Team Work

SCRIPTURE: Colossians 4:7-18

7 Tychicus will give you a full report about how I am getting along. He is a beloved brother and faithful helper who serves with me in the Lord’s work. I have sent him to you for this very purpose—to let you know how we are doing and to encourage you. I am also sending Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, one of your own people. He and Tychicus will tell you everything that’s happening here. 10 Aristarchus, who is in prison with me, sends you his greetings, and so does Mark, Barnabas’s cousin. As you were instructed before, make Mark welcome if he comes your way. 11 Jesus (the one we call Justus) also sends his greetings. These are the only Jewish believers among my co-workers; they are working with me here for the Kingdom of God. And what a comfort they have been!12 Epaphras, a member of your own fellowship and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. He always prays earnestly for you, asking God to make you strong and perfect, fully confident that you are following the whole will of God. 13 I can assure you that he prays hard for you and also for the believers in Laodicea and Hierapolis.14 Luke, the beloved doctor, sends his greetings, and so does Demas. 15 Please give my greetings to our brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church that meets in her house.16 After you have read this letter, pass it on to the church at Laodicea so they can read it, too. And you should read the letter I wrote to them.17 And say to Archippus, “Be sure to carry out the ministry the Lord gave you.”18 Here is my greeting in my own handwritingPaul. Remember my chains. May God’s grace be with you.

INTRODUCTION

There is no doubt about it, Paul was not only a full blooded Jew, he was a type-A, heavily driven person who demanded 100% from himself and everyone around him. He had little tolerance for slackers. If you were on Paul’s team, you learned to pull your weight. Sometimes we get the idea that Paul flew solo, that he was a one man band but nothing could be further from the truth. He was always the team leader but he never worked without a team. There is no doubt in my mind, the key to effectiveness in God’s kingdom is in learning to work together with other believers and churches.

As is Paul’s custom, he closes each letter with a list of credits to friends and helpers. Keep in mind throughout the course of this message that the theme or point is that we need each other. There is no such thing as a “Lone Ranger” ministry. Every good Team Leader understands his vital need for a team of co-workers. The kingdom agenda cannot be accomplished by one man or one church or even one denomination.

THE MESSENGERS/COURIERS

Paul begins with his couriers, Tychicus  and Onesimus.  He told the Colossians, “Tychicus will give you a full report about how I am getting along. He is a beloved brother and faithful helper who serves with me in the Lord’s work. I have sent him to you for this very purpose—to let you know how we are doing and to encourage you. I am also sending Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, one of your own people. He and Tychicus will tell you everything that’s happening here.

Thchicus which means “fateful” was an Asiatic covert who joined Paul somewhere is Asia on Paul’s third missionary journey. He became Paul’s courier. Paul used him to send messages to churches. We know that he used him to send a message to Colosse and to Ephesus. Good communication is vital to any endeavor. Bad communication is a sure ticket to failure. This was before the postal system or email. Ty will go to Colosse in Paul’s behalf and give them a full report. Paul refers to Ty as more than a courier, he calls him his beloved brother and faithful helper. “He serves with me in the LORD’s work,” Paul said.

The purpose of Ty’s trip is to encourage the believers at Colosse by giving them a full report on Paul’s condition. As we have said many times, discouragement is never of God. Paul’s intent is not to discourage but to encourage the Colossians. He sends Onesimus with Ty. He will share in the mission: both will tell what is happening with Paul. Travel was dangerous in those days and there was always safety in numbers. Sending two instead of one was not uncommon. NOTE: Onesimus is a run-a-way slave but Paul regards him as a brother in Christ.

BFF…BEST FRIEND FOREVER

The next man on Paul’s list is Aristarchus. Aristarchus hailed from Thessalonica and he like Ty joined Paul on his third Missionary Journey. Aristarchus which means “The Best Ruler” was actually Paul’s “Best Friend”. He stayed with Paul from Macedonia until the very end. He was with Paul in Jerusalem, Caesarea and made the voyage with him to Rome where he was imprisoned along side Paul. Many scholars believe that Aristarchus gave us his freedom at Caesarea and voluntarily became Paul’s personal slave. According to Roman law, a slave was not a person but merely property. Therefore Paul had the right to carry his property with him. In other words, in the eyes of the Romans, Aristarchus was just another suitcase, a part of Paul’s baggage. He was with Paul on the voyage, ship wreck and the imprisonment in Rome. Some even believe that he was executed a long side Paul. We know he was executed by the same man, Nero [No one’s hero].

There are some interesting things here: some thoughts that penetrate the mind: [1] How valuable was it to Paul to have a friend who was willing to lay down his life for Christ sake to serve and encourage Paul. [2] Paul accomplished great things: how valuable was Aristarchus to Paul’s success. Will Aristarchus be one of those who worked silently in the background here on earth but will be in the forefront when we get to heaven. [3] How rare, very rare is this kind of loyalty?

I heard a story once. A preacher told it so I don’t know if it has been exaggerated or not. I may have exaggerated it some myself so lets just call it a parable: a earthy story with a heavenly meaning. A young man entered the ministry and was called to a rural church out in the middle of nowhere. The church met in an old building that was supported by pillows of concrete block. The young preacher met with phenomenal results; decisions every week. He became quite proud of himself and when a large city church called, he felt God leading him to move to the bigger church for the glory of the LORD. When he got to the bigger church, things stopped happening. He preached the same sermons with the same passion but no response. Finally, he got so discouraged that he took a Sunday off and went back to the little county church. He parked a ways from the church and began to pray. Right at preaching time, he noticed one of the older deacons slipping out the back door and crawling up under the floor right beneath the pulpit area. There he got on his knees and stayed there until the service was over. Like a burst of sunlight, the thought beamed in the preachers mind, “It wasn’t me. It was not my sermons or my gifts. It was God honoring this old man’s prayers.”

I do not know if the story is true but it contains a truth: You may never know the source of your success until you get to heaven. Behind every great man of God there is a team of people that are lifting him up in prayer.

OLD FRIENDS

It is interesting that Paul mentions John Mark. Paul got very upset with Mark when he bailed out of the first Missionary journey. I am not scholar or authority by any stretch but I take the side of Barnabas and Mark. I have always believed that Paul was wrong to be so hard on a youthful Mark. We don’t know what changed; did Mark work hard and earn Paul’s trust or did Paul mellow out and become more tolerant of those not as strong as himself. It may have been a mixture of both. The main thing is that they got it worked out so that they could work together. Paul came to understand that the marvel of the body of Christ was it’s uniqueness; many members but all different, no two alike. Paul learned to celebrate diversity. We are different but we are not to be divided. Barnabas and Paul were as different as daylight and dark but they worked together until the division split them apart. Paul never confesses any error on his part but I have to believe that in time he took some of the blame for the misunderstanding. He sure thinks a lot of Mark at the end. He has a deep desire to see him before he departs this world.

PRAYER WARRIORS

Next on Paul’s list is Epaphras who is known for his power in prayer. Every time this man is mentioned in scripture, it is in relationship to prayer. “He always prays earnestly for you, asking God to make you strong and perfect, fully confident that you are following the whole will of God. I can assure you that he prays hard for you and also for the believers in Laodicea and Hierapolis.” Epaphras was a man of prayer. If you read the Epistles of Paul, you will see some things that all his letters have in common. He begins them all by wishing the recipients GRACE and PEACE. Paul always emphases “Thanksgiving”: it is a redundant theme in every letter. He always gives credit to his helpers, usually in the last chapter. He always exhorts and he always solicits prayer, always. Check it out, when he writes to a church, he asked for prayer. The letters to individuals are a little different. I have been a young preacher and now I am an old preacher and I can tell you one thing for certain: other than the sovereign grace of our LORD Jesus Christ, prayer is the most vital aspect of our faith. I am a prayer glutton. I want everyone to pray for me.

Many, many years ago, I went through a crisis and truthfully there where times when I did not think there was even a remote possibility that I would survive. I bumped into my Father in the ministry at a preachers conference and I ask him to make me a prayer project. I told him the truth: I fully believed that only prayer could save me. I may be wrong but I credit my survival to his prayers and God’s grace. Folks, I believe in prayer. I believe practically every church would have a better pastor if the members prayed for him as they should. If prayer could out weight criticism, I think we would see a huge difference. Paul was a great man and he accomplished great things but he also had men like Epaphras praying for him. I would be thrilled to have an Epaphras on my team.

THE GIFTED

You have them on every team: those who can do about anything. Luke was a Greek physician who lived in the Greek city of  Antioch in Ancient Syria. Luke wore three hats: He a physician, an evangelist and historian. He chronicles all of Paul’s activities. Luke wrote not only a gospel, he also wrote Acts which gives us the details of Paul’s missionary journeys. What a valuable asset he was to Paul’s team. He could give Paul medical treatment, help in sharing the gospel and he keep a record of all that happened. Do you keep a daily record? If you do, you know that it is not easy. It is more difficult than maintaining a Quiet Time.

A DESERTER

In 2 Timothy 4:10 Paul said, Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me.” It is believed that Demas remained faithful all the way to Rome. Unlike his friend Aristarchus, Demas did not give up his freedom and for a while he made the visits to prison where Paul and Aristarchus were confined but over time the pleasures and sensations of Rome began to draw him away from his prior commitment. Demas was a charismatic personality. Everyone liked Demas. He was passionate and enthusiastic. His goal was to be faithful to the end but as he began to see the end, he had second thoughts. Like Lot, he began to pitch his tent toward Sodom and eventually, he moved in with the pagan community. There is no joy in Paul’s voice when he talks about Demas. No doubt Paul had high hopes for this young man and his desertion brought huge disappointment.

WOMEN

The KJV puts an s on Nympha which makes it masculine but there is no s. Women played a huge role in the early church and part of this had to do with churches meeting in the home. Trust me, if a church meets in our home, June will play a major part. We know that in Philippi, Paul worked with Lydia and there are records where he worked with both women and couples. Paul didn’t hate women, he just did not see a need to be married to one. Personally, I would not attempt to pastor a church that did not have women: how could you do AWANA, Nursery, pre-school or VBS without them? I am certainly not fond of the idea of a male secretary. Women have a intuition that men do not have. They have valuable insights. I am a fan of the open discussion. I run things by my wife and secretaries. I want to know what they think. I can tell you one thing: you better pray a lot before you go against them.

SLACKERS

The last guy on the list is Archippus who is probably the junior member of the team and he is at Colosse, not with Paul. Paul tells the recipients of the letter to tell Archippus to tighten up…“Be sure to carry out the ministry the Lord gave you.” Evidently, he was slacking and Paul wanted them to give him a nudge. It is believed that Archie was Philemon son.

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