they stayed a week, hosted by believers of “The Way.” Later, other believers met Paul in route to Rome – Paul was encouraged by them. When he arrived in Rome he was allowed his own private lodging – though guarded by a soldier. One would hardly guess that Paul was a prisoner, save the guard assigned to him.
Paul – falsely accused, incarcerated, shipwrecked and snake bit – so what hinders me? Whatever shackles appear to bind me will never impede the forward progress of God’s work. My circumstances do not dictate the forward movement of God. I can trust God to lead me on his mission for my life. Lord, I trust you to overcome the shackles, any hindrances in my life, to the progress of the gospel, the ministry of the word and the encouragement of others.