STUDY | Spend the week studying Colossians 4:7-18. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.
DETERMINE | Which discussion points and study questions will work best for your group.
PRAY | Pray for our pastors and this week’s message, the upcoming group time, your group members, and their openness to God’s Word.
LANDING POINT | Receive and give the gift of gratitude this holiday season.
Remember the 4 Rules for Small Group Discussion
- Confidentiality. What’s said in the group stays in the group.
- No cross-talk. Be considerate of others as they share. Refrain from side conversations and texting during group time.
- No fixing. We are not in the group to fix each other. Jesus does that part.
- Sharing. Be sensitive to the amount of time you share. Don’t talk too much or too little. Every person brings something valuable to the group.
As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.
LIFE IN COMMUNITY
The holidays are upon us. It’s the time of year when our calendars get filled up with travels near and far to see family, spending an absurd amount of time in the kitchen, gift shopping and giving your time to serve the needs of others.
The holiday season also means being with people. A lot of them. Some of those relationships bring life and joy. Others can be awkward or even painful. Some relationships are light-hearted and fun. Others are filled with so much tension you could cut it with a knife.
As Paul closes his letter to the Colossians, he mentions some of the relationships in his life. Paul needed others in his life, and so do we. This week your group will discuss how to navigate the different relationships in your life with the gospel as your compass.
Q: What one word would you use to describe the holiday season?
Q: Why do you need others in your life?
Select 2-3 questions to discuss as a group.
We can read Paul’s final greetings to the Colossians as just a list of names, many of which we don’t recognize or find difficult to pronounce. But there’s more in this passage than meets the eye. Paul is giving us insight into his fellowship, into the circle of believers who labor alongside him to take the gospel to foreign lands. We might see Paul as a spiritual giant with determination and an unmatched work ethic. Yes, Paul worked hard and his output was remarkable. But he couldn’t do it alone. He needed help to accomplish the mission God gave him.
read: Colossians 4:7–17. Make a list of the key people in your fellowship.
Q: Name someone who’s helped you in a big way in your life? How did they help?
A CATALOG OF COMPANIONS
Let’s take a look at the people with whom Paul shares his ministry and what we learn about them from Paul’s descriptions.
Tychicus (trustworthy) – Paul’s faithful assistant sent to encourage the Colossians and to update them on Paul’s condition.
Onesimus (redeemed) – The former runaway slave from Colossae who’s mentioned in Paul’s letter to Philemon. He accompanies Tychicus.
Aristarchus (devoted) – As a fellow prisoner, Aristarchus is committed to being right beside Paul through the ups and downs of his ministry. Together, they faced all kinds of adversity, including a riot in Ephesus and a shipwreck at sea.
(John) Mark (recovered) – Paul refused to take Mark with him after he abandoned the apostle on his first missionary journey. Mark’s cousin, Barnabas, gave him a second chance and helped restore him. Later in life, it appears that Paul and Mark reconcile.
Jesus, who is called Justus (comforter) – Paul faced tough times on the mission field, and he could always rely on his brother Justus for comfort.
Epaphras (contender) – He was instrumental in bringing the gospel to Colossae. He is a prayer warrior who regularly contends for the Colossians and their faith.
Luke (beloved) – Luke is the multi-talented physician/historian/writer who has been with Paul throughout the years.
Demas (deserter) – Demas is mentioned in a positive light here. However, his love for the world later causes him to desert Paul and the faith.
Laodicean believers (family) – Paul sends greetings to his brothers and sisters in Christ in Laodicea. He mentions Nympha, a woman who opened her home as a gathering place for the Colossian church. Paul also gives a word of encouragement to Archippus, his fellow worker, to fulfill his mission.
Q: Why are encouragement and comfort important in relationships?
Q: Describe someone you believe is a true prayer warrior. What do they teach you about the importance of prayer?
Select 2-3 questions from this section to answer.
EVALUATING YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
The people Paul mentions at the end of Colossians help us understand the kinds of relationships we need to embrace and some we need to avoid. Evaluate the relationships in your life. Where do you see God working? As you consider your relationships, think about how you can do the following:
Speak. Express gratitude to God for life-giving relationships. Thank Him for the people you can depend on, for those who are faithful. Thank Him for those people you can call in the middle of the night, for those people who regularly pray for you. Give the gift of words to someone who continues to be by your side through thick and thin.
Celebrate. Praise God for the stories of redemption in your relationships. Surely there’s at least one Onesimus in your life who found grace and hope in Jesus.
Lean in. There may be some relationships where you need to seek reconciliation. Perhaps you’ve done something or something has been done to you that’s fractured the relationship. Lean into those relationships and take a bold step forward to recover them.
Let go. You might have one or more unhealthy relationships. You hold on to the them in hopes that circumstances (or the person) will change. But they don’t. Ask the Lord whether it might be time to distance yourself from or even end that relationship. Sometimes you have to let go of a relationship and trust God to take it from there.
Q: What’s one way you can give the gift of words to someone this week?
Q: What relationship do you need to lean into most in your life? How can you do that?
A GOSPEL GUIDE
The gospel radically reshapes the way we look at our relationships. Remember the story of Jesus this holiday season as you encounter family and friends. Let the gospel guide you as a compass to point you to your true North— Jesus. See how He came into this world and entered the mess of relationships to bring healing and reconciliation. Throughout His life on earth, He leaned into the relationships where most would be frustrated, give up or turn away. He brought comfort to those in distress and hope to the hopeless. He regularly celebrated the faith of others. He contended for us in prayer to His Father (John 17). He gave people like Peter a second chance. When you look at Jesus, you see a true friend and someone who never leaves your side.
What a Friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer! Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful Who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
—“What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” by Joseph Scriven
Q: How would you describe Jesus as a friend based on what you know about Him?
Q: What’s one change you need to make in order to be more like Jesus in your relationships?
Select 1 question from this section to ask your group.
THE GIFT OF GRATITUDE
When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.
Gratitude (or thanksgiving) is a powerful thing. Gratitude lets us see life and relationships with a fresh perspective, which is a gift from God. Gratitude acts as a shield to protect us from discontentedness, dissatisfaction, complaining, resentment, self-pity and the many things that can hinder our relationship with God and others.
Learn to receive and give the gift of gratitude this holiday season. Let gratitude be seen in how you speak, celebrate, lean in and let go in your relationships.
Q: Define gratitude in your own words.
Q: What would be different about your community if everyone took things with gratitude more?
Give thanks to God for the relationships you have. Praise Him that He works through your relationships to grow your faith and meet your needs, even in the hard ones. Ask Him to recover lost relationships. Ask the Father for wisdom in how to address unhealthy relationships.
Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:
• Read John 15:1–17 and reflect on how abiding in Jesus affects your relationships with others.
• Ask the group to share any stories or lessons learned where they see God at work in their lives.
Thanksgiving in the Bible “Thanksgiving was the focus of Old Testament worship (cf. 1 Chron. 16:4; Ps. 42:4), especially of pilgrimages to Jerusalem for feasts (100:4; 138:2). In the New Testament also thanksgiving is an activity that takes place in the community and with the focus of attention on the community (2 Cor. 1:11; Eph. 1:16; Phil. 1:3). The thanksgivings of God’s people are one means by which knowledge of God is spread (Ps. 57:9), and increased thanksgiving is the result of that proclamation (2 Cor. 4:15)."
Waging War in Prayer When Paul refers to Epraphras’s prayers he “uses [the Greek word agōnizomai] in [Col.] 1:29 (‘strenuously contend’) to refer to the struggle of his missionary labor. See also 1 Cor. 9:25 (“competes in the games”); 1 Tim. 6:12 (‘fight’); 2 Tim 4:7 (‘fought’). A noun form of this Greek word in Luke 22:44 (‘anguish’) describes how Christ prayed in Gethsemane.” Prayer is a great privilege. Jesus gives us direct access to the Father to lay our hearts open before Him and plead for change in you, in others and in the world.
Churches in the First Century Churches didn’t meet in separate buildings in Paul’s day. They met in homes that were large enough to accommodate a large group of people. Often these were the homes of wealthy believers like Nympha.
1. Allen C. Myers, The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 996
2. Douglas J. Moo, “The Letters and Revelation,” in NIV Zondervan Study Bible: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 2435.
3. Douglas J. Moo, “The Letters and Revelation,” in NIV Zondervan Study Bible: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 2435.