Honestly, I was tempted not to write this. “I’m too busy,” I reasoned. “I can’t take on another commitment. GRRR.” Wait; too busy to write about the reason I am still on the earth? Ouch. My logic, in hindsight, was full of holes.
The fact is that most of us are busy. We all have to work harder than the next guy just to keep up at work. We have to keep our homes clean and our yards neat. You know how the neighbors can be. So life is busy. Not to mention the traffic jam on the way to work, the malcontents at work, and the road construction on the way home.
And then there is the faucet that just clogged in the main bathroom, and the fence that needs repair out back. Life gets busier, doesn’t it? And don’t forget your body. To do these things entirely well we have to take care of ourselves. Hygiene, exercise and healthy food are not negotiable! And don’t neglect Scripture memory (see my previous article on Scripture Memory) Now life is busier than ever!
Reason #1 – We Are on This Earth for Just One Reason
All right, lets take a deep breath now and let me ask you an honest question. When was the last time you were confronted with why you are on this planet in the first place? Yes, why on earth are you still here?” What I mean to suggest is, if you are a Christian, why are you not in heaven with God when your true home is in heaven with Him (Jn 14:1-3)? Why have you been left behind for a while? Is it to have a nice job, a nice home, a nice family, and a nice social life? Is there anything more that Jesus—the risen Savior— has for you?
What else are you busy with? We have to raise our kids and give our best to our spouse. At our church there are extended family and friends to care for. Life is busy, busy, busy! Lest in all of our busyness we forget our life’s mission, I remind you of Paul’s closing exhortations to the church at Colossae (Col 4:2-6). In his concluding exhortations, the imprisoned epistle writer devotes the bulk of His words to the life-mission of every Christian—evangelism.
From this passage, it is readily apparent that the boldly evangelistic apostle is a firm believer in the team approach to evangelism. He knows that this is our mission, not solely his mission. So he begins with a command for partnership in prayer (Col 4:2-3). He calls for alertness or watchfulness in it (4:2a), a subtle rebuke to the easily distracted and the complacent.
He then gets specific about something they will likely be forgetful to pray about—open doors for the gospel! He is asking for them to pray that doors “for the word” would be opened! Paul desires these Christians to pray for him in his evangelistically-focused lifestyle. Paul calls them to pray for what we would call “divine appointments” in v 3, and for clarity of speech for him once God opens these doors (v 4, see also 1 Cor 16:8–9).
He then transitions from his own evangelism to some pointers about their evangelism. He teaches them that it starts with their life example and ends with the their mouth. He exhorts them first to walk wisely amidst the pagan world around them. This means the Christians at Colossae are to live in such a way that alertness (a keen attention to what is going on around you spiritually) characterizes their lives—the saving power of the gospel always on their radar (Romans 1:16). You are not among the people of the world for no reason, Paul intimates. Instead you are to buy up every opportunity for the cause of Jesus Christ (Mt 28:19–20; Luke 19:10; 1 Peter 3:15).
Reason #2 – We Are To “Buy Up” the Opportunities for the Cause of Jesus
How are we to live like this, that is with such a radical abandonment to an evangelistic lifestyle? Verse five reads, “Making the most of the opportunity” (NASB). What does this mean exactly? The Greek verb translated “make the most of” is exagorásō, from ek (meaning out or from), and the verb agorázō (to buy). It can be translated, “to buy out.” The root of this word is agora, the common word for marketplace—the place where goods are bought and sold.
The point Paul is making then, in using this intensified market place terminology, is a point towards utter faithfulness to the gospel message—faithfulness in all seasons, in all places, among all people. The idea is that just as a Black Friday would take every opportunity to buy up the best deals, so the gospel-conscientious Christian will “buy up” every opportunity to be a good witness for Christ to the lost, in deed and word.
What a challenging command! I have to ask myself, “Do I live with eternity stamped upon my eyelids like Paul did? Do I live with urgency and eternal purpose, as I know I should? Do I live with God’s heart for the nations burning inside of me? Or am I so busy with making my life “meaningful” that I have failed to remember that hell is forever and life is short. Have I forgotten that if they are breathing then they need Jesus? This is what it means to “make the most of the opportunity.” It means that in my day-to-day life, Christ’s cause and my cause are one.
Why the word “opportunity”? The Greek word kairos (translated “opportunity”) means season, occasion, or opportunity with no fixed limitation. This word brings out that “open doors” (v 3) or witnessing opportunities could come at any time. It could be when you least expect it, which is why alertness and prayer are both so important (v 2). The door of opportunity could come at the mall, at a family reunion, on Facebook, with the cashier in the checkout lane, or after church this Sunday.
I would paraphrase the clause this way, “Walk wisely among the unbelieving by using every opportunity for the cause of speaking to them about the saving good news of Jesus.” What is the good news? Salvation for eternity can be had through faith alone, by grace alone, in Jesus Christ alone (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Of course, we should do this graciously, winsomely and biblically (v 6).
Reason #3 – We Are Not Here Forever, Time is Running Out
Why live with this urgency? Why buy up the opportunities? Simple. Because we are running out of them! Time is running out. The minutes melt into hours. Hours slip into days. Days fly into weeks. The weeks roll into months. And the calendar flips faster and faster each year that passes. Time is running down. You are not going to be here forever. What on earth are you doing for Jesus’ sake?
A well-meaning Christian might retort, “I agree, but my schedule is so tight as it is, I don’t think I have time.” My answer. If you are a Christian, the ministry of evangelism is why you’re still in time, and not already in eternity. We all get the same 24-hour day; it is not a matter of portion, but priority! I think for some of us it is time to clean out some of the clutter to make room for what eternally matters. What are you busy about?