Several decades ago, as a child I came to know Jesus Christ as my savior. Years later, after being a Christian for over 3 decades it is virtually impossible to imagine a life without Christ. Yet I wonder what would have happened to me if my sisters hadn’t radically come to faith in their university years in Nigeria. I wonder what would have been the trajectory of my life, and indeed my entire family. See, God used them to impact me in such a dramatic way that at the age of 11 I gave my heart to Christ, and walked with him for practically the entirety of that time till now.
What about you? Ever wonder what your life would be like without Christ? What if that family member had not brought you to church when you were young, or that friend hadn’t impacted you in school? Where would you be today? Like me I am sure you are overwhelmed at the goodness of God, and maybe also at the precise timing of God, where things fell into place so that the right relationships were in place to lead you to Christ
Epaphras, a messenger of Christ that we find in scripture, found himself in a divinely orchestrated moment as well, where he came across this fiery, preacher for God namely the apostle Paul in the city of Ephesus in the first century AD. So touched was Epaphras by the ministry of Paul that he became not only a follower of Christ but a disciple of Paul. He was willing to be mentored by Paul and thus his life was impacted dramatically. We find out years later that Epaphras started a church at Colossae, and through this church many lives (including Onesimus, a slave to Philemon) were transformed for Christ
I find Epaphras inspirational because he was not a trained clergy yet he allowed the gospel to impact his destiny. Epaphras is an example of an “everyman” type of person, just willing to do what it takes. This means that God can use anyone, including you (and I) to bring change and transformation to this world if only we will allow him to use us. For this to happen we have to learn to do these two things. Like Epaphras, we must see ourselves as servants of God, and secondly we must be completely dependent on his ability not ours.
Paul writes in Colossians that Epaphras took on the role of a servant. Not just a servant, but a slave. Epaphras may have been literally an indentured servant, one who in the first century was property of the master until such a time as their debt had been paid. But even if he was not a bond slave, he is seen to have that mindset, where he willingly and totally devoted himself to the work of the ministry under the leadership of Paul. This would have required true humility. See, it takes humility not to write your own destiny but trust your fate in the hands of another. When we walk in Epaphras like humility, we are willing to not only trust God, but work and trust God’s people. Is God challenging you today to let your walls down, and trust him more? Recognize his leading as he does. For it may be in subtle ways such as through your simply being vulnerable or accountable to Godly peers and leaders in your life, or in more dramatic ways, where you are led to serve, live or even give in radical ways that humble you. Will you step up to the challenge, so that you can be used powerfully for God’s kingdom?
The other aspect of Epaphras that caused him to make such an impact was his dependence on God for spiritual strength. This is shown through his persistence in prayer as seen in Colossians 4:12
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.
Why would he be wrestling in prayer? Is that not a bit extreme? I believe this shows the severity of the problem and the intensity of Epaphras passion. The Colossians were newer believers and thus extremely vulnerable to confusing doctrine that was coming their way. Doctrine that would question the legitimacy of Christ’s work in saving them. This was a gravely serious matter and Epaphras knew it. Epaphras, who in every sense was like a father to these saints would have felt obligated to do something. But knowing the gravity of the situation he realized it was a problem that could only be resolved with God’s intervention, and so he chose offer intense prayers to God intervening for his beloved spiritual children. This kind of prayer Paul describes as wrestling, because that was what it would take spiritually to thwart the forces of darkness that had targeted these dear folks. (Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places)
When Paul describes the prayer life of Epaphras you will notice that he uses the continuous participle verb to indicate that prayer for the Colossians by Epaphras was a constant thing. Epaphras was always praying. This showed his dependence on an all powerful God to solve a situation that seemed unsolvable. And I believe God answered, because persistent prayer indeed is what It would take to keep these souls won to Christ.
What if God was calling you to be an Epaphras today? To take on a servant role and allow yourself to be used for his kingdom? Why don’t you reject false humility where we say God I am not capable. But instead embrace true humility, which will allow you to acknowledge your inabilities, but yet empowers you to be courageous enough to foster obedience. And as you step out, continue to depend upon him every step of the way and he will strengthen you to see lives flourishing for the kingdom of God.
Pastor Olu Jegede