“Disciplined For Life”
Lesson Text: Colossians 4:2-17
Background Scripture: Colossians 4
Devotional Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:19-27
Colossians 4:2-17 (KJV)
2Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;
3Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:
4 That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.
5 Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.
6Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.
7All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord:
8 Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your estate, and comfort your hearts;
9 With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They shall make known unto you all things which are done here.
10Aristarchus my fellow prisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister's son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;)
11And Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These only are my fellow workers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me.
12Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.
13 For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis.
14 Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you.
15Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.
16And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.
17And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.
To learn to be wise and gracious in how we treat others.
To encourage one another through prayer and good deeds, not grudgingly, but as to the Lord (Colossians 3:23, 24).
To remain faithful in your Christian commitment.
The Key to Success?
Why are some people highly successful and others not? There are many reasons, but one is practice. Highly successful people—from the Beatles to Bill Gates—have spent an exceptional amount of time and effort mastering what they do. Some research indicates that highly successful people commonly spend 10,000 hours practicing their craft. That is a huge figure! At an hour a day, one needs more than 27 years to amass 10,000 hours.
We can exaggerate the comparison, but the same principle can apply to our growth as Christians. Deliberately devoting time and effort to actions related to our faith in Christ is vital to our growth in Christ.
In Paul's time, letters conventionally ended with a series of short, incidental instructions and a series of greetings from friends. Paul's letters normally end this way as well. But Paul also typically uses the closing section of his letters to reinforce themes that he stresses in the letter's main body.
That is the case in Colossians. Paul's closing, which is our text today, is at first glance a typical list of short instructions and greetings. But Paul also reinforces his message throughout this section, providing a guide to a genuinely growing spiritual life. To grow, the Colossians cannot add anything to faith in Jesus, but they can diligently pursue habits that will strengthen and deepen their faith.
Colossians is one of Paul's prison letters, written while he was in custody awaiting trial in Rome in about A.D. 60 (Acts 28:16-31). Remembering that setting helps us grasp the earnestness of his instructions: he writes as one who has lost his freedom because he is faithful to Christ.
Disciplines to Practice (Colossians 4:2-6)
1. What are some of the characteristics that Paul lists for an effective prayer life? (Colossians 4:2)
The section begins with several statements urging the Colossians to pray. Here Paul described the characteristics of a satisfying and spiritual prayer life. First, our praying must be faithful. "Continue in prayer" (Colossians 4:2). This means, "Be steadfast in your prayer life; be devoted; don't quit." This is the way the early church prayed (Acts 1:14; 2:46). Too many of us pray only occasionally—when we feel like it or when there is a crisis. "Pray without ceasing" is God's command to us (1 Thes. 5:17). This does not mean that we should walk around muttering prayers under our breath. Rather, it means we should be constantly in fellowship with God so that prayer is as normal to us as breathing.
This is not to suggest that God is reluctant to answer prayer and that we must "wear Him out" by our praying. Quite the opposite is true: God enjoys answering our prayers. But He sometimes delays the answer to increase our faith and devotion and to accomplish His purposes at the right time. God's delays are not always God's denials. As we continue in prayer, our own hearts are prepared for the answer God will give. We find ourselves growing in grace even before His answer comes.
Our praying must also be watchful. We must be awake and alert as we pray. The phrase "Watch and pray!" is used often in the Bible. It had its beginning in Bible history when Nehemiah was rebuilding the walls and gates of Jerusalem: "Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them [the enemy] day and night" (Neh. 4:9). Jesus used the phrase (Mark 13:33; 14:38); Paul used it too (Eph. 6:18).
There is no power in dull, listless praying. If there is no fire on the altar, the incense will not rise to God (Ps. 141:2). Real praying demands spiritual energy and alertness, and this can come only from the Holy Spirit of God. Routine prayers are unanswered prayers.
Our praying should also be thankful: "Watch in the same with thanksgiving" (Col. 4:2). Thanksgiving is an important ingredient in successful praying (Phil. 4:6). If all we do is ask, and never thank God for His gifts, we are selfish. Sincere gratitude to God is one of the best ways to put fervor into our praying.
There is always so much to be thankful for! We have already noted the emphasis in Paul's letter to the Colossians on thanksgiving (Col. 1:3, 12; 2:7; 3:15, 17; 4:2). When we recall that Paul was a prisoner when he wrote this letter, it makes this emphasis even more wonderful.
What Do You Think?
What obstacles to praying confront you? How do you overcome these?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
Not knowing how to pray (Luke 11:1) | Wrong motives (James 4:3) | Overwhelming emotions | “The tyranny of the urgent” | Other
2. Why is it imperative that we pray for our brothers and sisters in proclaiming the Gospel? (Colossians 4:3-4)
A disciplined prayer life is not just about oneself. So Paul urges the Colossians to pray for him and his associates in ministry as well (Ephesians 6:19; 2 Thessalonians 3:1). Because he is a prisoner, Paul might be expected to ask for prayers for his release. But he does not do this. Instead, he asks that a figurative door be opened for him to speak about Jesus (also 1 Corinthians 16:9).
The Christian message Paul desires to share he refers to as mystery. Paul uses this word to emphasize that the plan by which God would save the rebellious world had been hidden in the past, but now is revealed in Christ. It is a revealed mystery, something we could not have known on our own.
It is also a great challenge to our conventional way of thinking, a message we will not grasp if we judge it by the ordinary human way of judging things. The gospel tells us that the crucified Christ is victorious, that the prisoner Paul can have an open door. As we address God with our burdens and concerns, in response He reminds us of the great truths of the gospel. This teaches us to view our lives from His perspective instead of ours.
Prayer and worship are perhaps the highest uses of the gift of speech. Paul was not ashamed to ask his friends to pray for him. Even though he was an apostle, he needed prayer support for himself and his ministry. If a great Christian like Paul felt the need for prayer support, how much more do you and I need this kind of spiritual help!
Paul's unrelenting focus is on proclaiming the gospel (Ephesians 6:20). He understands that this is the purpose of his imprisonment, and he uses his imprisonment to preach to all who will listen (Acts 28:30, 31). In Philippians, another prison letter, Paul states that his imprisonment has led to the evangelizing of many (Philippians 1:12-14). This is the bigger picture.
You, as a church member, can assist your pastor in the preaching of the Word by praying for him. Never say to your pastor, "Well, the least I can do is to pray for you." The most you can do is to pray! Pray for your pastor as he prepares the Word, studies, and meditates. Pray that the Holy Spirit will give deeper insights into the truths of the Word. Pray too that your pastor will practice the Word that he preaches so that it will be real in his own life. As he preaches the message, pray that the Spirit will give him freedom of utterance, and that the Word will reach into hearts and minds in a powerful way. (It wouldn't hurt to pray for other church leaders too.)
The proclaiming of the Word of God is a great privilege and a tremendous responsibility. You do not have to be an ordained preacher or a missionary to share God's Word. Even in your daily conversation you can drop the seed of the Word into hearts, and then pray that someone will water that seed, and rest assured God will make it grow (1 Corinthians 3:6).
3.How can a Christian make the most of every opportunity with those who do not know Christ? (Colossians 4:5)
Paul encouraged the Colossian believers to conduct themselves with wisdom toward “them that are without”–which refers to those who are outside the family of God. Jesus made a distinction between His disciples and those who were outside (Mark 4:11). Paul also made this same distinction (1 Cor. 5:12-13). Those of us who are born again are the "spiritual insiders" because we belong to God's family and share His life.
However, as Christians, we must never have a sanctified superiority complex. We have a responsibility to witness to the lost around us and to seek to bring them into God's family. To begin with, we have the responsibility to walk wisely (Col. 4:5). Walk refers, of course, to our conduct in daily life. The unsaved outsiders watch us Christians and are very critical of us. There must be nothing in our lives that would jeopardize our testimony.
This story has often been told about Dr. Will H. Houghton, who pastored the Calvary Baptist Church in New York City and later served as president of Chicago's Moody Bible Institute till his death in 1946. When Dr. Houghton became pastor of the Baptist Tabernacle in Atlanta, a man in that city hired a private detective to follow Dr. Houghton and report on his conduct. After a few weeks, the detective was able to report to the man that Dr. Houghton's life matched his preaching. As a result, that man became a Christian.
What does it mean to "walk in wisdom"? For one thing, it means that we are careful not to say or do anything that would make it difficult to share the Gospel. It also means we must be alert to use the opportunities God gives us for personal witnessing. "Redeeming the time" means buying up the opportunity (Eph. 5:16). This is a commercial term and pictures the Christian as a faithful steward who knows an opportunity when he sees one. Just as a merchant seizes a bargain when he finds one, so a Christian seizes the opportunity to win a soul to Christ.
Walking in wisdom also includes doing our work, paying our bills, and keeping our promises. We must walk honestly “toward them that are without” (1 Thes. 4:12).
4.How does Paul describe the speech of a believer in Christ? (Colossians 4:6)
Perhaps our most powerful ability is speech. Speech that is characterized by God's grace—His favor and love for the undeserving—is like carefully seasoned food. Such speech, regardless of its subject, testifies to the gospel (1 Peter 3:15). We may not know the most convincing responses to the questions and objections that unbelievers bring. But we can be confident that sincere speech that reflects God's grace can provoke skeptics to consider the gospel in a new light.
Therefore, we must take care that our speech is controlled by grace, so that it points to Christ and glorifies the Lord. This means we must have grace in our hearts (Col. 3:16), because it is from the heart that the mouth speaks. With grace in our hearts and on our lips, we will be faithful witnesses and not judges or prosecuting attorneys!
The Lord Jesus Christ spoke with grace on His lips. "And all... wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth" (Luke 4:22). Among the many statements about Jesus Christ in Psalm 45 (a messianic psalm) is this: "Grace is poured into thy lips" (Ps. 45:2). Even when our Lord was dealing with sin, He spoke words of grace.
Our speech is supposed to "minister grace unto the hearers" (Eph. 4:29). But it cannot do that unless we have grace in our hearts and in our words. "Speaking the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15) is God's ideal for our conversation.
Overall, the Christian's walk and talk must be in harmony with each other. Nothing will silence the lips like a careless life. When character, conduct, and conversation are all working together, it makes for a powerful witness.
What Do You Think
What “ingredients” have you discovered to be important for gracious speech?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
In general (in all circumstances) | When truth needs to be spoken | Other
Sharing Burdens (Colossians 4:7-16)
5. Who were the people Paul trusted to tell the church in Colossae of his personal situation? (Colossians 4:7-16)
Paul did not spell out the details of his personal situation in this letter. He left it to his two spiritual brothers, Tychicus and Onesimus, to share the burdens with the church in Colossae. This is another wonderful ministry of speech: we can share our needs and burdens with others; then they can encourage and assist us.
When Paul left Ephesus, he was accompanied by seven other believers—among them, Tychicus (Acts 20:4). Paul's description of Tychicus reveals what a splendid Christian Tychicus really was. He was a beloved brother, willing to stay with Paul even though the situation was difficult. How encouraging it is to have a Christian at your side when everything seems to be against you!
Tychicus was also a faithful minister. His love revealed itself in action. He ministered to Paul, and he also ministered for Paul to assist him in his many obligations. Someone has said that the greatest ability in the world is dependability, and this is true. Paul could depend on Tychicus to get the job done. Later, Paul was able tosend Tychicus to Crete (Titus 3:12), and then to Ephesus (2 Tim. 4:12).
Paul also mentioned Onesimus ("one of you") who himself came from Colossae. He was the runaway slave who belonged to Philemon and who had been won to Christ through Paul's ministry in Rome. Paul sent Onesimus back to his master with a letter asking Philemon to receive him and forgive him. It is interesting to note that Paul also called Onesimus faithful and beloved. Onesimus had been a believer only a short time, and yet he had already proved himself to Paul.
These two men had a dual ministry to perform: to encourage the Colossian Christians and to inform them about Paul's situation.
In verses 10-16 of today’s lesson Paul names close associates who travel with him in his missionary work. Their descriptions make them in-the-flesh examples of the Christlike life. These people are not passing acquaintances of Paul's churches, but are well-known, well-loved members of God's family. In Paul's circle there are both apprentices learning the work of a missionary and those more mature, who multiply their influence by guiding others toward Christian maturity. Paul's method is doubtless deliberate: he recognizes that spiritual growth happens when young Christians are in a living relationship with mature Christians.
What Do You Think?
What are appropriate occasions and methods for publicly commending someone's service for the Lord? What cautions should be taken in doing so?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
Thank-you notes in the church newsletter |Recognition banquets | Eulogies at funerals | Other
Responsibility to Discharge (Colossians 4:17)
6. Why does Paul single out Archippus, and what can we learn about being responsible in our ministry? (Colossians 4:17)
While Archippus is singled out here, he is not alone. Everyone who belongs to Christ has a ministry, a call to service. There will be no spiritual growth without active service in response to what Christ has done for us.
Paul reminded Archippus that his ministry was a gift from God, and that he was a steward of God who would one day have to give an account of his work. Since the Lord gave him his ministry, the Lord could also help him carry it out in the right way. Ministry is not something we do for God; it is something God does in and through us.
The word fulfill carries with it the idea that God has definite purposes for His servants to accomplish. He works in us and through us to complete or fulfill those good works that He has prepared for us (see Eph. 2:10). Of course, fulfill also parallels the theme of Colossians—the fullness of Jesus Christ available to each believer. We are able to fulfill our ministries because we have been "filled full" through Jesus Christ.
Unless we make a practical application of Bible doctrine, our study is in vain. After reading this letter and studying it, we cannot help but see that we have in Jesus Christ all that we can ever want or need. All of God's fullness is in Jesus Christ and we have been made complete in Him. What an encouragement this must have been to Archippus! What an encouragement it should be to us today!
What Do You Think?
How can you encourage someone today to fulfill a ministry in the Lord?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
A ministry begun but now abandoned | A ministry that has turned out to be different from originally expected | A ministry that seems impossible to maintain | Other
POINTS TO PONDER
1. Be faithful in your prayer life, as well as your speech. (Colossians 4:2-6)
2.Let your life be a model for others to live by. (Colossians 4:7-16)
3.Devote yourself to Christ’s work. (Colossians 4:17)
Growing as a Christian is natural, but it is not accidental. We must pursue it deliberately. There is nothing mysterious about how it happens, but there is something very wonderful about what we receive when we devote ourselves to it. May we do so.
Father, direct our minds and hearts to Your word. Make us a community that challenges each other to growth. Give us strength to be devoted to You in all things. We pray in Jesus' name, amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER
Serve to grow; grow to serve.