How do I work hard for fellow believers?

By Paul Witter, 06 Jan 2016

That is a good question to ask isn’t it? How do we work hard on behalf of others? My guess is that most people will seek for what they see as practical answers. Things like; being there for them when they are down, helping them out if they are ill (perhaps by doing shopping and so on), staying with them when they are lonely and so on. All of these are good things to do. None of them are things that you need to be a Christian to be able to do. Many, many non-Christians do this kind of thing all the time. Many volunteer to help out with meals on wheels and so on. Practical help like this is essential, but it is not, necessarily, an evidence of a work of God in the one doing them.


So how does a Christian work hard for a fellow believer, or even for someone they know who is not a believer? The answer might surprise some. It is to pray for them. And not just by way of a quick prayer. It is to wrestle in prayer for them.


The Apostle Paul, writing to the church at Colossae, commends to them a man named Epaphras who, he says is, “always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis.”[1]


Do you see that Paul talks of this man working hard for the Colossians? Yet he is not physically present with them; he is with Paul. So how does he work hard? The answer is in verse 12: he is “always struggling on your behalf in his prayers.” So, the first answer to “How do I work hard for others, especially believers?” is being diligent in praying for them. Wrestle with God on their behalf.


And do you notice what the content of the prayer is? It is not for them to be healthy, to recover from this or that ailment. It is not that they get x or y job they are seeking. It is not that their children will pass their exams. Sadly, this is often the full extent of what constitutes prayer for so many. But what Epaphras labours in praying for is very different, and far more important; more important because it involves things that will last longer than our physical health in this life or the job we do or don’t get or the benefits of A stars in GCSE exams.


Epaphras seeks from God three things.


  1. The first is that the Colossians will stand firm. In those days, as is increasingly the case in ours, to be a Christian often made you a social outcast and exposed you to great danger. And Epaphras knows that perseverance in the faith is essential to salvation. A commitment made long ago does not suffice if it lasts only for a season. And he knows that opposition of all kinds makes it hard for people to remain steadfast in the gospel. Jesus had said that when the Word of God is sown some accept it gladly, but then at the first sign of persecution they fall away. The roots of their faith did not go deep. And so one of the things we need to pray for every believer is that they will stand firm in their faith. And for those who are not yet believers, we need to know that nothing matters more than that their eternal destiny be secured, that they be saved from the penalty for their sin.
  2. The second is that they may be mature; that they may attain to the goal that God has for them, which is make them like Christ. Becoming a Christian involves growth. There is no such thing as a permanently static faith in Christ Jesus.[2] We are called to press on to take hold of the life that has been given to us. Study the prayers of Paul in his letters and much of them concerns his desire that his readers will grow in knowledge of the Lord Jesus,[3] that they understand more of the great inheritance that they have been called into,[4] that they may live lives worthy of the Lord pleasing him in every way,[5] and so on. Working hard for others involves praying that God will grow them in this way.
  3. And third thing that he asks for is for their assurance. This is a great thing to ask for someone else. Many are Christians who struggle because their sense of their own sinfulness, the tenderness of their consciences, causes them to worry if they really are children of God, saved by the grace that comes in and through Jesus Christ. These people need our prayers for them to attain to full assurance; that they will know for sure that God has lavished upon them such great love that they should be called children of God.[6]


There is one other, perhaps surprising, way that we can work hard for others. And we find it earlier in the letter to the Colossians. Here Paul, after telling them that he contends “strenuously” and “with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me”[7], says, “I want you to know how hard I am contending for you”.[8] Now Paul does not do this so that they will heap praise on him. He does it because he knows how good it is for them to know that there are people wrestling in prayer on their behalf. The God of the Bible will hear such prayer.


So, then, if you want to work hard for other believers, then wrestle in prayer for them to be kept as Christians, to grow in knowledge and love of Jesus doing that which is pleasing to him, and that they will attain to assurance. And then tell them that you are praying these things for them.


One more thing to note before I close: do you see how Paul tells us that he contends with the energy that Christ supplies to him? Praying the way that Epaphras and Paul prayed is not natural. It requires the grace of God at work in a person to do it and to do it consistently. This is the kind of working for others that non-Christians cannot do. So, if you want to work hard for others in prayer you will need to reply on the power of Christ at work in you. Pray first to him that he will supply you with all you need to work hard for your Christian brothers and sisters and to pray with all your might for others that they might be saved.

[1] Colossians 14:12-13

[2] I say “permanent” because sometimes, in the life of a Christian, there will be times of stagnation when growth seems distant. However, even in those times God is using them to further our growth.

[3] Philippians 1:9; Colossians 1:9.

[4] Ephesians 1:17-20.

[5] Colossians 1:10.

[6] 1 John 3:1

[7] Colossians 1:29.

[8] Colossians 2:1.