If you’re like me, and like most people I would guess, your “Make Time List” is pretty long. That is, there are several things you would like to do, lots of places you’d like to go, numerous people you’d like to see, if only you could “Make Time” for them. (I think I see several heads nodding in agreement.) Sadly, however, there is no one, no matter what their status or station in life, with the ability to make their day any longer than 24 hours (and, if we could make it 36, we’d probably find ourselves yearning for 48!). So, since we can’t “make time”, we must decide, intentionally prioritize, what we are going to “take time” for. A couple of weeks ago we addressed the topic of what to “take time” for in the first message of a Wednesday night series on the book of Colossians.
Take Time To Give Thanks (Col. 1:3)…One of the most precious memories from my childhood is hearing my papaw say grace before meals. It did not matter whether it was at home or at a restaurant, whether anyone liked it or didn’t like it, he was going to pray…and his prayer was never short. Confession time: there were instances when it was hard for a young, hungry boy to stay focused through the entire prayer when mamaw’s fried potatoes and cornbread were sitting on the table right in front of my nose! There were nights when I wished that for just once he would make “grace” a little shorter! Though some of the prayer’s content would change depending upon the needs of the hour, many of the phrases stayed the same and I can still hear them ringing in my ear to this very day. One of those unalterable utterances was my papaw’s declaration that “he would never fail, as long as in his right mind, to bow his unworthy head, and give thanks to God.”
In his epistle to the Colossians, Paul needs to address heresies that are trying to invade the church. He must speak to important practical considerations of how Christians should treat their spouses, raise their children, manage those who work under them, and labor for those who are over them. He will present one of the clearest and strongest supports for the doctrine of Christ’s deity and delineate necessary elements for the doctrine of salvation. But, before he does any of these essential things, he pauses to praise; he takes time to give thanks! No matter what the importance of what we may be doing or need to get about doing, whatever the necessity of what must be addressed; regardless of the wonderful, dare I say glorious, smell of mamaw’s potatoes and cornbread, stop and take time to give thanks! Do it intentionally, do it on purpose, do it decidedly, do it with conviction! As long as in our right minds may we “never fail to bow our unworthy heads” and give God thanks!
Take Time To Pray For Others (Col. 1:3, 9-12)…Through the years I have had many people come to me facing seemingly impossible situations. They are experiencing infirmities, discouragements, disappointments, betrayals, and various other types of trials and loss. They will ask for prayer and I certainly join my faith with theirs in intercession. That being said, one suggestion I always like to give them is to take time to pray for others. To the natural mind the hour of our struggles, the moments of our deepest needs, may seem like exactly the wrong time to be concerned about someone else. Why would we devote energy and resources that we seemingly can’t afford to spare? Well, the primary reason is because it’s biblical. Philippians 2:3-4 clearly instructs us to put the interests of others above our own; the next four verses detail how Christ so fully exemplified that admonition. A secondary reason to pray for others even, or perhaps especially, in our deepest time of need is because it works. By focusing on issues other than our own we see things clearer, we better resist despair, and we know the power of God to a greater degree.
At the time of the writing of Colossians, the Apostle Paul was in a Roman prison for his “crime” of preaching the gospel. Now if I were in a cruel imprisonment for the cause of Christ and wrote a letter to my brothers and sisters in the Lord, I would probably begin my correspondence by telling them how bad my situation was, how good I was for bearing up under it, and requesting urgent prayer for myself! Now maybe I’m the only one who would have those priorities, but I would guess I’m not alone in having the tendency to think of my situations and needs first. However, the Spirit-led, though imprisoned, Apostle Paul made it a priority to pray for the Colossian believers in his epistle before he mentioned one word about his own predicament. Let us take time to pray for others! It sounds easy enough, but it will take intentionality to get our focus off ourselves and our own situations to care for the concerns of someone else.
Take Time To Remember The Gospel (Col. 1:5-7)…Many (perhaps most) Christians think of the gospel as that which began their relationship with God. Repenting of sin and putting faith in Jesus is something that they did at a church once at some time in their life and now they’ve moved on to new levels of advancement in their Christian walk. The Apostle Paul does not allow for this kind of mentality in his address to the Colossian believers. He does speak of the gospel as moving into new regions of the world to bring about the new births of those who had not yet believed, but he makes it quite clear in verse 6 of chapter 1 that the gospel has been bearing fruit and increasing in the lives of those who had already come to a faith in Christ. You see, Scripture clearly instructs us that no matter how long we’ve been believers, we must always remain gospel centered, not just for the sake of witnessing to others but for the purpose of allowing the message that made us born again lead us on into maturity.
For those who may be questioning what “practical” purpose there could be to taking time to remember the gospel, let me close this article with three illustrations. Situation number one. Let’s say you’re in the car with the kids or grandkids and rather than them being their normal, quiet, cooperative selves they begin incessantly asking you “are we there yet?”; then one child wants to listen to a certain radio station; the other child feels it their responsibility to demand that a different radio station be tuned in; their verbal exchanges rise to the level of shouting at each other; then one hits the other or the other hits the one; and then, next thing you know, pandemonium! How does remembering the gospel help you? Well, if you take time to recall God’s patience with you, dying for you while you were yet a sinner in constant rebellion against His laws and in constant resistance to His grace, then maybe you’ll be more inclined to handle the situation in a way that will have you (and maybe even your kids) sleeping good at eleven instead of being on the news at eleven! Situation number two. You’re in the line at Wal-Mart. You’re getting a little frustrated because more checkouts aren’t open. Still, your frustration level is nothing like a couple other customers in the line. Their faces turn various shades of red and their language is even a little more colorful than that. And, as if their language choices aren’t lacking enough, their clothing selection is even more lacking, literally lacking! Now, you might be tempted to let them have it for their sinful behavior, or at least go home and tell your friends and family what an awful display you were exposed to at the store today. However, while we certainly must stand for righteousness and cannot ignore the downward spiral of our culture, remembering the gospel and the fact that all of us apart from Christ are sinners who stand worthy of condemnation in hell and who devoid of the Holy Spirit would be unaware of our obvious depravity, might lead us to pray for and witness to unbelievers instead of just sticking a thumb in their eye. Finally, for our third illustration, let’s say you blew it in the previous two cases. You yelled at your kids in the car, even saying some very mean things you wished you could take back. You looked down your nose at the people in line at Wal-Mart and said something that left them with the stench of a self-righteous hypocrite. You get ready for bed that evening knowing you failed, miserably. Think like the natural man and you may not have good night prayers because you feel unworthy to even lift your voice to God, you may feel your life hopeless, you probably end up giving yourself a worse beating than you’ve given anyone else that day. Think like the spiritual man who constantly remembers the gospel and you realize that the same God of grace who extends the offer of salvation extends the power for sanctification as well. The same love and forgiveness that was there when you first believed are there now that you’ve messed up…again. You repent and go to sleep that night knowing you’re forgiven and you become ever more grateful to and dependent upon the God of your salvation. Let us make a conscious decision to always remember the gospel!