16. The Mission-Driven Life (Colossians 4:2-6)Related Media
“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. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col. 4:2–6).
How do we live a mission-driven life?
Often, when people prepare for a mission trip, they start going through rigorous training. They have days devoted to prayer, days of fasting, days of studying the Word of God, etc., to prepare. However, the reality is we are always on mission; people around us always need to be ministered to. Therefore, we should always be living a mission-centered life wherever God has placed us. Essentially, there should be no change when we go on a mission trip because we are already breathing mission—breathing the kingdom of God.
In this text, Paul is calling the Colossians, and therefore us, to live a mission-centered life. We see this call in his encouragement for them to partner in his ministry through praying for open doors and his preaching of the Word of God. Also, he encourages them to be wise in the way they “act toward outsiders” (Col. 4:5). He is essentially calling these Christians to be missional in their daily lives.
It should be noted, most Christians are not called to leave home and go to other nations in order to do missions. God places Christians in a family, a company, a school, or a workplace to be a light to the world (Matt. 5:14). The Scripture is full of people whom God placed in what might seem to be a “secular position” in order to be missional. We saw this with Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon. We are all called to live a mission-driven life, whether at home or abroad.
A missional Christian is a Christian whose focus is seeing the kingdom of God come. They are not distracted from this aim by their schoolwork, their job, or their family life. They realize that God has placed them on this earth for a purpose, and that purpose is to be mission-centered. Right before Christ ascended into heaven, he said this to his disciples:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matt. 28:19–20).
The missional Christian understands that God has sent them to make disciples and the world is their mission field. Wherever they are placed, they realize it is their call to be actively involved in the great commission.
As Paul is finishing up his letter to the Colossians, he leaves them with a few missional exhortations. He exhorts them in their prayer life, their daily conduct, and their conversations. These are three areas in which we must daily pursue the work of missions.
Big Question: What are characteristics of the mission-driven life and how can we develop them?
Devoted Prayer Is A Characteristic Of The Mission-Driven Life
“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” (Col. 4:2–4).
Devotion in prayer is a characteristic of a mission-driven life. Throughout the gospels Christ taught the disciples the importance of prayer. On several occasions, it seems that he taught them the Lord’s Prayer (cf. Matt. 6:9–13; Luke 11:1–4). He also taught them the importance of faith in their prayers (Matt. 17:20). He focused on prayer in his discipleship of them because he knew that without prayer it would be impossible to fulfill the great commission. The kingdom of God comes through prayer.
Therefore, if we are going to be missional Christians, it is necessary for us to develop a devotion to prayer as well. We saw this both with the early church and the apostles who turned the world upside down. Look at what Acts 2:42 said: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
As the early church was devoted to prayer, God added to their number. Acts 2:47 says, “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Prayer was essential to the early church that spread the Word of God throughout Israel and the Gentile world. It was the same with the apostles. In Acts 6:3–4 they said,
Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.
When the workload was getting heavier, as they needed to care for the widows of the church, they called seven men to focus on that ministry so they could give their attention to prayer. They ordained the first deacons so that they could pray (Acts 6:1–2). Similarly, many of us will have to give up even good things to be devoted in our prayer lives.
Interpretation Question: What does it mean, practically, to be devoted to prayer?
Let us apply the word “devoted” to some other aspect of a person’s life. If we said a person was a devoted NBA Spurs fan, what would that mean?
That would mean this person probably consistently watches every game or checks the stats of the games that he misses. He knows the players and the coaches. This person gives a great amount of time weekly to focusing on the endeavor that he loves.
If we said this sports fan was devoted, this would mean that he is faithful to his team in good times and bad. He is not a fair–weather fan. A fair–weather fan is only a fan when his team is doing well and not when they are doing badly. On the other hand, a devoted fan is committed to his team no matter how bad of a year they are having. Whether they finish last or first in the conference, the fan is committed.
This is very similar to what Paul is calling Christians to be in their prayer lives. Oftentimes, Christians are like fair–weather fans, except for the fact that they only pray when it is bad weather. They are not consistent in their prayer life. We must be devoted to prayer when things are good and when things are bad.
The word “devoted” can also be translated as “continual.” It has the connotation of perseverance in prayer. This is what Christ said to his disciples about prayer in Luke 18:1–8:
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: ‘In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, “Grant me justice against my adversary.” For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, “Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!”‘ And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?’
Christ describes a widow who continued to come to an unjust judge asking for justice, and consistently the judge denied her. However, even though this widow kept getting refused, she consistently went back to the judge and eventually wearied him. Therefore, the judge decided to give her justice because of how weary she had made him with her continual petitions.
Christ says this is the type of prayer we must have to get things accomplished on earth. We must pray when it looks like God is not answering. We must pray when things look like they are at their worst. We must pray even when we feel like giving up. Christ taught his disciples to always pray and not give up (Luke 18:1).
This is important if we are going to be missional Christians. Oftentimes, the very things God calls us to pray for are things that look hopeless. It looks like our place of employment will never get better. It looks like our church is hopelessly divided, but it is in those times that the Christian must choose to keep praying. We must be devoted in fair weather and in bad weather. This is important for missional Christians.
Are you a devoted intercessor? Or are you inconsistent? When Christ said this to his disciples, he implied that when the Son of God returns, this type of faith—this devoted faith—will be minimal. He asked a rhetorical question implying the scarcity of it: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (v. 8). Surely, this type of prayer is a scarce commodity even now.
We see this type of faith in the story of Elijah praying for rain. He sends his servant to look for rain seven times and each time, even though there is nothing on the horizon, he keeps praying. Finally, he sees a cloud that looks like a small fist right before the rain falls (1 Kings 18:42–44). That is how our prayer life must be as missional Christians. We must continue to pray even when it doesn’t look like anything is happening, when our relatives are most hard to the gospel, when our country is turning its back on God, and even when we feel like giving up (cf. Gal. 6:9). It is then when we must be faithful—we must be devoted.
Observation Question: What characteristics of the missional Christian’s prayer life can we discern from Paul’s description in Colossians 4:2–4?
1. Devoted Prayer Is Watchful.
Interpretation Question: What does it mean to be watchful in prayer?
- Watchful can be translated as “awake.”
We saw this with Christ as he continually called his disciples to pray right before he went to the cross; however, they kept falling asleep. This is what Christ said in Mark 14:37–38:
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Simon,’ he said to Peter, ‘are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.’
For many of us, this is the very thing that keeps us from devotion to intercessory prayer. We have a tendency to fall asleep. Paul’s challenge seems to indicate that this is a common hindrance we must fight against. We must fight against the temptation to fall asleep in prayer.
- Watchful can be translated as “alert.”
Not only do we need to be “awake” physically, but also “alert” mentally. One of the temptations we must fight against in our prayer life is the tendency for our thoughts to wander. It is easy to begin praying and then leave our prayers to begin to think about something else. We must be alert in our prayer life.
- Watchful can be translated as “vigilant.”
To be vigilant means “to be careful or observant; on the lookout for possible danger.”1 It’s the word we get “vigilante” from, a person who is on the lookout for wrongdoings with the intent of seeking justice. One of the reasons many of us are not vigilant in our prayer lives is simply because we are unaware of the world’s needs. If we saw how much corruption was in the government system, if we knew how far our churches had fallen away from God, if we really knew the needs of those around us, then we would be more vigilant in our prayers.
Paul says we need to be keenly watchful for the slightest problem so we can bring it before our Lord. Certainly, we see this with Christ as he warns Peter about Satan’s desire to sift him like wheat. Soon after, he calls three of the disciples to pray with him lest they enter into temptation (Mark 14:38). Christ was aware of the slightest danger and it drew him to prayer and to call others to prayer. He was vigilant, and we must be vigilant as well.
How do we develop vigilance? Certainly, this comes from simple disciplines like asking people how they are doing and how we can pray for them. It comes by following the news and the issues that are going on in our country and the nations of the world. These are the types of situations God is concerned about.
Many people think prayer is about getting our will done on earth. No, prayer is getting God’s will done on earth. Therefore, in watching the news and finding out what is going on in the world, we have the great ability of partnering with God in getting his will done on the earth. He has chosen to fulfill his will through the prayers of saints.
What happens when Christians are not awake, alert, and vigilant? Listen to what Ezekiel 22:30 says:
I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none. So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign LORD.
When Christians are not vigilant or alert, we miss opportunities to stand in the gap, and therefore the consequence is destruction: families are destroyed, churches are destroyed, nations are destroyed, etc. If we are going to be missional, we must be vigilant. We must be on the lookout for issues with our families, our churches, our jobs, and our nations. We must be vigilant in prayer.
No doubt, Paul’s exhortation specifically was applied to the attacks this church was under. The church in Colosse was under the attack of false teachers (cf. 2:8; 16–23), and Paul is saying, “Be vigilant, be alert, and be ready to persevere in prayer so God can protect the church and heal it.”
With that said, we must be aware that the enemy of vigilance is apathy. We must be careful of falling into apathy, a lack of care, or a lack of responsiveness when it comes to the kingdom of God and God’s will being done. We must be vigilant and spiritually awake, if we are to be missional. God is always looking for a man or woman to stand in the gap for others.
What’s another characteristic of devotion in prayer?
2. Devoted Prayer Is Thankful.
Another aspect of faithful intercessory prayer is a spirit of thankfulness. This is commanded throughout Scripture. Listen to what Paul says to the church of Thessalonica: “Pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:17–18).
Prayer and thanksgiving must always come together. The person who is not thankful to God will no longer come into his presence. We don’t fellowship with or speak much with people we are not thankful for.
In fact, I would say thankfulness draws us into the throne room of God. Psalms says that he “inhabits the praises of his people” (22:3). God’s presence comes down where praise and thanksgiving are going up. Thanksgiving is the atmosphere of true prayer. For that reason, we see praise placed in the front of the Lord’s Prayer. “Hallowed be thy name” (Matt. 6:9). It is with thanksgiving and worship that we must come before our God, and it is thanksgiving that will enable us to be devoted to him in prayer.
Application Question: How can we stay in a spirit of thanksgiving?
- In order to remain thankful, we must be convinced that the character of God is always good.
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Ps. 107:1).
God is good and he always works things to the good of those who love the Lord, even when it doesn’t make sense to us (Rom. 8:28). If Satan can get you to doubt God’s goodness, then he can keep you out of his presence. He convinced Adam and Eve that God’s plan for them was not good, leading them into sin (Gen. 3). In order to remain thankful, we must be totally convinced of God’s goodness.
- In order to remain thankful, we must be convinced that God is all–wise.
“To the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen” (Rom. 16:27).
We must trust that everything that God does is not only good but wise. In his infinite wisdom he uses even bad things for the good. In fact, the cross—the crucifixion of Christ—was the worst thing that ever happened on the earth; however, through God’s wisdom, it was the best thing. We must trust that the all–wise God is even working bad things for our good. Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”
- In order to remain thankful, we must be convinced that God is sovereign.
“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Eph. 1:11).
We must see sickness under the control of God; we must see waiting seasons and trials under the control of God. A person who does not truly understand that God is in control of everything and that everything comes from his wise and good hand (Rom. 8:28) will not be thankful. He will complain about others, complain in his heart about himself, and he even will complain about God. A lack of thankfulness will quench the spirit of prayer. It will keep you from being devoted in prayer.
What is another characteristic of devoted prayer?
3. Devoted Prayer Includes Petitions For Open Doors.
“And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message” (Col. 4:3).
One of the ways that missional Christians pray is for “open doors.” Paul, while in prison, was praying for open doors to reach people. This is what Christ talked about in the book of Revelation with the church of Philadelphia. He said,
To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut (Rev. 3:7–8).
Christ is the one who opens and closes doors. With the church in Philadelphia, the open doors probably were opportunities for missions and evangelism. Paul said something similar to the Corinthians. “But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me (1 Cor. 16:8–9).”
Paul realized it was God who opens and closes doors. Therefore, it led him to seek these openings through prayer.
Are you praying for open doors in your own life? Are you asking for open doors to be a light in your workplace or with your family? Are you asking for open doors for the church to reach more people, to train more students, and to be a blessing to the nations?
It should be remembered that Paul was imprisoned in Rome as he asked for open doors. The petition for open doors doesn’t make sense. He was under house arrest, chained to a Roman guard all day long. He couldn’t go anywhere. Yet, Paul looked at his chains and his imprisonment as nothing too great for God. Consider what he shared in his letter to the Philippians, which is another prison epistle:
Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly (Phil. 1:12–14).
While Paul was under house arrest in Rome, scores of Christians started to make a pilgrimage to see him (Acts 28:30–31). They listened to him preach and share his testimony every day, and even people in the palace of Caesar accepted Christ (Phil. 4:22). Christians throughout Rome became emboldened to share the Word of God in spite of persecution (Phil. 1:14). Even greater, while in prison Paul wrote four letters: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon, which God included in the Canon, and they are still being used to reach the world today. Through the prayers of the Colossians, God opened the door for Paul’s ministry, even while he was in prison. Isn’t this an encouragement to ask for open doors for our ministry and others?
Like Paul, missional Christians constantly pray for open doors and seek others to pray for open doors for their ministry as well. Are you praying like Paul? What doors are you praying for?
4. Devoted Prayer Is Humble.
As mentioned, Paul asked for prayer from the Colossians. Even though he was a great apostle, he still felt the need to seek the prayers of the saints. We see him do this often in his letters. Paul had a great confidence in prayer. Look at what he says to the Philippians: “For I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance” (Phil. 1:19).
Paul at this point was still in prison, and yet he was confident that he would be delivered because of the prayers of the saints and the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Did you hear this? No doubt, the church of Philippi was very small, as it was a new church, but Paul thought that the prayers of this small band of disciples were sufficient to thwart the plans of Rome. Do you have confidence in the prayers of others?
It takes humility to ask for others to pray for you. It takes humility to share your sins, your sicknesses, and your worries in order to have this power in your life. Many Christians lack this power because they lack humility. Pride keeps them from sharing their struggles or pain. I’ve seen many parents not even share their struggles with their own kids. How much more will they hide it from the church?
Devotion to prayer takes humility. How often do you ask for others to pray for you? What keeps you from seeking the prayers of others? If you really knew how powerful the prayers of the saints were, you undoubtedly would be constant in requesting their petitions.
5. Devoted Prayer Is Undistracted.
Again, it must be remembered that Paul was in prison and could possibly die. However, he was not asking to be delivered but asking God to open doors for him to preach the Word of God. This is very important to see. No doubt Satan imprisoned Paul with the hope of stopping the mission. That certainly was the hope of the Jews who wanted to kill him while he was in prison (Acts 23:14). However, Paul in his prayer life was undistracted.
In fact, I believe this is one of Satan’s tactics. He brings trials and distractions that pull us away from God’s purpose for us in prayer. Many Christians start off focused and vigilant in prayer for their company, for their school, for their church, or for a lost friend, but not too soon after they become distracted by some trial.
I believe it is God’s will for us to be undistracted in prayer. This is what it means to be devoted. He puts people on assignment in the area of prayer. He assigns burdens that he desires for us to labor over even in the midst of trials. We see this with the watchmen he placed over Israel. Look at what God says in Isaiah 62:6–7:
I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.
God said, “Give him no rest” until he accomplishes his purposes. This is how it should be for us as well in whatever mission God has called us to. We must be undistracted in our devotion to prayer until God has relinquished the burden. However, in that process we must be aware that Satan often seeks to distract. He often seeks to distract through trials or pleasures, which often make us self–focused instead of kingdom–focused. Prison was no distraction for Paul. He continued to pray for God to open doors even while he was in prison.
6. Devoted Prayer Petitions For The Proclamation Of God’s Word.
“Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should” (Col. 3:4).
Paul not only requested prayer for open doors, but he also requested prayer for the preaching of the mystery of Christ (v. 3), the gospel. He asked that he may proclaim it clearly as he should. It should be noted that his desire was to be clear, not deep. When Christ restored his disciple Peter, he commanded him to feed the lambs, the newborn sheep (John 21:15). It seems like many preachers and teachers aim to use high-level speech to show how knowledgeable they are when the great goal should be to preach clearly in order to reach all people.
We should also notice that prayer and the Word of God always must come together. You cannot have one without the other. The apostles told the Jerusalem church that they must give themselves to “prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). In fact, we see Paul asking for prayer for his preaching at other times. Ephesians 6:19–20 says,
Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
Paul asked for prayer so that words may be given to him and also that he could preach it fearlessly. A word from God only comes as a result of devoted prayer, and these prayers also affect the manner of the preaching. It seems we have too many sermons in the church and very few words from God. A word from God only comes through prayer, and missional Christians understand this.
Similarly, listen to how Paul asked for prayer from the Thessalonians. First Thessalonians 3:1 says, “Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.”
Devoted prayer must be consumed with praying for the Word of God. Let us pray for our preachers each Sunday. Let us pray for our small group leaders. Let us pray for words to be given so we can proclaim the gospel clearly at work, with our families, and with people we have never even met before. This is what missional Christians do.
Let us be faithful in praying for words to go forth.
Application Question: What practices have you found helpful in seeking to be devoted to prayer?
Strategic Partnership Is A Characteristic Of The Mission-Driven Life
“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” (Col. 4:3–4).
As mentioned previously, Paul asked the Colossians to partner with him in prayer: prayer for open doors and prayer for the Word of God to be proclaimed clearly. This is another practice necessary for the mission-driven life. It cannot be done alone. Christians who live a mission-driven life develop “strategic partnerships” in order to build the kingdom of God. This is true when one is a full-time missionary, and it is true for a professional working at a company.
In the same way, missionaries seek to foster strategic relationships by requesting prayer and sometimes financial support—so should a Christian student or employee. They should prayerfully consider approaching like-minded brothers and sisters about partnering in prayer for them and the ministry God has given them.
When Christ sent his disciples out, he sent them out in twos (Mark 6:7). They never went alone. When the church sent Paul out on his missionary journey, they sent him out with Barnabas (Acts 13). At the end of this letter, we actually see many of Paul’s ministry partners, both those who were with him and those who were away (Col. 4:7–18). Look at what Paul said at the end of 2 Timothy 4:11: “Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.”
Who is beneficial to you in ministry? Who are your ministry partners who lift you up in prayer and support you when you are weak? Listen to what Paul says about Timothy:
I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare (Phil. 2:19–20).
Who can you trust to take care of your most important investments? That is who Timothy was to Paul. Who are your ministry partners?
On a macro-level, churches should partner with churches and other ministries in building the kingdom of God. When Paul talks about the church being the body in 1 Corinthians 12:13, he is not just referring to the local church. He is referring to the entire body of Christ. We need each other. Some churches excel in teaching the Word, some in charismatic gifts, some in fighting sex trafficking, etc. We should not be separated by the fact that we are different; it’s our differences that make us need one another.
Jesus said it was through the body of Christ being “one” that the world would know that God sent the Son (John 17:20–23). Evangelism is the fruit of Christians partnering with one another.
Who are your ministry partners?
Application Question: Who are your strategic ministry partners and how do you benefit from one another? How should we seek out and foster these partnerships?
A Wise Lifestyle Is A Characteristic Of The Mission-Driven Life
“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity” (Col. 4:5).
What is the next characteristic of the mission-driven life? Paul exhorts the Colossians to be wise in the way they act toward outsiders. What does Paul mean by outsiders? It is clearly referring to unbelievers. Ephesians 2:12 says, “Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.”
In Ephesians, Paul describes Gentile unbelievers as being “without Christ, without hope, and without God in the world.” In the same way, here Paul is referring to those who are outside the blessings of Christ and a relationship with him. He says believers should be wise in how they act toward them.
Wisdom in this context means to choose the best and most appropriate actions in order for others to see and come to know Christ. It was always God’s will to show the nations of the world his wisdom through the people of God. Consider what Moses said to Israel:
See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people’ (Deut. 4:5–6).
By observing the commands of God, the nations would see how wise Israel was and be drawn to God. It is the same for Christians today. Our lifestyles should be wise letters that draw people to Christ. Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
Are we living a wise life in front of outsiders so that they can be drawn to God? Sadly, many Christians are not, and it actually turns people away from God. It has always been true that a master is often judged by his servants.
Interpretation Question: What does it mean to live wisely in the way we act toward outsiders?
1. To Live Wisely Means To Live An Authentic Christian Life.
Listen to what Paul told Timothy: “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16).
He challenged Timothy to watch his life and doctrine closely because if he did he would save himself and his hearers. No doubt, the primary hearers Paul is talking about are believers in the church of Ephesus that Timothy was pastoring. However, it was not just believers that would be hearing and seeing Timothy. There would be unbelievers as well. Unbelievers are always watching the believer to see if his message aligns with his actions. Sadly, many don’t and that turns unbelievers away from God.
The wisest thing you can do around those who are outside is have a walk that matches your talk. Essentially, Paul could have said, “If you don’t watch your life and your doctrine, it will destroy your hearers.” Many people have fallen away from the church because of Christians whose lives did not match their master, and many unbelievers will never come to the church because of this reality. I believe this is part of the reason Satan sows “tares amongst the wheat” in the church (Matt. 13). He sows unbelievers who profess to be saved but live like the devil, to turn people away from God—to keep them from salvation.
The wisest thing you can do in your workplace, in your school, and around your unbelieving friends is to live an authentic Christian life. You must seek to be above reproach in your conversation, your entertainment, and your actions, because if you are not, you will push many away from Christ by how you live your life. We must live wisely by being authentic Christians.
2. To Live Wisely Means To Strategically Use Our Time To Witness For Christ.
“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity” (Col. 4:5).
The phrase, “make the most of every opportunity” can also be translated as “buy up the time” or “redeem the time.” God may give you unlimited love, unlimited mercy, and unlimited grace, but he will not give you unlimited time. We all have a limited time here on this earth to complete the mission God has given us. Make the most of it at your workplace and when with your family and friends. Make the most of the opportunities God gives you for they are not unlimited.
In order to redeem our time and make the most of our opportunities, we must be conscious of opportunities to share the gospel or to encourage someone in the faith. That’s what it means to make the most of our opportunities.
Moreover, when you buy something, it also implies cost. Witnessing has a cost. You may have to give up other opportunities to focus on what is most important. Sometimes witnessing may cost a friendship. Certainly, we should not be pressuring people, but we must share the Word of God, and that may cause conflict at times. In many nations, it could cost our jobs or even our lives as it did the disciples. Jesus said we must be willing to take up our cross to be his disciples (Luke 14:27). Practically, it may cost us finances as we go on mission trips or other strategic opportunities, but these are wise investments and worth the cost. Let us buy up the time.
It should be noted that Paul uses the Greek word kairos in this passage instead of chronos. Chronos is chronological time, like seconds in a minute or days in a week. But kairos has to do with a season or a special or decisive moment.
People around us go through decisive and critical moments that we must be aware of and take advantage of for the kingdom of God. It may be a time when a person breaks up with her boyfriend or when someone is going through a divorce. It may be a time when someone is deathly ill and now they are open to the gospel when they were not before. Missional Christians must be aware of these seasons that God gives and make the most of them.
Application Question: Share a “kairos” moment where you were able to share the gospel or encourage someone in Christ. How did you recognize it?
3. To Live Wisely Means To Be Incarnational.
First Corinthians 9:19–22 says,
Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.
Paul learned the culture of others and used aspects of the culture that were not sin to reach the lost. One time Paul quoted one of the Athenians’ wise men in order to relate the gospel to them (Acts 17:28). We must be incarnational as well, which takes a lot of wisdom. We must become like the people in order to win the people. Obviously, this does not include taking on anything that would be sin or against God’s Word.
Application Question: What are some good examples of becoming incarnational to reach people for Christ?
4. To Act Wisely Means To Be Filled With The Spirit.
Ephesians 5:15–18 says,
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
Paul says we are to be wise by being filled with God’s Spirit. To be filled with the Spirit means to be empowered by and controlled by him. When Christ lived on the earth, he lived a life in the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1). There was power in his words, his actions, and his prayers. In the same way, Christians should labor to be filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit each day. This power will enable them to not fall to temptation, to not compromise in their language, but it will also enable them to be a blessing to those around them.
Sadly, most Christians neglect this daily command to be filled with the Spirit and therefore live powerless Christian lives. They really look no different from those around them.
How can we be filled with the Spirit? The Spirit fills and controls those who live in the Word of God, those who live in worship, and those who are obedient (cf. Eph. 5:18–19; Col. 3:16).
When you see the story of Daniel working in Babylon, he was known as a man in whom the spirit of God dwelled. Listen to Daniel 4:8: “Finally, Daniel came into my presence and I told him the dream. (He is called Belteshazzar, after the name of my god, and the spirit of the holy gods is in him).”
Nebuchanezzar, the pagan king of Babylon, called him this. Even unbelievers recognized there was power in Daniel’s life.
We see this also with Joseph as he worked in the pagan government of Egypt. The Pharaoh said Joseph was somebody in whom the spirit of God dwelled and that is why he was selected to be second in command. Look at what the king said:
So Pharaoh asked them, ‘Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?’ Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you’ (Gen. 41:38–40).
The world should notice something different about you. They should see the power of God in your life and the favor of God. This comes by being filled with the Spirit, which means to be “continually filled.” It is not a one–time experience; it is something we do daily as we abide in Christ (John 15:4–5). Being filled with the Spirit is one of the wisest things you can do as a Christian.
How else do we walk wisely before those who are in the world?
5. To Live Wisely Means To Not Be Yoked Together With Unbelievers.
Paul said this to the Corinthians: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14).
To be yoked means to be in relationships with unbelievers who are pulling us into sin or away from God. Yes, Christians are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matt. 5:13–14). However, it is possible to dull our saltiness and dim our light by our relationships.
A good example for Christians to model is that of Christ and his relationship “circles.” He was a “friend of sinners,” but his most intimate relationships were with his disciples. It has been noted how Christ had five circles of friends. The most intimate were the strongest followers: Peter, James, and John, who he would often go away to pray with alone (cf. Matt, 17:1; Matt. 26:37–38). Then there were the other nine apostles. Then there were the seventy–two. Outside of that were other Christians. Then there was the world.
We must wisely reserve our closest friendships for those who will help us grow in our faith and hold us accountable. Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”
Many Christians harm their testimony by friendships that cause them to fall further away from God. This actually contributes to their secular friends not coming to Christ. Secular people think, “If Christ doesn’t really change their lives then he must not be that important.” We must be wise by developing influential relationships with nonbelievers, while at the same time, not being influenced by them in such a way that would dishonor Christ.
6. To Live Wisely Means To Become Wise.
This goes without saying: if Christians are going to act wisely among those who are outside, they must become wise people. Wisdom is different from simply accumulating knowledge. A person can have many degrees and not be wise. Wisdom is the application of knowledge. It is discerning what to do in various situations. Christians need to become wise people.
Interpretation Question: How do we develop wisdom?
- Wisdom comes from a fear of God or worship.
Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
Fearing God’s wrath and revering his perfect attributes are the beginning of wisdom. Many Christians are not wise because they do not truly revere God. They do not really stand in awe of who he is, nor do they fear his wrath toward the disobedient. We must begin to fear God, and we do that by understanding him more through study and obedience to Scripture.
- Wisdom comes through prayer.
James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”
Wisdom comes through a life of prayer. James says God gives liberally to those who ask him. We should pray and ask the Lord for wisdom.
- Wisdom comes through knowing the Word of God.
Psalm 19:7b says, “The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.”
The person who abides in the Word of God will grow in wisdom. This wisdom will show up in how he directs his affairs and how he counsels and ministers to others. The Word of God will overflow in him to build up himself and others.
- Wisdom comes through walking with the wise.
Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”
This includes being mentored by godly people, sitting under godly preachers, and reading the books of wise authors as they teach Scripture. As we do this, their anointing will start to flow over into our lives. Many people lack wisdom because they hang around the wrong people. Let us remember that the “companion of fools suffers harm” (Prov. 13:20b).
Application Question: In what way is God challenging you most to live a life that is wise in the way you act toward outsiders?
Godly Speech Is A Characteristic Of The Mission-Driven Life
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col. 4:6).
What is the final characteristic of a missional life? It is godly speech. This is what Proverbs 17:27 says: “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even–tempered.” A wise man restrains his words when a fool proudly speaks his mind (cf. Eccl. 5:3; Prov. 10:19). If we are going to be missional toward those who are outside, we must carefully weigh our words in order to get the optimum effect. We shouldn’t vent every thought or emotion. We must become people who only say what God says. This is what Christ did while on the earth. He said that he only spoke what the Father said (John 12:49–50). In the same way, our words must be strategic, for there is power in our words. In fact, Jesus said we will be judged for every careless word (Matt. 12:36).
But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned (Matt. 12:36–37).
God will judge us by our words and so will the world. The world listens to what we say; it is by our words that we will be acquitted and by our words that we will be condemned.
Observation Question: What does the speech of a missional Christian look like according to Colossians 4:6?
1. The Speech Must Always Be Full Of Grace.
The believer’s speech must always be full of grace. The word “full” has meaning of being controlled by, as seen in Ephesians 5:18’s command to be “filled with the Spirit.” To be filled with the Spirit means to be controlled by the Spirit. In the same way, we must be controlled by grace at all times in our speech. The word “grace” simply means “unmerited favor.” In the words that we speak, we should always seek to give people what they do not deserve. Our words should always seek to edify and build others up. They should give mercy even when others have hurt us.
Look at what the world said about Jesus: “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. ‘Isn’t this Joseph’s son?’ they asked” (Luke 4:22).
In a messianic Psalm, this was actually prophesied about Christ. The Psalmist said, “You are the most excellent of men and your lips have been anointed with grace, since God has blessed you forever” (Ps. 45:2).
God anointed Christ’s lips with grace. People said this about Christ: “No one ever spoke the way this man does” (John 7:46). This should be the desire of every Christian. We should seek to have words that always give people grace and build them up. This is what Paul exhorted in Ephesians 4:29 (NKJV): “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.”
We should ask ourselves this as we are weighing our words:
- “Are these words corrupt and filthy?”
- “Are these words necessary, or are they just careless words?”
- “Will these words edify others?”
- “Will these words impart grace to its hearers?”
Yes, the missional Christian is seeking to impart grace. He is not known for a multitude of words, but his words are necessary, edifying, and therefore gracious. His speech is full of grace.
Do you have gracious words?
2. The Speech Must Always Be Seasoned With Salt.
Interpretation Question: What does it mean for one’s words to be seasoned with salt?
The metaphor of salt has many meanings.
- Speech that is seasoned with salt is valuable.
Salt was so valuable during ancient times that it was often given as money. That is where the phrase “He is not worth his salt” came from. Wars were fought specifically over salt because of how precious it was. We should be sure that our speech is valuable and not just flippant words.
- Speech that is seasoned with salt should sway conversations toward godly topics.
Salt in those days was a preservative. It would keep food from decay and rotting. In the same way, much of the world’s conversation is filthy and ungodly. It is full of cursing, complaining, and gossip. One of the ways our words act as a preservative is by turning conversations toward worthy, God–honoring topics. We do that by speaking Scripture, speaking with love and gratitude, and turning conversations away from things that dishonor God.
Our speech should be salty.
- Speech that is seasoned with salt helps heal people.
Salt had medicinal uses as well. If you put salt in a wound it might sting, but it will also cleanse and help bring healing. In the same way, sometimes our speech should sting others. Sometimes it should challenge them to be holy. Scripture says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov. 27:6 KJV). If you never wound anybody then you may not really be their friend.
- Speech that is seasoned with salt will make people desire Christ.
Salt obviously has the ability to make people thirsty. In the same way, our speech should make people thirst for the satisfying water that comes only from Christ. Our speech must reveal the emptiness of the things of the world and show the fullness that is in Christ. Listen to what Christ said in John 4:13–14:
Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’
The wells of this earth simply leave people empty and dry, but it is Christ who satisfies. Our speech should have enough salt to make people thirst for Christ. It should make people say, “Whatever he has, I need.”
Does your speech make people thirsty? Does it make people thirst for more of God and more of God’s Word? If it is saturated with the things of God then it will.
What is another characteristic of the missional Christian’s speech?
3. The Speech Is Wise.
“So that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col. 3:6b).
Paul says a person who practices always speaking with grace and salt will, by necessity, develop speech that is wise. He will know how to respond in any situation and with any person. Paul gives a result clause, “So that you may know how to answer everyone.” The person who speaks with grace and salt will “know how to answer everyone.”
If your conversations are commonly flippant or commonly given to coarse jokes, then when there is a need to give a word from God to sustain the weary or to encourage the hopeless, you will find that you don’t have the words to say. You must have a trained tongue, which comes by always practicing gracious and salty speech. Listen to what Isaiah 50:4 said about Christ: “The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.”
This “instructed tongue” no doubt in part came from “always” having conversation that was graceful and seasoned with salt. But it also came from a disciplined life that got up early to be with the Lord in prayer and in his Word. He said that God woke him “morning by morning” to listen like one being taught. We must be like that as well if we are going to have speech that is wise.
Do you practice “always” having grace in your conversations, especially when somebody offends you? Do you practice “always” having salt in your conversations, turning ungodly conversations into something righteous and worthwhile? For those who do, God begins to anoint their speech. He anoints them because he can trust them. They always want to honor God with what they say, and therefore God gives them the words to answer someone.
This is the type of speech needed to live a mission-driven life. The speech must be gracious and salty, which results in speech that is ultimately wise.
Application Question: Why is the believer’s speech so important in reaching the lost for Christ? How is God challenging you to grow in being full of grace and salt with your speech?
What are characteristics of a mission-driven life, a life that is always seeking to draw the lost to God? Paul, as he closes this letter, exhorts Christians to mission. He calls them to partner in his mission and to be wise in ministering to those outside, those who are lost.
Many times we think of missions as leaving home to do ministry, but actually missions is all around us. In a sense, a mission-driven life flows from a heart attitude that always should be present within a Christian, whether they work in education, business, teaching, full–time ministry, or at home. It’s a heart attitude that sees everything and everybody around them as a valuable part of God’s mission to build his kingdom. Paul exhorts this church to live a life in view of those who are “outside,” living without hope, without God, and without Christ.
Are you still burdened for the lost? Are you still living a mission-driven life, one consumed with God’s coming kingdom? Or are you living for your kingdom and the things of this world?
How do we live a mission-driven life?
- As missionaries we must be devoted to prayer.
- As missionaries we must develop strategic partnerships.
- As missionaries we must be committed to living wise lives with a view toward the lost.
- As missionaries we must be committed to godly speech.
Application Question: In what ways has God challenged you to live a more mission-centered life?
Copyright © 2015 Gregory Brown
1 AudioEnglish: http://www.audioenglish.org/dictionary/vigilant.htm
Related Topics: Christian Life