Encouraging One Another Through the Holiday Season
During the Christmas holidays, people will send various greeting cards to many people. The purpose of the greeting card is to encourage other people during the holidays. Here, we see that Paul is writing in this section one large greeting card addressed to different people. How would you use your greeting card to encourage others during this holiday season? You know that you don’t have to stop with just greeting cards. You can encourage others who need to hear and read a word of encouragement during this holiday season.
This section is made with a set of greetings. Like a set of greeting cards, Paul shares words of encouragement with others. Since as Christians spread the good news, we should encourage one another.
This section deals with various people in the church. Paul lists groups of people who are associated with the church at Colossae. He shares important insights about each group listed. His purpose is to remind the church that they should encourage one another. Why? Because life is challenging. We all go through various challenges and we need to encourage one another.
10 EXAMPLES OF ENCOURAGING OTHERS
1. Encourage others who serve – Tychicus
The first example of someone I need to encourage are those who serve around me.
“Tychicus, our dearly loved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know how we are and so that he may encourage your hearts.” (Colossians 4:7–8, CSB)
Tychicus is an example of a servant. Tychicus encouraged others by serving. He was very dependable. He served Paul and helped him in his work. He also served other people and the churches. Paul sent Tychicus on various missions to different churches:
“When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, make every effort to come to me in Nicopolis, because I have decided to spend the winter there.” (Titus 3:12, CSB)
“I have sent Tychicus to Ephesus.” (2 Timothy 4:12, CSB)
There are people whom God sends in our lives to whom we become servants. He can encourage other people by the way we serve them.
2. Encourage others to grow in their faith – Onesimus
A second example of people I need to encourage as a Christian, who are new to the faith.
“He is coming with Onesimus, a faithful and dearly loved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you about everything here.” (Colossians 4:9, CSB)
Onesimus is an example of someone who is younger in the faith. He was from Colossae and he was new to the faith.
Paul also mentioned Onesimus (“one of you”) who himself came from Colossae. He was the runaway slave who belonged to Philemon and who had been won to Christ through Paul’s ministry in Rome. Paul sent Onesimus back to his master with a letter asking Philemon to receive him and forgive him. It is interesting to note that Paul also called Onesimus faithful and beloved. Onesimus had been a believer only a short time, and yet he had already proved himself to Paul.
3. Encourage others through difficult times – Aristarchus
Aristarchus stayed with Paul during what seemed like very difficult times. He stayed with Paul during thick and thin. He was probably a prisoner of war, who understood what imprisonment was like. Aristarchus stayed with Paul no matter what the circumstances were—a riot in Ephesus, a voyage, a storm, or even a prison.1
4. Encourage others through times of failure – Mark
Mark failed Paul earlier in ministry. Paul makes a special note here to encourage and welcome Mark when he comes. Mark is a reminder of people who have failed you in the past. People who have made mistakes need encouragement as well. They may feel sensitive about their failures and they need to be encouraged to continue in the faith and ministry.
“Only Luke is with me. Bring Mark with you, for he is useful to me in the ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:11, CSB)
5. Encourage others to build bridges and work together – Justus
Justus, Mark, and Aristarchus were all Jews. Luke, Epaphras and Demas were all Gentiles. So here in this letter, we have a reminder that we need to encourage other people, even if they are different than ourselves.
In other words, Paul may well be declaring that some are now cooperating with him as a result of an ecumenical agreement. I intuit from “co-workers for the kingdom of God” a closer than competitive kind of mission with “those who were of the circumcision.”2
Paul makes the claim that these people were co-workers for the kingdom of God, even though they were Jewish. In today’s context, that shows that there will be people whom we work with who have different flavors of Christian belief, yet they want the same goal: to encourage others in the faith. We should be willing to encourage others even they see the Bible differently.
Language, national animosities, and differences in religion and culture had divided the world of that day into hostile camps which could only be held together by the sword. Here under Paul’s aegis both camps were meeting together willingly and lovingly—an amazing unity!3
We need to be reminded that as Christians, we are in the business of building bridges with others, not dividing into different camps. When it comes to encouraging others, race, differences in opinion, and differences in religion and culture should not destroy the unity in the church. We should not use these forms of separation to discourage one another.
6. Encourage others through prayer – Epaphras
“Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. He is always wrestling for you in his prayers, so that you can stand mature and fully assured in everything God wills. For I testify about him that he works hard for you, for those in Laodicea, and for those in Hierapolis.” (Colossians 4:12–13, CSB)
Epaphras was a prayer warrior. You and I can pray for other people. Epaphras gives us a model prayer warrior. What were the characteristics of his prayer life?
CHARACTERISTICS OF A PRAYER WARRIOR
1. Pray constantly (“always”)
Epaphras is an example of someone who prayers with devotion. He prayed not only when he felt like it. He did not pray when he was told to pray. He consistently prayed.
“Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 4:2, CSB)
2. Pray fervently (“laboring fervently”)
“Being in anguish, he prayed more fervently, and his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44, CSB)
Like Jesus, Epaphras was in agony as he prayed. This is the same word used to describe athletes as they give themselves to sports. If church members today put as much concern and enthusiasm into their praying as they did into sports, we would have revival!
3. Pray personally (“for you”)
Epaphras interceded for the Christians in Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis. He prayed for people by name.
4. Pray definitely
Epaphras had a desire that these three churches may mature in their Christian faith.
7. Encourage others through faithfulness – Luke
Luke is faithful to the end of Paul’s ministry. He continued to encourage and helped Paul through Paul’s final imprisonment.
“Luke, the dearly loved physician, and Demas send you greetings.” (Colossians 4:14, CSB)
“Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my coworkers.” (Philemon 24, CSB)
“Only Luke is with me. Bring Mark with you, for he is useful to me in the ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:11, CSB)
8. Encourage others now no matter what the future may hold – Demas
In contrast to the faithfulness of Luke, Paul reminds us to encourage others, even when you don’t know how faithful they may be. Demas was a fellow laborer who later was caught up and loved the world, so he abandoned the faith.
“because Demas has deserted me, since he loved this present world, and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.” (2 Timothy 4:10, CSB)
Demas thought that he could serve two masters, but eventually he had to make a decision; unfortunately, he made the wrong decision.4
Demas is an example of someone who we can encourage, but whom we will never understand why things happen in their lives.
9. Encourage those who work with other churches – Nympha
I need to encourage as a Christian are those who serve alongside me in other churches. As a church, we need to encourage the work of the Gospel in other churches. Churches need to encourage the work of other churches. Paul did that by asking this church to pass along the word to other churches.
“For I testify about him that he works hard for you, for those in Laodicea, and for those in Hierapolis.” (Colossians 4:13, CSB)
“Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters in Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her home. After this letter has been read at your gathering, have it read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.” (Colossians 4:15–16, CSB)
Churches should not be in competition. Instead, we are called to be in cooperation to share the Gospel.
10. Encourage others to stay on mission – Archippus
Archippus has some work that God has commissioned him for the church. Whether it is financial, pastoral, or a form of evangelism, there are people whom we can encourage to continue in the ministry God has called them.
“And tell Archippus, “Pay attention to the ministry you have received in the Lord, so that you can accomplish it.”” (Colossians 4:17, CSB)
“to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church that meets in your home.” (Philemon 2, CSB)
I saw them tearing a building down,
A gang of men in a dusty town.
With a “yo heave ho” and a lusty yell,
They swung a beam and the sidewall fell.
I asked the foreman if these men were as skilled
As the men he’d hire, if he were to build.
He laughed and said, “Oh, no indeed.
Common labor is all I need.”
For those men can wreck in a day or two,
What builders had taken years to do.
I asked myself as I went my way,
Which kind of role am I to play?
Am I the builder who builds with care,
Measuring life by the rule and square?
Or am I the wrecker who walks the town,
Content with the role of tearing down?5
What kind of encourager are you?
1 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 149-150.
2 Scot McKnight, The Letter to the Colossians, ed. Ned B. Stonehouse et al., The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2018), 390.
3 R. Kent Hughes, Colossians and Philemon: The Supremacy of Christ, Preaching the Word (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1989), 148.
4 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 152–153.
5 Michael P. Green, ed., Illustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 Sermon Illustrations Arranged by Topic and Indexed Exhaustively, Revised edition of: The expositor’s illustration file. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989).