As Paul finishes his letter to the Colossians, he extends a challenge to his readers in the form of a special request. As we enter in all the springtime activities and look at the summer months in front of us, I want to make the same request. The very things Paul needed in his ministry we need in all of our ministries.
In Colossians 4 Paul writes: “2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 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” (NIV).
The challenge is found in verse 2: “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” This is what our congregations and ministries need: to be filled with believers—leaders, laity, and professional chuch workers—committed to the privilege and ministry of prayer.
Paul issues these challenges to his readers:
- Make prayer a priority: “Devote yourselves to prayer;”
- Look for—and be attentive to—what to pray about: “being watchful …”
- Pray with the attitude of gratitude: “… and thankful.” Isaiah reminds us, “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24, NIV).
Then the great Apostle makes a further request of the Colossian Christians: And pray for us … (v. 3) I would ask and invite you to do the very same thing: to make prayer more of a priority in your life, and to specifically pray for the Gospel proclamation, witness and ministry of your congregation, your pastors, teachers, other professional church workers, those working in the District and Synod, and for those in ministry around the world. Pray that we remain faithful and that we consider what God would have us do to fulfill the Great Commission in our communities, state, country, and world.
Paul shares his specific prayer requests in these first verses of Colossians 4. In order for our congregations to be the church God desires, we also need to pray for at least these three things. First of all …
1. Pray for opportunities for ministry (and that we see them and, with His presence, power, and benediction, accomplish them). Paul says… (v. 3) “And pray for us, that God may open a door for our message…”I don’t know everything God has in store for our congregations and ministries within the District, but I do know that He wants our involvement in our communities (and in the world) to be more than just opening our doors to the public one or two times a week. He has not only called us to gather together for worship, but to reach out and be His presence wherever we are living our lives. In His first “sermon” Jesus stated that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16).
When Jesus first introduced the idea of the “Church” (this is the first place that “Church” is mentioned in the Old or New Testaments) to his disciples, He said … “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
For some reason I always interpreted this verse to mean that the church would be strong enough to endure the attacks of the devil. Although this is true, after listening to someone speak on this verse, I realized that Satan and his minions don’t bring “the gates of Hell” into battle with it. They leave “the gates of hell” at “home.” Jesus is rather speaking to the point that the Church is supposed to be on the offensive in the spiritual battles of life that are all around us (Ephesians 6:10-20). We are on the attack with the greatest power God has given His people: the Gospel—the Good News that JESUS has done EVERYTHING for EVERYONE’S SALVATION through His death and resurrection. We are to be storming the gates of hell!
On the streets and in all kinds of homes, in all kinds of neighborhoods, there are individuals and families who need to hear about the life-changing power of Jesus Christ. There are people whose lives have been wrecked by sin and they need to know that God can put things back together for them. There are those who are overcome with despair, and they need to know there is hope is Christ. Michigan is filled with hundreds of thousands of people who need to know that there is a God who loves them so much He would send His only Son into the world to save them—and in order to communicate this message to the world we must do more than open our doors once or twice a week. We need to go into the community and take the life-changing message of Jesus Christ in deed and word with us.
Of course, we already know this, right? The question is: where do we go and when? That’s what we ALL need to pray about. Pray that God will open doors/opportunities of ministry for your congregation and for other congregations and faithful ministries. We can’t do everything that needs to be done, but we can go where God leads. When a door opens, we can go through that door in the full assurance of faith.
Many congregations are seeing new doors of ministry suddenly swing wide open, as for instance in starting or being a part of community food banks, clothing banks, after-school enrichment programs for students, new Bible studies, housing ministries, sports programs for all ages, youth ministries, job training ministries, and the like. When such doors of opportunity are discovered or opened, with God’s help we need to go through them in order to have an impact on the lives of those that God puts us in contact with.
2. Pray that we will proclaim the work and message of Jesus clearly. Paul says … (v. 4) “Pray that I may proclaim it clearly.”
One problem that all Bible-believing, Gospel-preaching churches face is that the world doesn’t know what our message is. Because of the way preachers and churches are portrayed on TV, maybe they think that we’re just against everything. That’s not the heart of our message at all. The Gospel isn’t a set of do’s and don’ts and the Gospel doesn’t condemn.
Maybe the world thinks our message is, “In order to be a Christian you have to clean up your life and start doing good works and, if you become good enough, God will let you into heaven.” That’s not our message; it’s not even close. Maybe they think our message is, “All you have to do is join our church and you are a Christian.” Again, that’s not our message.
The world doesn’t understand the Gospel. If they even “hear” or “see” it, it often doesn’t make sense to them. The Apostle Paul, in describing the reaction of some of his contemporaries, said that to some it is a stumbling block and to others it is foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:23). People outside the church don’t understand the Gospel. It is our privilege and responsibility to proclaim and demonstrate the Gospel clearly, in a way that, by God’s grace, they can understand. The Gospel is still God’s power unto salvation!
What is the heart of our message? It is this: Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord and He has the power to transfrom your life and your eternity. He can forgive your sin, remove your guilt and your shame, and replace it with joy and purpose.
As doors of opportunity open, we need to make sure that we proclaim our message clearly. We want to be defined according to Who we are for: the Lord Jesus Christ, and not just by what we are “against.” Pray that we will proclaim the truly “Good News” faithfully to our world. Thirdly …
3. Pray that we do not let setbacks discourage us or stand in our way. Paul continues in verse 3, “… so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.”It is interesting to consider that, even though Paul spent a significant part of his ministry behind bars, he never stopped preaching, he never stopped writing, he never stopped encouraging churches. Even more to the point, prison was not the only setback Paul experienced. Listen to how Paul describes it: “[I have] been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea. I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:24-28, NIV).
The Apostle Paul didn’t know the meaning of the word “impossible”. Wow! Can you imagine facing those kinds of setbacks and still pressing on? Paul refused to allow any obstacle to stand in his way. He simply would not give up. It kind of makes you feel wimpy that we sometimes cancel church functions when it gets cold and snowy, doesn’t it?
The fact is, we will experience setbacks in our efforts to do ministry. There will be times when it will become difficult. There will be times when quitting seems like the easiest (and the most logical) thing to do. No matter how attractive the option of giving up may seem, we must remain faithful to God’s call to be salt, light, and proclaimers. We must stay in the battle. We must continue to pursue the Gospel ministry to which God has called us.
Friends, the Bible is quite clear on this subject: if you seek to do any good thing for the glory of God, you will face opposition. You can’t throw in the towel just because things get a little rough. We should not expect things to be easy. There will be obstacles. There will be setbacks. If we are to be the salt and light God has called us to be, we must press on even during hard times, ESPECIALLY during hard times.
With all that’s going on this spring and summer, PLEASE DON’T FORGET TO … PRAY! With God’s sure help, please make prayer a greater priority in your life! … And when you pray, remember the congregations and ministries within the Michigan District. Pray for each other. Pray for the leaders. Pray for the workers. Pray for the staff. Pray for wisdom.
- Pray that there be open doors for ministry in your community;
- Pray that you will proclaim clearly the message of Christ: and …
- Pray that we will ALL do ministry regardless of what stands in our way.
With God answering our prayers and with His Gospel power, we have an incredible future.
“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him bethe glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20, 21, NASB).
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