Rocks and hard places

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Prepare

Suffering and pressure can leave you feeling isolated and forgotten. Bring to mind times when you have felt like this, or maybe this describes your experience now. Ask the Lord to shine light in dark places.


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Bible passage Colossians 4:2–6


Further Instructions
 2Devote 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.

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society


Audio Bible passage


The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).


Explore the Bible


Prison & Epaphras
This vibrant and dynamic letter was written in an unusual place, although not so odd for Paul. Like Philippians, Philemon and Ephesians, it was authored in prison, most probably in Rome. He is nearing the end of his life but writes with a passion which suggests he is there with them.

His knowledge of this church, however, has come from a man called Epaphras. Mentioned in 1:7, 4:12 and Philemon 23, Epaphras is a native of Colossae who probably planted the church during Paul’s two-year period in Ephesus. Many scholars have surmised that Epaphras may also have been under house arrest with Paul for some of the time.

Still gospel motivated
But Paul’s tone is hopeful in the face of a shrinking future. He asks that his readers pray for opportunities to share the gospel effectively in prison (vs 3,4).

He could of course have asked for safety, comfort, justice or a long life. His heart and mind, however, are captivated by the greatness of Jesus, and even in chains he is motivated by declaring freedom in Christ.


Respond


Paul’s writings and example are deeply challenging. But his experience of God’s grace to him in Christ is inspiring; his only ambition is to make him known. Look at your own ambitions now in the light of Paul’s words.

Gethin Russell-Jones


Deeper Bible study


As you come to pray, ask the Lord for both watchfulness and thankfulness.

There are three central aspects of the Christian life which are always intertwined, and they are found together in today’s passage: people, prayer and proclamation. (I know, but I’m a preacher!) The first significant thing is that Paul knew he needed help. We’ll see this later in the chapter, but in today’s passage he deliberately underlines his need of others – including new believers in this small and fledgling church. ‘Pray for us’, he says (v 3). Pray that I’ll be able to do the job. I need your help. So it is for each of us: we need others, however experienced in the faith we might be.

The heart of Paul’s request is for prayer. Three key words in verse 2 need to be applied to our prayers. Devote implies true commitment, perseverance, faithfully praying day after day. Later he refers to Epaphras, ‘always wrestling in prayer’ (Colossians 4:12). It’s a tough job and we must be determined. Watchful is language from guard duty. The Colossians were under threat from false teaching and, unlike the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane, they and we must keep alert as we pray. Thankful should always be the attitude underlying our intercession. We are watchful, but not anxious. Thankfulness runs through the whole letter and should be the atmosphere in which we make all of our requests to the Father (Colossians 1:3,4,12; 2:7; 3:15,16,17).

The purpose is proclamation. Paul needs prayerful support because he must ‘proclaim the mystery of Christ’ (v 3), because doors need to open for that to happen and because he needs to proclaim it clearly (v 4). He continues that theme by highlighting the responsibility of the Colossians to grasp every opportunity to speak the truth with wisdom and grace (vs 5,6). People, prayer and proclamation: we need all three.

Jonathan Lamb


Bible background: Ready salted


Cooking salt
Salt was used to add flavour to dishes (see Job 6:6). It was also used as a preservative. Jesus may have either, or possibly both, meanings in mind when he describes his followers as the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13).

Paul is thinking along the same lines when he encourages the Colossians to make helpful conversation (Colossians 4:6). It also seems to have had purifying qualities (2 Kings 2:19–22).

Covenant salt
Salt was used to seal agreements. Israel and God were bound together by a covenant of salt (Numbers 18:19; 2 Chronicles 13:5), a mark of its permanence. As a reminder, all cereal offerings were to be made with salt (Leviticus 2:3).

Baby salt
New born babies were sometimes rubbed with salt (Ezekiel 16:4) – it may be a mark of commitment, it may indicate a new beginning or it may reflect purifying and antiseptic qualities.

Deathly salt
Salt led to infertile soil and poor crops (Deuteronomy 29:23; Psalm 107:33,34). Salty areas are synonymous with wastelands (Job 39:6; Zephaniah 2:9). The Dead Sea contains no life because of high salt levels.

Sometimes victorious armies scattered salt on the ground (Judges 9:45; Jeremiah 48:9) – this made it hard to grow crops and had a powerful symbolic influence. Jeremiah likened those who turned away from God to those who lived in salt-infested areas (Jeremiah 17:6). Part of God’s work of restoration was to make the salt water fresh (Ezekiel 47:7–11).

Profitable salt
Access to salt brought wealth. In the second century BC Antiochus imposed a tax on salt which was paid to Rome. Israel had ready access to salt from around the Dead Sea, but much of it was impure and diluted and was discarded. This may lie behind Jesus’ reference in Matthew 5:13 to salt losing its quality.

John Grayston


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Ezekiel 30,31

Psalms 123–125
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Audio


God in my living (Everything)
Tim Hughes
Copyright © 2005 Thankyou Music
Buy this and other great worship songs at www.kingswayshop.com

Because of your love
Brenton Brown/Paul Baloche Copyright © 2006 Thankyou Music & Integrity's Hosanna! Music/Sovereign Music UK
Buy this and other great worship songs at www.kingswayshop.com


Comments
  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Wednesday, 15 November 2017

    5 verses packed full making the most of evangelistic opportunities written by a man chained in prison. We too have to take advantage of every chance we have to share the good news.

  • Janet Webb | Wednesday, 15 November 2017

    Good morning friends. Verse 2 has really spoken to me as a blueprint for prayer. Astonishing that Paul's words are still impactful, 2000 years after being written.

  • Angela Munday | Wednesday, 15 November 2017

    'Good morning Janet' - God's own dear children that are dead to the ways of this world remain alive in Christ and He in them forever. This is the best news ever and remains a beautiful 'mystery'. We are able to live as Christ taught us as we "let conversation be gracious and attractive so that we will have the right response for everyone." .......Praying for all Wordlive family everywhere in the world. Amen.

  • Jane Everitt | Wednesday, 15 November 2017

    Prayer, people and proclamation- so amazing after an incredible evening last night in Leicester with the Archbishop of Canterbury who talked about this. Leicester was really blessed last night, I know I was. I rarely make a comment and often find praying difficult and am in awe of those of you who give so much time to praying for the rest of us word livers. Thank you so much for your dedication and love and words of wisdom.

  • Peter Oliver | Wednesday, 15 November 2017

    Many thanks again for your prayers about my treatment for angina it has now come through all praise to GOD.

  • Eileen Smith | Wednesday, 15 November 2017

    Thanks for the update PETER--- as you so rightly say - all praise to God!

  • Ruth Lewis | Wednesday, 15 November 2017

    Praising God along with you PETER!!! He is truly an Awesome God!!!

  • Jack Russell | Wednesday, 15 November 2017

    Amazing reading today that Paul is not dwelling on his own misery of being in chains imprisoned because of what following Christ had led him to but instead his main concern being clear in proclaiming a message about Christ. Probably because he was so used to dealing with rhetoric. So what does being wise and making the most of every opportunity with grace mean. Well, it seems that elsewhere he talks of the intentional outcome being of outsiders praising God. Of course love does not demand that outcome, instead suffering and pressure may be the result of acting like this. How many people would choose to suffer for this over doing what is easier and more comfortable?

  • Lynda Spencer | Wednesday, 15 November 2017

    Am also missing DEREK. The last time he commented was Nov 5th. It's most unusual for him to miss more than a day or two commenting. Praying for him.

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