Study 4 THE PASTOR’S CONFLICT
(Scripture Portions: Acts 11: 19-26; Colossians 2: 1-5)
Paul had never seen the Christians at Laodicea or Colosse face to face, yet he writes to them of his deep concern for their spiritual welfare and of the burden upon his heart for their spiritual and eternal well-being – Colossians 2:1. What an unveiling of the apostle’s heart! He is a model for every minister, pastor, leader and worker in the Lord’s vineyard; an example we can never hope to equal but should seek by grace to follow. In Colossians 2:1-5 we are told seven things about this conflict of which Paul speaks in verse 1:-
1. THE NATURE OF THE CONFLICT
It was not primarily physical; it was spiritual, mental and emotional. His great heart yearned over the Christians at Laodicea and Colosse, and this issued in a volume of intercessory prayer on their behalf. Paul’s conflict was a burden of spiritual desire for the blessing of the Lord to rest upon those who had been converted through his ministry or who had been entrusted to his spiritual care. Such conflict, of course, does affect the body. Doubtless the guards in Paul’s “rented house” (Acts 28:30) not only heard the apostle pray – they saw him pray, and as he lifted his arms towards Heaven his whole being seemed to tremble as he poured forth his petitions. Do we know anything of such a conflict in our prayers for others?
2. THE INTENSITY OF THE CONFLICT
Paul calls it a “great conflict” (verse 1 KJV). This suggests the idea of intensity. The prayer which filled his heart and mind was an intensely heavy burden. Indeed, the Greek word suggests that it was an agony – look up and compare 1 Corinthians 9:24-26; 1 Timothy 6:12; Hebrews 12:1. How intense is the effort put forth by the sprinter or the wrestler – and how intense must be the conflict in which Christians engage if they are to win through in prayer for blessing upon those for whom they have a spiritual concern! The word “conflict” (“struggling” NIV) suggests that there are obstacles in the way, as there are – look up and meditate upon Ephesians 6:12, and compare Colossians 1:29.
3. THE SUBJECTS OF THE CONFLICT
Look again at verse 1. It is important to notice that Paul is not here speaking of a concern for the unsaved, but for the saved, for the babes in Christ who needed to grow to maturity – compare Colossians 1:28. Paul undoubtedly had a passion for the salvation of sinners – look up Romans 10:2; but his concern here was for the sanctification of the saints and the spiritual welfare of those who had been converted and needed to go on – see Ephesians 4:14. Are we concerned for the welfare of the babes in Christ?
4. THE NECESSITY OF THE CONFLICT
In verse 4 the apostle tells us why he felt it such an urgent matter to wage a prayer warfare for his fellow-believers. It was that they were in danger of being turned aside by false doctrine; indeed, some of them had already been turned aside, and Paul was burdened that this undermining work of the Enemy should be arrested – compare Colossians 2:8. Do such dangers exist today? They certainly do! Christians all over the world are faced with the subtle dangers of humanistic philosophies which discount the power and the wisdom of God. Often such philosophies are put out in the name of so-called “scholarship”. But in addition to the unbelief of many professing Christian teachers and leaders there is the presence on every hand of false cults. Paul felt that, in view of this situation which existed in his day, if someone did not engage in a conflict for the deliverance and protection of these babes in Christ they would be beguiled and moved away from their firm standing in Christ.
5. THE PURPOSE OF THE CONFLICT
Paul’s concern found expression in the prayer of intercession. Verses 2 and 3 tell us that he prayed that they might be blessed in five ways:-
- That they might be ENCOURAGED. Discouragement is the first enemy which attacks the new convert.
- That they might be UNITED IN LOVE. There is safety for us in loving and in being loved.
- That they might be ENRICHED. Paul prayed that they might be “united in love, so that they might have the full riches…” – look up Ephesians 1:3 and Colossians 2:9-10; 2 Peter 1:3.
- That they might be ESTABLISHED. Paul prayed that they might have “complete understanding…” Compare 1 Thessalonians 1:5; Hebrews 6:11 and 10:22.
- That they might be ENLIGHTENED. Paul prayed that they might “know the mystery of God, namely Christ; in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge…” Compare Ephesians 1:17-18.
6. THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE CONFLICT
This is indicated in verse 5. The apostle tells us that though geographically he was separated from these Christians by a long distance, he was actually with them in spirit; as one translator renders it: “I am by your side, watching you like a proud father.” What joy it brought to Paul to see his prayers answered in the lives of those for whom he prayed!
7. THE SECRET OF THE CONFLICT
We may well ask: Who is sufficient for these things? How can we be faithful in exercising this ministry of intercession and of loving concern for others? The answer is in Colossians 1:29 and 2 Corinthians 3:5.