Lesson 4 -- Chapter 4
Colossians 4:2 :"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. "
I believe that even atheists might pray on certain occasions.
Whenever they're in trouble, or in a crisis, or whenever chaos is breaking loose around them,
even they might pray just in case he or she is wrong.
Many times non-believers pray out of desperation, with a hope that something
might happen as a result.
They are not really sure that anything is going to happen, but just in case,
they probably ought to pray.
So they pray whenever they are in a bad situation.
They pray whenever they are facing a challenge, or whenever they are facing
a difficult situation at home or at work, or whenever they are having a personal crisis.
They need help.
And if God is willing to help them, they're willing to receive that help.
Everyone knows something about prayer.
In fact, a Gallup survey revealed that a majority of the people in this country
say that they pray on a regular basis.
That includes people who don't claim to be Christians.
Praying Christians really know about prayer.
We know the power of God.
We know Jesus Christ.
We know the provisions of God.
We know that when we pray things happen.
We know what the Bible says about the importance of prayer.
And you would think knowing what we know about the power of prayer,
the efficacy of prayer, and the power of Christ, that we would be praying
and seeking God much more than we do.
But, the sad reality of the fact is -- we don't.
I know that I don't find myself praying like I should.
What about you?
Why don't you pray more?
There are a thousand reasons why.
And one reason is as good as another when you don't want to do something.
I remember the old story of the man who was out fishing on Sunday morning with his friend.
They were in the boat on the lake boat fishing for bass.
And they were having a good time until one of the men said to the other,
"I'm starting to feel a little guilty.
Here we are out on a Sunday morning when I'm normally in church
and I'm feeling guilty because I should be in church."
His friend said, "Oh don't worry about that!
I don't feel guilty.
As a matter of fact, if I wasn't fishing this morning I couldn't go to church anyway."
His guilty friend asked why, and the guiltless friend replied,
"Because my wife's sick!"
You see, when you need an excuse, we will find one.
We are busy people.
We don't have time to pray.
But are we any busier than Jesus was throughout His ministry,
when He would minister to multiplied thousands of people every single day?
Yet, He found time to pray.
Rather, we should say that He made time to pray.
He would slipped away by Himself, sometimes a great while before daylight
to a quiet place to pray.
Jesus did that often.
Jesus was a man of prayer, as strange as that may sound to you.
Think about it.
Why would Jesus need to pray?
I have so much to pray about, don't you?
I have sins I need to confess, don't you?
I have problems in my life that I'm facing, don't you?
I need wisdom.
I need guidance.
But why would Jesus need to pray?
Jesus didn't have any sins to confess.
Jesus was perfectly, perfect.
He was perfectly holy in word, thought, and deed.
He was holy.
Yet, Jesus had the desire and need to pray, and He prayed a lot,
and at times He would pray all through the night.
How many times have you prayed all through the night?
If Jesus needed to pray that much, doesn't it tell us that we need to pray even more?
Prayer is a priority of life!
Prayer is vital.
Prayer is a priority of life.
Prayer connects us with God, and it connects us with God's provision for our lives.
A preacher from the past, Robert Murray McCheyne, once wrote,
"What a man is on his knees before God, that he is, and nothing more."
That is a very powerful statement.
It could also apply to the church.
It could be easily altered to say, "What a church is on its knees before God,
that it is, and nothing more."
Jesus said it in a different way.
He said, "My house shall be called a house of
No, He did not say that!
"My house shall be called a house of
That sounds better.
"Or my house shall be called a house of
He didn't even say that.
He said, "My house shall be called a house of prayer."
It is sad to say, but we have made God's house everything else but prayer.
Samuel Chadwick said, "The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying.
The devil fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work and prayerless religion.
The devil laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray."
That is so true!
Andrew Murray said, "The man who mobilizes the Christian church to pray
will make the greatest contribution to world evangelization in history."
Charles Spurgeon said, "I would rather teach one man to pray than ten men to preach."
And Spurgeon believed in preaching!
Prayer is so important that we must make prayer a life priority.
We're told in the book of James, "You have not because you ask not."
I sometimes wonder what I could have had if I had only asked.
I've often found myself complaining to God about what I want to happen or see accomplished,
and I believe that God might say to me, "Why don't you ask me?"
Some have actually sensed the rebuke of God saying,
"Well, why don't you just ask me for it.
You are complaining about it, but you have never asked me for it."
Have you ever thought how much we have missed because we have never asked God for it?
What do we "have not" because we have "asked not"?
Well, you say, "God knows all things.
He knows everything I think and desire.
Why should I have to ask for everything"?
But if you follow that logic, you would never pray.
God knows everything you want before you ask, but He wants us to ask!
Jesus prayed, and Jesus taught His disciples to pray.
Prayer is not just to inform God of something He already knows, prayer is for our sake
to do something in our lives that we need.
And I'm not talking about getting the thing for which we pray.
I'm talking about something more than that.
I'm talking about God doing a spiritual work of transformation in our hearts and minds.
That's what prayer does for us.
The very act of praying the very discipline of praying invites God to work in our lives
in ways that we can not.
It connects us with Him.
Remember the old dial radios where you would turn the dial to the appropriate setting
in order to receive the strongest signal?
You had to play with it a little bit.
You would get to the station and go a little past it, and then back up a little,
continuing to tweak it until you got the very best reception.
That's what God is doing for us in prayer.
He's dialing us in.
Through the process of prayer, we learn how to connect to God.
We learn how to hear God's voice.
We learn how to listen.
We learn how to respond when He speaks.
We learn how to be more like Jesus because He responds to us as we are praying.
He speaks to our hearts.
Prayer is for us.
It's not for God.
It's not to inform Him of something He already knows.
Prayer is for us.
In Luke 11:9-10 Jesus says,
"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds;
and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."
This is an interesting passage.
The verbs indicate a persistent coming to God.
We are to ask, and to keep on asking.
We are to seek, and keep on seeking.
We are to knock, and to keep on knocking.
Those verbs also indicate an increasing sincerity and commitment
to see that our prayers answered.
To ask is one thing, but to seek implies greater effort.
And to knock implies even greater persistence.
God honors persistent prayer.
Jesus gave another example of persistent 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?"
God is just!
As His people come to Him persistently day and night, presenting their needs to Him,
God will be quick to answer these needs.
Yet I wonder if He will find people who have the kind of faith that keeps praying?
You see, God doesn't always answer our prayers in our time frame.
But there are only two conditions that signal that you need to quit praying for your request .
One is, if He says, "Yes." You prayed and you get it.
The second condition is if He says, "No".
Then you can quit.
But if He says, "Wait!"you don't quit.
If He says, "Not yet," you don't quit.
Keep praying unless you get a "yes" or a "no!"
Prayer is Spiritual Warfare!
Our lives must be filled with prayer because prayer is like the air we breathe.
When we pray, we are doing the very thing that keeps us alive in Christ.
But we are also engaging in spiritual warfare.
We are told not only to devote ourselves to prayer, but also to be watchful.
We must because there is an adversary who roams around
like a roaring lion seeking to destroy everything God is doing.
One of the things that happens when we pray is that we are engaging
the enemy in battle in order to defeat him.
We are calling on God to do something in the spiritual realm and which will also have
His Spirit to do something in the visible realm.
We are doing warfare in the unseen realm so that we can see the blessing of God
in the visible realm.
That is spiritual warfare.
For some strange reason, God puts the accomplishing of His will
to His people's willingness to pray.
This is emphasized in Ezekiel 22:30, where we find God getting ready to destroy
the land because of the evil people in it.
He makes this statement, "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."
Sometimes, God's purposes are not accomplished because His people didn't not pray.
Are you willing to stand in the gap?
Do you want to stand with God on behalf of His purposes and call on God to heal the land.
That is what He said in 2 Chronicles 7:14:
"If my people who are called by my name would humble themselves and pray
and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and will heal their land."
When we begin to pray, God will begin to act.
Do you want to see revival?
How will it come?
It will come when we pray as God said in 2 Chronicles 7:14.
R. A. Torrey, an associate of D. L Moody and President of Moody Bible Institute,
said this about the importance of prayer in revival:
"I can give a prescription that will bring revival revival to any church, or community,
or any city on earth.
First: Let a few Christians get thoroughly right with God.
If this is not done, the rest will come to nothing.
Second: Let them bind themselves together to pray for revival until God opens
the windows of heaven and comes down.
Third: Let them put themselves at the disposal of God for His use as He sees fit
in winning others to Christ.
That is all.
I have given this prescription around the world and in no instance has it failed.
It cannot fail."
Isaiah 62:6-7 says,
"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. "
The New International translates a phrase as, "you who call upon the Lord"
is more accurately is translated as "you who remind the Lord."
Remind Him of what?
Remind Him of His promises.
Remind Him of His goodness.
Remind Him of His mercy.
Remind Him of His love for people.
Why do we need to remind God of all of that?
He doesn't doesn't need to be reminded by me.
We are not reminding the Lord, we are reminding ourselves.
We are remembering who God is when we pray by recounting His promises.
We are reminding ourselves who God is.
We are quoting God's promises back to Him because it builds our faith in God.
It reminds us that God wants to do something.
We are like watchmen standing on the wall.
Watchmen stood on the wall to watch out for the enemy.
Those watchmen were the first line of defense.
They were doing warfare, and that's what we are called to do in prayer.
We are those who remind the Lord.
We must not rest until God accomplishes everything that He wants to do in our midst.
If we have spiritual anemia in our lives, then we need to inject ourselves
with a good dose of prayer.
That's the solution for spiritual anemia.
The devil will come along and tell us to quit praying.
He will tell us to "Get up. You're not doing anything. You're praying.
You need to do some work.
Get up and get busy."
He wants to make us believe that prayer is just a waste of time.
But it's not a waste of time.
It is the work we need to be doing.
And it really is work.
It's work to stay on your knees.
It's work to keep your mind focused.
It's work to pray through a list of people that you've been praying for a long time.
But it is worth it.
God will answer those prayers.
Prayer is also personal praise.
Devote yourself to prayer.
Be watchful, engage in spiritual warfare, and be thankful.
Thank God at the end of your of prayer for what He's going to do in advance.
Thank Him in advance for all He is going to do, because He is going to do it.
Prayer is personal praise to God for what He is going to do.
Thanksgiving is the expression of your faith in God's goodness.
I love what Alfred Lord Tennyson had to say about prayer:
"More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me night and day
For what are men better than sheep or goats
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friends?"
We must seek God in prayer.
Hold your pastor up before God.
Hold your spouse up before God.
Hold your children up before God.
Hold this church up before God.
Hold your unsaved friends up before God.
And thank Him in advance for what He is going to do in our midst.
And don't quit praying and praising God until He accomplishes everything
that He is going to do here.
Don't quit praying and praising until God makes His people, His church, a praise on the earth.
May God be glorified in this place!
May His kingdom come, His will be done, here, as it is in heaven.
So be it, Lord.
Just speak the word, and it will be so.
And dear Lord, thank you in advance.
Prayer can change lives!
" 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. "
God can use your prayer to change lives.
God can use your prayer to change situations all around the world.
Think about the serious situations in our world where there is conflict.
Every time we turn on the news, we hear about the horrible things that are happening.
Whether it's the news on our car radio or the news on our television set,
we hear about the many hot spots where hundreds of innocent people
are being slaughtered.
Almost any time we turn on the news, we hear of someone bombing someone,
of someone killing someone.
When we see what is happening all over the world, we feel helpless
to do anything about it.
But we are not helpless.
What does the Bible say that we can do about what's happening around the world?
I known how we can become involved that will make a really big difference in our world.
It will not require us to take a trip to Washington to speak with the leaders of our nation.
It will not require us to buy anything or spend any money.
Our prayers for high and mighty people and evil and vicious people can make
an impact on their lives and our world!
Do we really believe that?
Well we believe that's true intellectually because the Scriptures speak about
the power of prayer.
But if our prayer life is any indication of how much we believe it,
we really don't believe it a lot because we don't pray a lot.
We need to pray more, because prayer can change our lives,
and it can change the lives of others around the world.
I read about Duncan Campbell, a minister of the United Free Church of Scotland.
He had many experiences of God's amazing intervention and guidance
during the late 1950's and '60's in the Hebrides, Islands just west of Scotland,
where Campbell was serving.
The story was about Duncan the Monday after Easter in 1952.
Duncan was seated on the platform after speaking to the Faith Mission Convention
in Northern Ireland, when he sensed an inner voice say to him, "Berneray!"
which is a small island in the Hebrides.
Duncan bowed his head and prayed silently.
Again came the name, "Berneray," came to him.
He continue to pray, and the name came to him a third time.
So Campbell turned to the chairman and whispered,
"Brother, you will need to excuse me.
The Holy Spirit has just told me that I am to go to Berneray."
The chairman mildly objected saying mildly, "But you are the main speaker tomorrow."
But nothing could stop him.
He knew the Spirit had spoken.
He told Wesley Duewel, who was telling this story:
"I had never been to Berneray, had never known anyone from there,
and had never received a letter from anyone there."
He went to the hotel, and packed his two suitcases and contacted the airport.
There were no connections with Berneray because it was too small and out of the way.
So, he caught the first flight to the nearest island.
When he got there, he went down to the coast, and started asking how to get to Berneray.
A fisherman told him that was that there is no commercial way to get there,
but that he would take him for such and such an amount.
It was almost the exact amount of money that Campbell had in his pocket.
When they got to Berneray, the fisherman left Campbell alone on the shore.
He climbed the bluff, and found himself on the edge of a plowed field.
He saw a farmer not far away.
He said to the farmer, "Please go to the nearest pastor and tell him Duncan Campbell has arrived."
The farmer responded, "We don't have a minister for the church now."
"Do you have elders?" Campbell asked.
The man answered,"Yes."
"All right, go to the nearest elder and tell him, Duncan Campbell has arrived."
The farmer looked at him quizzically, then started off across the field
as Campbell rested on his suitcases.
After a while the farmer returned and said, "The elder was expecting you.
He has a place ready for you.
He has announced that the meetings begin at nine o'clock tonight."
While Campbell had been ministering in the convention at Bangor three days earlier,
this elder had spent the day praying in his barn for God to send revival to the island.
God gave him the promise in Hosea 14:5: "I will be as the dew unto Israel."
He claimed it in faith.
His wife in the house heard him praying in the barn,
"Lord, I don't know where he is, but You know, and with You all things are possible.
You send him to the island."
He knew in his heart that God was going to send Duncan Campbell to Berneray.
Campbell had been used in mighty revivals in other parts of Scotland.
He was so sure that Campbell would be there in three days that he made all the arrangements
to use the local church, and had announced the services.
Wesley Duewel goes on to say that a great revival came to the island of Berneray
and a great door for the Word of God was opened that no man could shut
because God had opened it.
He points out this lesson: "When God has people who prevail in prayer,
and people who know how to recognize the voice of the Spirit and obey without question,
there is no limit to what God can do."
[Story taken from" Let God Guide You Daily" by Wesley Duewel,
Zondervan, 1988, pp. 117-119]
Prayer can change lives.
Prayer can even change lives on the other side of the world.
Our prayers makes a real difference.
Prayer is not a last hope.
Prayer is a daily necessity.
Let us look at what prayer can do, and how it can change your life
and use you to change the lives of others.
Prayer can change your perspective.
"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. " (Colossians 4:2 NIV)
Our prayer changes our perspective by bringing us closer to God.
We must commit yourselves to prayer.
The very act of our coming to that place of devotion is in itself a spiritual discipline.
In order for us to commit ourselves to prayer, we must plan a time to pray.
Then, we must make it a priority in our lives to pray, and begin to actually do
what we have intended to do.
As we begin to devote ourselves to prayer, we are going to be drawn closer and closer to Jesus.
Prayer brings us closer to God.
The more we pray, the more we will understand the will of God.
The more we pray, the more we will be in contact with the person of Jesus Christ.
The more we pray, the more we will open up our hearts to what the Holy Spirit
is ready to do in our lives.
Prayer brings us closer to God.
Prayer also changes our perspective by making us aware of danger.
There is a danger.
Remember the Devil is like a roaring lion walking around seeking whom he may devour.
We are told to be watchful.
Be watchful for the traps of the enemy.
Be watchful for the schemes of the enemy.
Be watchful for what the enemy is trying to do to trip us up and to set us back.
Prayer makes us aware of the danger, the pitfalls, and the pot holes.
So, we must be watchful.
Prayer also changes our perspective by reminding us of our blessings in Christ.
We are to be watchful and thankful.
For us to be thankful in prayer, we need to think about those things for which we are thankful.
There is an old hymn that exhorts us to "Count your blessings. Name them one by one."
In other words, we should go over everything for which we are thankful, one at a time.
In order to be thankful in prayer, we have to begin to remind ourselves
of the many blessings that we have.
"Lord, I'm thankful for my life.
Lord, I'm thankful for my health.
Lord, I'm thankful that I have two arms and two legs that work.
Lord I'm thankful that I can see.
I'm thankful for my wife.
I'm thankful for my children.
I'm thankful for my grandchildren."
We should be thankful for so many things that we often take for granted.
Prayer changes our perspective by involving us in praise and worship.
When we are occupied in thanksgiving and prayer, we are actually occupied in praise.
We are thankful to God.
We are saying, "Lord, thank you for blessing me.
Thank you for all the ways that You have provided for me.
Thank you for giving me all of the people in my life that I love and that love me."
We are thanking Him and we are praising Him.
We are worshiping Him.
Prayer is praise and worship.
Prayer can change our opportunities.
"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." (Colossians 4:3-4 NIV)
Paul was in prison for preaching the Gospel of Christ.
Now he asks these Christians to pray that God would open up the doors,
and he is not referring to the prison doors,
He is praying that other doors of opportunity for him to preach the Gospel to people,
even while he is there in prison.
Prayer can change our opportunities by opening closed doors for us to share with others.
God opens closed doors for us to share the message of salvation with others.
Do you have friends whose hearts are closed to the gospel?
You might have relatives whose hearts are closed to the Lord Jesus.
You think to yourself, "How can I penetrate that?
How can I break through to them?"
It is hard to kick those doors open, even harder to knock them down.
We will never succeed in doing that.
Either God will open the closed door of their heart or their heart will remain closed.
You see salvation is not human work.
Salvation is of God.
Only Jesus saves.
We can only share the good news of the Gospel of Christ.
So we need to pray, "Lord, please touch that heart?
Please open that heart?
Please open that mind to receive Your word?"
We may have to pray for people for years.
In the first church that I pastored, we were having a week-long revival.
The preaching of the evangelist was powerful.
But we went all through the revival and came to the last night of the revival,
and no one had come to Jesus.
On that last night, the evangelist gave the invitation for those who would come
and receive Jesus as their Saviour.
As the congregation was singing the first verse of the invitation hymn,
a man in his fifties came forward and received Jesus as his Lord and Saviour.
Suddenly, one of our older ladies stepped out and started walking up
and down the aisle -- shouting and praising God.
When she got to the place that she could talk, she came to the front and said,
"I have been praying for this dear man for more than thirty years."
That was something to shout about!
We must keep praying that God would open those closed doors.
And then when those doors open, we need to pray that God would give us the guidance
of the Holy Spirit so that we will share the Gospel clearly.
Prayer changes our opportunities by making us mentally sharp to share
the message clearly.
Paul told them to pray that he may proclaim it clearly, as he should.
We must not try to impress people.
We must just keep trying to reach people that need Jesus.
The Gospel message is simple, and the simple message of the Gospel has been
saving the unsaved for years.
We need to be mentally sharp in order to make sure we share the message clearly.
So, we must not try to impress them with all we know..
We must not get distracted by side issues.
We must just share the simple message of God's love.
Prayer can help us think clearly and stay on track.
Prayer can change our effectiveness.
Colossians 4:5-6 tells us to:
"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. "
Prayer changes our effectiveness by giving us wisdom as we share Jesus with unbelievers.
Paul says that we must be wise in the way we act toward outsiders.
Paul is talking about unbelievers here.
We need wisdom in order to deal with each individual as an individual.
That is how God saves people.
He saves them one by one.
And as we deal with the individuals with whom we are trying to share,
we must ask for God's wisdom as to how to share with them where they are in life.
"God, how do I share with this person?
How do I touch them where they're living?"
We need the wisdom that we can only get by prayer.
And we must be especially wise toward people who aren't Christians.
They are watching us.
We must be wise about what we say, and how we live around them.
Prayer can change our effectiveness by not only giving us wisdom
but also by giving us the boldness to seize every opportunity.
He says that we should make the most of every opportunity.
Actually the word translated "make the most" is "buy up" or "redeem" every opportunity.
In other words, seize it.
Seize every opportunity!
And we need boldness to do that.
We need to pray:
"God, please give me boldness so whenever You open the door
for me to share the Gospel with someone that I won't back off, and I won't back down;
and I won't wait; and and I won't procrastinate."
We must pray that we will seize that opportunity and speak a word for Jesus.
Prayer also makes us more effective by enabling us to graciously communicate
the message of Christ in appealing ways.
Look at verse 6: "Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt,
so that you may know how to answer everyone."
Our words have a lot of power.
Our words have the power to build up or to tear down, to hurt or to heal.
And our words have the power to communicate the message of Jesus Christ, effectively.
The message that Jesus died so that people could come to know God
and live eternally in heaven is the most powerful, exciting, message
that this world has ever heard.
And yet, we can make it sound like the most boring thing.
That should not be!.
Paul says, "let your conversation be always full of grace."
What does that mean?
It means, full of God.
Let it be full of God's grace.
Let it be full of God's compassion.
Let it be full of God's enthusiasm.
Let it be full of God.
Let it be seasoned with salt.
Remember salt was used as a preservative, but it was also used as a flavor enhancement.
That's what we use it for today.
We take salt and put it on food in order to enhance it's flavor.
So, our speech should be seasoned with salt means that we need to share
the Gospel in appealing ways.
The Gospel is dynamic.
We can make it exciting based on the level of excitement we bring to our sharing.
If we are excited about it, and we will be excited if we've been praying,
then we will communicate that excitement.
We should be creative in our sharing.
Think about creative ways we you can share the Gospel of Christ.
God is a creative God.
And we need to use our creativity in communicating the message of Christ.
Share it verbally.
Share it through stories of others.
Share it visually, through tracts and books and videos.
Share it in messages and letters.
Share it in an appealing way.
Everything we have in this life we are going to leave, except people.
We are going to leave all the material resources we have acquired.
We are going to leave all the money that sits in our bank accounts and in our stocks.
We are going to leave all that here.
But we are going to take the people that have come to know Jesus Christ
with us to live forever in heaven
I want someone to come up to me in heaven and say,
"Thank you. Thank you for sharing Jesus with me.
If you hadn't shared the Gospel with me I wouldn't be here."
Can you imagine how you would feel if one person after another came up
to you in heaven to thank you?
"Thank you for taking the risk of alienating me.
Thank you for taking the risk of angering me.
Thank you for being so persistent that you didn't give up.
Thank you for praying and praying and praying for my salvation.
Thank you, because I would be in Hell today if it weren't for you!"
Prayer can change your life and it can change the lives of others because of you.
So pray and keep on praying.
God will do the miraculous.
We stand united!
Colossians 4:7-18 says:
"Tychicus will tell you all the news about me.
He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.
I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances
and that he may encourage your hearts.
He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you.
They will tell you everything that is happening here.
My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas.
(You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.)
Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings.
These are the only Jews among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God,
and they have proved a comfort to me.
Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings.
He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God,
mature and fully assured.
I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.
Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings.
Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.
After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans
and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.
Tell Archippus: 'See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.'
I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains.
Grace be with you. " (Colossians 4:7-18 NIV)
The spirit of our age is independence.
This is especially true here in America.
The city of brotherly love is Philadelphia.
We consider it the birthplace of freedom for our country.
And that freedom is best symbolized in The Declaration of Independence.
In that document, we declared our independence from the tyranny
that our founding fathers felt was imposed upon us by England.
Of course, that document reflected a spirit of independence and was paid for
by the blood of our forefathers, who fought a war for independence.
Our independence is a prized possession in this country.
And it should be.
The problem comes when we misapply that spirit of independence to the church.
Independence can be good in certain circumstances, but it can also create problems in others.
One such circumstance is the church.
While the spirit of our age may be independence, the nature of the church is interdependence.
The church is a community.
It is the community of the Lord Jesus
And the church universal always finds its expression in the church local,
which is a body of believers called out of the world and into a spiritual fellowship based
on the life of Jesus Christ within.
The church is not one person, or even a group of leaders.
The church consists of every believer that has been called to be a part of that local church.
As such, it must work through an interdependence of all its members, if it is to work successfully.
Independence will tend to erode the fellowship.
Learning to depend upon one another, however, will cause the fellowship to grow,
both in quality and quantity.
The bottom line is that we need each other.
I need what you have in God, and you need what I have in God.
We need each other!
God designed the church to bring together people of different backgrounds, cultures, races,
and situations in life so that we could learn to live together as Christians,
united by our common faith in Jesus Christ.
It is really a beautiful thing.
You see, God designed the church to be an antidote to the spirit of our age.
As we live together, God breaks down the walls that divide us.
In the church, God deals with our selfishness.
In the church, God deals with our pride.
In the church, God deals with our racism.
In the church, God deals with all of the issues of isolation that keep us apart,
that keep us from living as people created in God's image for whom Christ died.
The devil's strategy is to keep us apart to divide us.
Anyone or anything that divides God's people is evil.
God's plan is to bring us together in Christ.
This is something that the devil fights against with all his power.
And he uses many things in his arsenal to divide us.
He takes our opinions and tells us that our particular opinion is more important
than someone else's.
He takes our preferences and tells us that the world would be a better place
if everyone thought as we thought and liked the same things we like.
He fans the fires of our selfish desires.
He does everything within his power to use our sinful pride to divide us.
And he works very hard at it.
He does this because he knows that when we are united, we are powerful enemies
of the kingdom of darkness.
When we are united, we can do far greater things than we could ever do alone.
The Bible speaks in one place of five people chasing one hundred
and ten people chasing ten thousand.
In another place, it speaks of one person chasing one thousand
and two people chasing ten thousand.
It is the power of God that multiplies our effectiveness when we work together
to accomplish his purposes.
Between 1787 and 1795, Baptists became the largest group of Christians in America.
They did it without a home mission board or a society, or a national convention, or a state convention,
and without a seminary.
They did it with small missionary associations and with lay preachers,
and most of them was not paid a salary.
They had no formal theological training, and most of them had been licensed
to exercise their gifts by little Baptist churches.
The Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and the Congregationalists insisted
that they were not clergy at all.
But that they were undisciplined, untrained laymen who should have been at home working
and not preaching.
Between 1795 and 1820, the Methodists overtook and surpassed
the Baptists in total numbers.
They did it with lay preachers going everywhere, sharing their faith,
forming disciplined small groups and gathering those small groups into churches.
We have two ways we can go in growing Christ's Church.
We can have "church addition."
That is where the pastor or the pastoral staff are the only ministers in the body.
Or, we can have "church multiplication".
That is where everyone ministers.
Church history makes it very clear that when the church has grown,
and we are talking about really growing, it has grown because every member found their gift
and used that gift for the glory of God!
God uses us in powerful ways when we work together.
He multiplies our ministry and increases our effectiveness.
That is what the devil fears most and that is why he fights the hardest against it.
He will do anything to bring disunity into the church.
In our Scripture passage, Paul gives us a list of some of those people
who had helped him in ministry.
Often, when we read the closing to a letter like Colossians, we miss the significance
of the list of people mentioned at the end.
We think of it merely as a literary custom, but it is much more than that.
It reminds us that Paul was not working alone.
He had help.
There were many helpers who worked with Paul, without those helpers
Paul's ministry would not have been nearly as effective.
Paul knew that and he acknowledged that by including them here.
There was Tychicus, whom Paul called a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant.
These were terms that indicated how much Paul valued his contribution to the work.
He was not just a small and insignificant part.
He played a major role, and Paul acknowledged him as such.
There was Onesimus.
We know from the book of Philemon that Onesimus was a runaway slave
who was converted to Christ.
Now he had become a faithful and dear brother to Paul.
He had become part of the work of advancing the kingdom of God.
There was Aristarchus and Mark and Jesus Justus.
They were three fellow Jews who had become fellow workers of Paul,
and was a comfort and encouragement to him in his imprisonment.
The only one we know a great deal about is Mark.
He is also referred to as John Mark, and he is the cousin of Barnabas,
with whom Paul teamed to share the gospel.
Mark came along on the first missionary journey of Paul but found he could not continue
and turned back.
This did not please Paul.
When it came time for a second missionary journey,
Paul and Barnabas had a sharp disagreement over whether Mark should come.
Paul thought he should not, so Barnabas took Mark with him and they went their separate ways.
It is interesting that Mark had apparently matured by the time Paul wrote Colossians,
for now he was not only with Paul again but was considered a valued worker.
Incidentally, this same Mark wrote one of our gospels.
We call it the Gospel according to Mark.
It is actually Mark's record of the gospel given to him by Peter.
Also, there was Epaphras.
Many believe that he was the pastor of the church at Colosse.
Although he was currently with Paul, he was still working on their behalf through prayer.
Paul says that he was wrestling in prayer on their behalf.
By doing that, Paul indicates that he was working hard for them.
Indeed, prayer is hard work, and we need more people doing that kind of work
in the church today.
If we had more people praying, we would see more of the activity of God in our midst.
Then, there was Luke, the doctor.
We have a gospel in our New Testament that bears his name.
He is also the author of the book of Acts.
Here is someone who used his secular occupation for the glory of God.
Also, there was Demas.
Nothing is said about him here.
There is no praise, only a mention of his name.
Paul writes later, in his letter to Timothy: "Do your best to come to me quickly,
for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica."
(2 Timothy 4:9-10 NIV).
Perhaps the reason why Paul does not mention much about Demas is because
he was not doing much.
Perhaps, Demas was dabbling a little too much with the world to receive anything
but a simple mention.
Finally, there is Archippus.
From what we read in Philemon, it seems that Archippus is the son of Philemon.
Apparently, he had been given an assignment to complete in his work for the Lord
that he was not giving it much attention.
Paul exhorts him to complete what he had started.
These are just a few of those people Paul mentions in his letters.
These are people who worked together with Paul for the sake of the kingdom of God.
They were his fellow workers, his co-laborers.
Without these people, Paul would not have accomplished nearly what he did.
So, he acknowledges them.
This was Paul's strategy.
He wanted to multiply his ministry through the lives of others.
He says this to Timothy: "You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust
to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others."
(2 Timothy 2:1-3 NIV)
I certainly want my life to count for God.
But I also want my ministry to be multiplied through the lives of other faithful men and women
of God whom I teach and train and equip to share the good news of Christ with others.
Paul did this.
The other apostles did this.
That is why we are here today.
We are here because they trained faithful followers of Christ to be effective witnesses.
And they trained others, who trained others, who trained others.
Eventually, one of them shared with us.
This is the difference between addition and multiplication.
If we win one person and then go on and win another person and then go on
and win still another person, we have growth by addition.
One becomes two becomes three becomes four and so on.
But if we win one and train that one to win others and train them,
then one becomes two and two becomes four and four becomes eight
and eight become sixteen and sixteen becomes thirty-two and so on.
And that is what we need if we are going to win our community and our world to Christ.
Let me ask you a question.
How do you see yourself?
How do you see your relationship to others in the church?
How do you see your responsibility to the church?
Do you see that you are someone who is needed?
Do you see that you need others?
Do you see that you have a responsibility to use all of your gifts and talents to advance
the kingdom of God?
I hope and pray that you see these things.
It is vital that we see these things because we cannot do it alone.
We need a renewed vision of who we are in Christ and of what God has called us to do
through the power of Christ.
And we need to understand that what God has called us to do, He has called us to do together.
We also need to see that what God has called us to do, He has already given us the power to do.
Whenever God gives us a command, like the command to take the gospel into all the world,
He always gives us the power to obey the command.
God never gives a command without also giving the power to obey the command.
That is why Paul could say that he could do all things through Christ.
He meant that there was nothing Christ would call him to do without Christ
also giving him the power to do.
We already have the power to obey what God has called us to do.
It is through Christ who lives within us that we are empowered to live for Him.
But we cannot do it alone.
We need one another.
As we stand united in Christ, we will see the gates of hell fall before us
as we advance upon the enemy as the church triumphant.
May we commit to be those faithful workers, who help one another to multiply the ministry
of our church.
Let us pledge to God that we will work together to impact our community for Christ.