The Apostle Paul extended a “challenge” that we, too, should consider. As he finishes his letter to the Colossians, the challenge—really a commnad—is issued along with a special request. As we contemplate our summer schedules lying directly in front of us, I want to make the same request. The very things Paul needed in his ministry, we ALL need in ours.
Paul writes in Colossians 4: “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 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. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.”
The challenge is found in verse 2 and in the other bold highlights: “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” This is an attitude that the congregations in the Michgain District need to cultivate … to be a gathering of believers committed to the ministry of prayer. This is especially true in the lives of all our pastors, teachers, and leaders.
Paul challenges the Colossian Christians to do three things regarding prayer:
- Make prayer a priority: “Devote yourselves to prayer.”
- Look for things to pray about: “being watchful …” (especially in the area of temptation, I believe).
- Pray with an attitude of gratitude: “… and thankful.”
Next, Paul makes a request of the Colossian Christians: “And pray for us …” (v. 3)
I am asking you the very same thing: to make prayer a greater priority in your life, and to specifically pray for the ministry of your congregation and for the Michigan District and its staff and ministry. Pray that you would consider what God would have you do to fulfill the Great Commission in your community and area, and with others throughout the Michigan District.
I know the question will arise: What specifically are we supposed to pray about? Paul tells us in these first few verses of Colossians 4. I believe that, in order for our congregations to be the church God intends, specific prayers should be offered in these areas.
Pray to Have Opportunities for Ministry. “And pray for us, that God may open a door for our message …” (v. 3).
I don’t know everything God has in store for your congregations and the district, but I do know that He wants us to be involved in our coummnities, the district, and the world. He has called us not only to gather together for worship, but to reach out to others, to serve, so that there will be opportunities to share the message of the Christ crucified and risen for the world.
When Jesus first introduced the idea of the church to His disciples in Matthew 16:18 (this is the first place that “Church” is mentioned in the Old or New Testaments), He said … “On this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hell will not overcome it.” For many years, I confess, I interpreted this verse to mean that the church would be strong enough to endure the attacks of the devil. Then, at an evangelism/witness event sponsored by our synod on the campus of Concordia University (College at that time) Ann Arbor, I heard this explanation: An army doesn’t bring its gates with it into battle. It leaves them, of course, in the wall of the city at home. What Jesus is asserting is that the church isn’t supposed to be on the defensive in the spiritual battles of life; we are to be on the offensive. We are to storm the gates of hell. We are to be on the front lines of the battle in ministry.
In all kinds of homes, in all kinds of neighborhoods, there are 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 in Christ. Our countryside, villages, towns, and cities are filled with hundreds and 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 and rescue them! In order to communicate this message to the world, God surely intended His church to open her doors more than once or twice a week. Our congregations and our members, bolstered by prayer, need to go into the community and take the life-changing message of Jesus Christ with them as evidenced in mercy ministries and witness ministries. This would be essential.
I know that we know this already. The question is: where do we go and when and (sometimes) how? The answer to those questions is what we need you to pray about. Pray that God will open doors of ministry for your congregationch. 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.
Pray That we Will Proclaim the Message of Christ clearly. “Pray that I may proclaim it clearly” (v. 4).
One problem that all Bible-believing, Gospel-preaching churches face is that often 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, or just out for money. That’s not the heart of our message at all—the Gospel isn’t a set of do’s and don’ts.
Maybe they think 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 either.
The world doesn’t understand the Gospel. It doesn’t make sense to them. In fact, the Apostle Paul said to some folks in Corinth that the Gospel is a stumbling block and to others that it is foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:23). People outside the church don’t understand the Gospel. It is our responsibility to create opportunities to proclaim the Gospel clearly and to demonstrate the life it creates, in a way they can understand in the strength of the Holy Spirit.
What is the heart of our message? It is this: Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord and He is and has the power to turn your life around. He can remove your sin, shortcomings, guilt, and shame, and replace it with Christ’s righteosness, joy and purpose. The Gospel is God’s power unto salvation!
As doors of opportunity open … make sure that the Gospel message is clearly shared. We don’t want to only be known for what we are against. We want to be known for Who has loved, forgiven, changed and empowered us: the Lord Jesus Christ. Pray that this message is proclaimed faithfully to our world.
Pray That we Will Not Let Setbacks Stand in Our Way. “… so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains” (v. 3).
Paul spent a significant part of his ministry behind bars, but he never stopped preaching, he never stopped writing, he never stopped encouraging churches, he never stopped letting his light shine before others. In fact, 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 40 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 own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 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).
Paul faced great difficulties because he lived and proclaimed the Gospel of the Risen Jesus.
We know that from Ephesians 6:10–20, where he talks about the Christian panoply and to put each part of the armament on with prayer. That encouragement reminds me of this quote:
“Probably the number one reason prayer malfunctions in the hands of believers is that we try to turn a wartime walkie-talkie into a domestic intercom. Until you know that life is war, you cannot know what prayer is for” (John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions).
Paul, consequently, 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, and neither should we. He simply would not give up. It kind of makes you feel wimpy that we sometimes cancel church functions when it gets cold, 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. We must stay in the battle. We must continue to pursue the ministry to which God has called us. We must continue to pray and seek God in all our ministry efforts.
Maybe you’ve heard it said, “Obviously God is not in this project or it wouldn’t be so difficult.” You can’t help but wonder, where did this person get his theology? It certainly wasn’t from the Bible. 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 cannot grow weary in our well-doing.
Life and ministry will rarely be easy. There will be obstacles. There will be setbacks. If we are to be the congregation God has called us to be, we must press on and pray … especially during hard times.
Friends, there are things we need more than money. We need God’s people to be committed to praying. With all that’s going on this summer, please DON’T FORGET TO … PRAY! Please make prayer a greater priority in your life, in your family’s life, in the life of your congregation. Pray for each other. Pray for us. Pray for the leaders. Pray for the workers. Pray for the staff. Pray for wisdom. Pray for the harvest of souls that God has seen in eternity.
- Pray especially that there is an open door for ministry to your community.
- Pray you will proclaim clearly the message of Christ! And …
- Pray that you will pursue and do ministry in the strength of Christ regardless of what stands in the way.
With God’s help you have an incredible future.
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