TWO KEYS TO BEING A SUCCESSFUL WITNESS
My devotion tonight is taken out of Colossians chapter four. The book of Colossians is a great book of doctrine that Paul wrote while he was in prison. He probably wrote it between sixty and sixty-two AD. In chapter four of the book, Paul is giving the people of Colossae several pieces of advice that will help them to lead successful Christian lives. So with that background in mind, let’s read Colossians 4:2-6 together.
“Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”
Let us pray.
Do you ever wonder what it is going to take to actually convince another person to become a Christian? Do you ever wonder why it seems like we never have the right words to say, or why it seems like the person you are witnessing to is not even listening? When Paul wrote this passage in Colossians, he was writing to a group of people who were probably asking questions just like these. But in these short five verses, Paul gives two very helpful strategies for winning the lost to Christ. That is why the title of my devotion this evening is “Two Keys to Being a Successful Witness.”
KEY #1: CONSTANT PRAYER
Paul begins verse two of our text with three simple words. “Continue in prayer.” Sometimes in our English Bibles, there are just no good words to express what Paul trying to say in the Greek. In the Greek, the word for “continue” that is used here is much more powerful than our English word. The Greek word for “continue” means to be persistent, to stay alongside, to be loyal to someone or something. The very next phrase in verse two tells us to “watch in the same.” The word “watch” there actually means to watch intensely. Have you ever been watching T.V. late at night, and you really want to make it until the end of your show, but it is getting really hard to keep your eyes open? Or those really fun times when you are driving down the highway late at night, and you can’t seem to focus on the road in front of you. What do you do in those situations? We all have different strategies, but here’s what I do. For watching television, I might have to turn the living room lights on, or sit up straighter, get up and walk around for a minute. And if I’m driving late at night, I have three strategies. My first is to down an energy drink of some sort. My second strategy is to roll down the window and stick my head out in the wind like I am golden retriever or something. And then if it gets really bad, sometimes I’ll stop at a rest area and run a few laps around the parking lot. We do all of those crazy things because we want to be alert, and we don’t want to miss a thing, whether it be the cliff hanger at the end of your show, or whether it be the cliff on the road ahead that you’re trying not to drive off of.
This is the kind of “watching” that Paul is urging the Colossians to do. He wants them to pray continually, and to watch intensely so that they do not miss a thing. And Paul then tells us to pray and to watch with thanksgiving. So what exactly is it that Paul is telling us to pray for? Let’s read verses three and four now together. ”Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.”
Paul is telling the Colossians to pray that God would open a door of utterance. What Paul is telling the Colossians here is that they need to pray that God would open doors of proclaiming the gospel. And then verse four tells them to specifically pray that he is able to make the gospel “manifest.” The word “manifest” is an old word that means “clear” or “simple.” Paul is telling the Colossians to pray that he will not only have opportunities to preach the gospel, but that he would present with clarity, so that people will understand it.
I hope you know that this is the kind of prayer that God loves to answer! I personally do not think that God is too pleased when we ask Him for a new Lamborghini, or a new 10,000 square foot mansion. But I fully believe that God loves it when we ask Him to give us opportunities to share the gospel! But Paul knew that by himself, he would fail to preach the gospel every time. Because what we have to realize as Christians is that winning souls is God’s business, not our business. We will never understand in this lifetime how exactly prayer changes things. We know that God can do whatever He pleases, and that He does not need us for anything. But we also know that God chooses to use our prayers as platforms for accomplishing His purposes. And Paul in these two verses is telling us to pray that God will give us times to share the gospel. And God, in some mysterious way, chooses to answer our prayers.
So the first key to being a successful witness is to spend time on your knees in prayer, begging God for not only the right times to share your faith, but also for the right words when He gives you opportunities. And as verse two told us, we need to pray continually, and to watch intensely for God’s answer to our prayers. Because we can know one thing for sure, if you pray for chances to spread the gospel, God will answer your prayers!
KEY #2: CONSTANT READINESS
Let’s read verses five and six again together. “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” In these two verses, Paul gives us two different pieces of advice on how to be constantly ready to share the gospel. The first piece of advice is to “walk in wisdom.” The idea here is that whenever you are out in the world, whether that means at work, at school, at a relative’s home, or even at the grocery store; you need to be aware of how your actions either help or hinder God’s cause. We need to take every opportunity to bring other people closer to Christ. Paul then tells us to “redeem the time.” The Greek here is an idiom that literally means “to buy up the time.” To snatch up every chance we get to do something for God. In 2008, Senator Barack Obama had so much money stored up for his presidential campaign that he literally did not have enough ways to spend it. I read that late in his campaign, he had so much money left over that he bought up every commercial spot available on certain channels. He wanted every possible chance to get his message across to the American people. And as you noticed, his strategy was apparently quite successful. And if a politician thinks that his message is important enough that he redeemed every possible chance to communicate his message, how much more should we! President Obama touted a message of political and economic change. But we tout a message of the total change of a person’s heart, and a total change of destination after death. We must always strive to make the best use of the time God has given us on planet Earth.
After Paul tells us how to walk, he tells us how to talk in verse six. Let’s read verse six one more time. “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” Paul now gets into the nitty gritty of how to communicate the gospel. He tells us that our speech must be full of grace and seasoned with salt. The phrase “full of grace” is especially convicting to me. So often I like to simply argue the tenets of Christianity with people. I thoroughly enjoy a good debate with a person that believes in evolution, so that I can crush him with the weight of scientific evidence in favor of creation. And I thoroughly enjoy the look on an Atheist’s face when he realizes that he cannot counter the point that I have just made. But did you know that that is not how God intends for us to witness to the very people that He died for? God intends us to speak to people “full of grace.” Paul tells us to let every word that comes out of our mouth have the other person’s best interest at heart. John 3:16 tells us that God loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son so that we would not perish, but have everlasting life. If we contain even an ounce of that love for the outside world, then communicating the gospel with grace will be no trouble at all.
But right after that, Paul told the Colossians to let their communication be seasoned with salt. Salt is absolutely amazing in how many functions it has. But there are two functions of salt that particularly apply to this context. First, salt adds flavor, and makes certain foods easier to swallow. And second, salt stops certain foods from decaying. So how do we communicate the gospel in such a way that it is “seasoned with salt?” To be perfectly honest, I don’t know exactly what it means to communicate the gospel “seasoned with salt.” But just like salt prevents meat from decaying, the gospel message is the only message that will prevent men and women from the eternal decay of death in Hell. So when we tell others the good news, we must do it in a way that the pure message of the gospel gets out. Earlier I mentioned that my tendency is to be over-argumentative when telling others about God. The opposite end of the spectrum is to feel like God wants you to witness to your neighbor, but it takes you twenty-five years to do it, because you’ve forgotten the salt. So when Paul tells us to communicate the gospel with both grace and salt, I believe he’s telling us that we must do it in a loving way, but we must get across the core message of the gospel, even if it hurts their feelings, and even if they don’t want to hear it.
So all of that being said, we can now see that principle number two means that we must be constantly ready for opportunities to tell others about Christ. And when we do get those opportunities, we must do it in a way that both communicates our love, but also in a way that communicates the message that all men have sinned against God, and the only way to be forgiven is to repent of our sins and trust in Christ as our Lord and Savior.
Tonight we have looked at two very important keys to being a better witness. In one way, you could say that principle number one is asking God to do His part, and principle number two is preparing ourselves to do our part. Have you ever seen the movie “Field of Dreams?” If you haven’t, it’s a kinda strange movie about a guy who plays baseball with some ghosts in the middle of a corn field. But within that movie is the famous quote, “If you build it, they will come.” I think the Apostle Paul would say, “If you pray for them, the opportunities will come.” Paul told us to pray earnestly that God will both give us opportunities to share our faith, but also give us the words when those opportunities arise. But then he told us that we must do our parts, and prepare ourselves for when the opportunities arise. Being a successful witness is one of the most important duties that we Christians have. And if we are to do it successfully, we must pray, pray, and pray some more. And we must be prepared, because God will answer our prayers.
Let us pray.
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