Serving Sentences Colossians 4a
Stephen Caswell© 1999
Answered Prayer--With Cattle
Shortly after Dallas Theological Seminary was founded in 1924, it almost came to the point of bankruptcy. All the creditors were going to foreclose at noon on a particular day. That morning they met in the president's office with Dr. Chafer for prayer that God would provide. In that prayer meeting was a man by the name of Harry Ironside. When it was his turn to pray, he prayed in his characteristic manner: "Lord, we know that the cattle on a thousand hills are Thine. Please sell some of them and send us the money."
While they were praying, a tall Texan with boots on and an open collar stepped up to the business office and said, "I just sold two carloads of cattle in Ft. Worth. I've been trying to make a business deal but it fell through, and I feel compelled to give the money to the seminary. I don't know if you need it or not, but here's the check!" A little secretary took the check and, knowing how critical things were financially, went to the door of the prayer meeting and timidly tapped. When she finally got a response, Dr. Chafer took the check out of her hand. It was exactly the amount of the debt! When he looked at the name, he recognized the cattleman in Ft. Worth, and turning to Dr. Ironside said, "Harry, God sold the cattle!"
I have called tonights sermon Serving Sentences. In this passage, Paul deals with the ministry of words. I have not forgotten the verses at the end of chapter 3. They deal with relationships in the family and the workplace. And because we have dealt with this in detail in Ephesians I thought that I would skip over them here. In these verses Paul is not referring to pastors only! He is mainly addressing church members. He emphasizes how we can serve the Lord and particularly how our words can serve us. The main emphasis of this passage is on our speech. Christians can use their tongues to pray, praise God, witness, sing and encourage each other. Or we can use them to criticize others, gossip, discourage others and speak perverse things.
I. Pray For The Word & II. Practice The Word
a.Prayer Is Excellent Work
Paul commands believers to pray. But he is to wise to leave it there. He gives specific details how we should pray. Prayer is not always easy, in fact it is often hard work. Paul mentions three things related to prayer in Colossians 4:2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving;
Firstly, Paul commands believers to continue earnestly in prayer. Why does he say this? Because praying is often difficult and we feel like quitting. The words continue earnestly proskarterew mean to persevere, be constantly diligent, to continue steadfastly, to be devoted to. This word is used in Romans 12:12: rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; Paul is emphasizing the fact that prayer is vital to the Church of God.
The early church devoted themselves to prayer and the word and God blessed them mightily. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 we are commanded to, Pray without ceasing. This doesn't mean 24 hours a day but rather at many different times during the day. We need to remain in close fellowship with the Lord so that we can always bring our petitions before Him. God changes us through prayer too. He transforms our lives and shapes our will. All Christians can pray, not just a few select men or the leaders. God wants to bless us and our service for Him. But He also wants us to seek His guidance and enablement. Often elderly folk think they are unable to do much in the Lord's service. But they can do the most important thing, they can pray more. Elijah prayed earnestly and it didn't rain for 3 1/2 years. Later he prayed 7 times and God broke the drought.
It is said of James, the head of the Church in Jerusalem, that the skin of his knees was as hard as a camel's from constantly praying, and that he could pray for days together. To our age that may seem laughable; but one should remember what eloquence and fullness of heart is implied by being able to pray for so long without growing tired, particularly as we have difficulty enough in making a truly heartfelt prayer.
Secondly Paul tells believers to be vigilant in their prayers. The word vigilant grhgorew means to be watchful, to be alert, attentive, to be wide awake. Paul wants believers to pray thoughtfully, not half asleep. Do you only pray at the end of day when your body is tired? We must be alert and pray earnestly if our prayers are to be effective. Peter tells us another reason to be vigilant in prayer. 1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. We should pay attention to the circumstances we are in and pray accordingly, intelligently. This why we need to be informed about the needs of Christian ministry so that we can pray more effectively.
Prayer lists and diaries are excellent ways to help us pray vigilantly. We must be earnest and awake. Ephesians 6:18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— The word watchful is the same word translated vigilant in Colossians 4:2. Paul says that we are to pray in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is willing even when the flesh is weak. Let us avail ourselves of God's help. Vigilant prayer requires us to be informed, awake and earnest.
Great Thoughts & Sayings: Prayer
Ÿ The fewer the words, the better the prayer. -- Martin Luther
Ÿ I have lived to thank God that all my prayers have not been answered. -- Jean Ingelow
Ÿ All things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. -- Jesus Christ
Ÿ And Satan trembles when he sees, the weakest saint upon his knees. -- William Cowper
Ÿ Nothing costs so much as what is bought by prayers. -- Seneca
Ÿ Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays. -- S. A. Kierkegaard
Ÿ Prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge to Satan. -- John Bunyan
Thanksgiving is a part of prayer that we often overlook. We are usually quick to bring our requests to the Lord but slow to thank Him when He answers them. Ten lepers came to the Lord to be healed. After the Lord healed them all, only one came back to say thank you. We must not be like the nine, but like the one. We should thank the Lord for His faithfulness and answers to prayer. We can thank Him for the grace He gives for the current trials. Thanksgiving causes us to see our problems in the right light. We see a great God and small problems. A famous minister once said much prayer, much power, no prayer, no power. How much power is in your life?
b. Prayer Empowers The Work
Colossians 4:3-4 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.
1. The Minister
Paul now asks the Colossians to pray for him. Paul was not ashamed to ask his friends to pray for him even though he was an apostle. He needed prayer support for himself and his ministry. Satan fiercely attacks the Lord's ministers. Therefore we need your prayers to overcome Him. Prayer is very important. God's work often struggles for the lack of it. When people tell me they are praying for me I am greatly encouraged. Unfortunately not very many people tell me this. I need your prayers and so do all the Lord's servants. The Devil places obstacles before us to hinder the work. He uses wicked men and disobedient Christians to hinder it too. 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2: Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith. Merril Tenney said this, If a church wants a better pastor, it can get one by praying for the one it has. The Apostle Paul would agree with that statement! We need your prayers!
Before I mentioned how prayer lists can help us to pray more intelligently. Many mission societies and ministries publish prayer calendars. These are good. Prayer letters from the workers are also of great assistance. Paul did this too. He asked for Christians to pray for him and gave them details of how he was going; his particular needs. Paul found out about the Churches to pray for them. Col 4:7-9 Tychicus, a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that he may know your circumstances and comfort your hearts, with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will make known to you all things which are happening here.
2. The Message
Paul also requests prayer for the message. He recognized that Satan resists the minister and the message. So Paul requests that they pray that God would open the doors of opportunity to speak. This is very important. Unless God opens the doors the minister can't preach. Unless He opens people's hearts they will remain lost. Revelation 3:7-8 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”: “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Also 1 Cor 16:8-9 But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
Openness To Speak
Colossians 4:3-4 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. Paul recognized that He needed God's empowering to speak the word clearly. The mystery of the Gospel is both deep and simple. It takes the Spirit of God to reveal it to men. Unless the Lord does this people's minds remain blinded to the truth. Paul was often persecuted for preaching the Gospel. I am sure that he would have been tempted to lay low to avoid this. That is why he asks the Colossians to pray for him. He makes a similar request to the Ephesians.
Ephesians 6:18-19 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, Paul was concerned that he preach the word with boldness and not be intimidated by the enemy. He wanted to preach the word as he ought. To speak in a way that is right or proper. Often I have to deal with subjects that are offensive to some. I need your prayers that I might be faithful to the task God has given me. Ministers need divine assistance to preach the word. We need your prayers. We are having a prayer night here on 27 th October for this very purpose. We are going to pray for Bill's meetings here that weekend. Will you come?
Charles Spurgeon's Power Room
Mr Spurgeon was showing someone around the Church premises before a service. He showed them many rooms set aside for particular ministries. Then he showed them the power room. He said it was the most important room in the church. The visitors were surprised when they looked in and found a number of people praying. Spurgeon had people praying while he was preaching.
a.Prayer Is Excellent Work
1. Perseverance - Paul commands believers to continue in prayer because it is vital to the church. Are you persevering in prayer? Do you pray often throughout the day? You should! Or are you leaving it to others? Much prayer means much power. How much power is in your life?
2. Vigilance - Are you earnest in your prayers? Or do you say a couple of lines before you go to sleep? We should be informed and alert! Do you use a prayer list or missionary prayer letters?
3. Thanksgiving - Do you remember to thank God for answered prayer? Is thanksgiving a part of your prayer life? It should be. Thanksgiving gives us the right perspective of our problems. We are encouraged when we remember God's past faithfulness. Prayer is like breathing for a Christian. It enables us to draw on God's life and power. How much air are you getting?
b. Prayer Empowers The Work
1. The Minister - Do you pray for the Lord's ministers? I trust you do because we need it! Satan is ever vigilant against God's people and particualrly His ministers. We must resist Him in prayer. Do you pray that we will be delivered from wicked and unreasonable men?
2. The Message - Paul also asked prayer for the Gospel that it might go out freely. Do you pray that God will grant ministers open doors of opportunity? Do you pray for boldness to speak the word plainly? If the great apostle Paul needed prayer to minister the word, how much more do we need it? Do you pray for the services and preachers here each week? You should!
After Paul commanded prayer for the word he told them to:
II. Practice The Word
a. Wise Walk
Colossians 4:5 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.
The word walk here is the same one we looked at in Ephesians. It refers to the way we live, our lifestyle. Paul commands believers to walk wisely. After we start the day in prayer we go out and live for the Lord. Prayer and Christian living go hand in hand. Believers should think through their actions. We must be careful of what we do with our lives. Paul says that people are watching us. So we need to ensure that our actions won't spoil our witness to the lost.
Paul says that we should redeem the time. This word redeem eJxagorazw means to buy back, or rescue something from loss or misapplication. We can waste our time on things that are of no eternal value. Or we can buy back our time and use it for eternity. Paul commands believers to live in a way that makes a positive impact on the lost. Our works should point people to God. Christians should be known as hard working, honest citizens that love people. Sometimes people won't listen to our testimony. Sometimes we can't witness to them. But they are always watching our lives. We should live the Gospel out before them. Ephesians 5:15-16 says the same thing. See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
At the Crossroads
Bishop Walpole, the father of Hugh Walpole, the novelist, once said to a friend who was weighing a life call: "If you are uncertain of which of the two paths to take, choose the one on which the shadow of the cross falls." Walk wisely and live for Christ at all times!
b. Worthy Talk
Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.
Paul again deals with the matter of our speech. He says that believers speech, literally words, should be gracious, seasoned with salt. The word season means to prepare, make savory, to make it interesting and fruitful. Salt adds flavor, it preserves things from going bad, and can kill germs and be used medicinally. This word is in the perfect tense. Christians are to once and for all prepare their speech. If someone says to you, take this with a grain of salt. Tell them to add it themselves and refer to this verse. Cheap inappropriate speech doesn't fit a Christian anymore than fine clothes suit a pig. Therefore we ought to speak words that are appropriate. When Christians season their speech with salt they can know the proper way to answer every man. Christians should be the salt of the earth!
Sins of Speech
To say what is untrue, what is unkind, or to say it unkindly, constitutes failure in Christian living and Christian witness. -- George Duncan
Some folk continually complain and grumble. They criticse and never have anything positive to say. Christians musn't be like that. Our speech should give testimony to the Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 3:15-16 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. Pure speech and conduct will point people to Christ. It will provide opportunities to witness to the lost. They will want to know why we are different.
Our tongues shouldn't be used for criticism and gossip. Christians shouldn't complain and grumble like the Israelites in the wilderness. Our speech should be savory, fitting for every occasion. Ephesians 5:18-20 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
a. Wise Walk -- How do you spend your time? Are you living wisely before the lost? Is your life pointing them to Christ? Do you make the most of the opportunities that God gives you? Or are you wasting it? Will you having anything to show on judgment day when God reviews your service? We all have the same amount of time each day. How will you spend yours?
b. Worthy Talk --Are your words gracious, seasoned with salt? Is your conversation fruitful and interesting? Are you thankful or do you grumble and complain? Do you know how to answer every man? Do you share the hope that is in you with the lost?
Jude 20-21,24-25 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen.