Faithful Service for Christ

7 Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, 9 and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here. (Colossians 4:7-9)

Paul begins, in verse 7 of Colossians 4, to end his letter to the church. He makes a few parting statements and names some people who have been helpful to him and who will be helpful to the church where this letter was going. As I have considered these closing remarks, it has been a good reminder of how God uses all kinds of people in all kinds of ways for the glory of Christ and for the good of His children. There is no end to the various tasks that God gives His people to do. Christianity is very participative. God draws us into His family, which we call the church, and when He does, He does so with our participation in mind. Think of a family where one member is only being served and never serves. God did not design the family that way, nor did He design His church that way. 

And every local church is unique, which means there are a variety of things to do, ways to serve in this church that may be different in other churches. There are some activities in churches that are not unique, but are mandatory in all churches, but there are also ministries that are unique. For instance, our church has a counseling ministry open to the community; not all churches do. Some churches reach out to school-age children with private Christian schools. Some support missions in Mexico, sending church members there to serve. Whatever God leads a church to do, He provides people to do it. Tychicus had a very unique role in the church, and we are going to talk about him some this morning. But did you know that God has a place for you to serve Him for His glory and for the good of His church? I’ll go even a little more personal and say, if you are a Christian and a member or regular attender here, then there are ways you should serve here in this church. 

Sometimes we get confused or maybe complacent about ministry in the church. Some may think that the church is a place to go and be fed on Sunday morning, and that is all of what it is. Or it is a place to go and get things: get love, get encouraged, get instruction, get entertained, get care, and so on; that the church exists in such a way that a few people serve a bunch of people. In fact, many people leave churches because they are not “getting” what they want or what they believe they need. And so they jump ship and go somewhere where they can get more. People who view church in this way tend to always be looking for a new church, a new place that can “serve” them better. 

Now it is true that when any of us come to church, there are some things that should be expected. Truth should be taught. Respect should be given to all those who come to church. Questions should be answered concerning how to live out our faith in the world. All should be loved. But in addition, everyone should be engaged in some capacity. That may have to do with ministries that are clearly laid out, non-negotiable things, or it may be ministries unique to this particular church. 

I think one benefit of looking at these two men that we are going to look at this morning is to consider the uniqueness of what God had for them to do, and along with that to see the importance of it, and also the seriousness with which they approached serving others. 

If any of us thinks there is not a way for us to serve within the body of Christ, then I believe we are not looking carefully enough at our giftings and the needs that are all around. Today I want us to consider the variety of ministry or service that God has for members of his church.

7 Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, 9 and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here. (Colossians 4:7-9)

Two men, servants of the Lord are mentioned here: Tychicus and Onesimus.

Tychicus is mentioned five times in the New Testament, and each time he is mentioned only briefly. But even though He is mentioned briefly, we can learn some things about who he was and the uniqueness of service that Christ gave him to do.

In Ephesians 2:10 we find this truth: that God has specific work for each of us to do, He created us for good works for the good of His church – “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Tychicus is first mentioned in Acts 20:4. He is mentioned with a group of people. Tychicus would be one who would travel with Paul to Jerusalem. They were going to take an offering to the needy there that they had collected from other churches. Traveling with Paul in the first century was not a small task. It’s not like today where we get in our comfortable, air conditioned cars, turn on the radio, and enjoy the ride. Travel for them was dangerous, not for the faint of heart. There were risks, and traveling in small groups was wise and provided a little more safety than traveling alone, but it was still hard and risky. Traveling was time consuming as well. 

Tychicus would be away from his family, friends, and his church for a long time. This was certainly a sacrifice. In addition, Paul had over and over again indicated that in Jerusalem there would be trouble. So it was not like the journey alone was dangerous, but they were likely to face danger at their destination too. Tychicus, knowing the dangers, stayed the course as a servant of the Lord in this unique role with Paul.

Now as we get to the time period of this writing to the Colossians, Paul had been in jail, because of his arrest in Jerusalem, for about two years. Since Paul’s arrest at Jerusalem, many things had transpired. He had survived a plot from Jewish leaders to murder him, had a trial before Felix, Festus, and Agrippa, and had been sent to Rome. Tychicus may have been with Paul through all of these events.

At the end of Paul’s life, during his second imprisonment in Rome, Tychicus was still with him. Paul, believing he would be executed soon, wanted to see Timothy one last time, but Timothy was pastoring a church in Ephesus. So Paul sent Tychicus to sit in for Timothy, freeing up Timothy to visit him. 

This is just some of what Tychicus did. He was a man on the go, he was flexible, his life was definitely one that was adventurous, and he even risked much as he served. He filled very important roles in the spread of the gospel and in the comfort of God’s people. His life was full, it was meaningful, it was necessary. God had work for him to do, and he apparently did it to the fullest!

Another thing that is interesting, I think, is that you don’t find a job description in the Bible for all that he did. I mean, we see some roles defined to some degree, like pastors, deacons, evangelists, teachers. We read of certain spiritual gifts, such as helps, administration, mercy, and others. But we don’t see job descriptions that outline all tasks that people are to do. And so much service is unique to a person’s circumstances and also in relation to the particular church to which they belong. There is a wide spectrum of types of ministry in God’s Kingdom.

Now, let’s look more specifically at Tychicus from our passage this morning – “Tychicus will tell you all about my activities.” We see that in this instance, Tychicus was doing the work of a messenger. He went from Paul to the church in Colossae to bring them news about Paul. He would have told them about Paul’s ministry activity in the jail, about Paul’s health, Paul’s plans, maybe how he is doing emotionally and spiritually. Paul was their friend, they would want to know how Paul is doing, and the only way for most of them to know would be through this method of someone coming to them who had been with Paul.

Tychicus was not just, however, a messenger. Paul says he is a beloved brother and a faithful minister and a fellow servant of the Lord! Three characteristics of Tychicus that all of God’s servants should possess. He was a loved brother, he was faithful, and he was a servant. These are characteristics that should be indicative of each one of us who belong to Christ. Isn’t that true? Sometimes we think people with such characteristics should be those with what seems like the greatest responsibilities in the church, but I don’t think that is true. Whatever role we assume or are given in the church, in service to Christ, we should do it as one who belongs to Christ, in faithfulness, as Christ’s servant. 

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24)

Paul calls Tychicus a beloved brother. He was not below Paul in stature, he was not just this or just that. He was a brother to Paul and a full participant in the family of God. This is true for each of us who belong to God through Christ Jesus. Every role is important, every task is meaningful if done for the glory of our Savior and with an attitude of thanksgiving. 

Paul also describes Tychicus as a faithful minister. He was faithful in whatever task he was given in service to Christ. This means he did it well, he did what he said he would do, he completed his work. This kind of faithfulness must be accomplished with a focus on our Lord as the one we serve. I don’t know about you, but some of what I do seems to have little impact on anyone. And yet, I have to remember I am not doing what I do just for people, but I am serving the Lord. If no one is watching, if no one sees, that’s okay, we are to be working for Christ, and He sees, He knows. That is faithfulness. 

Paul adds that Tychicus is a “fellow servant in the Lord.” He was a co-laborer with Paul, in the Lord. We get messed up in anything we do when we forget who we are serving, when we forget Christ who died for us, when we forget Christ who is now still serving us as He intercedes with the Father. He is the one we get to serve. Is that how we approach service? If we hang our heads, and dread the tasks that God gives to us, we have lost sight of the privilege, the joy of serving our Lord. If we look at service from the world’s perspective then we will compare what we are to do with what others may do and get down over it. If we compare our skills with other people’s skills, we may get discouraged. But if we remember that God made us the way we are with the skills and gifts we have uniquely for His glory, then we can do all things unto Him. He made us for that, and we can stop comparing our duties and our skills with others, and we can be faithful as His servant in all that we do. 

We see next the purpose of Tychicus’ journey to them: “I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts.” Paul hoped that the church in Colossae, the people there would be encouraged by the news they received.

We have talked over the last few weeks about Paul’s circumstances. He was in jail with no sign of him getting out. So think about that. Perspective is so important, having God’s perspective is so important. The news could have been, imagine if this was the complete message: “Well, Paul is still in prison, and it looks like he is not getting out.” What if that was the news, what if that was the message in its entirety that was sent to them? Well, that’s not very encouraging! That is sort of the truth though. But of course there is much more. The news was much more than that. 

Paul is ministering where he is, he is serving the Lord from prison, he is writing letters to churches with instructions, he is praying for God’s work to continue, his goal is not getting out of jail, his goal is to serve Christ where he is. A message from Paul to this church who is also facing troubles, his message of excitement over serving his Lord would be very encouraging! Like, “Wow, if Paul can endure in the strength of Christ all that he is dealing with, then can’t we do the same? If God can hold Paul up, can’t he hold me up? If God can give Paul joy under his extreme circumstances, then isn’t He able to do the same for me?” Talk about encouraging! They are getting a glimpse of a real world situation where God is showing Himself mighty and strong.

It is like when you are struggling through hardships and God is holding you up mightily beyond your ability, and you tell others this. Aren’t they encouraged? Like, “Maybe I too can face a trial in God’s power and might!” Isn’t that why we are encouraged when we read books like Foxe’s Book of Martyrs? When we read of extreme persecution and how many of our brothers and sisters in Christ have faced it with strength way beyond mere human ability, we see God’s work in others, and that is encouraging!

There was another with Tychicus: Onesimus. In case any of us are afraid that our past will keep us from serving Christ and being called a faithful brother or sister, we have this man Onesimus mentioned here. He was a man with a very sinful past. He was a runaway slave who Paul had led to Christ. In this instance Onesimus was returning to his master as a new creation in Christ, doing what must have been extremely hard to do, but returning anyway in what would be an act of repentance and restitution. Paul in another letter had urged the master to receive him back as a brother in Christ, and he is described as a faithful brother himself. He was not faithful because he had always loved Christ, he was faithful because he turned to Christ. Our past does not dictate our future. No matter what your past looks like, you can today walk in faithfulness to our Lord.

Everyone has a place in the body of Christ, everyone who is in Christ, and no one’s exclusive place is simply to come and be served. No, we are servants! Tychicus served and was faithful, Onesimus even served and was faithful. They are not to be exceptions, but examples of how each of us should serve as well.

Listen to how we are described regarding service in the body of Christ…

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. 

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. (1 Corinthians 12:4-20)

Everyone, including you and me, we all have a place. God gives gifts by His Spirit and He weaves them together in the church so that the whole body of Christ receives benefit. Your gifts of service benefits others, that is how God puts it together. Are you, am I, serving as unto the Lord for the glory of Christ?

And you know, sometimes that service simply looks like sending a note of encouragement to a friend who is dealing with some hard things. Sometimes it is supplying a physical need. Sometimes it is coordinating a mission trip or a service project in the community. The examples are endless. Where does God have you to serve? Are we using what God has given us to love Him by loving other people?

My prayer is that God would give us wisdom in using our gifts in each other’s lives.