Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Partners in Crime

My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. Colossians 4:10-14

Paul lists quite a cast of characters here in his closing to this letter to the Colossian church. Paul’s ministry was always a team effort. While Paul is the most mentioned in the spread of the Gospel to Asia and Europe, he had many partners along the way. Paul couldn’t do it alone.

Aristarchus met Paul in Ephesus. As a result, Aristarchus and Gaius were arrested (Acts 19:28-30). He became Paul’s traveling companion from Troas to Jerusalem and then Jerusalem to Rome. He shared Paul’s imprisonment in Rome. Aristarchus was truly a ministry partner to the end.

Mark, also known as John Mark, was not always on the best of terms with Paul. In fact, in Acts 15:36-40, we see that Paul chose not to travel with Mark because Mark had abandoned them on a previous journey. In this letter, however, it appears that Paul and Mark had reconciled, and that Mark was back on the team.

Jesus called Justus, his Greek name, looked after Paul during his first imprisonment. We really don’t know much else about him.

Epaphras was actually the founder of the Colossian church. He had traveled to Rome to give Paul a report of the work in Colossae. But, during the visit, Epaphras was arrested and found himself imprisoned with Paul.

So, imagine this: our founding pastor, Perry Duggar, goes on a trip and then doesn’t ever return. We find out later that he’s in prison. The church would be in distress. Perry would be in distress. This was the situation that Epaphrus found himself in.

The Colossian church had to depend on mature believers to guide it along. Epaphrus’ constant role was to wrestle in prayer for them. Yet, look at how the Colossian church prospered. Paul began his letter by saying, “We always thank God…when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints” (Colossians 1:3-4). Christ, indeed, does build His Church (Matthew 16:18).

Dr. Luke is the author of both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. He joined Paul on his second missionary journey and accompanied Paul on the third journey as well.

Demas was in prison with Paul, but Demas’ story does not have a happy ending. According to 2 Timothy 4:10, “Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica.” There is no record that Paul and Demas were ever reconciled.

It’s amazing to see all that Paul accomplished despite the fact that He was imprisoned. Some of us can barely function when we’re having a bad day, let alone finding ourselves behind bars. Yet, there is much hope in a passage like this.

Outcomes depend on God. It’s not all up to us. That certainly takes off a lot of pressure. Now, God expects us to be diligent and to work hard, but God is the one who produces the result
(1 Corinthians 3:6).

Through a very difficult period of Paul’s life, God provided faithful co-workers and friends to stand by him. They encouraged Paul. They helped to continue the work. They prayed.

God’s work will continue. If our attitude is right and our hearts are open, God will continue to use us despite our situation.

What do you feel like solely depends on you? What do you think would be greatly handicapped if you weren’t involved? How much do you find yourself depending on God? How much do you depend on yourself? Who do you need to accomplish what is in front of you?

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