Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

Transforming Friendships

 11-7-05


Title: Transforming Friendships

 

Text: “Tychicus, a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me.   I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that he may know your circumstances and comfort your hearts,” (Colossians 4:7-8)

Bible Reading: Colossians 4:7-18


Introduction

Some of our most meaningful relationships are those we have with friends. 

We can recall with warmhearted feelings the hours we have spent together and the joys, sorrows, and experiences we have shared. 

The Bible speaks highly of friendships. 

For instance, it says in Proverbs 18:24: “A man that has friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24).

A contrast is being made here between those who are friendly only in a social way, and the true friend who stands with you at the most awful times.  

The gaining of friends depends upon the ability of a person to demonstrate friendliness toward others.

Anyone who is a friend himself will always meet others who are eager to return his kindness and interest.

Friends, however, will often desert or fail you just when you need them the most.

But, when it happens, it should not lead to have misgivings about others, for there are true friends whose commitments will never waiver.

I ran across this quote by an anonymous author: “The best way to destroy an enemy is to change him into a friend.”

Have you ever done that? 

I have!!

 The true friend is rare, and his devotion even surpasses that of a brother by birth. 

There is a little poem that I found that describes a true friend.

A faithful friend is a strong protection;
A man who has found one has found a treasure.
A faithful friend is beyond price,
And his value cannot be weighed.
A faithful friend is a life-giving medicine,
Those who fear the Lord will find it.

Friendships help to make life beautiful and enjoyable. 

Elizabeth Barrett Browning once asked novelist Charles Kingsly the secret of his life.

He thought for a moment, and then replied, “I had a friend.” 

One of the most important things we can do in life is to make friends and cultivate lasting friendships. 

When we come to the last Chapter of the letter to the Colossians, we meet a whole host of Paul’s friends who were with him in Rome back there in the first century. 

They walked down the Roman roads, lived in Roman cities, and were under Roman rule. 

They were in the midst of paganism, but they were God’s children. 

Remember, Paul was a prisoner, and it was probably highly dangerous to be his friend. 

But these men chose to demonstrate their friendship and loyalty to Paul by staying with him. 

Some of these names we can identify immediately—Mark and Luke for instance—but others are not so familiar.

In these names and references we find a great message: the message of transforming friendships. 

Now, I want to read our scripture for today’s lesson; Colossians 4:7-18.

 

7 Tychicus, a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me.
8 I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that he may know your circumstances and comfort your hearts,

“Tychicus” was the pastor of the church at Ephesus. 

He is mentioned in Ephesians, Acts and 2 Timothy. 

He was a wonderful brother in the Lord. 

Paul says here that he sent Tychicus to them for a purpose.

In fact, he has a twofold purpose in sending Tychicus: first, so that he might know your situation, and second so that you might know his situation. 

That way they can comfort each other and give each other encouragement.

Verse 9 says--

9 with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will make known to you all things which are happening here.

“Onesimus” was a slave of Philemon in Colossi. 

He had run away from his master, had been led to the Lord through the ministry of Paul, and was now being sent back to his master by Paul. 

Paul wrote a letter to Philemon when he sent Onisimus back, and he tells Philemon that Onisimus is his “beloved brother.” 

You can see from this that in the case of Onisimus there is a new relationship in Christ. 

In the next verse we are told about a man named Aristarchus and two others who were important in Paul’s life.

 

10 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him),

Aristarchus was a fellow prisoner with Paul, and he was his friend.

Mark is John Mark, the nephew of Barnabas—the son of his sister. 

He is the writer of the gospel of Mark. 

You may remember that Mark left Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, and because of this Paul didn’t want to take him along on his second missionary journey. 

But Paul was wrong in his judgment of John Mark. 

The boy made good and Paul acknowledges that here. 

Paul gives the Colossians instructions, “Don’t reject him like I did.  You folks receive him.” 

Paul mentions John Mark again in his second letter to Timothy: “…Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry” (2 Tim. 4:11). 

The next verse says that Paul wants to see someone else—

 

11 and Jesus who is called Justus. These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision; they have proved to be a comfort to me.

“Jesus, which is called Justus” would be the name Joshua in the Hebrew language. 

“Being of the circumcision” indicates he was Jewish. 

This shows us there were a few Israelites in the church at Colosse. 

However, there were not many; the Colossian church was mostly Gentile. 

But these men were wonderful brethren, helpers of Paul, and great missionaries themselves. 

The loneliness of Paul comes out in his comment that, out of all the Jewish Christians in Rome, only Justus, Mark and Aristarchus were his “fellow workers,” and he says, “They have been a comfort to me.” 

Verse 12 adds another name to the list--

 

12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.

“Epaphras” was the pastor and probably the founder of the church at Colosse. 

Now he is in prison, so he has a new ministry, the ministry of prayer. 

I recently had a woman ask me to bring a message about what people who are old and in a Nursing Home can do for the Lord. 

The answer is in this verse; they can pray. 

Do you want a new ministry; He has something wonderful for you to do, He wants you to intercede on behalf of others.. 

Verse 13 says--

 

13 For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis.

These three cities were very close together. 

Hierapolis and Laodicia were about 6-10 miles apart; they were both near Colosse, and there were churches in all three places. 

Epaphras had evidently carried the gospel to both of these cities and founded churches there. 

Next we read—

 

14 Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you.

“Luke, the beloved physician.” 

Isn’t that a wonderful designation for him? 

Luke was probably Paul’s medical advisor, but he was also one of the apostles and a “fellow worker.”

When Paul first mentioned Demus, he called him a fellow worker. 

But here he simply says, “and Demus”.

 I think this may indicate that Paul isn’t really sure about him at this time. 

Later Demus will forsake him, and that was very painful for Paul

Verse 15 adds--

 

15 Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church that is in his house.

These cities had great heathen temples, but the Christians met in private homes. 

Verse 16 says--

 

16 Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.

Paul said, they had “read the epistle from Laodicea.” 

He doesn’t say that he had written an epistle to the Laodicians. 

Aparantly the letters of Paul were circulated around and the Laodiceans had read one of them. 

There is one more man to meet. 

Verse 17 says--

 

17 And say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”

“Archippus” is a man who had a gift, and Paul is urging him to use it. 

We don’t know any more about him other than what is mentioned here. 

The last verse says--

 

18 This salutation by my own hand—Paul. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. Amen.

This is the second time that Paul says, “Remember my chains”—or “Pray for me.”

As you listen to these names of Paul’s friends, the interesting thing is that Paul had never been to Rome or to Colosse, yet he gives this list of people that he knew, and many of them are from these two cities. 

This reveals that Paul had led many people to Christ who returned home to cities that he never was able to reach directly or personally. 

His ministry was a tremendous, far-reaching ministry, and that shows that he was a great missionary. 

I want to use these verses that I read to make three points about transforming friendships. 

They can CHANGE A LIFE, DEVELOP LOYALTY, AND WELD A HEART OF LOVING SERVICE.

 

FIRST, I’LL MAKE THE POINT THAT A TRANSFORMING FRIENDSHIP CAN CHANGE A LIFE.

Paul refused to write about his personal problems in his public letters. 

The bearer of the letter, Tychicus, would fill them in on those details. 

With him would be Onesimus, who was described as “a faithful and dear brother” and who was evidentially a native of Colosse.

Onesimus was the slave of Philemon, also of Colosse. 

He had stolen something from Philemon and fled to Rome to lose himself among the many people in the streets. 

But while there he met someone—Paul—who introduced him to someone else—Jesus Christ. 

Now this man who once had been a fugitive slave was going back to Colosse with a letter for the Colossian church, but also with a letter to Philemon from Paul. 

In this letter Paul appealed to Philemon to forgive him, and take him in, and receive him as a Christian brother.

“Profitable” is the meaning of Onesimus’s name. 

Before he was introduced to Christ Onesimus had been anything but profitable. 

But his friendship with Paul and his new relationship with Jesus had transformed his life, making him profitable, without a doubt.

 

A friendship can change a life and SECOND, IT CAN ALSO DEVELOP LOYALTY.

Aristarchus, who was a Jew by birth was a native of Thessalonica.

He’s called a “fellow prisoner,” by Paul since he willingly shared the bondage of all believers in Christ. 

This man is very important to Paul, because not many of Paul’s Jewish friends were sympathetic to his mission to the Gentiles.

Aristarchus is seen three times in the New Testament: during the riot in Ephesus at the temple of Diana when he was captured by the mob (Acts 19:29), and then when Paul sailed as a prisoner to Rome (Acts 27:2), and here with Paul in Rome. 

He was a man who stood by Paul in a crisis, always at hand in times of need.

And I find it interesting that he was a member of Philemon’s household; probably his son.

Aristarchus was called by the Lord, and had some ministerial responsibility in the church at Colosse.

You can find many examples of loyalty between famous men who lived in America, in the past. 

One such relationship developed between two great military leaders during the Civil War. 

General Jeb Stuart was the Confederate cavalry commander.

He served as a subordinate to the Confederacy leader, Robert E. Lee.

Each time Stuart wrote a letter to Lee he would close with these words, “Yours to count on, JEB Stuart.”

Although Stuart generally upheld these words, he failed his leader at Gettysburg when Lee needed him most.

Emory Thomas, a professor of history at the University of Georgia, writes in his book, Robert E. Lee: A Biography, “At Gettysburg, Stuart rode off into nowhere and left Lee blind in the presence of his enemies.”

Faithfulness and friendship go hand in hand.

Can your friends, family, and colleagues always count on you?

Did you know that some interesting relationships are even found in the animal world.

For instance there is this story about a monkey and a lion. 

A group of businessmen were marveling at an unusual zoo exhibit.

In the same cage were a monkey and a lion.

Seeing some possible lessons that might be translated to the business world, one supervisor asked, “How do they get along?”

The zookeeper said, “Usually, okay.” Sometimes they have a disagreement, though, and we have to get a new monkey.”

 

A friendship can change a life, it can develop loyalty, AND IT CAN ALSO BUILD A LIFE.

Mark is the next name mentioned. 

Mark, who was a relative of Barnabus, had set out with Paul and Barnabus, on the first missionary journey but soon he left them and went home to Jerusalem. 

And so Paul refused to take him with them on the second missionary journey. 

Their mission team broke up, and it was because of Mark.

Later Mark’s life was mended because of friendship. 

Now Paul had Mark with him, and he was in a place of difficult service. 

Next, there is Barnabas; he was the first to see Christ’s man in Saul of Tarsus. 

In fact, He first introduced Paul into the Christian fellowship in Jerusalem when the other Christians were too suspicious and too fearful to meet with him. 

And after Paul had been persuaded to go home to Tarsus, where he stayed for quite some time, it was Barnabas who made a special journey to that city, and brought Paul back into leadership in the church after years of separation.

 

A friendship can change a life, it can develop loyalty, it can build a life, AND LASTLY, IT CAN WELD A HEART OF LOVING SERVICE.

Paul mentioned Epaphras, who was likely the founder and pastor of the church at Colosse as well as those at Hieropolis and Laodicea. 

The concern that he had for the people there was obvious as he prayed for them daily that they might live within the will of God.

Luke the beloved physician and Demas are also mentioned. 

Demas is mentioned only here, in Philemon, and in 2 Timothy 4:10, where these sad and distressing words appear, “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world.”  

The following verse reads, “Only Luke is with me now.”  

Demus and Luke show a contrast in loyalty; one is faithful and the other is not.

The last name listed is Nympha, who offered her home as the meeting place for the church. 

And she shared what she had with Paul and others.

Conclusion (I’ll end with this)

Paul did not hesitate to share his needs with others, because he depended on their prayer support. 

Do you pray for Christian leaders in places of importance?

They need it!

Paul named six men who were working at his side and encouraging him in the Lord.

Even an apostle cannot get the job done alone, and that’s why he was so grateful for the saints serving faithfully in Colosse!

We show friendship to God and others when we serve them faithfully.

We are friends of Christ when we obey what He commands and witness to others of what He has done for us. 

And we do all this because Christ showed His love for us by laying down His life for us.

Amen.

 

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