Putting First Things First

Posted by on Sep 1, 2013 in Faith Words |

 

Words of Faith

Rev. Rita S. Platt

July 14, 2013

“Putting First Things First”  (Series on Colossians- week 1)

 

We live in an age that is no stranger to communication. We e-mail, text and send greeting on Facebook and other social media sites multiple times in a day.  But do you remember a different time, a time when the tools of communication were not smart phones and computers, but paper and pen and instead of hitting “send?”  This form of communication required an envelope and a stamp.  This form of communication is an art, the art of letter writing. Can you remember the last time you wrote a letter, not a form letter but a personal one? Can you remember sitting down with pen in hand, thinking about what you wanted to say? Now imagine you are asked to write a letter to a group of people you have never met. Would you do it? The reason for the request is the church is beginning to go in the wrong direction; your friend believes your words of wisdom will help to turn them around. Would you be willing to take on this task?

Paul received such a request in 60-61A.D. The request came from his friend Epaphras.  Epaphras was concerned because the church he had birthed had adopted some wrong teaching. Paul agreed and the result is a four chapter letter entitled Colossians.  Over the next weeks, we are going to be reading through the letter in an attempt to learn how it might apply to us.

I invite you to open your bibles to Colossians 1:1-14:

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

                2 To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae:

            Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

                3 In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of       the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth,            the gospel that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it        has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the       grace of God. This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful           minister of Christ on your behalf, and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

                9 For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every   good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be made strong with all the             strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything           with patience, while joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the             inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and             transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the   forgiveness of sins.

Paul is sending a letter to a church where they have never met him personally, they know of him by reputation. ..they know about him; but they don’t know him. They don’t know his heart. So after his greeting, Paul writes: “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you.”

 

Why does he begin in this way?  Because of Paul’s reputation it would be easy for detractors within the fellowship to convince others that Paul is lording over them and that he really doesn’t care.  Paul wants the church in Colossae to know that caring was the reason for his letter! So he begins the letter with thanksgiving!

He thanks God for the church in Colossae and he tells them that every time he goes to God in prayer he is thanking God for this church! So Paul uses this to disarm any critics about his motives…

But I believe MORE than that Paul TRULY cared about these believers. His heart is truly thankful and he rejoices at every thought he has about this church that was founded by a fellow believer… this church that was established because of another believer’s obedience to the Great Commission!

I believe Paul’s heart truly was lifted every time he thought about this church because even though he was not directly involved they were moving forward in their service to God… this was REASON for rejoicing by Paul and he wants them to know it: “for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints.”

 

But this attitude of rejoicing by Paul was not unfounded. He had heard report after report from others who had visited the church in Colossae, and ALL those reports had good news to bring…

I want to point out something here that we MAY overlook when reading this verse… Paul says, “for we have heard…” those are four very simple words, but carry with them some great implications!

for we have heard… means that first of all, Paul was keeping track of this fellowship. He was interested in how they were doing! This reveals Paul’s concern and care for them! Paul was keeping his ear to the ground so that he could know of their spiritual growth and progress…

for we have heard… also gives the implication that there were others who had the same care and love for this fellowship… they would bring news of the fellowship to Paul. Their desire was growth and spiritual maturity within the body and so they knew that Paul could mentor them in this growth process!

That mentoring would begin not by pointing out what they were doing wrong, but by speaking words of blessing. And if we are going to help persons on their spiritual journey we need to begin by speaking words of blessing.

I want you to ask yourself “Do you really know what the word blessing means?” I mean, we use it every day.

            1.    I am so blessed.

            2.    Have a blessed day.

            3.    God has really blessed me.

            4.    Bless you! (when someone sneezes)

We use the word blessing so much that it has become just another word to us.  If you go to a bible dictionary blessing means:

1.   The act or word that gives approval or encouragement

2.   To speak God’s favor

The word blessing, or one of its grammatical forms, is frequently used in the bible. In the book of Genesis alone it is used 30 times. 

            For example:  Genesis 12:2  The Lord said to Abram: I will make you a great nation, and     bless you and make your name great, so that you may be a blessing.

When we read this scripture we often focus on God blessing Abram; but we forget the why: Abram would be a blessing to others. Far too often we recognize God who is blessing us and we forget that we are called to be a blessing to others.

We live in a culture where many persons seldom hear genuine words of encouragement…words of affirmation …words that remind them that God loves them.

That’s where our conversation should begin if we genuinely care about them.  It is so easy to find fault, to tear down.  Can we use our words to build up?

This week I challenge you to read those verses in Colossians each day and ask God to open your eyes… to show you someone who desperately needs to hear words of affirmation…words of encouragement…and then give you the words to say, because you have been blessed to be a blessing to others.  Let’s fulfill the purpose God has for each of us.  When we communicate with others, let’s put first things first.