Across the Miles

Guest Author: Joanne Grattan

…just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit. And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, Colossians 1:7-9

Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis.Colossians 4:12-13

Tucked inside the letters that Tychicus carried to Colossae is a name that I recently came across – one I hadn’t paid much attention to before. 

Epaphras: “the lovely one”

While there aren’t many verses devoted to him, what we see of this man’s heart should encourage and challenge us.

In writing to the church at Colossae, Paul and Timothy refer to Epaphras as their “dear fellow servant.”  He is also given a brief mention in Paul’s letter to Philemon, where we discover that he has shared in some of the sufferings of Paul as his “fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus.”

What prompted me to pay closer attention to Epaphras this time was that I noticed he wasn’t living where he was from, or, at least, he wasn’t living where he used to. Closely associated with the church at Colossae, he is in Rome, separated geographically from people who are dear to his heart. 

I can relate, as I’m sure some readers can too.

It was from Epaphras that Paul and Timothy had heard a missionary report of sorts about the Colossians, having never met them personally. Epaphras’ news of their “love in the Spirit” made such an impact on his colleagues that from that day forward they didn’t cease to pray for them. 

Epaphras didn’t let threats of the false teachings that lurked in the background at Colossae obscure the positives.

How often do we focus on sharing the positive aspects of our local churches? 

Things that bother us can seem to take precedence. Let’s not forget to rejoice over the things that are God-honoring and good! Epaphras was the bearer of an encouraging report. This report is what spurred Paul, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to pen a beautiful prayer – one we can echo today to pray for fellow believers, even those we have never met.

It seems that this “faithful minister of Christ” was actually the very one who had taken the Gospel to the Colossians. In a sense, Christians today owe more to him than we may realize. Epaphras sharing the Gospel with the Colossians and, later, bringing news of this local church to Paul, was the means by which the beautiful, instructive letters to the believers at Colossae and Philemon were written.

We all know people who are searching for answers like the Colossians once were. 

Who are we bringing the hope of the Gospel to?

Despite being far away from “his people,” Epaphras hadn’t forgotten them but rather, sent them a greeting. I think about people from “back home” often, but if I don’t tell them, how will they know? 

Much more than this, Paul reveals the true heart behind this greeting. Was it just that Epaphras thought of them occasionally? No! Paul is able to report that Epaphras was “always laboring fervently for [them] in prayers.” 

He labored in prayer for their spiritual stability, growth, and maturity. It was not enough for Epaphras that some converts had been made. He loved his brothers and sisters deeply and had an earnest desire for them to be established in the faith. His concern was not only for them, but also believers in the neighboring towns of Laodicea and Hieropolis.

Would you like to have such a dedicated friend in another city praying this way for you? Let’s be that friend! 

Will you “labor fervently” in prayer today for the spiritual life of someone who has been instrumental in your past, but is not in your everyday life now?

The biggest challenge in my Christian walk is to spend time in real, earnest, fervent prayer. Why is this? Perhaps I don’t view it as real service? This was not the case with Epaphras. 

We may be busy in our local church,
but what are our prayers like for the people we fellowship with?

Rather than feeling overwhelmed by how short we fall, let’s be encouraged by the example of Epaphras. We can’t be in two places at once, however hard we might try sometimes. God has given our physical bodies this clear boundary; don’t fight against it. But while you are living and serving in the place God has called you to, your prayers for others from a distance may accomplish more than your physical presence ever could. 

Today, I am fondly reminded of the former groups of believers I have been privileged to enjoy fellowship with. I am so thankful as I remember their “love in the Spirit” and am encouraged to renew my prayers for dear friends past and present, that they may

“stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.”

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