The Need to Focus in Order to Finish


Text: "And say to Archippus, See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord'" (Col. 4:17).

Thought: As important as getting started is, it is just as important to finish. The Apostle Paul was a great encourager and exhorter, especially when faithfulness was needed. In this short text at the end of the glorious letter to the Colossians, the Apostle is seeking to do just that. As we view this text, consider it an illustration of the need for faithfulness in doing the will of the Lord. Observe first of all:

I. The Need for Exhortation
"And say to Archippus." This exhortation is to be addressed to Archippus, who was probably a church leader. He may in fact be the same Archippus referred to in Paul's letter to Philemon (vs. 2). But, let's pause to consider who was supposed to "say" this to Archippus.

The directive is in the plural, and it seems to include the readership of this letter. In other words, the church or some people representing the church were to pass on these words of exhortation to Archippus. This was a church matter, indeed an important church matter. We have no idea why such a specific and strong word of exhortation and encouragement was needed, but obviously the Apostle Paul was concerned that Archippus be told to complete the ministry he was given to do. We find Paul encouraging and challenging Timothy and Titus in their ministries, and the Apostle was constantly exhorting his readers. Even though we should be obedient to the Lord and faithful in service, words of encouragement are needed many times along the way. The Lord may ask you and me to be encouragers in the immediate future for the furtherance of His work and glory. Also, we may need that word ourselves today.

II. The Need for Attention
"Seethe ministry that you have received in the Lord." The command to "see" may have the sense of giving attention to or to focus on. As we have mentioned, we could speculate as to the reason(s) for the need for this specific call to attention, but what is clear is that Archippus needed to give attention to the ministry he had received in the Lord. Whatever that ministry was, whether a specific service or a broader meaning of the word "ministry," Archippus was to give it full attention.

And it is instructive to underline that Paul sees this ministry as having been "received in the Lord." This ministry was given to Archippus, he had received it, and therefore it was his responsibility. Ultimately, his accountability was to the Lord, for he received this ministry "in the Lord." By way of application, is it not true that we can get distracted by things that the Lord has not given us to do? We can get side-tracked by trivial pursuits or by responsibilities that we put on ourselves or others put on us, responsibilities that actually are not from the Lord or even for the Lord. Archippus needed to make his ministry, the ministry given to him, the ministry he had received, a priority concern. Maybe we need to ask ourselves what the Lord has given to us to do. Are we seeing to it that what the Lord has entrusted to us is being done through Him and for Him?

III. The Need for Completion
"See that you fulfill the ministry."     The actual word order in the original text is different from the translation we have used. The meaning is well-preserved, but the sentence ends "that it you fulfill." The "it" is the ministry, and what needs to happen is that the ministry needs to be fulfilled. In short, Archippus was faithfully to see through to completion the ministry he had received. The word "fulfill" and similar words in this letter are key words to the theme and thrust of this majestic letter. Here the word is used in the simplest way for faithfully doing what the Lord had called Archippus to do.

When the Apostle shared his parting words to the Ephesian elders, he spoke of his life's goal as being to "finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24). Faithfully seeing through to fulfillment (or to the end) is a common Biblical theme. Was it not true of our Lord Jesus Himself that he finished the work the Father gave Him to do (John 17:4), He saw it through to completion (John 19:30)? Whether in the small seasonal ministries" the Lord gives us to do, or viewing our lives as a whole, we need to see through to completion the Lord's will for us.

Thrust: Faithfulness calls for focus and fulfillment. Are we lacking focus on what the Lord has given us to do? Is it time to re-focus? Have we lost the goal of finishing what the Lord has given us to do? Let's focus in order to finish well.

David L. Olford teaches expository preaching at Union University's Stephen Olford Center in Memphis, Tennessee.

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