Encourage-able or Incorrigible?

Colossians 1:1-14

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I was getting ready for this message, I looked at my planning document. It holds sermon series and message ideas, scriptures, themes. I presently have a few that I’m working on, but I’m not quite there yet with my next couple series. One big reason is that the topics they bring up are heavy. That isn’t to say that today’s message will be the spiritual equivalent to eating a marshmallow (though I bet my kids wished it was).

It’s more like I want to give enough time to study and plan for those future messages to make sure they go smoothly and I have things in place.

Searching the scriptures, I do believe I came across a word of encouragement for us. Today we are looking at a passage in the book of Colossians.


Colossians 1:1-14

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

2 To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters[a] in Christ:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father.

Colossians 1:1-2 NIV

Let’s stop for a moment or two just to look at these first verses. Paul gives a bit of introduction and notes who the letter is intended for. He and Timothy are sending this letter. In his New Testament commentary, William Barclay notes the term Paul uses for Timothy. Brother. This then connects with who they are writing to, “dedicated people of God and faithful brothers (and sisters).” He’s connecting the familial dots for the Colossians. He’s putting himself and Timothy right alongside the Colossians instead of hovering above like an overseer. Verse 3: 

3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel 6 that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. 7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit. 9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Colossians 1:3-14 NIV

I said there was a word of encouragement for us today. But it’s really three phrases of encouragement that sum up these 14 verses in the book of Colossians.

  1. You Are Noticed
  2. You Are Prayed For
  3. You Are Family 

This is what I hear in these verses. These words of encouragement Paul writes to the brothers and sisters in Colossae. They apply to you and I as well. Let’s take them one at a time, shall we?

Encouragement

You are noticed.

Paul tells the Colossians that he has heard of their faith in Jesus and love for “the saints” or “God’s Holy People.” This is the essential core of Christianity. You must believe in Jesus and then you must live out your faith, loving your fellow man. These verses specifically call to attention that the Colossians are believing correctly, trusting in Jesus and living life as if that is true. Paul says in this: You are on God’s Radar. Other believers are thankful to God because of you. God is not ignoring you and neither are we. You are seen. You are noticed.

So how is this a word for us?

  1. Preaching support when we had no pastor
  2. Financial giving for various projects.
  3. Time and skills given to completing large projects.

Our church is not alone in some corn field. Our local congregation is part of a larger group of Nazarenes across the state of Wisconsin. We have ministers and lay leaders from multiple churches that help head up the district leadership team. Guiding those folk in serving our state is our District Superintendent, Dr. Kevin Donley. Dr. Donley prays for us. If we share a specific request, I believe he is lifting that up to God when he thinks of us. He will also regularly send me a text message, reminding me of his care, thanking me for serving here and sharing scripture with me as well.

He and the district leadership team have been a big support to our church for many years now. The furthest back I can speak about is the year or so prior to our coming. Leaders in our district would come and share the word with us when we had no assigned pastor. They graciously accepted whatever gift we could share with them.

People from around the district and even off the district have come to support the work, through building, cleaning, and leading a zone worship service. 

Others around the district see that God has strategically placed us here, in Vernon County for such a time as this. To bring the message to the people of this area: “Let me introduce you to your fresh start in Jesus Christ.” To share the message of a New life and a changed life, the reality of holiness in the world today. We are not ignored. We are seen. We are noticed. We are supported. That leads me to the next point: We are Prayed for…

You Are Prayed For 

Prayer is the most powerful tool a Christian has. It doesn’t put church budgets in the negative. It can be taken anywhere we go. People of all ages and depths of their faith in Jesus can do it. Paul knew this. “I’ve heard all about you from Epaphras. He’s told us of your love. Your faith is producing and will continue to produce fruit because the Gospel has taken root in you. For this reason, we’re continuously playing for you!” (not a direct quote)

It is hard to pray for someone, give specific prayers and such without knowing who they are or what is going on, right? It’s not impossible. We can pray for “those affected by the war in Ukraine and Russia.” Pray for a peaceful ending. Pray for the bombings and military advancement to stop. Pray that people make it out of Ukraine safely. 

What about a specific congregation? Though we don’t have the name of the church, but sake of the pastor’s anonymity, there is a Nazarene church still gathering in South Ukraine. According to the report from the Eurasia Region, Through the ministry of this church: “On Palm Sunday, 17 people came to faith in Christ. On Easter Sunday, another 10 people came to faith in Christ, and altogether about 50 people have come to faith in Christ since the beginning of this conflict.”

We can pray that this church would continue to grow, to show the way even in the midst of a war. Our key prayer could be for their faith to increase, rather than their people to “retreat.”

So Paul and Timothy pray for the specifics. Knowing the specifics better focuses prayer and can help increase how frequently it comes to mind. 

For Us

Just as much as we’ve been supported by leaders all over our State, Region, World, specifically we are being prayed for by our district superintendent. He knows the challenges that we face. Let’s be real clear: Christianity used to be the norm in the Midwest. Families would go to church on Sunday, have potluck meals, attend multiple services in a week, serve the community, take care of people recovering from hospital stays, run faith based children’s programs and much more. Now it seems that church attendance and more importantly, engagement in our community is low. It seems that specifically in our town there may be a disdain for Christians. I’m not sure if you feel there is an air of spiritual oppression in our community, but it is something that our family has sensed. 

In some regards we’ve abdicated our role in the community. We need to be beacons of faith and Truth (capital “T” truth…) but also of actions. Of Faith AND Works. 

We can attack this topic in the upcoming series that I’m working on called “#Uncomfortable.” But suffice it to say, We are placed in a very important location in time and space. We need prayer for 

  • Standing strong in our faith in Jesus alone for Salvation – By which the world will know our beliefs.
  • The essential work of believers of taking care of those in need – By which the world will see our beliefs evidenced by action.
  • Essentially: Pray that God will reinforce our faith and help us live it out.

Now we’ve been seen, we are supported specifically in prayer, now Paul comes in with the group hug of this passage. “You are family.”

You are family.

Family. That’s right. Paul has traveled, taught, reasoned, discipled, and during the writing of this letter, he was imprisoned for the faith. And he says to the Colossians: “We’re family.”

It all started with the connection he made at the beginning calling Timothy “brother.” Then he refers to the folks in Colossae as “Brothers” or your translation may say “brothers and sisters.” This is just a way of saying, “We’re family.” Perhaps being family doesn’t carry a happy connotation for you. I assure you today, Paul means this in the best possible way. Family means you are included. You share in the group equally. And later he brings up “the saints” again…remember? God’s Holy People? 

“…the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people [the saints] in the kingdom of light.” 

Paul says the brothers and sisters of Colossae will have equal footing in the inheritance that the saints would get. These are the same saints that Paul says the Colossians have love for. (Col 1:4 NIV)

For Us: Viroqua Nazarene

We are family. We are together part of the family of God. It begins in the small circle of our local group, church, we call it. We can learn about God, share what we discover and help others grow in the process. 

We are family. Family does stuff just because it needs to be done. Taking care of the yard, the bathrooms, the kitchen, the classrooms. We care for this space that we share because it’s entrusted to us. 

We lift each other up in prayer. We speak words of encouragement to one another. We comfort each other. Basically we live out our faith by loving our fellow brother or sister in Christ.

En or In?

I knew the word “encourage” was spelled e-n-c-o-u-r-a-g-e. I didn’t know the word “incorrigible” was spelled with an “in” at the start. You’ve probably heard the expression. “So-and-so is incorrigible…”. It is an adjective that can mean “Incapable of being corrected or reformed.” or “Difficult or impossible to control or manage.” 

Encourage means “to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope.” If that is the case and if 

“En-courage-able” was a word, it’s definition would probably mean:

“The ability to be encouraged. The ability to be inspired with courage, spirit or hope.”

Viroqua Nazarene, which one do you want to be? Which one do you see yourself as already? Colossians was later in Paul’s various writings of instructions to churches. He concluded this letter of instructions like this.

“2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

Colossians 4:2-6 NIV

I believe the Colossians were able to be encouraged. There were probably some who were incorrigible. Viroqua Church of the Nazarene, let us here the words of correction, direction, compassion, empathy and join in with other brothers and sisters to keep Praying. Stay Watchful. And be Thankful. Because…

We are noticed. We are prayed for. And we are family.

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