Colossians 4:7-17 – Lead with Encouragement

Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.

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 co-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. Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.

After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.

Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.” (New International Version)

I was recently speaking with someone who was struggling in a relationship with her daughter. As I asked the woman to describe that relationship, it became evident to me that this mother had a habit of continually correcting the daughter. And then they would argue. Every conversation ended with a fight.

God created the human brain to operate on affirmation and encouragement. Although correction has it’s own significant place, our minds and hearts cannot bear too much of it. What’s more, the way correction is communicated is just as important as the message itself.

Today’s New Testament lesson has the Apostle Paul recognizing and affirming the good work of his fellow companions in the faith. And he only has one correction, given with such grace that we might not even notice it as such.

I’m not sure where the goofy idea originated that if we give someone too much encouragement and affirmation that their head will get too big. But I can guarantee that the lack of encouragement will deflate and discourage anyone, no matter who they are.

“Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you.”

The Apostle Paul (Ephesians 4:29, GNT)

Paul described Tychicus as a “dear brother” and a “faithful minister.” Paul was sending him to the Colossians for the express purpose of encouraging them in the faith.

That’s right. Just for encouragement. How often do we do that? When does a boss send someone to a different location, just to encourage those employees? Do we go out of our way to encourage someone or a group of people?

Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus are specifically named as those who bring comfort to Paul. While many other of Paul’s fellow Jewish believers were off doing whatever, these three wanted to make sure their mentor was encouraged. They were simply doing what had been modeled for them.

Furthermore, Paul wanted the Colossian Church to know that Epaphras continually goes to the mat in prayer on their behalf. Whereas the Colossians may not see the hard work Epaphras was putting in, Paul did. And Paul had no thoughts of Epaphras getting a big head.

It’s really hard to get puffed up in pride if your head is continually bowed in humble prayer before God.

We aren’t quite sure what was going on with Archippus. Paul probably didn’t either. The old apostle could have assumed Archippus was being a slacker. Instead, viewing the man through the lenses of love, Paul thought the best of him. He provided helpful encouragement to persevere, to keep going and see the work through – rather than believing he just wasn’t doing the work.

It seems to me that, in this day and age, encouragement is in short supply. We use our words in many ways. Often, genuine encouragement of another doesn’t make the top of the list. So, by the time we may get around to it, the receiver has a hard time listening to anything positive, or even believing it.

What to do? Lead with encouragement… always. Not as a set up to a rebuke. But letting the other know this is of first importance.

“So let’s strive for the things that bring peace and the things that build each other up.”

The Apostle Paul (Romans 14:19, CEB)

The Apostle Paul never traveled alone on his missionary journeys. At times, he had up to seventy others with him. Paul was no lone ranger. He understood the need for community. And Paul discerned better than anyone that we, as believers in Jesus, need to have a new way of being with one another and in the world.

That new way of being is to center in a continual and reciprocal interaction of affirmation, encouragement, love, goodness, kindness, and grace. The old way of pride, posturing, positioning, preening, and pontificating are to be thoroughly replaced with the way of Christ, the way of humility, meekness, and righteousness.

Christians have been transferred from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of light. So then, we are to live like it, by encouraging and building up one another in our common faith. It’s the best way of completing the ministry given to us by God – even if there is a need for correction.

O Lord our heavenly Father, whose blessed Son came not to be served, but to serve: We ask you to bless all who, following in his steps, give themselves to the service of others. Endue them with wisdom, patience, and courage so that they may strengthen the weak and raise up those who fall. And, being inspired by your love, may all your servants minister with encouragement to the suffering, the friendless, and the needy; for the sake of him who laid down his life for us, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

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