Paul gives two final exhortations to the Colossians:
1) Devote yourselves to prayer (4:2)
Devote means to "give unremitting care to a thing. Persevere and not faint."
2) Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders (non-believers), making the most of the opportunity (4:5)
How do we walk in wisdom? Display the Christ-like characteristics described in Colossians 3! It also means talking about our faith with not yet followers of Jesus in a gracious way like Jesus did (Luke 4:22; Psalm 45:2; Ephesians 4:29).
I mentioned this definition for opportunity when we studied Ephesians 5, but it bears repeating:
Our English word opportunity comes from the Latin and means "toward the port." It suggests a ship taking advantage of the wind and tide to arrive safely in the harbor. The brevity of life is a strong argument for making the best use of the opportunities God gives us.
(The Bible Exposition Commentary, Ephesians 5:16a, p. 47)And those opportunities with non-believers are rampant if we chose to make the most of them! Are you opening your eyes to see them?
Colossians 4:7-15 contains mention of all of Paul's fellow workers in the Lord. Paul had many friends who helped him. He was a great friend-maker. Here is a list of them with cross-references:
- Timothy - Acts 16:1; 19:22, 2 Timothy, Philippians 1
- Epaphras - Colossians 1:7; 4:12-13, Philippians 23 (the man who prayed)
- Tychicus - Acts 20:4; Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:12; Titus 3:12
- Onesimus - Colossians 4:9; Philippians 10-18
- Aristarchus - Acts 19:29; 20:4; 27:2; Colossians 4:10; Philippians 24
- John Mark - Acts 12:12, 25; 15::37-39; Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philippians 24; 1 Peter 5:13
- Jesus Justus - Colossians 4:11
- Luke - Wrote Luke and Acts (notice the "we" in Acts 16:10; Acts 20:5ff; Acts 27:1ff); Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philippians 24
- Demus - Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:10; Philippians 24
- Archippus - Colossians 4:17; Philippians 2
It has been bittersweet for me to study Colossians this week. I love the book, but it reminds me of a time when I co-led a study in this book with a woman in the summer of 2000. The women's ministry leaders had some concerns about her being "on her own" so I volunteered to come alongside to mentor her in leading studies. It was her first one, and she did an exceptional job. She had an exceptional gift of teaching. Her final application for this book was from Colossians 4. She wanted to become like an Epaphras who prayed.
Even though she was an exceptional teacher, it was difficult for her to "put off" the old and worn out clothes of Colossians 3. She was often slanderous and angry. She talked about other people behind their back. She even put me down a bit, but I tried to be gracious and loving. She did not get along with the women's ministry leadership team, and she was constantly trying to get me embroiled in the conflicts that she was having with other people.
She led a study on her own in the fall, and I was there to observe (again, on the request of the women's leadership). She got increasingly more and more hostile as she led the class to the point that sometimes she was even yelling the basic points. I tried to encourage her to be gentler, and she became hostile with me. There was also much drama in her life, and she finally asked me to take over leading the next study in the winter. I was happy to do it. I hoped that just being "in" the study would reduce her hostility because she would not be so stressed. Sadly, once I started leading, she realized that she did not like that she was no longer the center of attention, and she started to exhibit really angry behavior toward me and others in the study. I was so exhausted with all the drama that I spent a whole day in prayer about the situation. God gave me much peace, and a week later, she called to say that she would not be in the study anymore. Quite honestly, I was relieved.
Sadly, it did not stop there. Unbeknownst to me, she was leaving because she was mad at me even though I thought I had been so careful with my words and gentle with her. She went out and spread wild and slanderous rumors about me (much like she did about our women's ministry leader). The whole situation was absolutely heart-breaking. It was so hard to stem the tide of false rumors that she spread about me. One person in the study left, believing everything this woman had said about me. All the others stayed though, and through the process, I made two very dear friends out of it; but I was shaken to the core.
A few years later, I heard that she had left her husband and two small children for another woman (yes, you heard that right). Her husband has full custody of the children, and she usually does not show up when she has them for visitation. She has also cut off all communication with her parents. It is a very sad situation.
I pray that someday she becomes an Epaphras though. It is a sad example of someone who knew the Scriptures but did not apply them by putting off the old woman and putting on the new.
Are you devoted to prayer? Can you determine to be a prayer warrior like Epaphras?
Do you make the most of every opportunity with non-believers? Are you taking advantage of the “wind and tide” of internationals that have flooded our universities and cities?
Lord, help us to be devoted to prayer. Open a door for the Word to be proclaimed, and help us to be gracious in our speech when You do open it. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.