2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; 3 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, 4 that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. 5 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. (Colossians 4:2–6, NKJV)
Paul urged Christians to rely on the power of prayer and divine providence to spread the gospel. Thankful hearts are alert to blessings from God’s hand (v. 2). Trusting in God’s foresight and provisions, we pray for open doors (access, opportunity) for God’s word to reach hearts and lives. We pray for those who walk through those doors and teach others (3). Paul relied on brethren praying for him. Although in prison, he yearned for their prayers so that he (and they) would use wisdom in speaking the gospel to the lost. While God opens doors for the gospel, we must be wise, prudent, and gracious in choosing our words. Time is precious, so use it properly. Doors of spiritual opportunity are too often closed by impulsive words and unwise actions. So, let us work on aligning our motive (“to answer each one”) with well-placed, gracious words of truth. When we do, we trust God will work through us for His glory (Phil. 2:12-13).
1 Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! 2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: 3 Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, 4 Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, 5 Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:1–5, NKJV)
David calls upon his soul to kneel before the Lord God with thankful praise and salutation of His holiness and His merciful treatment. God’s benefits (His treatment) toward Israel foreshadowed His unceasing care for His church. His benefits toward us are boundless, deserving our grateful acknowledgment with all that is within us. He gives us the “every spiritual blessing” in Christ, beginning with the forgiveness of our iniquities (Eph. 1:3, 7; 2:1-7). God also cares about our physical welfare, providing healing and comfort for the ailing and weak (Jas. 5:14). God protects us from many dangers as we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matt. 6:31-33; Rom. 8:31-39). Even as He feeds the birds, He certainly provides our daily bread (Matt. 6:26, 11). May we be strengthened daily by the calm assurance that our heavenly Father rules His world. His providence enriches our lives, calling for our undivided allegiance, gratitude, and praise.
9 And the patriarchs, becoming envious, sold Joseph into Egypt. But God was with him and delivered him out of all his troubles, 10 and gave him favor and wisdom in the presence of Pharaoh, king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house. (Acts 7:9–10, NKJV)
The providence of God unfolds before our eyes in the life of Joseph (Gen. 37-50). God did not create the world and then lay it up in a display case to watch what would happen next. While God has undoubtedly intervened in the affairs of this world with miracles by suspending natural processes and occurrences, He has also arranged His world in such a way that He operates in it through the course of natural events. The life of Joseph is an example of God’s providence. God was actively involved in Joseph’s life through its day to day events. In today’s passage, Stephen said God was with Joseph and delivered him, gave him favor and wisdom, and made him governor over Egypt and Pharaoh’s house. These verbs (delivered, gave, made) show God was at work, not against the free will of men and women, but through their choices and actions. God used the envy of Joseph’s brother to bring about good (Gen. 50:20). He used natural, cyclical seasons of bounty and famine to execute His plan to elevate Joseph and to save Israel. Even now, God hears and answers the prayers of the righteous, not by injecting miracles into the natural world, but by carrying out His purposes through the operation of the world according to His design and sovereign care (Jas. 5:16-18; 1:17).
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord, Who has made desolations in the earth. 9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire. 10 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! 11 The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah” (Psalm 46:8–11, NKJV)
The Lord continues to rule over the kingdoms of men, which testifies of His boundless wisdom and power to be our refuge in times of distress (Dan. 4:25-26, 34-35). God uses times of turbulence and warfare to raise nations and bring them down according to His purposes and judgments (Amos 6:14; Hab. 1:5-11; Jer. 50:8-16). Eyes of faith see God’s justice roll “down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream” to execute His will among the nations (Amos 5:24-27). Instead of being anxiously distracted from trusting and obeying the Lord in times of trial, Christians keep their faith set squarely upon God. Eyes of faith see God’s exalted place, power, and providence in all things. So, in reverent humility, let us pause and ponder during the psalmist’s interlude (Selah), and grasp the comfort in knowing God is our stronghold – a mighty fortress in times of trouble (Psa. 9:9; 27:5).
12 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; 14 and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. (Philippians 1:12–14, NKJV)
What begins as a trial may become the very moment of great blessings. Divine providence turns trials into opportunities and burdens into boldness. Paul had been imprisoned for more than four years for preaching the gospel (two years in Caesarea and two years in Rome, Acts 24:27; 28:30). Threats from his countrymen, injustice from rulers and shipwreck in the deep were among the obstacles he faced on his journey to Rome. Yet, these things turned out as a great opportunity for the gospel to spread and for fellow-Christians to be emboldened with confidence to courageously speak the word of God. When you are faced with a burden, a trial, or even persecution for your faith, do not lose heart. God is giving you an opportunity to rely on His power instead of your own. His spiritual provisions will sustain you while His gospel strengthens and saves others. So, keep fighting the good fight of faith and see the possibilities rather than the hindrances (1 Timothy 6:12).
13 And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13–14, NKJV)
We are tempted to think that keeping silent in the face of trouble (when we have the ability and opportunity to speak up and to act in the name of truth and righteousness) is the right thing to do. More times than not, trouble finds us anyway. And so, let us rather trust God to work out His purposes through our obedient faith. By faithfully obeying the Lord, “it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13). God providentially fulfills His purposes. Let us be like Esther, and speak up for the innocent and the righteous, also standing against the wicked who try to destroy the people of God. Truth and righteousness will prevail in this world of sin. Victory is assured in Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:57). God’s will is that you stand up for Christ, His truth and His people. “Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Well, God knows. What will you do, knowing this to be true?
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us… (Ephesians 3:20, NKJV)
Because God is omnipotent, our prayers ought to acknowledge this essential attribute of His deity. Faith in His power should influence how we pray. God can bring to pass whatever He chooses is consistent with His will (1 Jno. 5:14-15). Although God has limited Himself with regard to present-day miracles, He still works providentially. Therefore, let us make sure we pray to God like He is God, not like He is a man. Ask for the things that seem impossible to us, pray for the things that our power alone could never bring to pass. By doing this, we treat God like the God that He is: “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.”