‘’I want you to realize that I continue to work as hard as I know how for you, and also for the Christians over at Laodicea.’’ The Message.
It is sometimes a good thing for people in local churches to catch a glimpse of something of the cost of ministry to their leaders. It will help them to appreciate that their leaders are authentic, that they love them and want the very best for them. We have already seen that Paul’s ‘struggle’ was carried out in God’s strength (1:29). This wasn’t simply a matter of expending human energy. But we should not fail to note that Paul twice speaks of his ministry in terms of ‘’struggling’’ (1:29; 2:1). He did not have a casual or careless approach to his life’s work. His imprisonment was one mark (scar even) of this intense struggle. As he gave himself so totally to this work he had certain clear objectives in mind:
- Their encouragement (2a): In this world, many discouragements come the way of believers. Who can keep going without being hooked up to a saline drip of encouragement? We need regular ‘drips’ of encouragement into our veins. Paul could have said, ‘Where’s my encouragement coming from? Here I am in prison for Jesus, who’s going to encourage me?’ But he focussed on encouraging others.
- Their unity (2b): The Roman soldiers carried shields (Ephesians 6:16) which interlocked at the edges, so that they could form a ‘wall’ against the enemy. Paul was delighted with what he already knew about their togetherness (5), but what is good can always be better, and so he prayed.
- Their spiritual understanding (2c, 3): If we have Jesus we have everything we need. We find all meaning and purpose in Him. He’s the One the human heart is thirstily seeking, even when we don’t know that it’s Jesus we want, and we’re searching in all the wrong places. Paul wanted the Christians he served to grasp as fully as possible all the riches that are in Christ. He wanted them to know Jesus more and more. (Notice the implication that encouraged and united Christians are in a good place to grow in spiritual knowledge.) ‘’I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God’s great mystery. All the richest treasures of wisdom and knowledge are embedded in that mystery and nowhere else.’’ The Message.
- Their protection from doctrinal error (4): As you know, the churches in the Lycus Valley region were being affected by false teaching. As with their unity, Paul was convinced of good things regarding their faith (5). Nevertheless, he was concerned that they should be protected from heresy.
So, there was a price tag attached to Paul’s ministry. Recognise that all true leaders in the church will experience something of cost, and feel the heat of the battle. Pray for them.
Prayer: We pray for those called to leadership in your church that they will fight in your strength and not their own. May their hearts be encouraged today.