June 23, 2010 David Balzer

Colossians 4:2-18: Walking, Talking and Working!!

sally-pearson-goldSally Pearson won the 100m hurdles at last year’s London Olympics. It had been her goal for four long years.

And even though she won nearly every race she competed in that year. And even though she won the award for female World Athlete of the Year. She didn’t leave anything to chance. She MADE THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY.

During her final months of preparation, she said, “”Now it’s just a matter of staying at home and staying in my own training routine and keeping FOCUSED. I want to KEEP MY HEAD DOWN and be working hard. And some people might not like that I say NO to a lot of functions and stuff.”

She had a goal. And she made THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY to reach it. Every training session. Every opportunity to improve. Coaching, video analysis, diet, massage, physiotherapy.

Every choice she made was an opportunity to push a little closer to that goal. So she made TOUGH decisions. Said no to parties and functions and press conferences. Even if it didn’t make her popular with some people.

For Sallie, it was worth all the sacrifice. All the tough choices. Because every opportunity she made the most of/ was one step closer to that glittering prize. The final goal. Standing on the gold medal platform at the London Olympics. And she succeeded!

And it’s the same with the Christian life. We may not look much like elite athletes, but we’re to be JUST AS SINGLE-MINDED AND FOCUSED as Sally Pearson. You can see it there in v5,

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; MAKE THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY.

We should be even MORE dedicated, because there’s an amazing prize on offer. Far better than a gold-plated lump of metal. It’s available for EVERYONE. Back in Ch 2 Paul described it as the full riches of KNOWING Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. IN CHRIST there’s FULLNESS. Richness. Completeness.

That’s SO VALUABLE, we need to make the most of every opportunity so as many people as possible can RECEIVE it.

Down in v12 you can see how that worked for Epaphras. Remember he was the one who first preached the gospel to the Colossian church. And now he’s moved on to other places, but he’s always PRAYING for them. And here’s what he prayed for. The goal, the prize (there at the end of v12). That they would

STAND FIRM IN ALL THE WILL OF GOD, MATURE AND FULLY ASSURED.

That’s the prize to be working for. For yourself, and for others. TO STAND FIRM IN GOD’S WILL. FULLY ASSURED AND MATURE.

What God wants for people, above anything else. Is that they live HIS way. In his WILL. CONFIDENT in that. Confident of their status before God. Of their forgiveness and their eternal security. Fully assured. Not unsettled by doubts or trials or difficulties or failures. Fully assured of the RICHNESS and RIGHTNESS and COMPLETENESS of life in Jesus.

.

And that they be MATURE. Complete. Resilient. Faithful. Gracious. Patient. Enduring. Thankful. Content.

That’s THE GOOD LIFE. The life we were all MADE for.

It’s THAT GOAL that fuelled Paul’s enthusiasm. That goal he’d make the most of every opportunity for. But not just Paul and not just Epaphras. It’s a goal for EVERY CHRISTIAN to be working for.

And these verses give us God’s TRAINING PLAN. How we can aim there. It’s a whole-of-life training plan. About talking, walking and working.

1. Talking (2-6)

1a) Talking to God about people (2-3)

And it begins with PRAYER.

Sally Person needs regular communication with her coach. She needs a plan. She needs feedback and help and direction. And God is OUR coach and guide. And we need to connect with HIM. PRAYER is the key. The way to connect into God’s purposes.

Ch 4 v 2. (Col 4:2 NIV)  DEVOTE yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Firstly, BE DEVOTED. Stick at it. PERSIST at prayer.

It’s so easy, with prayer, to NOT persist, isn’t it? It’s so easy to pray FOR A FEW MINUTES, and then drift off into thinking about something else. To turn from what you want GOD to do, to what YOU need to do.

It’s so easy to NOT persist at prayer. We get into a routine for a WEEK, but then it slips away. Or we pray for a particular need for a month or two, and then when God doesn’t say YES, we STOP PRAYING.

But Paul says, PERSIST at PRAYER.

Be REGULAR. Get into a routine, as much as you can. Find a time and a spot where you know you can find time to pray.

And be ORGANISED. Don’t just pray for the first thing that comes into your head. Make a prayer list. Keep those prayer bulletins that people send out. And actually USE them.

But that’s not all. We’re not just to pray words meaninglessly. Like repeating a meditation mantra. That’s USELESS. “Devote yourselves to prayer, being WATCHFUL and THANKFUL.”

When we pray, we need to be WATCHFUL. To keep alert to what’s going on around us. To watch ourselves. Watch our world. Richard Pratt’s written a book called, “Praying with your eyes open”. And that’s what Paul wants.

It means that good prayer is INTELLIGENT prayer. INFORMED prayer. Don’t just pray, “Bless so and so”. Pray SPECIFICALLY.

WATCHFUL prayer.

Paul also wants prayer to be THANKFUL. And that’s a theme he’s been on about since the start. In fact thankfulness should be the attitude in EVERYTHING we do. Ch 2 v 7. We’re to OVERFLOW with thankfulness.

And that attitude of life is FOCUSSED when we pray. Because we’re concentrating on the ONE who’s given us everything. He’s the good and loving and powerful Father who’s given us SO MUCH ALREADY. And who’s LONGING to give us many MORE good things.

Be THANKFUL in prayer.

So that’s prayer. Talking to God about people. That’s the first step of the training plan. Of people standing firm in God’s will, mature and fully assured.

1b) Talking to people about God (3-4; 6)

Second, Paul talked to God about people, so that he could TALK TO PEOPLE ABOUT GOD.

And the first thing he asks/ (Verse 4) is that God might OPEN DOORS to people. Paul’s got a sense of humour, doesn’t he?. Because where’s he writing the letter from? Prison! And what does he ask for? That God will open a door!

But it’s not HIMSELF he’s interested him. It’s the message. “Pray that God may open a door FOR OUR MESSAGE”

Paul worked harder than anyone in preaching the gospel. But he realised it was GOD who opened doors. That’s why he PRAYED.

For God to OPEN DOORS means for God to PROVIDE OPPORTUNITIES. It’s God who engineers situations so that people can hear about Jesus. God who gives us courage. And gives us WORDS.

But more than that. It’s God who gives the gift of faith to people. Who softens people’s hearts to make them ready to hear. And opens their eyes to understand.

So we need to PRAY. It’s not up to US to convert people. That’s God’s job.

Walk through the open doors – proclaim the message

God might open the doors. But we’ve still got to WALK THROUGH THEM. An open door is no good/ unless we go through it. Unless we actually speak up. Verse 3.

(Col 4:3-4 NIV)  And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that WE MAY PROCLAIM THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST, for which I am in chains. {4} Pray that I may proclaim it CLEARLY, as I should.

The amazing thing about God’s plan to save people is that he USES US. Uses us to proclaim the news about Jesus.

He’s the expert at doing a great job with blunt instruments.

Caron’s mum loves to use sharp knives when she cooks. And whenever she visits, she gets out the sharpening stone, and sharpens our knives.

Caron hates it, because she always seems to cut herself straight after her mum sharpens them. Caron’s USED TO WORKING WITH BLUNT INSTRUMENTS.

Just like God. He COULD’VE designed things so he didn’t have to use our mistakes. But he didn’t. His normal way of people becoming Christians is ANOTHER PERSON TELLING THEM.

I’m pretty sure that’s the way it was FOR YOU. Someone went to the trouble to tell YOU about Jesus. About how you could know the God who made you. They might have done it in 5 minutes. Or they might have done it over the course of years. They probably didn’t do it PERFECTLY. But God USED it. USED their courage and their faith and their WORDS.

And that’s what Lawrence and Dena, and Georgie and Thomas are declaring here today in front of you all. That their family life is about declaring to Avril and to Adelaide and Willoughby, in words and actions, that Jesus is Lord. That Jesus is number one.

And that was Paul’s job TOO. And he wanted to make sure he revealed it CLEARLY. That’s the flip side of recognising that God converts people.

Paul prays that God will open doors. But he also prays that HE’LL proclaim the gospel clearly. Because God USES him. And Paul wants to be as SHARP an instrument as possible.

We need to do BOTH. Pray that God will convert people. But never forget that he DOES that/ using us. And so we need to be as READY as we can. To be as CLEAR as we can. We need to know WHAT we believe. And WHY.

On the ONE hand, it’s a mistake to say it’s God who converts people. And then do NOTHING. That’s misunderstanding God’s sovereignty.

And on the OTHER hand, it’s a mistake to FORGET that God converts people, and to try to shoulder the whole burden ourselves. That’s misunderstanding OUR part in evangelism.

But the comfort is God has everything in control. And that’s what gives us the confidence to say anything at all.

Bruce was a fairly rough guy from Mt Druitt. I married Bruce and Lynette in 2008. A second marriage for both of them. And they started coming to church, and I did the Christianity Explained course with them. And Bruce seemed to get it. And they kept coming to church for a while, but then it became less and less regular. And then they stopped altogether.

I tried a few times to reconnect, and got polite, non-committal conversations. And I kept praying for them when I remembered.

Then, at the end of last year, they turned up at church again. And Bruce had a huge grin on his face. He was just GLOWING.

He said, “I’ve become a Christian. We started going to another church. Did another course with their minister, and I just GOT IT. I kept thinking as we went through it – Yes, I remember David saying that. And yes, I KNEW that – David told me that.

But I got to the bit about GRACE. And I finally understood it!”

It had taken three years. And it was somebody else God finally used. But I didn’t care a BIT! God had opened his eyes, and given him the gift of faith. And he’d done it HIS way, and in HIS timing. It was wonderful to hear.

So keep praying. PERSIST in it.

And that’s ESPECIALLY real for Thomas and Georgie and Lawrence and Dena today. Because they’ve been praying for Willoughby and Adelaide and Avril. Probably from the day they first found out they were pregnant.

And while I’m sure they prayed for a healthy baby, and a safe delivery. I know the prayer that’s been most important for them every day since. That their children would grow to love and follow Jesus all their days. Or in the language of Colossians 4, “That they’d stand firm in the all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” Nothing matters more.

And that’s reflected in Thomas and Georgie and Lawrence and Dena bringing their children to be BAPTISED this morning. In thankfulness to God. And in recognition of his promises for them in Jesus. His COMMITMENT to them.

And so these parents want to EXPRESS those things in the promises they make this morning. And WE can express our SUPPORT of them in KEEPING those promises.

And if we look down to verse 6, we see more about TALKING. This time/ how the Colossians should talk. Verse 6.

(Col 4:6 NIV)  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Two hints for what our talk should be like. Our words should be GRACIOUS, and SEASONED WITH SALT.

First, GRACIOUSNESS. It’s more important to win PEOPLE, than to win ARGUMENTS. It’s more about HOW we speak, than WHAT we speak. Paul says our words are always to be GRACIOUS.

And that’s the goal when we talk with people at the Christmas carols event in December. To BUILD BRIDGES. To start to lower the barriers people build up. To BEGIN conversations. Not to END them.

The goal is that the person will walk away thinking they’ve been LISTENED to. And understood. And be happy to TALK AGAIN.

“Let your conversation be full of grace.”

On the other hand, our conversation needs to be SEASONED WITH SALT. The idea is that it needs to be DIFFERENT, and DISTINCTIVE, and TASTY, and ATTRACTIVE. Salt SEASONS food. IMPROVES it. That’s what OUR conversation is to be like.

And sometimes it can be hard to work out how to walk that line between being GRACIOUS. And being SALTY. We need WISDOM. We need PRAYER. To be gracious AND salty. To speak the TRUTH/ in LOVE.

The GOSPEL IS GREAT NEWS. And we need to present it in a way that measures up. So the METHOD matches the MESSAGE. The message is about powerful love, so our METHOD needs to be loving and powerful.

And then Paul says/ that if our conversation is gracious and seasoned with salt. Then we’ll be PREPARED TO ANSWER EVERYONE.

The phrase for “everyone” is a bit unusual. It’s literally “each one”. “So that you’ll know how to answer EACH ONE”.

There’s not ONE ANSWER that’ll suit EVERYONE. But each person is an individual. And there’s a right answer for EACH ONE.

That’s why asking QUESTIONS is such a helpful way to proceed. To ask questions and then to LISTEN. So you can find out where a person’s at.

And when we concentrate on being gracious, and on being seasoned with salt. Then we focus on the INDIVIDUAL, and our words will be more tailored to them. We’ll have the right answer for each one.

2. Walking (5)

2a) walking before people for God

So that’s TALKING. Paul’s also concerned with WALKING. With ACTIONS. Because, of course, you can’t separate them. Walk without talk doesn’t point people ANYWHERE. And talk without WALK is just HYPOCRISY. And that turns people off faster than anything. Look at verse 5.

(Col 4:5 NIV)  Be WISE IN THE WAY YOU ACT toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.

It’s literally “WALK IN WISDOM towards outsiders”.

And the way to do that/ is to make the most of the opportunities God gives you. When he opens the door/ make sure you’re there, ready to go through.

It might be about TALK. Someone asks what you did on the weekend. And so you tell them what you learned at church. And what a great time you had. Make the MOST of the opportunity.

Or someone talks about the tragedy of the latest earthquake, or famine, or murder. And they wonder where God is in all of it. And so you talk about how God grieves at the mess the world’s in TOO. In fact, he hates it SO MUCH that he did something about it. He sent Jesus. That’s making the most of opportunities.

Opportunities MIGHT be TALK. But they might also be WALK. Chances to help a neighbour out. To lend them some money, or help them move. Or fix the car. Or clean the gutters. Or babysit the kids. Or to invite them bike-riding, or to a BBQ.

Show that you LOVE people in the way you use the opportunities God gives you. Make the MOST of them. To build bridges. That’s WALKING in WISDOM.

3. Working (7-18)

3a) working with people for God

And now Paul starts to wind up the letter. Verse 7. He may not have meant to. But Paul teaches us a lot from this long list of names and greetings. He teaches us about working with people.

1. The first thing we see is that Paul works with ALL SORTS of people. He works mostly with Gentiles (non-Jews). But in v11, we see he’s still working with Jews.

Onesimus in v9 is A SLAVE. He’s with Paul, and sends his greetings.

It makes no difference to Paul what someone’s background is. If God’s USING them, then they’re a fellow minister. And we need to learn the same lesson. It’s easy for us to treat people according to appearances. To externals. But Paul never did. He works with ALL sorts of people.

2. Secondly, he CARES FOR people. Tychicus is a DEAR BROTHER. Onesimus is a faithful and dear brother. Luke is a dear friend. Even the fact that everyone sends greetings tells you that relationships are important to Paul. He cares for people. He’s not just interested in scalps on his belt.

3. Thirdly, he NETWORKS people. He was always looking out for how someone could be useful to another group. News was important to him. Because it was a source of encouragement. And for prayer needs. Verse 7. Tychicus will tell you all the news about me.

Verse 16. Make sure you catch up on the letter from Laodicea.

And he sent workers off to other places. He received others back. Verse 8. He sends off Tychicus. Verse 12. Epaphras used to be in Colossae. Now he’s with Paul.

Paul wasn’t building his own empire. It was always THE BIG PICTURE that was important to Paul. GOD’S kingdom, not Paul’s.

And that’s a temptation WE need to avoid. Churches are always changing. Ashfield, I understand, has a long history of having a regular turnover of people.

And we shouldn’t feel DISAPPOINTED with that. Because people always move on. And it’s important that we don’t get possessive about our little corner of God’s work. God’s field is much bigger than we can see.

Or supporting missionaries overseas, or other ministries. We mustn’t think that we can’t support them financially because they’re not necessarily building OUR little part of the kingdom. It’s all work for God’s kingdom. Doesn’t matter which church they go to. Or what country they’re working in.

4. Finally, Paul was MINISTERED TO by people. Evangelism isn’t a solo career. It’s not a job for loners. Paul WORKED with people. Verse 7. “Fellow servant”. Verse 10 Fellow prisoner. Verse 11 Fellow workers.

Paul encouraged others. And he was encouraged by them too. Verse 11. “These are the only Jews among my fellow workers, … and THEY HAVE PROVED A COMFORT TO ME.

The whole process works best in churches when IT’S A TWO WAY STREET. Are we allowing OTHERS to encourage US? Are we looking to encourage those who normally do the encouraging. They need it just as much. Perhaps MORE.

And so he finishes. “Grace be with you”. It’s the same way he started. Ch 1 v3. May you KNOW God’s grace. Understand it. Respond to it. Give thanks for it. Walk in it.

So that you may STAND FIRM in all the will of God, MATURE and FULLY ASSURED.

Now you’ve GOT the training plan. USE it.

Grace be with you. May you know it. Understand it. Respond to it. Give thanks for it. Walk in it.

Grace be with you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.