God Has a Plan
Text: Colossians 4
Proposition: God has a plan that includes everyone from runaways to surgeons and it takes all kinds of methods but its goal is to bring Christ to the lost.
Introduction: What’s that old expression, “The best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray.” Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote that line in a poem when after ploughing a field he inadvertently ploughed up the nest of a field mouse. Burns concludes his ‘Ode to a Mouse’ with this stanza:
“Still you are blest, compared with me! The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye, on prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see, I guess and fear!”
We all make plans, we can do so with great effort and tenacity but plans do not always work out. Proverbs 16:1 says, “The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.” This morning we are going to look at the last chapter of Colossians, it’s really a chapter that speaks about the way we should plan and the strategies we should plan with, yet all the time realizing that the answer to all that planning, the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord. This morning we are simply going to highlight a truth you already believe, God has a plan and it involves you. Turn with me to Colossians 4.
I. Never Underestimate the Role of Prayer in All Plans.
Paul says two things about prayer; continue earnestly and be vigilant in it. If the Colossians will rise above the divisive effects of Gnosticism and Judaism, if they will indeed put off idolatry and put on the new man in Christ, then the plan to do that will necessitate prayer. That word ‘vigilant’ is sometimes translated as “keeping alert” like a guard on the night shift keeping alert. The key to staying vigilant is to be thankful, a word that has past, present and future implications. The moment I cease to recognize the hand of God in all aspects of my life is the moment I miss seeing the opportunity to be thankful to God. If you are not thankful then the expression of thanksgiving to God - prayer - also dies.
So Paul asks that they would pray for him, that through their prayer God would ‘open a door’ of opportunity, to speak the mystery for which he was now in chains. What is that mystery that caused Paul to be made a prisoner in Rome? It was the mystery that God has made a way for the Jews and the Gentiles to be one body. He has united them both through the body and blood of His Son Jesus Christ. That’s what Paul was preaching to the Jews in Jerusalem back in Acts 21 and 22. That idea of Jew and Gentile becoming one was like a violation of the law of Moses to the Jews. It was this mystery, the plan of God to unite Jew and Gentile, that had resulted in a riot in Jerusalem that day and Paul ended up in a Roman prison as one who had caused the riot. So now, here in a prison, in a place that for most would seem more like a detour than a destination, Paul asks that they pray that in this perfect place that God would open a door for the word. When the wheels come off your plans, when you end up in a pit instead of a palace, know that God has a plan and it involves you, even here. It was Albert Einstein who said, “God does not play dice.”, it’s no fluke that God places you where you are, even for such a time as this. Never underestimate the role of prayer in all plans.
II. In God’s Plan There’s All Kinds of Key Players…Evangelism.
The words are simple, “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.” (NIV)
God has a plan and it most certainly involves those who don’t yet know Jesus through faith, who don’t even know there is a plan. That’s what the term evangelism is all about, the reaching of those who are, so to speak, outside the church, outside the salvation plan of God. So be wise in how you act as ambassadors of Christ. Buy up the opportunities to reach them, that’s what the phrase ‘redeeming the time’ refers to. What are you going to spend your money on, how are going to spend your time or your talents or your giftedness? Use those things to buy up opportunities to touch the lives of people who don’t even know that God does have a plan. How do you do that? It’s with words of grace, season your speech with a type of salt that preserves, that enhances flavor. If the grace of God is in the way that you think then you will not lack an answer for those who ask about how God has changed your life. What’s the main point, God sees people differently than you and I do. Where we see a write off, a hopeless case, a closed mind or a hard heart, God sees a key player that He wants to reach as part of His plan.
III. When it Comes To the Plan of God, Be Flexible, It Goes Where He Wills.
In these next 11 verses Paul mentions the names of 11 people, these are people he has worked with, lived his life beside and been encouraged by. God’s plan, even in the apostle Paul’s life, used groups of people working together to accomplish His purposes. There were no ‘Lone Rangers’, no ‘Stainless Steel Stanleys’ who could do it all by themselves. It takes the church working together to be the arms, legs, hands and feet of Jesus. The thing is that we need to be flexible as God works in and through us, that can sometimes mean that we have to be willing to let go of some ideas and embrace others in order to reach people for Christ. Flexibility can feel awkward and sometimes even painful. Listen to the flexibility that is required of these eleven people that Paul speaks of.
Tychicus – though he has been with Paul since the days of Corinth and was there in Jerusalem when he was arrested, even travelling to Rome to be with Paul is now being sent to Colossae, to people he’s never met to be their new pastor.
Onesimus – a runaway slave from the town of Colossae had tried to hide in Rome but instead God used this man adrift to become a Christian in Rome and to be a great encourager to Paul in prison in Rome. Now Onesimus is being sent back to his former master Philemon with a letter from Paul asking for forgiveness and restoration. Tychicus and Onesimus are entrusted with the letter to the Colossians and will tell the people about the developments with Paul.
Aristarchus – he stays on with Paul in Rome, he too had been with Paul since the days of Corinth.
Mark – this was the young man who accompanied Barnabas and Paul on the first missionary trip to Derbe. Half way through Mark had quit the team and returned. On the next trip Barnabas once again wanted to include Mark but Paul was against the idea. He wasn’t considered steady enough for a missions trip. Now years later here is that same man, the same Mark who had once messed up, he’s here in Rome helping Paul. This would be the same Mark who would one day write the Gospel of Mark. This too was God’s plan.
Justus – this is possibly the same Justus who was from Corinth, who’s house Paul stayed in, a house right next to the synagogue in Corinth. Justus stays on in Rome with Paul, a Jew who has become a Christian serving a world of Gentiles.
Epaphras – once the pastor of Colossae, it was he who had come to Rome to ask for Paul’s help. For whatever reason, Paul chooses that Epaphras stay and be replaced with Tychicus. You can hear the heart that Epaphras has for the people of Colossae, labouring in prayer, having a great zeal for the peoples of the area.
Luke – this is the apostle Luke, it’s here that we learn that Luke is a physician but that may not be why Luke was in Rome. Some believe that Luke had written a letter of explanation in Paul’s defense, so the Rome tribunal could understand the context of what had happened. That letter of defence is what we call the Book of Acts. Through the very imprisonment of Paul comes the letters that make up so much of what we now call the New Testament.
Demas and Nymphas are also co workers of Paul, one in Rome and one in Laodicea. In fact Paul mentions that he wrote a similar letter to the church in Laodicea and that it should be circulated and read just as the Colossian letter. The letter to the Laodiceans was never preserved, we don’t know it’s contents, just that Paul actually wrote one to them. Even in the inspiration of Scripture God has a plan for what is preserved and what passes away.
Archippus - "Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it." In other words, you know what God desires of you, God has a plan and you are in it. Don’t pull back, don’t be discouraged. Fulfill it in Him.
The closing words are for us all, “Remember my chains. Grace be with you.” Remember always that we have a connection to the whole church, here in Canada but also in the world where by God’s plan, the church is in chains.
When you think of the plan of God, think prayer, think evangelism, be flexible.