As Paul wrote the letters that now make up much of the New Testament, he liked to close them with greetings to various people in the recipient church or region. Some of these greetings were his own, but he also passed on greetings from those who were with him. Frequently, these greetings echoed the statements Paul used to open his letters, outlining ways Paul and his companions were thanking God for the faithfulness of the churches and/or praying for their faithfulness to continue or be renewed.
Tucked among one of these greetings is one from a man named Epaphras to the church in Colossae. Paul told the Colossian believers that “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.” (Colossians 4:12)
It’s just a passing statement, but there is something eye-catching about those final words: that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.
An Active Assurance
I don’t know about you, but there are many times as a wife, a mom, and a homeschooler that I have held back because of a lack of assurance in who I am and what I’m supposed to do. I’ve wavered, doubted, and debated about the very essence of my work. I’ve been passive in my marriage, timid in my faith, and hesitant in my parenting because I have lacked assurance that the work before me was true and real, much less God-honoring and in line with His will.
But, when I read Scripture, I cannot help but see that we are never supposed to be passive. Even when, as He was returning to the Father, Jesus told the disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait, He went ahead and let them know what would be expected of them once the Holy Spirit came upon them. They had a big job ahead of them, and even their waiting was expected to be a preparation time for fulfilling the Great Commission. Because of that preparation, they were ready to receive the Holy Spirit and ready to take action when Acts 2 rolled around.
Paul gave us a beautiful picture of this active approach to life in the verbiage he used when greeting the church in Thessalonica:
We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3)
Words like “work” and “labor” and “steadfastness” are not passive words. They describe a full-throttle, active approach to following Christ. But, that brings me back to the lack of assurance. How can I have the full assurance Epaphras prayed for on behalf of his fellow Colossians? How can I engage in bold, active work?
All I Need
First, I have to recognize that I have all I need, already at my fingertips.
Much of our timidity as moms comes from the fear that we’re missing something. That we don’t have the authority or the skills or the abilities needed to move full throttle ahead in our service to the Lord through our families. But, when Epaphras prayed that his fellow believers would be “fully assured in all the will of God,” he prayed that knowing that they – and we – were already equipped.
Our problem is not that we’re missing the equipping. Our problem is that we forget how to use it.
The Word of God is at our fingertips, and it informs us that the will of God is for us to proclaim the gospel, honoring and glorifying Him in everything we do. While that will may not outline the specifics of how that works – especially as wives and moms – we often can discern the details much more easily if we return to this declared will. We just forget to return. We forget to remember. We want to hear Him tell us exactly what curriculum to buy, whether or not to make that move, or how to handle a difficult situation that arises.
So, our first step is to pray over one another the prayer Epaphras prayed over the Colossians, that we would be fully assured.
Second, we must realize that full-throttle obedience does not mean running ourselves ragged trying to do everything. When Paul spoke of our work and labor, he spoke of faith and love. When Epaphras prayed for an active faith among those he loved, he prayed that they would stand.
Our work is active, but it’s not chaotic. It is supposed to be wide open, but not at the expense of our sanity, energy, and ability to keep up our communion with the Father. We cannot jump at every opportunity, meet every need around us, and go constantly. Sometimes our active work is simply to stand.
Think of how many times you’ve cradled a sick child, greeted your husband after a hard day at work, frustrated a friend or extended family member by maintaining boundaries for your family, or prayed with another mom who just needed a shoulder to cry on. Think of the times you have sought strength from one of those fellow moms.
It seems somewhat stereotypical, doesn’t it? But, when we stop to think about it, no matter whether we homeschool or send our kids off each morning, hold a paying job or not, we all still fulfill those stereotypical roles. We stand.
In order to have the full assurance of God’s will, we have to structure our lives in such a way that we can stand, unharried, and be a vessel through which God’s presence flows.
I know it’s still not easy. We will continue to battle with uncertainty. We will question how the will of God can possibly be played out in the day-to-day grind of our lives as wives and moms.
My hope is that we will pray for one another as Epaphras prayed for his fellow believers. As we lift one another up, may we continually come back to the gospel, to the goal of glorifying Christ in all things, and then move forward in the full-throttle, active work of obedience, fully assured in His will.