Persistent Prayer & Persistent Wisdom, Col. 4.2-6 / Eric Fuller

REFOCUSING NATIONWIDE / REACHING WORLDWIDE

The above statement is the vision and commitment of Eric Fuller, Evangelist.
SBCToday is pleased to present his sermon below for your edification and encouragement.

Note that Eric is Evangelism Consultant for
Travis Avenue Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas
.

To learn more about Eric, click HERE, then you can book a meeting.
==============================================================

INTRODUCTION

Currently, the Church faces large obstacles. From crime to divorce to the protection of biblical marriage to abortion, believers are forced to take a stand.

Believers need to peruse policies and laws from the county level to the national level to protect citizens, marriages, families, and the unborn. We, however, must realize that new laws will not be the ultimate answer. A new president is not the answer. Congress is not the answer.

Our answer to the crime in America is the gospel.
Our answer to divorce in America is the gospel.
Our answer to the protection of biblical marriage in America is the gospel.
Our answer to all the problems in America today and forever is rooted in the gospel message of Jesus Christ!

You can legalize every sin under heaven, but a changed heart will not participate in legalized sin! The gospel is the answer!

BACKGROUND:

Before we see how this applies to Paul’s teaching in Colossians 4:2-6, let’s briefly discuss a bit of background to this Prison Epistle.

During Paul’s ministry in Ephesus, on his third missionary journey, a man named Epaphras came to know Christ. Interestingly enough, Epaphras wasn’t from Ephesus but Colossae. The Lord led him back to his hometown to start the Colossian church. Paul, however, had respect and authority to speak into the life of the church. Thus, he penned the Epistle.

What was the reason for the letter?

False teachers invaded the church, attempting to sway believers from their orthodox belief of the Christian faith. In this passage, notice how Paul responds to the church when dealing with these false teachers and those who are unbelievers. Keep in mind that he is in prison while writing.

The apostle Paul encouraged persistent prayer and persistent wisdom so that a door for the gospel message would open. Let’s read Colossians 4:2-6

Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; 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. Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

PERSISTENT PRAYER (2-4)

I. PERSONAL PRAYER (2)

The first imperative that Paul provides the church is to devote themselves to prayer. The prayer that he is speaking of isn’t a prayer of convenience or selfishness. The command to devote themselves to prayer is continual prayer. A prayer of intention, determination, and persistence is what they are called to do. Paul also desired that prayer would be a main characteristic or attribute of the Colossian church. He wanted others to know that they prayed, and when they prayed God showed up.

Today, many believers regard prayer as something done at church or when someone is in need. Paul’s theology of prayer focused on a much deeper sense, such as a struggle and consistent action.

Paul knew that through prayer, things change.
Through prayer, sick are healed.
Through prayer, the blind will see.
Through prayer the dead will rise.
Through prayer the lame will walk.
Through prayer, diseases are healed.
Through prayer, a heart that is spiritually dead headed for hell is spiritually awakened by the power of Jesus Christ.

Prayer works, but more importantly, God works through prayer!

The Apostle doesn’t elaborate on the content of this personal prayer, but we can be confident of what he is implying. A good theology of prayer will help us understand Paul’s command. Let me sum it up like this. Prayer is not for God, it is for you. Prayer isn’t about you, it is about God. We do not pray in order to get what we want but what God wants.

Paul not only commands that they pray, but he also shares with them how they are to pray. He explains that they should keep alert in their prayers or be watchful in their prayers. The term “alert” indicates a moral awareness while the term “watch” possesses a mental awareness. Paul encourages them to be aware of their surroundings and the activities of their day, especially as it relates to the spreading of the gospel.

He desired the church to notice individuals, families, communities, and so on who needed Jesus. He also urged them to be aware of any false teachings that would sway the church or anyone else away from the gospel. Paul was a gospel-centered believer who wanted all the churches under his care to be gospel-centered churches through their gospel-centered prayers.

Now Paul moves to an additional way for the church to pray. He teaches them to pray with an attitude or spirit of thanksgiving. What? Do you remember where Paul is as he is writing this? He is in prison because of the gospel. Not only is he going to urge the church to pray but to pray with an attitude of thanksgiving. Why?

When someone prays while being thankful, it changes his/her prayers. It takes the focus off us and places it on God. Thankfulness removes selfish ambitions and personal desires while recognizing who God really is and His actual place in our lives.

Now, some of us may think that Paul is speaking of being thankful for our food, comfort, and accommodations. We should be thankful for these things. But, like I previously mentioned, Paul’s theology of prayer goes a bit deeper. Paul wants the church to be thankful in regards to Col. 1:13-22. The Apostle is all about centering his life on the gospel and for others to know that gospel.

Concerning this idea of persistently praying as it relates to the first aspect, which is personal praying, what does this mean for us today?

The Lord desires for each of us to be determined and persistent in our prayers. We should pray and ask God to teach us to pray and give us words to pray. Developing a deeper theology of prayer and realizing that God works through prayer will not only benefit us as individuals but as an entire church, while most importantly bring more glory to God.

While we pray, the Lord wants us to be alert and watchful. Notice what is going on in our communities and church. What would the Lord have us to pray? While having a dedicated prayer life, ask the Lord to give you a spirit of thanksgiving for what Jesus has done. Yes, be thankful for all the material and human needs provisions of God, but never underestimate the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Focus your prayers and life around the center of the gospel message.

II. Intercessory Prayer (3-4)

Paul now moves to urge the church to pray for “us.” The “us” refers to specifically Paul and Timothy but also includes other traveling companions with them. The Apostle understood the power behind prayer. He knew that God worked through his faithful servant’s prayers. He desired this power and for God to work through the prayers of the Colossian church. That’s why he requested that they pray for him and his co-laborers.

Paul’s idea of “praying” focused again here in verse 3 with a continual act of obedience. He doesn’t want them simply to bow their heads, close their eyes, and pray for 30 seconds and be done with it. He wants them to lift him and his co-workers up to the Lord as often as possible on an on-going basis.

During Paul’s discussion of personal prayer, he indicated how to pray but not specifically what to pray. On the other hand, he specifically tells the church how they are to pray for him. He wants them to pray for an “open door for the word.” Paul doesn’t want them praying for his comfort or personal needs but for the gospel message to have an opportunity to be proclaimed.

Many of us would be asking others to pray that the jailhouse doors would open for us. But, Paul prays that a door for the gospel message would open. He viewed his current circumstance as another means by which to proclaim the word. Paul rejected the idea of allowing his current circumstance to dictate his dedication in preaching the gospel. We must do the same.

The phrase “mystery of Christ” is centered in the person and work of Christ, the gospel. Paul always looked for an opportunity to speak of this great mystery. Our finite minds will never fully comprehend this mystery of the gospel in its fullness and deepest form this side of heaven.

Verse 4 reveals many truths about the proclamation of the gospel message. Paul knew that God had to be the one who opened the doors. He would be the one who gave power. He would be the one who worked through the prayers of His church. On the other hand, the Apostle also realized that God’s plan for evangelism was His people.

Paul understood that even though God would supply the opportunity, the person, and the power. He must be faithful in his responsibility to deliver this wonderful message. He felt that responsibility to such an extent that he asked the church to pray that God would give him great clarity when speaking about the gospel.

Paul never relied on his lifestyle alone to preach the gospel, but prayed and had others to pray that God would give him the words to speak about that gospel with the utmost clarity. We must never utilize our Godly lifestyles as a substitute for the verbal proclamation of the gospel message.

Concerning this second aspect of persistent prayer in the form of intercessory prayer, what does this verse say to us today?

(1) Are we praying for others in our church to have opportunities to share the gospel?
Are we praying for our pastor, staff, and each other that God will provide the person and power, while giving us clarity to proclaim the message?
Are we praying that God would give us divine appointments with others throughout the day/week to share this life-changing message?

(2) Are we praying for those who don’t know Jesus?
Do we have a list of people that we are constantly praying for their salvation?

Not only should we develop a deeper theology of prayer, but also of evangelism. Every believer is responsible to share the gospel message with others. Leave the results to God and preach the gospel. I want to encourage you right now to begin thinking of people in your church that you will begin praying for clarity in verbally sharing the gospel. I also want to challenge each of you to make a list of 5 people that you know personally, who does not know Jesus. Begin praying for them and praying that God will provide you an opportunity to share with them.

Get ready! If you begin doing this, God will give you an opportunity. So, if you begin making a list and praying for others and praying for yourself, you will have to settle in your heart that you will be obedient when God provides the way, because He will!

Moms and dads will come to know the Lord.
Grandmothers and grandfathers will come to know the Lord.
Gangsters will come to know the Lord.
Alcoholics will come to know the Lord.
Families will be reconciled.
Repentance will be the norm.
Revival will break out in our city when God’s people become serious and intentional about sharing the gospel message.

PERSISTENT WISDOM (5-6)

I. Wisdom in the Use of Time

After Paul concludes his section of persistently praying for a door to open for the gospel message, along these same lines he now discusses the conduct of believers toward those who need Jesus.

Notice that, at the beginning of this book, Paul prayed that the church would know wisdom; but now he is praying that they actually live it out in their walk with Christ. He wanted the “outsiders” to experience Jesus through the wisdom of believers. This word “outsiders” is not a demeaning term. It simply means those who do not know Jesus Christ. They are outside the body of Christ.

F.F. Bruce states: “It remains true that the reputation of the gospel is bound up with the behavior of those who claim to have experienced its saving power.”

Paul makes a connection between wisdom and the use of time. He realizes that our time is short to proclaim the gospel message. The opportunities that he had in prison would be for a short time. The church would have a limited supply of opportunities as well in their context to share the gospel. We all have a set amount of seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, and years to serve Jesus and share His word.

Paul urged the church that the Lord is urging us to take advantage of every moment for the cause of the gospel. Redeeming the time or making the most of the time, as believers, to penetrate a lost and dying world with the gospel is walking in wisdom.

In other words, Paul, in dealing with wisdom in the use of time, described the responsibility that believers have to “outsiders” as to sharing the gospel message. We are responsible to them. Many believers assume that people will be put off and act mean if we share the gospel with them. Did you know that if you have a Muslim friend and you do not talk about your faith that it offends them or at a minimum make them believe your faith is not important to you? They expect us to talk about our faith. They do, and we should.

People say, “Well I don’t like to talk to strangers.”
Well, it isn’t about what we like.

Others will say, “Door-to-door evangelism doesn’t work.
Don’t tell the JW or Mormons that. They grew by leaps and bounds, going door-to-door.

We need to stop with our excuses and begin being obedient by proclaiming the gospel.

But hey, we don’t even have to start with sharing the gospel with a stranger or by going door-to-door. How about just starting with your circle of influence — our family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors who need your message? Start with them, and you will be amazed at how God is not only glorified, but how He will use you in the process.

II. Wisdom in the Use of Speech

Paul describes a second way in which believers are to walk in wisdom toward “outsiders.” He commands that believers speak in, and with grace. This reveals to the church that, not only their content and message needs to be graceful, but the manner by which they speak should reflect that same grace.

The grace that Paul speaks about is gentleness and consideration. He desired the church to represent the gospel with love, patience, and respect. Paul wasn’t commanding the church to do something he wasn’t illustrating himself. Paul dealt with individuals and groups in the same way. We need to realize, however, that showing love doesn’t mean agreeing with everyone and excusing their sin or unbelief.

We have the duty of pointing out sins and unbelief from a biblical perspective. That’s what the gospel does. The way in which we go about this determines our faithfulness to walking in wisdom.

He continues by stating that the church’s speech should be as if it were seasoned with salt. During this time, salt was used for three main reasons: to preserve, sterilize, or season food. Paul attributes the third possible meaning here with “seasoned.” The church should not be offensive to “outsiders.”

The gospel message is offensive enough. We will offend people. On the other hand, when we offend people, let it be because of the content of the gospel and not from our manner, delivery, or attitude when sharing the gospel.

For an example, how many times have we heard people say something like this, “Man, the other day two Mormons came to my door, and let me tell you, I let them have it. I told them they were liars, they were wrong, and they didn’t know what they were talking about. I also told them they serve in a cult and never to come back to my house.” Then, that person smiles as if they just did God a big favor by throwing the Mormons off their property.

Now, let me ask you, is that a great way to represent Christ?

This is the very problem Paul had in mind when speaking of speech being filled with grace and salt.

Paul closes the section with showing that, not only should we walk in wisdom with our speech being full of grace and as if it were seasoned with salt, but our speech should take into consideration with which we are speaking.

The person and situation should dictate the way we speak. Paul challenged the church to take into account these variables. For instance, if you are speaking with someone who has never even heard the name of Jesus before or if you are speaking with someone who went to church his/her entire life, you would need to approach these two each in a different manner.

Or, if you were sharing the gospel with someone who was open and alert to the gospel as compared to someone who was hostile, you would need a different approach. In other words, pray for wisdom as it relates to the situation and person as well.

Living your life with persistent prayer and persistent wisdom comes through an overflow of a deep, personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Continually pray and continually walk in wisdom, so that God will open up many more doors for us to proclaim the life-changing gospel message.

Remember, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the answer to every human need and situation that exists.