Fighting FOR One Another

Encouragement for Your Heart and Mind from Pastor David Staff

Pamela and I moved to Ames, Iowa from Greeley, Colorado in late summer of 1993. Briana (4th grade) and Cameron (6th grade), two large dogs (Champ and Tipper), and a loaded U-Haul all in tow. Just a couple weeks before, we were scouring the city looking for a place to live. You know the drill. It’s never easy landing in a place you’ve never lived before.

Should we rent? Should we buy? Should we build? Who knew?

During one of our searching days, we walked into an open house and met realtor Gene (“Jeanie”) Johnson, who greeted us with a winning smile and a big hug. We immediately liked her even as she exhibited a personal interest in us that we found to be rare. For some reason, though a complete stranger, we found ourselves trusting her.

Over the course of several days, as Gene worked with us, we decided to build a new home in a new part of town. Still, we needed to move to Ames before the home would be finished. This meant finding another place to rent that we could afford, that would take a young family with active canines, and for less than a year! Still, Gene was at our elbow, and when she found us a place, we had to ask the owner if we could “rent with dogs.”

The owner, a lawyer in town, pushed back. “No,” he said. “No pets, no dogs. One year.”

It was then Pamela and I discovered what it was to have someone fight for you. I’ll never forget over-hearing Gene on the phone. “Look!,” she almost barked on the phone, “this is a sweet young family, very responsible, and THEY ARE DOG PEOPLE! They NEED TO BE in your townhouse! And you need to let them rent it and live here for 5 months!!”

To our surprise, Gene prevailed for us. I would come to discover that to have Gene Johnson as your advocate was a very good thing. We have loved her, and she has loved us, ever since.

In my personal devotions, I’ve been spending time in Paul’s letter to the Colossians. He’s writing from incarceration in Rome. The end of chapter 4 is particularly interesting. Paul lists the names of 8 people in 12 verses. Each name is worth studying. Yet one is unique.
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. For I bear witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. (Col. 4:12-13).
“Always struggling on your behalf in his prayers.” The Greek verb means “to struggle, to fight for, to compete in order to win for."

Geez…who does that?

Paul’s answer: A servant of God. Someone who gets it that we stand confident and mature in God’s will when someone else is praying for us to that very end. Praying with effort. Battling. Contending for. We get the English word “agony” and “agonizing” from this verb.

My mind remembers how Gene contended for us in a tight real estate market in Ames. Her winning the battle for us put us in a wonderful spot as a family for years to come.

As you and I participate in this wonderful body, the Free Church of Cañon City, let’s remember that it’s more than merely coming and being blessed personally by a gathered worship service. It’s more about looking around and praying for those who need God’s grace and help to stand fully assured in all the will of God. Praying on Sunday. And Tuesday. And again on Friday.

Someone near by…perhaps next to you, or ahead of you, or perhaps behind you in the chairs…may need you to fight for them as they seek to grow in Christ. From whom are you contending?

Be a servant. Be a Gene Johnson (if you will). Be an Epaphras. Let’s fight for one another in our praying, that Christ Himself be fully formed in us.
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