Paul must have felt tremendous responsibility for the church in Colosse and Laodicea. He did not found these two churches. Others who had come to Christ through Paul’s ministry (Acts 19:10) found these churches (Epaphras in Colosse – v7). Paul may have thought, “I hope I have adequately discipled these converts and that they may stand strong in the face of adversity and false teaching.”
Paul agonizes for their steadfastness in faith. He encourages them and reminds them of the truth they believed in Christ. He does all he can to continue pointing them to that truth. Lord, I have felt the responsibility of mentoring others in ministry. I have agonized over ministry plants in places near and far. To train and disciple is a joy. It is also a weighty responsibility. Father, may I always take such work seriously.
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.
To the people of Colossae Paul writes, “You learned about the Good News from Epaphras.” All we know of Epaphras is found here and in Philemon 1:23. Paul calls him a “beloved worker…faithful servant”; Paul leaned on him to lead the day-to-day ministry founded in Colossae. He was a kindred spirit to Paul, same as Philemon, in whose house the Colossian Church met (Phe 1:1,2).
We also learn from Philemon 1:23 that Epaphras may also have been in prison with Paul in Rome for preaching the Gospel. The bond between Paul and Epaphras was deep and profound. I have been blessed through the years to know such men and women in ministry. Lord, my heart is moved even now with joy unspeakable to have forged new local church ministries with such dear friends. They always encourage the heart of this old prayer sentry.
When Paul’s Jewish countrymen refused to accept the Gospel he was compelled by God to move on to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15;Rom 1:16; 11:13,14; Gal 1:15, 16). The Jewish leaders left Paul’s company greatly disturbed by his words. The Gentiles were far more receptive to the Gospel. They were far less infected by religious formalism.
For the two years Paul stayed in Rome under house arrest (presumably awaiting trial). He welcomed all who came to him. He boldly proclaimed to them the Kingdom of God. He taught and explained to them about Jesus, the Messiah, who came to offer forgiveness and salvation to the world. “No one tried to stop him.” Lord, lead me daily to those who are open to the Gospel. Give me boldness to proclaim the “Good News.”
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.
Upon the island, near where Paul was ship wrecked, lived a man named Publius. He was a chief official of the island. He hosted Paul and the others in his villa – another gracious provision of God.
Publius’ father was sick with dysentery. Paul was used by God to heal him. The result was that many on the island came to Paul and we’re healed. Paul ministered healing by God’s power to these islanders for three months. They showered Paul and Luke with much love and affection.
God chose Paul and called him to be his voice to the ancient world. Paul was a man surrendered to God. Another such man is Billy Graham of the 20th century. God could reveal himself in these men in powerful ways. Here, because of Paul’s surrendered life, I see yet another display of God‘s presence, provision and power.
Lord, you call each one to serve you in many different ways. Oh, how you love to bless through chosen ones surrendered to you. Lord, may this sentry’s heart know such surrender.
The ship in which Paul sailed was driven aground on a shoreline shoal. It was being smashed to pieces by furious breakers. Soldiers, fearing the consequence of losing their own lives if any prisoners escaped, wanted to kill them. Julius, the Roman soldier in charge, stopped them. Julius trusted Paul and wanted to spare him. Ultimately every prisoner swam safely to shore (as did the entire ship’s company).
God had a plan. He can and will bring deliverance from the most unlikely of sources. When God’s plan and mission is at stake he will use any and all resources at his disposal. Lord, it has been my experience of almost 75 years of life (whether family, parenting, ministry, relationships), you have seen me through every mission to which you have called me.
When things began to look their worst, the crew on board Paul’s ship of distress were ready to abandon the ship. But when the officers found out, they stopped the exodus (vv30-32).
Then Paul called the ship’s company together. He reminded them that because of worry and survival activity they had not eaten. They should eat. Paul blessed the food. He told them not to worry – not one of them would perish. They ate and all on board were encouraged by Paul’s words.
In times of trouble men and women of God can be a stabilizing force. Listen to God. Don’t abandon the ship. Remain nourished for the struggle. Lord, may my life offer hope and encouragement to others.
Many a ship, crew and cargo have been lost because of decisions made by men to ignore the facts at hand. Paul pleaded with the ship’s officers to wait out the winter storms in a place called Fair Havens. But the ship’s company thought Fair Havens an incommodious place. They decided, against better judgment, to set sail for the more commodious port of Phoenix.
How often we wish to leave the Fair Havens of life, thinking to outrun the storms ahead. We look to the more favorable places to set anchor and harbor. We ignore the signs of tragedy ahead. We ignore the counsel of God. We leave the Fair Havens given by God and set sale for our own desired comforts. Lord, I pray this aged old sentry has finally learned to trust you and grow and serve where you plant me?
After Paul had made his defense, Felix, the governor, stopped the hearing. He determined to delay his verdict. He put Paul back in custody. No evidence, no charges, no verdict. Paul was held in custody for two years before Felix was replaced (v27). Two years. We read no record of complaint by Paul. What we do read is how very often Felix, the governor and his wife Drusilla, a Jew, would call for Paul and talk to him about the “Way“ (v22).
Paul was forthright in his witness and did not back away from calling out sin. For two years it seems Paul was put on hold. But he used this time to witness for Christ to a Roman governor and likely many others. At times I may feel abandoned by God, set aside. Yet, God has a flip-side, an up-side, for every circumstance. Lord, may I always look for opportunities in life‘s setbacks to honor and glorify you.
A plot by Jewish leaders to kill Paul was foiled, as Paul was in custody and moved to Caesarea. Five days later the high priest himself, a lawyer and other Jewish leaders traveled to Caesarea, to file their charges and have Paul killed. The charges were, 1) Paul was a troublemaker, 2) a ringleader of a “cult“ (Christianity) and 3) he attempted to desecrate the temple (vv1–9). Pretty weak.
These allegations were all trumped up charges and Paul refuted each point. Furthermore, there were no witnesses to corroborate the charges (vv10–13). Paul also managed to speak in defense of his faith in God (vv14-16). His words were well chosen and effective. Lord, may the steadfast sentry trust that you will always be his/her defense at times when faith is misunderstood or maligned.
Acts 22:1-23:10 is an account of Paul’s testimony before an angry Jewish mob in the temple of Jerusalem and before the Jewish high Council. At this point, Paul is in the custody of a Roman cohort because he was the subject of a rioting mob of Jews. In the midst of all the confusion of a riot, that nearly cost Paul his life, his arrest and inquisition (Roman and Jewish), Paul must have wondered, as we often do, “Okay Lord, what do I do now?”
Then comes Acts 23:11, “The Lord stood at Paul’s side and spoke plainly to him – ‘Have courage, you have faithfully witnessed to my cause in Jerusalem, so you must do the same in Rome.’ “ Here’s the sentinel takeaway: When you are in the center of God‘s will, he will not fail to speak courage and purpose into your life. So Lord, when life gets difficult, I will trust you to lead and guide me. You are my “Extremity Remedy.”
My late friend, mentor and father in ministry of 30+ years, had a saying. “There are none so blind as those who won’t see and none so deaf as those who won’t listen.“ Such were those of the violent mob formed against Paul when, at the end of his missionary journeys, he returned to Jerusalem. When he showed up in the temple he was mobbed, treated like a rebel, and beaten by uninformed irrational Jews.
Like Jesus, Paul was accused of leading Jews to disown Judaism. Roman soldiers had to rescue Paul from the angry crowd. Paul’s best attempts at conciliation (vv 21-26) were met with deaf ears and angry hearts. At times my best good faith efforts at peace and unity may not be enough. Lord, if the sentry is called upon to suffer for Christ, may his/her resolve to stand faithful be strengthened.
While in the city of Caesarea the prophet Agabus foretold of the apostle Paul‘s imprisonment if he went to Jerusalem. Paul’s friends begged him with many tears not to go. Paul understood. He knew it would be an upstream battle. But he would not be deterred by loving friends.
Oh, how well-meaning friends and family may turn us away from any hard mission to which Jesus calls us. I thank God for a Spirit-filled wife who supported me in my departure from real estate in the 1980s, to enter into full-time ministry. In the 90s she stood with me again as I entered into prison ministry. Pity those who do not know such support.
Lord you have blessed this sentry with great and encouraging friends and family. May all who follow Christ be so fortunate in their mission.
In the movie, “The Guardian,“ Kevin Costner plays Coast Guard Senior Chief Ben Randall. He is the legendary “Guardian,“ one who protects those lost at sea. His protégé, Jake Fisher (Ashton Kutcher), asks Senior Chief Randall, “What’s your number?“ (How many did you save at sea?) Randall replies, “22.” Not many for the legendary guardsman. Then Randall says, “That’s how many I didn’t save. That’s the only number I kept track of.” In the end, Randall gave his own life to save one.
The Apostle Paul was an ancient “guardian“ of the lost souls of men in a sea of humanity. Used of God, he would give his all to save some. Paul is a real life legend who has inspired believers through the ages to give their all for Christ, that none should perish (2Co 9:22; 2Pe 3:9). Lord, I am inspired in my life by your word to give all, that I might save some. May I not fail at that task.
Inspiring notes follow on Paul, as a “guardian” over the lost souls of men:
Day 40 of 40 days of prayer for family and friends. Lord, may my friends and family always choose to serve God alone.
In Joshua Chap 24, Joshua recounts the many ways that God, not idols made of their own hands and minds, delivered Israel from Egypt, lead them through the Red Sea on dry ground, delivered them from the hands of enemy kings and gave them a land flowing with milk and honey. The Lord God of Heaven did all that.
Joshua then asks, in essence, in light of all the evidence for God, why on earth would you choose the idols of the pagan nations that God destroyed? The choice is clear. He says, “As for me and my house, we will serve the lord God of Israel.” Lord when I consider all the battles you have won for me, all the provisions you have made on my behalf, the choice is clear…I choose to serve you.
Day 35 of 40 days of prayer for family and friends. Lord, may my family and friends show genuine Christlikeness towards even their enemies.
All of Romans Chapter 12 is full with richness in regard to being a “living sacrifice;” being that one who is willing to lay his/her life down for another. This is the one who will unselfishly develop the character of Christlikeness – being authentic and ready, even eager, to help another.
This is nowhere seen more clearly than when I am willing to genuinely look for ways to be a friend and not just get even or berate an enemy. To do that I must stop, listen and try to understand their deepest needs. Then, as I apply Christlike goodness, I may conquer the evil that is intended toward me.
Jesus himself expressed at least three ways that we may overcome evil with good (Luk 6:28–36): 1) pray for your enemy, 2) love (by act of kindness) your enemy and 3) treat your enemy like you would like to be treated. Lord, you have show me how to conquer evil with good. Make of me that “living sacrifice,” willing to act in a Christlike manner towards even my enemy.
Day 29 of 40 days of prayer for family and friends. Father, put it on the heart of family members and friends to be authentic in their love of and service to others.
When it comes to others I need to be real and be ready, focus on genuinely loving others. I need to be enthusiastic in my service to God and others. I should work on being authentic in my compassion for others, even those who are hard to love or want to abuse me.
Lord, I want to work towards a harmonious outcome with people. I never want to be that “know-it-all guy.” I strive to be a humble participant in the lives of others. I’d be honored to be some small part in turning someone’s life around. Thank you Lord, for “Smitty.” He was a sentry teammate to me in Vietnam. One humble sentry showed me how to love you and love others.
Be available to God as his messenger of the light (Acts 28:17b,18).
MORNING WATCH NOTES:
Day 24 of 40 days of prayer for family and friends. Lord, lead those believing family and friends to be messengers of the gospel.
I am certainly no Apostle Paul. Still, I have a responsibility to be a witness for Christ (Mat 28:19,20). I am to, “do the work of an evangelist, to fulfill [whatever] ministry [to which I am called]” (2Ti 4:5).
Like a blooming rose in winter, I am to be pointing others to the light, turning them from the power of Satan to God; that they might receive forgiveness of their sins and find their place among God‘s people, set apart by faith in Christ.
Lord, it is my honor to be a messenger for you. May I be on the alert to opportunities every day to share the gospel.
Day 12 of 40 Days of Prayer For Family & Friends – Lord, may my family and friends find courage in faithfully reading and applying God’s Word.
In the preface to the book of Joshua (New Living Translation) it says, “To be a strong leader like Joshua, we must be ready to listen and to move quickly when God instructs [Oh, the lost opportunities that sloth and indecision do bring]…”
“…Once we have God‘s instructions, we must be diligent in carrying them out.“ Strong, courageous men and women of faith do not deviate from God‘s Word; they study it, meditate on it (digest it), pray it and obey it. Lord, may I consistently and persistently be a student of your Word; then move with courage
Day 7 of 40 Days of Prayer For Family & Friends – Lord, may my family and friends walk in the light of Christ. The god of this world has thrown a blanket of darkness over the hearts of men. In the dark there is ignorance, fear, evil work and sin (rebellion against God).
But for those who seek enlightenment, courage, good works and deliverance from sin, the promises of God are on full display. His light penetrates the darkness. He exposes the hearts of men in the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ. Father, may my life courageously reflect the light of Christ.
Day 6 of 40 Days of Prayer For Family & Friends – Lord, lead my family and friends to walk in the Light. Our days are numbered on this earth. Every day is an opportunity to dispel darkness wherever we may go. May we choose to walk in the light of knowing Christ.
As a children of the Light [Jesus] we can bring hope and courage to those we meet along the way. We can be a Charlie Brown “Pigpen,“ living in doom and gloom. Or we can be a “Peppermint Party,” spreading joy, light and hope. Choose to walk in the Light. Lord, a sentinel command on the watch is to give those around us hope and joy in Christ.
Day 4 of 40 Days of Prayer For Family & Friends – Lord, surround my family and friends with a spirit of love and good deeds. Who does not need a regular word of encouragement? “Spur one another on“ (NIV). The idea in this Scripture is to stir up, encourage, provoke, motivate others around you. Especially strive to “spur on” those with whom we share faith in the Lord Jesus.
“Spur On” [motivate] to what? To do love and good deeds. Today our country is experiencing much provocation toward cynicism, skepticism and distrust. We need to hear, in a big way, from those in the faith who express genuine encouragement of others. Lord, I want to be the kind of friend and brother that motivates others toward love and acts of kindness. I want to get my “Spur On.”
Paul is about to leave the leaders of the church at Ephesus. He will entrust them with the great message of grace. He tells them, “GUARD yourselves…feed and care for the flock – the church. “WATCH OUT!“ Be alert to false teachers and prideful men who seek only a following for themselves. Such people will divide and create disunity in the church.
To “GUARD” and to “WATCH OUT” are a call to arms for the faithful leader in the church and in the family. Standing vigilantly requires him/her to, 1) teach God’s word well, 2) minister in truth and all sincerity, 3) counsel by prayerful insight, sought through tears and deep spiritual connections and 4) sound the alarm when danger approaches. Father, may this sentry effectively share the gospel and express the truth of Scripture by my words and by my example.
Paul had staked his life on the Gospel. He faces suffering and chains as he proceeds to Jerusalem. Here, Paul is challenging church leaders to give their all, as he has done, for the Gospel of Jesus. Tell others the good news of the wonderful grace of God. Faithfully carry out the mission to which you have been called.
To these elders of Ephesus Paul says, “Guard yourselves and God’s people – his church, purchased with his blood. Feed and care for God’s people over whom the Spirit of God has appointed you.” Nothing is more important. Lord, I could never give my life to anything greater than sharing the gospel with others.