OAKRIDGE BIBLE CHAPEL

Christian, You’re Called to Christian Ministry (Colossians 4:2–6)

Scripture is full of individuals who, when faced with a God-given task, immediately felt ill-equipped and insecure, sure that the Almighty had chosen the wrong person of the job. For example, consider Abraham and Sarah (Gen 17:17), Moses (Ex 3:11), Gideon (Jdg 6:15), Jeremiah (Jer 1:6), Mary (Luke 1:34), and Paul (1 Cor 15:9). These were real people wanting to serve a real God who had given them real assignments in the real world but were faced with real uncertainty because of real deficiencies.

Most Christians today can relate with these characters in the face of our God-given task to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:18–20). That’s a huge and potentially overwhelming calling, one that leaves many believers wondering how to even get started, if they’re even capable of contributing, and if they have anything of significance to offer. It’s into this uncertainty that the Holy Spirit speaks clarity and reassurance through Paul’s pen.

SERMON MANUSCRIPT

One of the many things I love about the Bible is its realness. It presents people as we really are, no sugarcoating. For example, Scripture is full of individuals who, when faced with a God-given task, felt ill-equipped and insecure, sure that the Almighty had chosen the wrong servant. 

God called Abraham and Sarah to kick-start a world-blessing nation. “Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, ‘Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?'” (Gen 17:17). Translation: “God, surely you’ve got the wrong couple!” 

God charged Moses with leading his people out of bondage. “But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?'” (Ex 3:11). “Lord, you’ve got the wrong guy!”

God told Gideon to free Israel from foreign oppression. “He said to Him, ‘O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house’ (Jdg 6:15). “God, there must be some mistake. I’m a nobody!”

The Lord God appointed Jeremiah as a prophet to the nations. “Then I said, ‘Alas, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, because I am a youth'” (Jer 1:6). “Are you sure it’s me you’re looking for, Lord? I have no status.”

God sent his angel, Gabriel, to young Mary with the massive task of carrying, birthing, and raising the long-awaited Christ. “Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’” (Luke 1:34). There wasn’t a hint of unwillingness in Mary, but understandable uncertainty. “Little old me? How is this even possible?”

God commissioned Paul to spread the gospel around the world. Paul obeyed but did so knowing he was undeserved. “For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Cor 15:9).

These are real people wanting to serve a real God who has given them real assignments in the real world but are faced with real uncertainty because of their own real deficiencies. 

I bring these examples up today to remind us that we’re not alone. Because, I’m going to assume that many of us often feel the same way in light of the job we’ve been given.

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18–20

Each and every Christian has been called to Christian ministry, to make disciples—winning souls and maturing souls. We’ve all been summoned into the King’s service, sent as heralds to announce his good news to the world because every minute people are perishing apart from Christ, barrelling toward a Godless eternity. And, out of unparalleled love, God has sent his people into the world with the only lifeline there is. That’s our job, Christians.

Anyone feeling a little like Moses, Sarah, or Jeremiah? “God, you’ve got the wrong person.” “Lord, there must be some mistake.” “Jesus, I love you and all, but there have to be others who are better suited and better situated!”

If you’ve ever struggled with your call to Christian ministry, for whatever reason—a lack of clarity of what it is, lack of strategy for how to do it, a lack of certainty on your ability to do it, or lack of opportunity to actually do it—if you’ve ever wrestled with your God-given task to make disciples (and most of us have), God has some reassuring and illuminating words for you today. Our participation in gospel ministry doesn’t have to be super complicated. In fact, we’re going to see in Colossians 4:2–6 that we can faithfully serve simply through our prayer lives and through our purified lives.

Through Their Prayer Life

The passage opens with Paul encouraging the Colossians to partake in Christian ministry through their prayer life (Col 4:2–4).

Do you want to be faithful to the ministry God has given you? Paul says, “Then get praying.” Prayer should never be far from your minds, he tells the Colossians, serving as your constant companion. And Paul models this (1:9). Just as Paul devotes himself to prayer, so too the Colossians are to devote themselves to prayer.

And they’re to pray keeping alert not distracted, awake not sleepy, watchful not by rote. The Colossians are to be mindful of their assignment as they pray, mindful of their brothers and sisters in Christ, mindful of the constant threat of false teachers, mindful of the soon-return of the Lord, and mindful of the lost people around them. 

As I once read: “We cannot know what prayer is for until we know that life is a war.” Paul’s reminding Christians that we’re at war. Be alert. Pray with diligence and urgency as though lives depended on it because they do.

But while our prayers should be with alertness they should also be with an attitude of thanksgiving. It’s not all desperation and doom! Why? How about because in the very act of prayer we’re recognizing God’s presence and love, his care and attentiveness, his power and generosity? In prayer we’re acknowledging our neediness and his provision. We’re celebrating Christ’s intercession and the ease with which we come before the throne of grace. So, while we pray with wartime urgency, we also pray with joyful gratitude.

“And, while you pray like that,” Paul says, “add us to your list” (v. 3a). The “us” includes at least Paul and Timothy (1:1) and probably the people he’s about to mention as the letter ends: Tychicus, Onesimus, Aristarchus, Mark, Justus, Epaphras, Luke, Demas, and Archippus. You want to be faithfully involved in gospel ministry? Then pray for other ministers! Look beyond yourself, your gifts, your circumstances, your successes and failures. Look out to the body of Christ at work and lift them up in prayer. 

And, as you do, ask the Lord for three things. First, opportunity (v. 3). Paul and his team are looking for inroads for the gospel, that which he again refers to as the mystery of Christ. These workers are trying to get into families, countries, and cultures with this good news. They need doors to be opened and hearts to be softened. They need God’s guidance, guidance that can be granted in response to the prayers of the saints. So, pray for opportunity.

Second, pray for tenacity (v. 3). Not only are opportunities needed, but Paul needs endurance because hardship is involved. How do we keep going, keep being faithful, keep pressing on in the face of persecution, rejection, isolation, and deprivation? Only God’s power can sustain. So, Paul pleads with the Colossians, “pray for tenacity, for persistence.”

Finally, Paul asks them to pray for clarity (v. 4). Even the great apostle Paul needed God’s help to articulate in an understandable way the gospel of Jesus Christ. He wants to uncover it rightly. Pray for clarity. 

All Christians are called to the making disciples of all nations. What an overwhelming task. But, according to Paul, one of the ways we can participate in the propagation of the gospel is through our prayer life. And we can all do that. Praying for brothers and sisters in Christ—with urgency and thanksgiving—that they may have opportunity, tenacity, and clarity in their service.

Perhaps you’re hear today and you think you’re too new to the faith to be of much use, or you’re not quick enough to defend the faith, or you’re not knowledgable enough to teach, or you’re not mature enough to mentor. I’m not going to argue with you one way or another. But I am going to ask: can you pray? Can you call out to the God of the universe on behalf of other believers to whom you are joined in Christ by the Spirit? Of course you can! So, welcome to Christian ministry.

As one 19th-century pastor once observed, “What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better [machinery], not new organizations or more novel methods, but [people] whom the Holy Ghost can use—[people] of prayer, [people] mighty in prayer.” That was true in the 1st-century, the 19th-century, and is still true in the 21st-century. Make disciples of all nations. Make Christ known to the world. How? Well, for starters, Christian, pray for one another.

Through Their Purified Life

As we move on in our passage we find that not only can the Colossians serve through their prayer life, but also through their purified life. Yes, minister vicariously through the work of others by prayer, but remember that your life, characterized by progressive holiness, testifies to the power of the gospel as well.

[5] Notice the concern is outsiders, that is, those not “in Christ.” Paul’s saying that the believers in Colossae are to live lives around unbelievers marked by wisdom (see 1:9; 3:16). God’s wisdom that should characterize their lives. Like someone who spent the day training, riding, and grooming horses is likely to smell like a barn, those who spend time talking, walking, and abiding with God are going to smell like life (see 2 Cor 2:15–16a).

As Christians we pursue holiness as an act of worship. But we also do it as an evangelistic strategy. A holy life is hard to ignore in a culture that is decidedly unholy. Think about it. A group of people characterized by Colossians 3:12 living in a society characterized by Colossians 3:5 are going to stand out. It’s a wise life, an offensive life, an attractive life.

And, not surprisingly, this pursuit of holiness should affect speech as well as actions (v. 6). Just as salt makes things taste better so the words of Christians should make conversations more pleasing.

I like how one author I read this week put it: “Even as a dash of salt can transform an otherwise bland dish into something delectable, so also a dash of grace can make an otherwise wearisome conversation into something fresh and delightful, even appetizing and desirable. Indeed, in an age of social indifference and rudeness, where kind and meaningful conversation can be hard to find, a gracious word spoken with wisdom can be as endearing as it is uncommon.”

“Be wise in how you live around unbelievers,” Paul says, “and be gracious in how you speak.” Why (v. 6b)? As believers you are going to encounter individuals, real people, who need care. Perhaps they’re offended, attracted, or confounded by your wise conduct, your purified life. They have questions, observations, thoughts. We need to respond to each person, making the most of the opportunity, opportunities that may well have been opened because someone was praying for them to be opened! And when you respond, do so with grace, kind of like what we’re called to do in Colossians 3:12. 

There’s a lot of vitriol, anger, and impatience right now. Christians shouldn’t be adding to that. Get offline, get face-to-face with people who have been drawn by the power of prayer and by the attractiveness of a purified life, make the most of the opportunity, and love them with undiluted, life-giving truth. That’s Christian ministry.

Pray the Gospel Out, Live the Gospel Out!

And we’re all called to it. We’re all called to pray the gospel out, live the gospel out!No matter the feelings about this divine assignment, it’s yours, it’s mine, and it’s ours. We may feel ill-equipped and overwhelmed. But God reminds us today that we can participate in the all-important task of spreading of the news of Jesus through prayer and through purity of life. Pray the gospel out, live the gospel out!

This week I want to challenge each of us to do both of those things. First, pray the gospel out. Minister vicariously through fellow believers. Pray for the workers that have been sent from Oakridge. Maybe even contact them to let them know you’re praying for opportunity, tenacity, and clarity.

Pray for the leadership of this church, the elders, deacons, ministry leaders. Pray for someone in the church family you’ve just met, for someone you’ve only seen from across the sanctuary but whom the Lord has put on your heart. Just pray! We must be a praying church, brothers and sisters. If we fail to pray, then nothing else we do really matters. Pray the gospel out with alertness, urgency, and thanksgiving.

Second, live the gospel out. Find time this week to spend time with an outsider. Face-to-face if you can. How can the world be moved by purified lives, work the Holy Spirit is doing in each of us, if they’re never around us? And our world is more content than ever to be separated and digitized. No, find time this week to grab coffee, go for a walk, have a meal with an unbeliever that you know and love with the goal being to simply be around them, to talk with them, to love them, and, if the opportunity presents itself, to speak gracious truth to them.

And, may I suggest that, when you do this, maybe text or call a brother or sister in Christ and ask them to pray for you—for opportunity, tenacity, and clarity to live out the gospel.

This is our divine task, brothers and sisters: make disciples of all nations. It’s huge and, in fact, we aren’t up to it by ourselves. But, thanks be to God, he’s equipped us. Be encouraged. Be mobilized. Be confident. Pray the gospel out, live the gospel out!

 



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Josiah has served the Oakridge Bible Chapel family as one of its elders and one of its pastoral staff members since September 2018, before which he ministered as an associate pastor to a local congregation in the Canadian prairies. Josiah's desire is to be used by God to help equip the church for ministry, both while gathered (edification) and while scattered (evangelization). He is married to Patricia, and together they have five children—Jonah, Henry, Nathaniel, Josephine, and Benjamin.

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