I know this is a little off topic, but this is what I have been doing this week... I promise we'll get back to the book soon!! :)
Colossians is an amazing little book. I have read lots of verses from Colossians, lots of times, but until recently I have never read the whole of the book and studied it in any depth. What a mistake that was!!
Over the last 8 weeks, as part of the Good Morning Girls programme, we have spent time in the book of Colossians, moving through it verses by verses and really getting our teeth into it. I wanted to write a little about a passage that has changed the way I feel and think about evangelism, and so I am hoping will change my life!
The passage I am referring to is Colossians 4:2-6
"Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should. Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone."
In the past when I read this passage I just focused on the 'devote yourself to prayer' part and didn't really look any further into it, since prayer is go important for everything that we do. But the few verses after that really blew me away.
When I have studied evangelism for work or for personal study, I have always been told to pray for opportunities each day to share God's love. I imagined this involved me praying 'God help me to take the most of the opportunities that You give me today' and then trying desperately not to miss any 'divine appointments' - and spending all day trying to find them! I was also so worried that I'd mess up in some way and put people off the Gospel totally and for life, that I quickly stopped praying the prayer in the first place. This made my life SO much easier. After all, now I didn't have to look for the opportunity or worry about what I was going to say or worry that I was messing up... In fact it meant I didn't have to do anything at all... my whole Christian life...
Can you see where the problem lies?? Not only was I totally opting out of evangelism and sharing my faith with the people I see every day, but I was in fact saying that ideally didn't care that they where going to a lost eternity and that it really didn't phase me at all that they were struggling through life with no hope and no firm foundation with a friend who is always with them no matter what happens... Nope - I didn't care, because life without evangelism was easy.
When I read these verses this last week, I was a little challenged. Just a little. Then I went to Bible College on Monday morning and a little became a lot!! One of our lectures was on lifestyle evangelism, and the lecturer spoke on taking the opportunities God gives you and using them to share His love and bring Him glory. Oops - starting to feel a little convicted that that was effectively what I had stopped doing to make my life easier...
Then he started to tell us some amazing stories of where God worked through Him to tell everyday people about His love for them. Ok - now I feel as if I am missing out on something big but still have this big worry that its all up to me and I might mess it up...
Then I had an amazing lunch with a girl from Bible College who totally inspired me. She has an amazing story and has a faith that makes me want to know her more - God is so real to her and it amazes me how people can meet her and not know Him. She said something to me that has changed the way I think of evangelism forever. She pointed out that God works behind the scenes in people's hearts so that if we are in tune with Him and take the opportunities He gives us, they are open to hearing what we have to say and they are often ready to just pour our their hearts to Him.
WOW... Every time I hear a story of someone taking an opportunity to share God, no matter where it happens - whether on a bus into town, standing at an opticians or having a coffee with a friend - God has been working behind the scenes, convicting people, touching their hearts and showing glimpses of His love, getting them ready so that someone can share God's love and lead them to Him.
It strikes me as being the same as part of Esther's story. When the King makes the decree to have all the Jews killed, and Mordecai calls on Esther to help them, he says this -
"If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”
The fact of the matter was that God was going to save the Jews - whether Esther chose to help or not. He had already promised them that they would never be wiped out and they had faith in that. Mordecai reminded Esther that God would save them, but by helping them she had the opportunity to be part of the blessing.
So the question is whether we want to be part of the blessing or not. We can pray the prayer, and take each opportunity that God gives us, and be part of the blessing of leading people to Christ, or we can sit back and do nothing. We will be judged on what we do/don't do.... But it's not even that - who doesn't want to be part of a movement bringing people to Christ and seeing lives transformed!! It still be scary but it is well worth any nerves we have!
So I would challenge you all to read the book of Colossians and think about how we need to pray, go out and take the opportunities and spread God's Word to the world around us.