If you knew your time was short on this earth and you wanted to give final instructions or advice to loved ones what would you say? It would be difficult but important. You would focus on essential matters rather than incidental things, wouldn’t you?
Paul finishes his letter to the church at Colosse with certain admonitions, requests and reminders. Paul was in prison for the last time and I believe he knew the end was near. He wanted to leave them with a few essentials for life and ministry. Two of these he spells out and the third he describes in his final greetings.
In these last 17 verses of Colossians I have picked out three essentials for ministry that apply to all of us today. There are three things we must do if we’re to be successful in the Christian life. These are:
I. PRAYING TO GOD (2-3a)
Paul began his letter talking about prayer (1:3,9) and now finishes his letter with admonition to pray. Nothing is more important than prayer. I like what John Piper said about prayer, “Prayer is not designed as an intercom between us and God to serve the domestic comforts of the saints. It’s designed as a walkie-talkie for spiritual battlefields. It’s the link between active soldiers and their command headquarters, with its unlimited fire-power and air cover and strategic wisdom.” There are four aspects of prayer that Paul gives in quick fashion:
A. Faithful Praying
“Continue earnestly in prayer”
Did you know that we are to live in a perpetual state of prayer? Many times the Bible says we are to pray continually (1 Thes.5:17; Eph.6:18). What does it mean to faithfully pray? Does it mean we must be whispering prayers to God every moment? No, but we are to be ready to break into prayer at anytime.
Illus. - I like what someone said about prayer when an earthquake hit in Los Angeles: “You are instantly awake. You hold your breath and wonder how much your house can take. What happens to your emotions is almost impossible to express. When that happens, it’s good to be all prayed up, and not have to start from scratch! When that happens, it’s good to know the One for whose hand you reach, without needing to start with an introduction.”
Prayer is like a muscle, the more you use it the stronger it gets and when you don’t use it atrophy sets in. It is awfully hard to get a muscle to work after atrophy has set in.
B. Watchful Praying
“being vigilant in it” or “being watchful” (wide awake)
Neh.4:9 “ Nevertheless we made our prayer to God, and set a watch against the enemy day and night.”
Jesus said to Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation” (Matt.26:41)
Matthew 13:25 says, “but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat..” We must be watchful (on the alert) in our prayers.
Illus.- Where do you think a sentry would be more watchful: a national guard armory here in Knoxville or on a patrol in Baghdad? Satan is a prowling lion looking for someone to devour (1 Pet.5:8). Be watchful! Remember, this advice comes from Paul, a prisoner of war.
C. Thankful Praying
Six times Paul stresses this in this short letter (1:3,12; 2:7; 3:15,17; 4:2). Probably half of our time in prayer should be taken up in thanksgiving. We overlook the many ways God blesses us. Being thankful in prayer takes away from our tendency to pray selfishly.
D. Purposeful Praying (3a)
“praying also for us”
Too often our prayers are too vague and general. We pray, “Lord, bless the missionaries.” It’s better to know the missionary personally and pray for specific needs he has.
Illus.- I received in the mail this week a brochure from Jim Walker, missionary in the Philippines. Jim is a Knoxville boy born and raised in the Inskip-Norwood area. In the brochure he is asking for prayer. He says, “It is the dream of every missionary to have a team of pray-ers, interceding before the throne of grace on his account. I want to be your missionary. I want you to pray for me specifically and be a part of my team as we seek ways to reach people on the northern coast of Mindanao.”
II. PROCLAIMING THE WORD (3b-6)
This is the responsibility of:
“For us” (speaking of his team in Rome) and “I” (3,4)
1. Opportunity to speak (“open doors”)
2. To speak clearly (“make it manifest”)
I have a responsibility to preach clearly to the world. I need your prayers.
1. In Your Walk (5). Carefully redeem the time (buy opportunity) to influence others toward Christ. Everything you say and do influences others. Be careful. St. Francis of Assisi said, “Proclaim the gospel at all times, and if you must, use words.”
2. In Your Talk (6). Walking alone is not enough. We must also talk the talk.
a. Loving (“let your speech always be with grace”)
b. Luring (“seasoned with salt,” flavorful or tasty)
III. PARTNERING WITH OTHERS (7-18)
Eleven people are mentioned by name in these 12 verses, Jews and Gentiles. They were partners of Paul’s. Warren Wiersbe says that Paul names more than 100 partners through the Book of Acts and in his letters. There is a principle here.
No matter how good we are alone we are much better when we partner with others. He lists three kinds of partners in this passage:
A. Those who Stay (7-11)
Tychicus, Onesimus, Aristarchus, Justus. These were faithful brethern who stuck through thick and thin. Some of you are like that in this church. You stay faithful to the Lord and His church no matter what happens.
B. Those who Pray (12-13)
Epaphras, a prayer warrior. Some of you pray diligently for me and this church and I thank God for you.
C. Those who Stray
1. Some stray and return (Mark, v.10)
37 Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. NKJV
Mark ran from the work. Why? Maybe he didn’t like how Paul was leading. Maybe he was afraid or homesick? But later he came back and was useful to Paul until the end of his life. God used him to write the book of Mark.
2. Some stray and never return (Demas, v.14)
Demas is mentioned only three times in Scripture. First, in Philemon 24 he is named with three others of whom Paul says they are “my fellow laborers.” Then, here in Colossians 4:14, he is named with no comment at all. But, in the third reference we find what became of Demas:
2 Timothy 4:10
10 for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed..
The Bible says that the world entices us with “The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:15-17). Surely he fell to one or more of these traps. I have known some who have fallen away like Demas.
Are you in partnership with others for the gospel’s sake? You should be. How are you plugged in? There are many opportunities to plug into partnerships here. Maybe you were once plugged in and now have strayed. You can return like Mark or die in your rebellion like Demas. The choice is yours.