Pray diligently. Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude. Don't forget to pray for us, that God will open doors for telling the mystery of Christ, even while I'm locked up in this jail. Pray that every time I open my mouth I'll be able to make Christ plain as day to them. Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don't miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out. (Col. 4:2-6)
Paul writes to the Colossian church just four short chapters. In his closing statements to the the church, he gives them several characteristics of grounded faith that we will explore this morning. First, he describes a grounded believer as one who prays diligently. There are other passages where he writes we are to pray constantly, but this time he uses the term "diligently". He is telling us to be constant in our effort, attentive in our approach and persistent as all get out in our prayers. In other words, pray so as to get God's attention. Then look at what he says next - stay alert with eyes wide open in gratitude. He doesn't want us to miss the blessing God has in store for us in our times of diligent prayer. Eyes wide open - describes a state of readiness. Gratitude - describes the condition of our heart and the responsiveness of our emotion.
Look where he heads next - pray for me. It is a constant need of our clergy that there are praying people behind them. See a successful ministry and you can bet that there are praying people in the background. He is not just asking for prayer for himself. He is asking that the prayers be focused on making him an effective servant of the gospel - so that the words he speaks "hit home" in a manner that is easy for his hearers to grasp.
The next characteristic he brings forth is one of being wise in our dealings in this world. He tells us to use our heads - not as ornamental additions to our body, but as an object that help us to stay a step ahead of the wiles of our enemy. That is how we will not miss an opportunity to bring the gospel message - in both word and in life-giving testimony. Our words are to be gracious. When you think of words that are gracious, think of words that "taste" good coming out and "taste" just as good being heard. If your words are stinging as they come forth, they will likely burn just as much when they are heard. Gracious words are words that are spoken in good taste - kind, courteous, and extensions of God's grace (even when the truth must be spoken, we are told to do it in love!).
Paul reminds us that our purpose is to bring out the best in others. I guess that is ministry in a nutshell - bringing out the best in others. In case you think you are not called to ministry, let me assure you that you are. It may not be from behind a pulpit, but you are given a "pulpit" from which to minister into the lives of others on a daily basis. It is called "life" - we are to live, speak, and respond in such a way that others come to experience the gracious mercy of our loving God. We are really being told to allow God to bring out our best on a daily basis - by going to prayer with an expectant and gracious heart. In so doing, we will bring God's best to those who desperately need it.