Stephen Caswell © 1999
How Do You Pray For People In Trials
The story is told of a gifted church secretary who was going through a series of difficult trials. She had a stroke, her husband had gone blind, then he had to be taken to hospital where they were sure that he would die. The pastor saw her on Sunday and assured her that he was praying for her. " What are you asking God to do, " she asked him? The question startled the pastor. He replied, " I' m asking God to help you and strengthen you. " " I appreciate that, " she said, " but I would like you to ask God for one more thing, Pray that I'll have the wisdom not to waste all of this. " This lady understood God's promise in James 1:5. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. [in trials.]
Have you ever wondered how you should pray for other believers? How should you pray for people who are suffering? How do you pray for believers who live far away, that you have never met? Paul gives us a good example of how to pray for fellow Christians. Paul emphasizes the spiritual aspect of intercession, not the physical!
Colossians 1:3-4, 7-8
We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith..... As you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, Who also declared to us your love in the Spirit.
Paul didn't start the church at Colossae. Most Bible students believe that it was started while Paul was ministering at Ephesus for three years. Paul lead Epaphras to Christ during this time. He in turn carried the gospel back to his home town of Colossae and proclaimed the good news. A few years later Epaphras carried news of the church to Paul in Rome. He declared to Paul how the Colossians had obeyed the gospel. He also shared his concerns how false teachers had moved into town and were spreading heresy. So Paul wrote a letter to the Colossians to encourage them and correct the false teaching that they had received. Up until now Paul had nerver seen them.
Firstly Paul Gave Thanks For Their Fruitfulness
We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth; There are at least three reasons why Paul was thankful for the Colossian believers. Firstly He was thankful for Their faith in Christ Jesus
1. They heard the Gospel
Epaphras declared to Paul how the Colossians heard the gospel of Christ and received it. The gospel they received was centered in Christ Jesus. Paul said to the Corinthians that he determined to make nothing known unto them but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. These Colossian saints had heard the same gospel message proclaimed by Epaphras and recognized its truth. In Romans 10:17 we read, So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing, by the word of God. The Gospel they heard was complete, it was all that they needed to know regarding salvation. Contrary to the the false teachers Christ was all they needed.
2. They Believed The Gospel
But hearing the gospel is not enough to save us. We must obey it too. Again Romans 10:16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” And this is just what the Colossians had done. They heard the Gospel and obeyed it. They believed in Christ Jesus and were saved. Because of this they experienced first hand the grace of God in their lives. The gospel bore fruit in their lives as it does wherever it is obeyed. Paul said this Gospel is for all the world. Paul gave thanks for their faith in Christ, but he also commended
b. Their love for all the saints
The Colossian Christians demonstrated their faith through love for all the saints. The love they had for all the saints was simply their faith in action. It is a healthy sign when Christians love one another. Jesus said that people would know His disciples by their love for each other. These Colossian saints didn't show favoritism or have cliques. They practiced their faith. Love is not just a feeling. Love is a verb. Since love is active it must be demonstrated. Colossians 1:8 Epaphras also declared to us your love in the Spirit. The Colossians love was empowered by the Holy Spirit. This is how they could love all the saints. The Holy Spirit enables us to love people that rub us up the wrong way. He helps us to love the unlovely. People that are usually neglected.
The New Testament is full of commands to love our neighbor. Often we mistake this for warm fuzzy feelings. But that is not it at all. 1 John 3:16-18 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. For our love to be real it must be active. God shows His love by giving. Can we do any less? God gave His only begotten Son to us, what are we giving to others? Paul commended the Colossians for their faith and Love. Now he commended
c. Their hope laid up in heaven
What is this hope laid up in heaven? Paul talks about it in more detail in the following verses. V 12 says that God has qualified us to partake of the inheritance of the saints in light. In chapter 3 verse 4 Paul speaks of Christ's return for His people. This then is their hope. 1 Corinthians 13:13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
These three graces of the Spirit, should be seen in the lives of all believers. In fact they work in harmony together. Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
The Colossians had faith in Christ Jesus. They had heard the Gospel and obeyed it. Have you? Have you believed in Jesus Christ to save you? The Colossian Christians had love for all the saints. They practiced their faith in a practical way. I have seen love and care shown by many in the fellowship here. In fact someone asked how to become a Christian because of the love that they had received here. Could it be said of you that you are Christ's disciple because of the love you show to all the saints? The Colossians also had their hope set on Christ's return. Do you? Christ's return is the blessed hope that all believers should have their hearts set upon. The Colossians proved to have genuine faith by exhibiting these three graces. Are these three Christian graces evident in your life?
Paul Always Desired Growth
Paul himself was never content to remain on the same level in the Christian life. He pressed on towards perfection, he pressed on toward the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. So it should not surprise us that after Paul gave thanks for the Colossians progress, he prayed that they might grow deeper in Christ.
Secondly Paul Prayed For Increased Fruitfulness Paul prayed for three things.
a. Spiritual Intelligence
b. Practical Obedience
c. Moral Excellence
a. Spiritual Intelligence
For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; Paul prayed continually for the Colossian Church. He was very pleased with their progress so far but desired further growth. Where does Paul start? With the mind. Paul prayed very specifically that the Colossians might be filled with the knowledge of His will. That word filled means to be filled to the brim, full. This is same word used in Ephesians 5:18, where Paul says, to be filled with the Spirit. In both verses the word means to be controlled by. Paul wanted the Colossian believers lives to be controlled by God's will. This could only happen as they knew God's will. The word knowledge here refers to complete or full knowledge. This type of knowledge requires study and perseverance. It sums up someone who has completed a 7 year university course. After they graduate from their course they have come to a place of full knowledge on the subject. Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Paul uses two other words regarding this knowledge. The word Wisdom which means enlightenment. This relates to applying the knowledge acquired to a specific situation. Spiritual understanding has the idea of discernment. How to make a good choice after evaluating information.
Illustration Of Studying Medicine
Before someone can become a surgeon, they must first devote many years to study. They have to learn a lot of knowledge about the human body and how it works. They must learn about medicine and the equipment they will use as a surgeon. They must learn the correct techniques for surgery. They are taught how to handle emergencies when things go wrong. All of this takes time and discipline. But it is necessary if they want to be able to practice surgery.
b. Practical Obedience - That you may walk worthy of the Lord
Colossians 1:10 That you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
Paul did not finish his prayer with a full knowledge of God's will. Paul wanted them to be filled with the knowledge of God's will so that they could walk worthy of the Lord. In the New Testament you will find that our belief should affect our behavior. Paul uses the word walk to describe our lifestyles. Our Christian life should be a walk with God. We should walk worthy of the Lord who saved us. This word worthy means of equal value to. Our lives should be holy because God is holy. If we desire to live equal to our holy calling this must be the outcome.
i. Being fruitful in every good work
But what does holy living mean? Does this mean we sit around in a monastery isolated from the world so that we can remain pure? No! Paul describes this worthy walk as being fruitful unto every good work. Jesus said the same thing. Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Good works are those things that glorify God. They are acts of service motivated by love. James says that we are to visit the orphans and widows. John says that we help those in need with our own goods. Galatians 6:9-10 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
ii. Increasing in the knowledge of God
A wonderful byproduct of bearing fruit for the Lord is that we increase in our knowledge of God. The Lord reveals himself to those who obey Him in a far deeper way. We gain deeper insight into the word of God as we serve the Lord. It is not God's intention that we should study His word to just learn a lot of information. Paul said that knowledge puffs up but that love builds up. The whole purpose of Bible study is not to learn a whole lot of Bible facts, but rather to know God better and to obey Him more completely.
Illustration of A Surgeon Beginning To Practice
Can you imagine a surgeon that invested 7 years of his life in study graduating and then retiring. Can you imagine him saying well now I have graduated I am surgeon. But I am going to retire so that I don't make any mistakes. That would be madness. Until he practices his skills in the theater he will never be proven. All he has gained is a lot of head knowledge. He hasn't done anyone any good. It is the same in the Christian life. Bible study is not an end in itself. We study the Bible so that we can live worthy of our calling. But practice makes perfect. We must apply the things God says in our lives for it to be worth while.
c. Moral Excellence - Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power
Colossians 1:11-12 Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and long-suffering with joy, Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.
The third thing Paul prayed was that they might be strengthened by God's glorious power. Paul firstly prayed that knowledge of God's will would guide their minds towards holiness. Secondly Paul prayed that they might obey what they learned by walking worthy of their calling. Now Paul prays that the Lord might strengthen them with His power. Paul realized that all believers need the empowering of the Holy Spirit if they are to go on to maturity. Paul uses three words which mean power in his prayer. The first two come from the word dunamis from which we get dynamite and dynamo. This word refers to inherent power. The second word is kratos and it means manifested power. The grace of the Christian life is the result of God's power at work in our lives. Spiritual growth and maturity can only come as we yield to God's power and permit Him to work in us. However the Lord only gives us His power as we use it. His power can only be drawn upon as we need it. We are not like batteries that can store His power, we can only receive it as we use it for God's glory.
Turning On An Electric Appliance
In today's society we all benefit from access to electricity. We use it to light and warm our homes. We use it to cook our meals and provide entertainment through music or TV. Because we have access to electricity we live far more comfortably than people did 100 years ago. But as great as electricity is, it does us no good if we don't use it. Our homes will remain cold and dark until we turn the power on. The same is true in the Christian life. God provides the power we need to live the Christian life. He has made the connection to every believer. But we must draw on God's resources day by day and moment by moment. His power is great. It is all sufficient. His power is to be used to make God known in a lost world. But how is it seen by the world? Paul describes now this in v 11,12.
How Is God's Power Manifested?
Usually we think of God's glorious power being revealed in the creation of the world or the parting of the Red Sea. Or the great miracles of Christ raising the dead or feeding the 5000. But the emphasis here is on Christian character. There are four evidences that manifest God's power in our lives. Patience, Long-suffering, Joy, and Giving thanks. God's power is revealed just as much if not more by inner victories of the soul than the public victories recorded in the annals of history.
i. All Patience
The first evidence of God's power is Patience. Patience means endurance when circumstances are difficult. Patience is not despondency or complacency. It is endurance in action. It is easy to be calm and patient when things are going our way. But what about when things go wrong. How do you respond when the car breaks down on the way to an important appointment? How do you respond when you work hard for hours on an assignment only to lose it through a computer malfunction? Do you get angry or do you turn it over to the Lord? These are the times we need God's power more than ever! The Lord can enable us to be calm when things go wrong. He can help us keep our cool when everything seems to go wrong. Job is called a patient man because he endured hardship and trials and kept his integrity too.
The second evidence is long-suffering. The word long-suffering means self-restraint. This is the opposite of revenge. Patience primarily has to do with circumstances, while long-suffering has to do with people. God shows His long-suffering toward to this world by not judging it for its sin. He is patient waiting for people to repent. Long suffering is also one of the fruits of the Spirit. Some people can be very patient in difficult circumstances only to lose their temper with a friend or fellow believer. Personally I have more trouble being patient with things than I do with people. When something breaks down or doesn't work I easily get frustrated. I have to be very careful to ask for God 's help or I'll blow it. And sometime I do! Both patience and long-suffering are acquired the hard way through personal trials and tribulations. But God's power is available to strengthen us in these times if we will ask Him for it.
The third evidence of God's power in our lives is joy. Joy is not to be confused with happiness. Happiness often depends on happenings. If circumstances are encouraging and people treat us well we are happy. But real joy is independent of both circumstances or people. Paul wrote the most joyful epistle in the New Testament whilst imprisoned in Rome. How could Paul be happy in the difficult circumstances? Because his joy came from serving the Lord. For Paul, to live was Christ and to die was gain. Paul lived totally for the Lord and experienced the Holy Spirit's power in His life in full measure. Do you lack joy in your life? Perhaps it is because you have not yielded your will to the Lord. Can I encourage you to yield yourself totally to the Lord and draw on His strength. God doesn't expect us to be patient yet miserable. He has the power you need to live in difficult circumstances with joyful patience. When people are hard to live with He can we can reveal joyful long-suffering. God's glorious power is available to every believer.
iv. Giving Thanks
The fourth evidence of the Holy Spirit's power in a persons life is giving thanks. When people are filled with the Holy Spirit they will be joyful and thankful. Ephesians 5:18-20 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, When we lose our joy we start complaining and become critical. Some Christians complain about everyone else. They are totally ignorant of their own faults but find problems with everyone around them. This is because they are out of fellowship with the Lord and lack His power and direction in their life. They no longer appreciate what God has done for them.
Paul then explains why we should be thankful in Colossians 1:12 Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. God Has Qualified Us To Be Saints
God alone has qualified us to be saints with an inheritance. We haven't done anything to warrant God's favor. It is totally because of His grace. He has saved us and given us an inheritance as His own dear children. Thankfulness should be the natural response for every believer. God has blessed us so much. We have done nothing, God has done it all. How can we not be thankful? Paul then explains how God has done all of this.
Power Station Illustration
On a family holiday dad took us to some of the Snowy River hydroelectric scheme. The dams and power stations were amazing. I remember going into an underground power station with the guide. We got to see it all. They even took us into the control room with all its switches and gauges. The controller told us how much power the station could generate through its 16 generators. It was an awful lot of power. I noticed that 8 of the generators were quiet at the time and asked him why. He said that they were not needed at present since it was not peak time. He said that they would turn them on as soon as their was a demand. Electricity can't be stored so they only generate the power required for the present need. When the need increases more electricity is generated.
God's power is far greater than these power stations and there is never a blackout. But He only supplies us the power needed for our present situations. We must draw on Him whenever we have need. His power, His grace is always sufficient. Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Are you drawing on God's unlimited power supply? Or are you struggling on your own?
Firstly Paul Gave Thanks For Their Fruitfulness
a. Their faith in Christ Jesus. The Colossians heard and obeyed the Gospel. Have you?
b. Their love for all the saints. They practiced their faith. Do you love people by helping them?
c. Their hope laid up in heaven. They were expecting Christ's coming. Are you looking for this? The Colossian believers were balanced. They evidenced all three graces of the Spirit
Secondly Paul Prayed For Increased Fruitfulness
a. Spiritual Intelligence. Paul desired that they might come to understand completely God's will. Paul wanted them to learn this so that they would be controlled by God's will for their life.
b. Practical Obedience - That you may walk worthy of the Lord
i. Being fruitful in every good work. They were not to study just to get knowledge, but to apply it. Do you study the word to gain knowledge or to know the Lord better and can obey Him?
ii. Increasing in the knowledge of God. A by product of obedience is knowing God better.
c. Moral Excellence - God manifests His power in us through the Holy Spirit. There are four evidences that show this.
i. Patience is endurance in action. Are you patient when things go wrong, Or do you get angry? ii. Long-suffering speaks of self restraint with difficult people. Are you patient with people?
iii. Joy should be the attitude of our hearts when we endure trials. Are you patient with joy?
iv. Giving thanks for all that God has given us. Are you thankful or do you complain?
God asks us to walk worthy of our calling. This involves Spiritual Intelligence, Practical Obedience and Moral Excellence. Are you growing in these areas? I Trust that you are, and that you will pray that others might too.
Philippians 1:9-10 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment,that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ,