November 6 – Colossians 4:2-6
Main focus: Putting on the life of Jesus calls us to be prayerfully alert.
Paul’s getting towards the end of his letter, which is why this section in a sense sends the Colossians out to do the work of God in the world. Paul connects his ministry to theirs, looking for opportunities for both of them to speak the message of King Jesus. The unifying element here is a prayerful watchfulness that yearns for God to bring his kingdom into the world and remains alert to his movement in, through, and around us, his citizens.
And this is a helpful tension for us to maintain, to neither be so distracted by the world that we aren’t in regular communion with God nor so engrossed in personal communion with God that we miss his work in the world. Christians have fallen into both of those errors over and over throughout history, though if we’re prone towards anything here in the Bible Belt it’s towards a holy-feeling form of withdrawal, where we take a step back from the world in order to create Christian enclaves, failing to participate in the world around us all in the name of pursuing our faith. This withdrawal might look like all Christian everything, only spending time with other Christians, only reading Christian books and watching Christian movies and wearing Christian t-shirts. But it can also look like trying not to be “that Christian,” never initiating any sort of evangelistic conversation in order to not ruffle anyone’s feathers (or have people think less of you). Both are, in a sense, shying back from the work that God wants to do in the world.
But look at our passage this week; verses 5-6 flat out assume the Christians in Colossae are regularly interacting with folks who don’t follow Jesus and talking about Jesus. At minimum, the same is true for us with interactions, provided you include all the times you’re buying something in a store, working on a project with a coworker, or asking your neighbor about their vacation. However, the big theme of this passage is staying alert and bringing an intentionality to these interactions so that we can “[make] the best use of the time.”
In our discussion, we’ll look at two aspects of Paul’s encouragement here: internal disposition and external activity. Reading this passage, you get the sense that the person it describes is an unanxious presence, someone who internally is both at peace and astutely watchful. This takes a solid hope in the strength and control of Jesus, to neither be shaken by the opinions of others nor be fretful over failing to land a perfect gospel presentation. Externally, this person is interacting with others graciously, winsomely, and eagerly in order to make the good news of Jesus known. And let’s not miss that this passage is based on everything that comes before it; any external confidence must be built on an internal hope not in your own abilities but in the preeminent Jesus of Colossians 1:15-20. It’s his strength at work within us (Col 1:29), his grace that makes us gracious.
And so we have to assess what things keep us from giving a reason for the hope within us, not so that we can score well on our Christian report cards but because sharing about Jesus is a natural outcome of having received his grace and of his strength at work within us. It’s this same grace that covers our fears and failures in evangelism, and his same strength that supplies what we need to obey him in this area. As we’ll do with our final question, we should ask ourselves how God wants to use us in the world because, at the very least, it reminds us that God has desires for the world, for the coworker who sits next to you, for the person who bags your groceries. God loves each of these people just as much as he loves you, desiring to show them the same grace you have received. When we align ourselves with God’s desires for the world it stirs our affections for him and reminds us that we’re a small part of his giant plan in bringing his kingdom to the earth.
• Could someone read Colossians 4:2-6 for us?
• What stood out to you from the passage?
• What kind of internal attitude or disposition do you think Paul is encouraging here?
• What kind of external interactions are being encouraged here?
• When it comes to talking to other people about Jesus, what things typically hold you back?Why?
• How do you think Jesus wants to give you freedom from these things?
• Look at verse 2—what do you think it means for you to be prayerfully alert to how God wants to use you in the world?