Sunday, November 29, 2009

Epaphras Wrestling Club: Prayer and Hard Work

Epaphras is a good example of intercession in another regard. Paul assures the Colossians and others in Macedonia that Epaphras works hard on their behalf. His ministry includes working hard in prayer. It also includes serving them well as a minister of Christ.

Epaphras' prayers are not of the 'be ye warmed and well-filled" variety. James warns against the kind of prayer that blesses others in words but withholds the material gift when it was in the hands to give. Epaphras works for the benefit of those he serves. He gives what he can. Then he takes their case before God's throne for God's provision.

Intercession is a ministry that demands a full heart. Love for people. Love for God. Giving time. Giving resources. Praying. Working. Follow the example of Epaphras:

"I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hieropolis."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Epaphras Wrestling Club: What to Ask?

What does Epaphras pray for? Epaphras wrestles with skill and persistence on behalf of his people for the glory of God. He wrestles hard, but why?

He wants believers to stand firm in all of the will of God. No compartmentalism in his prayer. He wants God's will done in every area of life and for believers to take their stand. Believers are to hold the ground won for them at the cross and to spread the influence of Christ into every area of life. Paul adds two adjectives to Epaphras' request to help us understand:

  • Mature- The worldview of the believer has become consistent so that Christ's influence is understood in marriage, politics, finances, and raising children. The believer's actions are also moving into line with his beliefs so that he is becoming a Christian with real integrity.
  • Fully Assured- the believer has a strong grasp on his relationship with Christ. He knows Christ through experience and relishes his position in Christ won at the cross. When trials come, his first response is to run to Christ.
Epaphras knew the possibility of collapse. He knew the consequences of not standing firm. He loved those for whom he prayed and longed to see them secure in Christ, both in knowledge and experience.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Epaphras Wrestling Club: Why Wrestling?

The hardest part of worship and ministry is not preaching. It is not leading worship music or visiting hospitals. It is taking up the work of prayer.

  • Wrestling indicates agony. It is a spiritual bloodsport. Intercession invites you into a life and death struggle for the souls of men. Its not a game on Sunday afternoon TV.
  • Wrestling indicates an Adversary. Satan opposes prayer because he seeks our destruction. An unprayed-for man is helpless before destruction. A prayed-for man has had his name announced in the throne room of the Almighty where the Sovereign LORD has promised aid.
  • Wrestling indicates process. The intercessor lays out his life energy on the battlefield for his friend. Stamina and persistence will win the day, but only in God's timing.
  • Wrestling indicates severe training. The wrestler undergoes rigorous self-discipline because only that will give him freedom to win in the ring.
Anyone can pray for another. Young, old, rich, poor, new believer or old, anyone can participate. What really matters in prayer is this: Persistence and experience with God. May God raise up a tribe of believers with the strong heart of Epaphras.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Epaphras Wrestling Club: Meet Our Founder

The apostle Paul introduces us to Epaphras (Colossians 4:12-13) with two phrases that are vital to effective intercession. Epaphras is "one of you" and a "servant of Christ Jesus." Epaphras was a bridge between the community he loved and the Redeemer who loved both him and them.

"One of You"
  • He identified with them. He knew the spiritual struggles, the physical circumstances, and emotional needs of the people he ministered to.
  • He understood community. He held no illusions about himself or others. Raised among them, they knew his strengths and weaknesses. His training and his association with Paul had not drawn him away from a burden for his own people.
"A Servant of Jesus Christ"
  • He was allied with Christ. His first loyalty was to Him. Epaphras identified with those he ministered to, but he never forgot who owned his heart.
  • Because of his unswerving allegiance to Christ, those he prayed for could take great confidence in his intercession. Knowing Christ was his first love gave his ministry both stability and security.
  • The Great commandments, loving God and loving men, were his heartbeat. He served others out of the overflow of his love for God. Christ provided what the people needed through his servant, and the people were drawn to God as a result.
  • The Great Commission was his marching orders. His prayer was aligned with his task. He wrestled for the believers in Laodicea and Hieropolis because he longed to see them mature in Christ. His requests on their behalf were always in line with God's will for them because he was Christ's servant first.
If we would take up the mantle of Epaphras, we too must love Christ first, then love our people for His sake.