Comfort Your Hearts

Ephesians 6:22. “Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that ye might know our affairs, and that he might comfort your hearts.”

Paul was in prison when he wrote the letter to the Ephesians.  He didn’t know how much longer Rome would let him live, and he knew the people in all the churches he’d helped establish prayed for him and wanted news of him. It was for this reason that he sent men like Tychicus to take his letters to the churches. Not only would the messenger deliver the letter, which was usually read to the entire body; he would also bring news of Paul’s health, his legal status,  and whether there was any hope that he would be able to visit them again.

As far as we know, this epistle was written in a.d. 64.  Best estimates are that Paul died sometime in a.d. 65-68. He felt. toward his converts, as a loving father does toward his children. He considered the fears they would have for his well-being, That is why his benedictions are often so tender.

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Tychicus

Ephesians 6:21. “But that ye also may know my affairs, and how I do, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things:”

Acts 20:4 tells us that Tychicus had accompanied Paul into Asia, with several others. He is mentioned again in Colossians 4:7 as a messenger from Paul to the church in Colosse, and again Paul describes him as a faithful minister and fellowservant. Paul mentions him again in II Timothy 4:12, and again in Titus 3:12.

Apparently Tychicus was a member of Paul’s retinue, and stayed with him through his imprisonments, bearing letters and news from Paul to the churches, and back from the churches to Paul.

What a privileged position! To be so close to the one God chose to pen so much of the New Testament, talking with him, serving him, being the messenger back and forth between him and the people in the churches he’d helped establish.

Sometimes the most obscure people in the Bible had some very precious, very important tasks to fulfill.  I think Tychicus was one of those.

Ambassador in Bonds

Ephesians 6:20. “For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”

Paul wrote  this letter to the Ephesian church from a position of bondage. He was a prisoner of Rome,  because he would not stop preaching Christ as God.  In Rome, Caesar was God.  Paul would eventually die for his boldness in continuing to speak boldly for the sake of the gospel.

I’ve always loved this phrase,  ambassador in bonds.  It teaches us that we can still maintain our testimony for Christ, still preach the gospel, still offer those around us the freedom of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Paul knew what he ought to do, and he did it.

Paul Asks for Prayer

Ephesians 6:19. “And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel.”

Some have painted Paul as a man of unusual courage.  Maybe, but this verse indicates to me that he was just as human as the rest of us, and he wasn’t too proud to admit it.  Paul did not think more highly of himself than he ought to think.

I’ve wondered what might have been going through his mind as the Roman soldiers tied him to a whipping post for the first, second, third time. Surely there was fear.  A Roman scourging was no small punishment.  Some died under it. There had to be a degree of fear.

Al the other physical brutality he endured?  He was stoned and left for dead, shipwrecked, snake-bitten, and more. I can’t imagine he just  shook it all off fearlessly and went about his business.

But this verse is not a litany of complaints.  What he is asking is that no matter what may be his next episode of fear, he wanted prayer that he would open his mouth to speak the truth, the mystery, of the great love of God, because that was his mission from God and he couldn’t let fear get in the way.

I think perhaps his last few minutes of life, as they beat him before beheading him, were perhaps the most fearless moments of his life.  He knew he was soon to see the Savior that he served.

Praying Always

Ephesians 6:18. “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in  the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance, and supplication for all saints.”

We need the armor for the battle, but without undergirding prayer, we won’t use the armor as well.

We are to be praying always. That doesn’t mean we spend 24/7 on our knees, because God knows we have to work and take care of the family and so on. But we are to spend as much time as we can in focused prayer. We are to be always in an attitude of prayer.  I do some of my best praying when I’m alone in the car, radio off. Multi-tasking, I guess, but that’s just a good place for me. Also while I’m swimming.  Hmmmm.  Seeing a pattern here. I do better with praying when I’m moving.

We are to pray with supplication.  Begging. Pleading. Beseeching.

And we are to pray for all the saints. Everywhere.  The ones we know, the ones we don’t.

A young man in Germany reported being assaulted for wearing his kippah, the head covering that identifies him as a Jew. We need to pray for him.  Is he a believer?  I don’t know. Doesn’t matter. We need to pray, because the persecution of Jews, Christians, women–it’s all an attack of Satan, and it’s leading to nothing good.  Pray. God is our power source. We need to be plugged in.

The Helmet and the Sword

Ephesians 6:17. “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”

The helmet protects the brain, the eyes and nose, and the back of the neck.

The Bible tells us that “as a man thinketh, so is he.” If Satan can tempt us to think unbiblically, he has made a major victory. It is our thinking that motivates our emotions, words, and behaviors.  I wish I’d had a clearer understanding of this principle when we were rearing our kids. The importance of teaching them to think biblically cannot be overstated.  Biblical thinking eliminates pride, anger, selfishness, malice, rebellion, jealousy, disobedience–well, it’s the antidote to sin, obviously.

The Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, is the only piece of offensive armor we have. Everything else is defensive, for protection but not for hurting the enemy. The Sword, however, is the very best offense there is.  Jesus used it against Satan when Satan tempted Him in the wilderness after 40 days of fasting and praying. Each temptation was answered with a direct quote from God’s Word  (Matthew 4).

In order to wield the Sword effectively, we MUST use it daily, studying, memorizing, taking into our thoughts and hearts the truth of the Word of God so that we can effectively use it in the spiritual warfare that surrounds us.

I’m still committing verses to memory on a regular basis.  It takes me longer than it used to, but it is so well worth it.  Also, I’m finding that there are passages I’d forgotten I’d memorized until something comes up, usually in my office, where the passage is perfect to respond to a client’s needs.  Sometimes I have to look up the reference, but my computer always finds it in just a few words.

 For the word of God is quick (alive), and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  Hebrews 4:12.

Shield of Faith

Ephesians 6:16. “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.”

This portrayal of the devil is nonsense, of course. He’s never that obvious, and I don’t believe he has horns or a tail of the lower body of a snake.

However, he does shoot fiery arrows at us. Despair, doubt, lies, fear, hatred, countless temptations to indulge in wrong thinking and wrong behavior.  One of his favorite “arrows” is wrong interpretation on scripture, casting doubt on the very foundation of our faith and doctrine.  The Bible clearly states that ALL scripture is inspired of God (II Tim. 3:16-17) and is profitable.  No one part of God’s Word can be set aside as not so important. It’s an all-or-nothing deal.

Our faith, founded in God’s Word and strengthened by the Holy Spirit of God, is a piece of armor that we can move, when necessary, to deflect all the arrows Satan throws at us to keep us from standing strong in the battle for the truth.  He won’t settle for a simple frontal attack. We have to understand that he is NEVER guilty of telling the truth; that if we are entertaining wrong thinking, Satan is doing a happy dance.

There are many verses I cling to when I find myself struggling with fear, doubt, and all the rest.  One is Psalm 119:165. “Great peace have they which love Thy law; and nothing shall offend (trip, cause to stumble) them.”

Another is Philippians 4:4-8, which teaches us the importance of supplicatory (begging) prayer, the deep peace of God, and the importance of biblical thinking.

Keep your faith strong. Be in the Word. Pray. Stand.