February 5, 2017, saw the most miraculous comeback in Super Bowl history. The Patriots were down 28–3 to the Atlanta Falcons with 8:31 to go in the third quarter after a Tevin Coleman touchdown. Tom Brady led the Patriots to score on five straight drives—including two touchdown drives with two successful two-point conversions—to send the game to overtime with the game tied at 28. The Patriots would go on to win the coin toss, elected to receive the ball, and James White scored on a 2-yard touchdown to give the Patriots the unbelievable win. Most all those who write about the game focus on the amazing prowess of Brady and the Patriots offense. In my reading about the game recently, little is written about the failures of the Falcons’ defense. They did an incredible job for the first 37 minutes of the game. If they would have finished strong, Super Bowl LI would have had a very different outcome.
The Laodicean church written about in the New Testament was not too far geographically from Colosse. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the closing words to the Colossians, included a very special message for the church in the neighboring city. He wrote in Colossians 4:16a And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans…” Paul is telling the Colossians to give attention to reading and be sure this letter is only read in your church; be sure to read it to the church of Laodicea. Why the church at Laodicea? Because, as we know from the Scriptures, they will not finish strong.
We do not know a whole lot about that church at Laodicea, but it is interesting that Paul wants this letter read to them. V16 concludes, “and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.” We don’t know what that letter is. That’s a mystery. But there is no mystery that this message included in the canon of Scripture under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is a message to us. The Laodiceans needed to finish strong. And that is true for us as well.
This is not the only specific word that is given to the Laodicean church. Thirty-five years after Paul wrote this letter, the Lord Jesus addresses a letter to the Laodicean church. There is evidence that the Laodicean church, at the time when Paul wrote to the Colossians, was an exciting and vibrant church. But thirty-five years later when the Lord Jesus comes to write to the church at Laodicea there is no excitement, no enthusiasm, no evangelism in the church. Revelation 3:14-17 “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; (15) I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. (16) So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. (17) Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”
By this time, rather than finishing strong, we see a picture of a lukewarm church that is in such a condition that the Lord Jesus says, “You make me sick at my stomach.” How did this church become lukewarm and indifferent? I think the key is back in the book of Colossians where Paul says in this 16th verse, “I want you to have this letter read to the Laodiceans.”
I personally believe that we are living in the days just before the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. I don’t know when Jesus is going to come. What is it that will keep us strong until He comes?
What is there in Colossians that can keep us from finishing like the Laodiceans? What is there in this letter that can keep you and me from becoming indifferent and cold and unconcerned in our faith, and help us to finish strong? I believe the instruction and encouragement of Paul’s epistle is what we need to hear and to heed. I believe it can be summed up in the very next verse in Paul’s specific instruction to one man: Colossians 4:17 “And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.” Dear reader, whether you are faithful church member, member of the support staff of your church, part of your pastoral leadership team, or senior pastor. These words to Archippus are essential and encouraging words to us. Think of it in this equation:
Unwavering Focus + God’s Ministry – Our Own Ambitions = Strong Finish
“Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.”