Reading: Colossians 4:2-6
Imagine with me for a moment that you are in prison for the Gospel. You were unjustly tried and unjustly held because you weren't willing o pay a bribe (Acts 24:26). Your normal routine of traveling to churches and caring for the saints and traveling to new cities where you would preach the Gospel to unbelievers has been completely stopped. Now imagine that you are writing a letter from prison and requesting prayer. What do you think would be on the top of that list? Might it be, “Pray that the Lord would open this prison door that I might be able to travel about preaching and teaching...”? Contrast that with Paul's request.
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:2-6)
Paul was not concerned with whether or not he was locked up; Paul was concerned with whether or not the Gospel was locked up. And Paul knows that the Gospel can be freely preached by people locked up, and that the Gospel can be bound and locked up in people who are free. Paul's prayer request seems to be missing a request that the doors of the prison would open and he would go free. Instead he requests prayer that doors for the Gospel would open so that people might go free! (See Acts 26:17-18 and Isaiah 49:6, 9.)
We see a beautiful example of this when Paul and Silas were in Philippi (Acts 16:23-37). They were severely flogged, thrown in jail, and fastened in stocks; yet they were praying and singing to God at midnight. With an earthquake, the doors of the prison flew open. Rather than running out they waited, and when the jailer was about to kill himself—thinking all the prisoners had left—they stopped him. Now many would think their prayer was about to be answered as the enemy of the Gospel (the jailer) killed himself. Paul knew his prayer was about to be answered as he stopped him and preached the Gospel to him. Paul was allowing the Gospel to take captive his captors (Isaiah 14:2).
Amazingly, after going to the jailers house and baptizing his household and eating a meal, Paul and Silas returned to the prison by morning for the sake of this man's life! Paul's concern was for open doors for the Gospel, not his personal freedom. Paul knew that limits on his personal freedom could result in advances for the Gospel (Philippians 1:12-14). So Paul's prayer request is for the advance of the Gospel through his life in prison and also for its advance through the church in their lives of freedom. He instructs us, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
Are you using your freedoms for Gospel advances? Is the advance of the Gospel the highest purpose of your life? Are you looking for those who are bound up in darkness and desiring that they be free and come to the light? Do you pray God would use your limitations for the advance of the Gospel? What are your limitations? How can they bring you before those in darkness? I remember several years ago a lady who had just found out she had cancer (after having already been through it before), rejoicing for the opportunity to share Christ with those in the hospital! If you don't have a car and you have to take the bus, think of how that limitation opens up a door for the Gospel. Wherever you are, whatever your freedoms or limitations, salt your conversation with the Gospel and make the most of every opportunity!
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,