Well, most of the church has probably heard about it by now, but in case you haven’t: I had a missed opportunity at our church senior adult cookout last week. I showed up at 6:00 last Saturday night, which was all fine and good — except the cookout started at 4:00! Somehow I just had it in my mind that it started at 6:00. I forget who it was who said, “Well Pastor Shawn, you not only qualify age-wise, you also qualify MENTALLY as a senior adult now!” Jan and Diane and the crew were very gracious and gave me a meal to take home — but I did miss the opportunity for fellowship with everyone.
Maybe you’d say that you also had a missed opportunity last week: you missed a chance to go somewhere, or buy something, or do something. But one of the most important opportunities that any of us as Christians can miss, is an opportunity to share the Gospel with someone. Here at the end of Book of Colossians, the Apostle Paul talks about how important these opportunities are:
“Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak. Conduct yourselves with wisdom towards outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”
I. Pray for Opportunities
He opens this paragraph encouraging us to pray. He says in :2, “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.” Prayer is SO important, as we’ve talked about a number of times in recent days. But then he adds one very special and specific prayer request. He says: “Praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned.” He tells them specifically: please pray for opportunities for us to share the gospel.
Now it’s easy just to read past that verse really quickly, and not think much about it but I want you to think about what is really happening here: PAUL IS IN PRISON! And he’s asking people to pray for him, which you would think someone in prison would want you to do for them. But what is unusual is that HIS PRAYER REQUEST IN PRISON IS NOT FOR HIS OWN RELEASE: BUT FOR OPEN DOORS FOR HIM TO SHARE THE GOSPEL!
I think most of us, if we were honest, would say that if we were in prison, and someone asked how they could pray for us, at least one of our top requests would be that God would get us OUT, right? If they asked us what we needed, we say, “Get me a key; get me a metal file; get me a lawyer! Do something to get me OUT!” And that’s understandable, right?
But that’s what’s so amazing about Paul here. He says in :3 “Praying at the same time for us as well” — WHAT? NOT “to get out,” or anything like that. He says, “Praying at the same time for us as well, THAT God will open up to us a door for the word.” He’s saying, the most important prayer request I have, is not for my health, or comfort, or safety, but for people’s salvation. We talked a couple of weeks ago about how we need to be praying specifically for lost loved ones to be saved. But HERE Paul’s emphasis is more on the other side of the equation: he says, pray OPPORTUNITIES FOR US to share the gospel with people.
He shows us here that our sharing the gospel with people, is directly related to PRAYING for opportunities to share the gospel. As Paul says here, we need to be “PRAYING … that God will open up a door for the word.” Prayer is the key to the opportunities we get to witness. If we want to be sharing the gospel more, as a church and as individuals, then we need to be praying specifically for that to happen.
Our prayers for opportunities for the gospel can be focused in several important directions:
— PRAY FOR LOST PEOPLE. Pray for individuals you know, to be saved. Romans 10:1 says “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.” As we saw a couple of weeks ago, the most important prayer we can pray for anyone we know is for their salvation. We should do that, regularly, and fervently. Our goal in our MasterLife class is for each one of us to have at least 5 people we are praying for, for their salvation. What if everyone in our whole church had at least 5 people whose salvation we were praying for — God would work in a great way! We need to pray for people to be saved.
— PRAY THAT YOU WOULD SHARE. Like Paul here, we each need to pray that WE would have open doors to share the gospel with someone. We should pray every morning: “God, give me an opportunity to share the gospel today.” That should be part of our regular, daily prayers, every morning.
I hope that starting tomorrow morning, you will begin to pray every morning, Lord, give me an opportunity to share the gospel with someone today — and we’re giving you something today that will help you to do that.
— PRAY FOR OTHERS TO SHARE — like Paul asked people to do for him here in Colossians. I wonder how many of us are really doing that? You may be praying for people to be saved; you may pray for chances for yourself to share — but are you praying specifically for other people in our church to have opportunities to share the gospel during the week?
We should be doing that for each other. I think there is great and special power when we don’t pray “selfishly,” only for ourselves, but when we pray for others. We should not only pray for God to do great things in our church, but we should pray for Him to work in great ways in other churches as well. I think He will bless that. And He will bless as we pray for other people to share the gospel — just like Paul was asking for here.
As your pastor, I do pray for a number of our folks each week, that we’d be ready to share the gospel when we have opportunities — like Tommy Sain. As many of you know, Tommy has the barber shop downtown, and he sees hundreds of people every day. He has SO many chances to share Christ and minister to people there — and I also know that he takes advantage of those opportunities often! So because I know he has contact with so many people, and has so many opportunities, I pray for him virtually every day, that he would go through the doors that God opens up for him.
I hope you’ll pray for him too — and for others in our church who deal with the public, and who have opportunities to share the gospel. We should all be praying for each other in our church — and not just for our health and safety and things like that, but specifically we should pray for each other that we would be faithful to share the gospel as God opens the door for us. We should pray for opportunities to share the gospel.
II. Live In Light of Opportunities
:5 “Conduct yourselves with wisdom towards outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.”
The word “conduct yourself” here is literally “walk.” “Walk” refers to the way we live — everything we do. When we talk about our “Christian walk,” we are referring to everything we do in our life. Your “walk” is your life. And he says here that as a Christian, you should WALK wisely towards “outsiders,” and by “outsiders” of course he means people who don’t know the Lord. He’s saying we need to be careful in the way we “walk;” in the way we conduct ourselves, because we may have opportunities to share the gospel based on what people see when they observe our conduct. Our conduct will either close, or open, doors for us to share Christ with the people who are watching us.
Back in the 1800’s Hudson Taylor took a group of missionaries to evangelize China. They couldn’t take a 24-hour flight like we can; it was a 4 month journey on a ship to get to China! 4 months, all in close quarters on that ship. So the crew of the ship had time to watch the missionaries lived, and related to each other, and to them. And the missionaries knew that; they knew they were being watched; so they purposefully did everything they could to make the journey easier on the crew — because they wanted to be a witness to them. So after a couple of weeks, the crew began asking them: start a Bible study for us; and TELL US about your God! And most of the crew of that ship ended up getting saved before they finally arrived in China. But it happened because their conduct led to them having opportunities to share the gospel.
We have to realize how important our conduct is, to our witness for the gospel, and we need to regulate everything in our conduct, in light of the gospel.
Before the OU/Army football game a week ago Saturday, they showed a video of a young man whom they were calling the “#1 OU Fan.” And of course on the video he was so enthusiastic about OU football, telling what all he did in his pre-game ritual; how he’d always wear his same “lucky” OU jersey; he didn’t cut his hair during football season, for good luck, and so on. And at the end of the video he said he always asks himself about everything he does: “What does this do for OU football?” I thought, “WHAT?” That is a bit extreme to think that way for a football team for sure!
But if you are a Christian, that really IS the way you should be with the Gospel of Christ. You really should always ask yourself about everything you do: “What does this do for the GOSPEL?” How will this affect my witness for Christ?
— We need to think: you know, I might make some money with this business deal or with this activity, but is it going harm my witness? And if it’s going to harm my witness, then I am not going to do it.
— We need to look at some of our activities, and say, It might be my “right” to be involved in that activity, but if it harms my witness for Christ, I am not going to do it.
Not only in business, and activities, but in everything we do, we need to conduct ourselves in light of the opportunities we might have to share the gospel. As Acts 16 says, “the prisoners are ALWAYS listening; we ALWAYS have our “Christian uniform” on. We are always representing the Lord. We need to LIVE in light of opportunities to share the gospel.
III. Seize the Opportunities
When God does opens the doors for us, through our prayers and through our lifestyle, we need to take advantage of the opportunities that He gives us. Paul says here: “Making the most of the opportunity.”
The word “opportunity” here is the Greek word “kairos,” which is one of their words for “time.” KAIROS in Greek mythology was the son of the Greek god Zeus, and Kairos was the god of opportunity. He was pictured as a youth with a long lock of hair hanging down from his forehead, picturing how Opportunity could only be grasped as he approached. But once he had moved past, not even Zeus himself could pull him back. (Aesop, Fables)
“Kairos” is a reminder of the brief moment in which so many things are possible, and once they are gone, they can never be regained again.
So Paul says we need to “grab that Kairos” when it runs by; we need to “seize the opportunity” to do the most important things when we have the chance — especially to share the gospel — before the opportunity is gone, perhaps forever. But HOW do we do that?
First, you have to SEE when the door is open that God gives you. If you don’t see it, you can’t do anything about it.
Sometimes we don’t see the opportunity, and we don’t realize we had it, until it was too late. It just goes “right over our head.”
I specifically remember going through a drive-through a couple of years ago, and I don’t remember what the person in the window said, but I do remember after I pulled away from the window, all of the sudden thinking, “OH NO — that was such a good opportunity to say something about the gospel, and I just missed it!” It wasn’t that I was afraid to say something — I just didn’t think of it. I totally missed it. I didn’t SEE the opportunity that God gave me, until it was over. All of us have probably done that at some time or another. We just missed the opportunity; we didn’t realize it until it was too late.
So we always need to be spiritually alert and ready to share. I think this is where our prayers come into play. If we’ll have our prayer time in the morning, and ask God to open up a door for us to share that day; and then continue to talk to Him throughout the day, it will help us to have our “antennae up” — and then we will be more likely to see the opportunities that God gives us. But we’ve got to SEE the opportunity, in order to take advantage of it. (Don Sunshine next week is going to talk about how we can better see the opportunities that God presents to us)
— Now, sometimes we DO see the opportunity — and when we do, we need to SPEAK something when the door is open. To be a witness, we do have to SAY something. As we just saw a minute ago, the kind of life we live is vital as a background for our witness. If we aren’t living the life, nobody is going to listen to us. But we can’t witness ONLY by the way we live. Eventually we have to say something in order to share the gospel.
Notice how many times here just in this brief passage, that Paul indicates that we need to SAY SOMETHING as we share the gospel:
— :3 he prays that God will “open up to us a door for the WORD.” A “word” is something you SAY!
— :3b “so that we may SPEAK FORTH the mystery of Christ.” It involves SPEAKING forth words!
— :4 he says to pray “that I may make it clear in the way I ought to SPEAK.” Again, it is “speaking.”
— :6 “Let your SPEECH always be with grace …” “speech” is verbal; it is talking!
So FOUR TIMES in just these 5 verses, he shows us that “taking advantage of the opportunity” means SAYING SOMETHING about Christ to the person who needs to know Him.
Now, you may have seen of Facebook or Twitter or somewhere else a quote from St. Augustine which says: “Share the gospel, if necessary, use words.” There’s 2 things wrong with that quote:
1) Historians and theologians tell us that there IS no such quote from Augustine, so that quote is fake news. He never said it!
2) IT IS NECESSARY TO USE WORDS to share the gospel.
You can’t share the gospel just by the way you live. Do you remember a few weeks ago when we studied “The Gospel” from I Corinthians 15? We saw there that Paul said that the Gospel is that “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that He was buried, and on the third day He rose according to the scriptures.” That is the Gospel. Now, people may be able see that you live a different life; that you live a better life, through the way you live. But if you lived a good life before them for a million years, they would never, ever get “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” just from watching your life. Somehow, some time, somewhere, that has to come to them in words!
Even those missionaries on that ship that was going to China, when they had lived such a life that witnessed so well to the gospel, there had to come a time when they opened their mouths and led that Bible Study, and shared the gospel, so that the sailors could understand the Gospel, that: “Christ died for their sins according to the scriptures”, and be saved.
And that has to happen for us too. It’s not enough to pray; it’s not enough to live the life, and to see the opportunity that God gives us — there comes a time when have to open our mouths and share the Gospel in words, as God opens the door.
I think we all pretty much know that. But I also think that most of us would probably say that we don’t do this as well as we should. So I want us to do two things that I am praying will help us to be better at sharing the gospel when God gives us opportunities:
First, be sure that you are here next Sunday for the “Make A Difference” evangelism training. I really think Don Sunshine is going to connect with a lot of us, and encourage us to share with people. I believe it WILL “Make A Difference” and make you a better evangelist. It will NOT be high pressure, or embarrassing to you in any way; it will be multi-media, and will even be fun. So just please BE HERE, and let God equip you to better share.
But second, there is something we can start even today, which I believe will help us with this. We need to live lives that will give us open doors to share the Gospel, and we need to look for opportunities to speak a word for the Gospel. But as we saw a bit ago, it all starts with prayer. We’ve got to pray, that God will open up doors for us to share the gospel.
So I have a prayer for you this morning, that is based on prayer that an evangelism professor at one of our seminaries developed, for us to pray every morning as part of our prayer time.The prayer is: “God give me an opportunity to share the gospel today:
1) Give me the wisdom to see it (the open door)
2) And the courage to share it” when the door opens.
Two summers ago for our adult class in VBS, we did a class called “Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out”, and in that class, we gave everyone a bookmark with this prayer on it, and then encouraged everyone to pray this prayer every morning, and then watch for the opportunities that God would give us. And we did have several people in our class who got to share with people that week — and we even had one couple pray to receive Christ — because God opens doors when we pray!
We have printed these bookmarks for everyone here today to take home with you. My prayer is that you will put it in your Bible, and use it to remind you to pray every day, that God will give you the wisdom to see the opportunities He gives you, and the courage to speak the Gospel, as he opens the door for you this week. AND: we don’t have for wait for tomorrow morning to pray that prayer — let’s pray it right now during this invitation time!