Colossian Study Series with Andrew Murray

Redeem the Time

Prayer and Prudence for Gospel Purposes

Colossians 4:2-6

Colossian Study Series with Andrew MurrayContinue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prisonthat I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Introduction:

Andrew MurrayIn Colossians 4:2-18 we are given a glimpse into the way the Apostle Paul thought about the time in which he lived. This passage sets out some of the priorities which he and his fellow servants of Christ held and which he called the saints to hold as well.

As we have seen in Colossians, Christians are citizens of glory. We are new creatures even as we await the glorious day of Christ’s appearing. Christians are peculiar people on this planet and we are to pursue peculiar things in this world.

This section gives us a snapshot of a man who loved Christ and was a new creature. This section helps us, who love Christ, to think about how we ought to invest our energies during our time in this world.

In verse 5 of chapter 4, Paul calls the Colossian believers to, Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.Paul is calling the church of God to be time conscience with their lives.

There are only so many hours in the day. There are only so many days until we die or Christ returns. We, the people called out of darkness and into light, are here to make the best use of the time.

I believe that Paul demonstrates this kind of focused, time conscious mindset. Paul was investing his life in certain kinds things and calling those beloved of God to do the same. Paul was not investing his life in his golf swing. This passage shows us some of the things that Paul was investing his life in, and calling the people of God to invest their lives in.

So what we will do is to walk through this passage and we are going to look at 6 priorities that I think help to inform us about what we, who are chose, holy, and beloved, citizens of the heavenly country, should be investing our energies in during the short time we have here.

This time we will think about investing in Prayer and Prudence. And in the future we will look at investing our lives in proclamation, perseverance, prison, and Gods people.

I. Invest in Prayer:

Lets look first at verses 2-3 as Paul calls is to invest our lives in prayer:

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

Paul calls believers to prayer and he describes the kind of prayer he has in mind. So I want to consider with you a few of these phrases that describe the kind of prayer we should invest our lives in.

1. Steadfast Prayer:

Continue steadfastly in prayer.”

Paul is calling us to habitual prayer, steady prayer, perseverant prayer. As 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “pray without ceasing.”

Do we invest our lives in habitual prayer? Is it a priority? Is it worth our time? It was worth Paul’s time. It was worth Epaphras’ time. Colossians 4:12 says that Epaphras, “…always struggles on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.” Do we engage in this kind of always struggling in our prayers? How constant and steady is your prayer life? Is prayer the habit of your heart?

Sadly, the temptation is to pray only when we hit bottom or run into a road block or are dealing with a crisis. But the kind of prayer Paul has in mind is steadfast, in the ups and downs, in season and out. We are not to give up or be distracted from this calling and duty and privilege to pray. We should be an always praying people.

2. Watchful Prayer:

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it…”

This word watchful calls us to wake up and to be alert. This word is used 12 times in the New Testament to refer to how believers should conduct themselves as they are waiting for the return of Christ – awake! (Matt. 24:42, 43; 25:13; Mark 13:34, 35, 37; Luke 12:37; 1 Thess. 5:6, 10; Rev. 3:2, 3; 16:15).

Douglas Moo reminds us:

“What the ‘watching’ believers are to do in these texts is not watch for Christs return, but watch their own life in light of the return of Christ. Believers need constantly to be ‘awake’ to the nature of the times they live in … and to orient their lives accordingly.”

As we have been shown in this letter Paul understood this age in which we live as the age in which the mystery hidden for ages and generations, has now been revealed to the saints! God has made known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory!

This is the age where God’s incredible grace and glory has been revealed in His Son. In this age the word of truth, the gospel, that is the Word of Christ, the hope of glory is to be proclaimed in all the world and where people are being gathered in from every nation and soon, when Christ who is our life appears, we also will appear with Him in glory. What an age to be alive!

Are we awake to the times? Are we about the business befitting this age? Do our lives reflect that we see the glory of Christ, the glory of the gospel hope, the glory of who we are in Christ and the glory of this age just before Christ appears? Are we continuing steadfastly in prayer being watchful, awake in it? Are we awake to these things and praying toward gospel ends, faithfully and habitually? Are we investing our lives in this?

3. With Thankfulness:

Paul adds;  “… with thankfulness.” He gives us the attitude with which we are to pray in this age.

Christians we should be the most thankful people in the world! Lest we think that Paul did not know about your difficulties, let us remember that Paul penned this call to thankfulness from prison. If we are awake to the gospel, awake to the love of God in Christ Jesus, awake to glory of the hope that we have – we will be thankful.

Thankfulness is the foundation of powerful and bold and steadfast prayer, because: He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? – Romans 8:32

If we are embracing the truth of the gospel – that God has already demonstrated the deepest love, has already given the most costly gift, we know that He is for us and will surely not hold back any good thing.

Be thankful for Christ and pray.

4. The Content of Prayer:

There is more, we can draw from this passage. We are give the content of Pauls and Epaphras prayers.

Pauls Prayer

Paul does not tell us all the things we should be praying for in this section, but he himself does make a prayer request. And here it is: that a door would be opened for the Word of Christ and that he might make it clear.

Mark the loud silence: Paul does not request prayer for deliverance from prison! But for an opportunity for Christ to be proclaimed and that he would make it clear.

How regularly do we pray for God to open a door for the Word, that we might declare the mystery of Christ with clarity – regardless of our present comfort? It is tempting to be mindful of our discomforts and to pray primarily or even only for immediate relief for ourselves and others, but are we mindful of the hour in which we live?

Our comfort is coming – Paul said he’d rather depart and be with Christ for that is far better but to remain is more necessary for gospel purposes (Philippians 1:23-26). As long as we remain, are we awake to gospel purpose?

This is the hour of grace to the nations. The nations are perishing in their sin and we are the people with the message of their salvation: Christ the hope of glory for all peoples. Are we praying for God to open doors and are we praying that we would declare the message of the gospel of Christ with clarity and boldness as we ought to speak – regardless of our personal comfort or circumstances?

Epaphras:

A little further on in this passage we are giving a glimpse into the content of Epaphras’ prayer as well. Verse 12:

“Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.”

Epaphras is not praying for their comfort, he is praying for their maturity.

When we lift one another up in prayer and struggle on each other’s behalf in our prayers do we pray “that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God”? Are we struggling for one another to that end or some other? Is our agenda God’s agenda and are our purposes God’s purposes? Are we awake to the hour? What are we investing our lives in?

One of the great priorities in which we should be investing our lives is constant, watchful, thankful prayer for open doors for the Word of Christ to be proclaimed, for the clarity of the message we bring, and prayer for each other to be stable, mature and fully assured in all of God’s will. Are you investing your life in this kind of steadfast prayer? God loves to use the prayers of His people. Are we awake and thankful and praying steadfastly?

We will look at one more priority in which we ought to be investing our lives.

II. Invest in Prudence Toward Unbelievers:

Look at verses 5-6

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

This is a clear call from the NT for you and I to be in the world even as we are no longer of it. We are to invest energy and time into living wisely in reference to unbelievers, those outside the kingdom of Christ.

What does this look like? What does it require of us? What does it look like to walk in wisdom toward outsiders making the best use of the time?

Well, allow me to tease out a few things.

1. Being with Unbelievers:

This means first of all we are to invest time with unbelievers! Paul says in verse 6 “let your speech always be gracious…” The question is: How can our speech be gracious to unbelievers if we are not with unbelievers?

Do you have unbelieving people in your life? Are you moving toward unbelievers? Do you pursue contact, conversation, relationship with people who do not share your love for Christ?

We are not to put up walls and live separate from these sinners out there. Are outsiders on your radar? Do you care to see them become insiders, adopted as sons of God and followers of Christ, fellow heirs? We need to be with unbelievers so that they may hear. Don’t block your ears, shut your eyes, and let the world go to hell.

2. These verses also require that we be with unbelievers in wisdom

“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders…”

There is a way to walk in a foolish way toward unbelievers. Paul may have seen some believers walking foolishly and so he felt the need to mention the need to walk in wisdom. Maybe he saw the temptation in himself.

In order to get at what wisdom looks like, I want to ask, What would walking in foolishness toward outsiders look like? Two things seem to be clear from Paul’s words.

Foolish Way #1. Being gracious without speaking:

I have known Christians who are excellent at investing time thinking about life in reference to the world. They are outgoing and they care about the unsaved people in their lives. They are familiar with the interests and activities of their unsaved friends. I have known Christians who are very engaged in the culture and follow the trends in the name of connecting with those outside the kingdom in the hopes of seeing them become insiders.

But you can do all that and fail to bring the Word of Christ and so fail to walk in wisdom toward outsiders making the best use of the time. If we are connecting with the perishing but do not make known the word of Christ we are not walking in wisdom. If we are not giving them the hope of glory we are not truly loving them. The good desire to be gracious and winsome and personally inoffensive can all too easily become our chief priority.

Many of us need to seriously consider the times in which we live.

Romans 10:14-15

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!

As Paul prayed for open doors and words of gospel clarity so we are to walk in wisdom toward outsiders making the best use of the time. Yes, this means letting your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, that is helpful and winsome, so that you may know how to answer each one. Let us be praying for open doors so that we can speak the word of Christ and bring good news to the perishing.

Foolish Way #2. Speaking without gracious words:

I have known Christians who are firm in their faith, articulate in their speech and who strut like a rooster. There is a way to speak truth like a bulldozer. Their is a way to articulate perfectly the word of Christ but to do it without broken hearted concern and humility and grace.

Proverbs 11:22 “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.”

If I could stretch that picture to fit our context: we have the best news in the world, the most beautiful news imaginable. Let’s not be pigs in our delivery.

3. Wisdom in this World.

Before we leave this call to walk in wisdom toward outsiders I did want to make sure we are aware that even if we walk in wisdom, speaking with boldness and gentleness, seasoned with salt, winsome and helpful, the response will often be ugly. The reality is that the message of Christ is to some the fragrance from life to life and to others the fragrance from death to death (2 Cor 2:16).

We need to remember again that Paul is writing from prison on account of the mystery of Christ. You cannot judge the wisdom of your walk by the response of the world.

Be praying for open doors and clear and winsome words so that many may live. We must speak the word of Christ, regardless of the response.

Conclusion:

We are citizens of glory, pilgrims on our way to the celestial city, the heavenly Jerusalem!  We are those whose lives are hidden with Christ. And we are to be time conscious. Invest your life like Paul in constant, watchful, thanks-filled prayer, for open doors and winsome words. Invest yourselves in prudence toward the world, that they may hear the Word of Christ and believe upon Him and live.

Are we awake and mindful of the hour in which we live?

Are we pursuing gospel purposes and investing our lives in things befitting the hour?

It is our privilege to be a part of making the Word of Christ know in every part of the globe, starting right here. Lets be investing the time we have left in pressing on to see more and more followers of Christ, rescued from the grip of sin and death and made citizens of glory now and forever.

Let us invest our lives in prayer and prudence for gospel purposes.

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About Andrew Murray
Andrew “Andy” Murray was born and raised in New Hampshire. His father, pastor Loren Murray, served Fellowship Bible Church in Chester, NH. At six years of age Andy trusted in Jesus Christ and was baptized. He was brought up “acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” At the age of 12 his father was in a fatal car accident. Reflecting on the loss of his dad Andy writes; “I see now the wise and loving hand of Christ in my life, as He used this event to, shape, mold and press me toward Himself. It was this event that sparked in me an earnest desire to know God from His Word. By His grace, this desire has continued to grow.” Andy met his wife, Elizabeth, at Philadelphia Biblical University (now Cairn University). They have four wonderful boys. Visit Windham Bible Chapel.
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