Mike Gerhardt, 04-10-11, Be Wise in Speaking, Colossians 4:2-6. Be Wise when you use words. Of 600,000+ words, there are 171,476 words in the Oxford English dictionary. The above average person knows 15,000 words and uses 3,000 in everyday speech. But never underestimate the power of words: A judge speaks, and a man is condemned or set free. A physician speaks and a man gets surgery or goes home from the hospital. A government official speaks, and millions of dollars can be spent or withheld. An evangelist speaks and an individual can move from spiritual death to life! Paul wrote about using words. There’s two parts: vv 2-3 prayer- speaking to God about people & vv 4-6 evangelism- speaking to people about God, two important ministries of wise speech. Speaking to God about people - Praying (2-3). Do you find it easy to pray? If the answer is no, then you are in good company! The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once admitted that his prayer life was something to be ashamed of. The Great Reformer, Martin Luther, anguished in prayer three hours a day yet he seldom seemed satisfied. Many Christian greats were dissatisfied with their prayer life. E. M. Bounds, Sam Rutherford, Hudson Taylor, G. Campbell Morgan, Charles Spurgeon, A. W. Tozer, Henry Ironside, and Billy Graham. Strong role models, yet none completely satisfied with his prayer life. They labored in prayer, they believed in prayer, they taught prayer, but they all had to work hard at it! If you struggle to pray, then you are in good company!
Be faithful (2a). One of my professors at Dallas Theological Seminary was Norm Geisler. As a child, he was invited by friends to go to Sunday School. The bus picked him up right on his street. He went during the next 8 years about 400 times. Each week he was faithfully picked up by the church bus driver. Week after week he attended church but did not trust Jesus as Savior. Finally, during his senior year in High School, he committed his life to Christ. What if that bus driver had given up on Norm Geisler at 399, thinking this kid is going nowhere, why waste any more time & gas? Paul wrote: Devote yourselves to prayer and continue in prayer. Be steadfast; be devoted; keep on keep on keeping on; in other words, don't quit! A stonecutter hammers away at a rock sometimes a hundred times without a crack showing in it. Yet at the 101st blow, it splits in two. Too many of us pray only when there is a crisis. In contrast, be constantly in prayer with God. I once challenge this congregation to pray for someone until they come to Jesus as their Savior. I know that task isn’t easy, but it is Biblical and very rewarding.
Yet we can also pray like Nehemiah when he came before King Artaxerxes. He fired up a straight arrow prayer, a direct message to God. In other words, prayer isn’t just for evening devotions. Prayer to Nehemiah was part of his life.
Be watchful (2b). “Being watchful” "Watch and pray!"
D. L. Moody born in 1837 had a 40-year ministry in which he led a million souls to Christ. When he preached in Brooklyn, he spoke to 20,000 each day He founded three Christian schools including Moody Bible Institute. Moody and his wife often had guests in their Chicago home. One evening Moody asked a visiting preacher to lead in family devotions. The man waxed eloquently as he expounded on the symbolism in a difficult chapter of the Bible and then prayed at great length. When it was over, they got up from their knees, but Moody remained bowed in prayer. The guest thought that he was still praying but Moody was deep in sleep! Even the greatest of Christians at times struggle. Ask the disciples, they fell asleep in Mark 14:37 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?” Just at the time, Jesus needed them most. There are several good reasons to be watchful. We need to be watchful so that we see the answers to our prayers. Answered prayer is a great motivator to encourage us to pray even more. Jesus taught us we need to be watchful because the Lord is coming and wants us to be ready to meet him. Matthew 24:42: Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. We need to be watchful or we could be tempted. Matthew 26:41: Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak. Consider the difference between two soldiers. One is patrolling the fence in Guantanamo Bay, an army base in Cuba. The other is on patrol in a very hot spot in Afghanistan. Which one do you think is probably going to be more attentive, more watchful? The one who realizes it’s a real battle & the stakes are high. Friends, because we're in a real spiritual battle where the souls of those we love could be lost forever, we always need to stay on high alert.
Be Thankful (2c): Being watchful and thankful, watch with thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is an important ingredient in prayer. Count your blessings and remember the generosity of God. If all we do is ask and never thank God for His gifts, we reveal our selfishness. Sincere gratitude is the best ways to put fervor into our praying. When Paul wrote this letter, he was a prisoner. He had lost his freedom and was constantly watched by four soldiers. Yet throughout the letter he is never bitter, only thankful. 1:3: We always thank God, 1:12 Giving thanks to the Father, 2:7 overflowing with thankfulness, 3:15 And be thankful. 3:17 giving thanks to God the Father through him. Thanksgiving is found over 7 times. In the 17th century, Germany was in the midst of wars, famine, and pestilence. Pastor Martin Rinkart lived in Eilenburg. Rinkart conducted up to 50 funerals a day as a plague swept through the town. The Thirty Years of War wreaked its own terror on the people. Rinkart buried members of his own family. During those years of darkness, despair, death, and destruction, Pastor Rinkart wrote 66 sacred songs and hymns. As sorrow was all around him, Rinkart wrote: Now thank we all our God, With hearts and hands and voice, Who wondrous things hath done, In whom His world rejoices; Who, from our mothers’ arms, Hath blessed us on our way With countless gifts of love, And still is ours today. Thankfulness does not have to wait for prosperity and peace. It’s always a good time to praise God for the wondrous things He has done.
Be specific (verse 3). Pray for us. Paul was not ashamed to ask his friends to pray for him. Though an apostle, he still needed prayer for himself and his ministry. If Paul felt the need for prayer support, how much more do you and I need this kind of spiritual help! I am really privileged in this aspect to have many of you praying for me. Col 4:12 a few verses down we have the example of Epaphras who prayed for the church members. I ask: Who am I praying specifically for in my Church, among my family & friends? Shotguns use buckshot and the further it travels the more it sprays everywhere. Rifles fire bullets, you just have one target. We can pray shotgun prayers like Dear God bless all the missionaries in the world. Or we can pray rifle prayers Dear God bless the work of Judy Gaskin in Indonesia and her work at the seminary there. How can we be watchful for an answer with shotgun prayers? With rifle prayers, we can be specific and when answers come, we can rejoice. Notice that Paul did not ask for the prison doors to be opened, but that doors of ministry might be opened. It was more important to Paul that the message of the gospel would have freedom than for him to enjoy it. In fact, in all of Paul’s recorded prison prayers, none of them were for personal safety or material help, which is so often the very things we pray for. Paul’s emphasis in prayer was for spiritual character and blessing. So, how is your prayer life? Let us come together often with others to pray to be faithful, being watchful, being thankful and being specific. Next time in Colossians will see what it means to speak to people about God.