I want to introduce a principle to you tonight that is a principle which is true in all areas of life. This principle is something which was true when you were younger, this principle is true in the work arena, this principle is true in whether you want to be a good parent, or a good spouse, this principle is true when it comes to any hobby or activity that you want to be involved with. The principle is this: If you want to have great impact, be intentional. I want you to think through this with me. Think about the time when you were younger and you were learning how to ride your bike. You found yourself wanting to be successful at doing so. You were tired of using training wheels and having the support of your parents alongside of you. You wanted to ride your bike free from help with the other kids in the neighborhood and so the way you did so was not just by waking up and saying that you are now ready to ride your bike. Instead, you had to be intentional about doing so. You had to spend multiple days working with the training wheels or having your parents run alongside of you and push you only to have you fall a few times. You had to make the choice that you would get back up and try it again but eventually those choices and the intentionality that you showed allowed you to be able to ride your bike. Think about business. If you want to be someone who has great impact in your business or in your particular field, it requires you to be intentional. Being successful and having great impact do not just happen but it requires you having to make decisions and choices that will help you be successful in your area of business. It will require you to be intentional with the relationships that you form and the networks that you establish. You will need to be proactive in finding the right education and working for the companies with the best opportunities. If you want to have great impact, be intentional. Think about this in the context of being a parent. I am a new dad of an 8 month old little girl and I am realizing very quickly that if I want to be a good dad, it doesn’t just happen because I have a desire for it to do so. One of the main problems is that Katelyn is only awake just a few hours a day so I have to be intentional with my schedule in order to see her and spend time with her. My day has to be rearranged so that I am intentional about spending time with her. I have learned that I must be intentional with what I allow her to do and what I don’t allow her to do. I must be intentional with what I feed her and when I feed her. If you want to have great impact, be intentional. So if I want to have great impact as a dad, I must be intentional. The same is true for marriage or for my relationships with my friends or anything in like that I want to have great impact, I must be intentional. What I have also noticed is, the same is true spiritually. I desire to have great impact in my spiritual life. I desire to be used for the kingdom of God and to influence people in the things of Christ. And my guess is, most of us in here would probably say if we were asked would say that we want our lives to matter. We want our spiritual lives to not be a random assortment of church activities and quiet times, but we want God to look at our lives and say, “This person had a great impact for the kingdom of God.” So often times, we have signed up for mission trips or at least wanted to sign up for mission trips where we can be apart of something that we consider to be of great impact. We might join a particular group that will allow us to participate in some activity or service project that we feel will allow us to do something really spiritual with our lives. All the while, we feel better but ultimately the flow of life and the busyness of schedules keep us from really making any longing or lasting impact. What if I told you that there is a way that you can have incredible impact for the cause of Christ, you can be a missionary and be an agent of change for the culture, you can be the catalyst for hundreds of people coming to Christ, and it doesn’t have to add anything to your calendar, it doesn’t have to change anything about the context of people that you are involved with, and it doesn’t require you to attend any classes to learn. Would you be interested? It all comes back to the principle I introduced earlier: If you want to have great impact, be intentional.
>>Turn over to Colossians 4:2-6 and let me show you where God’s word supports this idea. Just before his typical greetings at the end of his letter, Paul gives a few words to leave them on. He has poured out his heart dealing with false teaching, speaking about the preeminence and importance of Jesus Christ and how that should play out in your marriage and in your family and even at work, and before he signs off with satisfaction, he gives them a final charge. What makes this final charge so interesting is that Paul is writing this while he is in prison so you can just imagine all that he wanted to say to them but he makes a few final comments and in these comments we see Paul giving us some insight into how we can have great impact for the kingdom of God with our lives. Read with me chapter 4:2-6:
2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. 3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. 5 Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
The principle I have introduced is: If you want to have great impact, be intentional. In this passage, Paul is saying that when it comes to people outside the faith, be intentional. If you want to be a person who has great impact for the kingdom of God, be intentional. Be intentional in what you pray for, be intentional in how you relate to outsiders, be intentional with the words that you say. If you want to have great impact, be intentional and so Paul shows us specifically three ways that we can live our lives intentionally and by doing so, have great impact on the kingdom of God.
>>First of all, if you want to have great impact, be intentional then one of the ways you can be intentional is by being intentional with what you pray for. Read again in chapter 4:2-4:
2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. 3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
Notice what Paul suggests about our prayer lives. We should be diligent in prayer meaning we should be praying all of the time. We should be praying in the morning, during the day, in the afternoon, in the evening. We should pray when we go to bed and when we wake up. We should be constantly in prayer. In 1 Thessalonians, Paul describes it this way: pray without ceasing. And the content of these prayers should be for two things: first for open doors and second for clarity in presenting the gospel with other people. I read this and it makes me extremely convicted. I want to have great impact for the kingdom and often I even am faithful about praying, but I often don’t have prayers for open doors or clarity but I have prayers for everything single action that day that will somehow affect me. I often pray that my day would go more comfortably or that my meeting would go well. I pray for protection or for provision and my prayers have become very domestic. In this passage, we see Paul asking for prayers but he is asking for something totally different. Paul is in prison, he is in chains, and his prayer is not for his safety and his prayer is not for his release, his pray is for open doors and chances to clearly share Christ with other people. I have noticed in my life that the less intentional I am with my life, the more my prayers become about me. The less intentional I am with my life, the more my prayers become about my comfort and my safety and my health and Paul says, “Pray that even while I am sitting here in chains, I might be able to have an open door to talk to one of the prison guards about Christ.” If you want to have great impact, be intentional and I can live intentionally if I am praying for people who don’t know Jesus.
>>The Women’s ministry at our church has been praying this simple prayer, “Lord connect me with those who aren’t connected to you.” If we as a church want to make an even greater impact on this city and in this culture, it is going to start with people who are passionately praying for open doors where we can reach people for Christ. If our young marrieds want to impact a group of people who every statistic shows our leaving churches rather than going towards them, then we must be people who are intentionally praying for people that God would open up a door of opportunity for us to share Christ with them. This means that when we wake up, if we are going to live intentional lives, then our prayer is, “God today would you open up doors of opportunities where I might be able to tell someone about you, I might be able to move someone farther along on their journey towards you, or that I might be able to begin a relationship where I can tell them about you one day. God I don’t want to make my day a series of random interactions with a series of random people but God I want to be intentional about the open doors that you are making available today.”
>>Let me ask you, what people are you intentionally praying for who don’t know Christ? How often do you pray that God would make your daily interactions intentional? For some it doesn’t mean that we need to start praying, it just means being intentional with what we are praying for. If you want to have great impact, be intentional.
>>Paul continues in this passage with not just suggesting that we live intentional lives by praying for open doors, but another application of this passage is this: if we are going to live intentional lives, it affects the way we relate to people (v. 5). Read again verse 5:
5 Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.
If you want to have great impact, be intentional and this time Paul suggests that we must be intentional in the way we relate to people. This means that we must live lives that are bold yet at the same time tactful. We must live lives that are firm in our convictions but attractional in our style. Paul says we are to be “wise toward outsiders.” This is different for each person.
>>About a year ago, I made a decision that was really a big one for me. I came to sort of a realization that I was on the verge of graduating seminary, I had just taken the job as the Young Marrieds Minister, I had a baby on the way, and I at that time was still going to Sport Clips to get a cheap haircut that made me look like I was 15. So I decided I needed to make a change and I started going to an actual salon to get my haircut. The whole salon thing was quite an adjustment but I went to this salon and this particular stylist upon the recommendation of a friend. So when I went, I really started praying, “Lord, I pray for an open door in this relationship.” So I started going for a few weeks and I could quickly tell that there was some religious background here but she wasn’t a believer. So I spent the first few months going to this stylist with the main goal of getting to know her and not telling her what I do. It seems that telling someone I work at a church really puts a downer in the conversation really fast. You really start getting to the good stuff about people’s lives and then they find out that you work at a church and they start telling you about how every once in awhile they listen to Christian radio so they will feel better. My plan worked as a few months after I was going there, it came out that I worked at a church and they question was, “So where is your collar?” I am thinking, exactly why I didn’t want to tell you. So I continued to go to this stylist and I continued to pray for open doors. I would continue to ask her questions, hear about her story, listen to her talk about her new boyfriend, and just get to know her. I had to move an appointment to earlier in the day about 3 months ago and I walked in and thanked her for working me in and she just stops and says, “You know, it is so funny that you came in right now because I was just with some of the other workers here and we were debating something, how do you know if you have eternal security?” I was so caught off guard I froze. Eternal security? Of all people, of all questions, who asks about eternal security? So I had a chance to sit there and talk with her all about how she can know for sure that she is a believer in Christ and how she can know forever about her eternal security. She then starts to tell me all about her past and about how she is thinking about getting married and just spills her guts to me during that time. At the end of it she says, “This is the weirdest thing in the world, I would have never thought I can talk to a pastor like this.” We are in the process of setting up a time where I will be doing premarital counseling for her and her fiancée and having an opportunity to walk through what a Godly biblical marriage looks like to her and her fiancée. How did this happen? Of course it was clearly the spirit of God, but it was also because I didn’t blow my chance the first time I went to see her. I didn’t give her a 5 point sermon on why she needed to turn or burn. I didn’t make a scene about why she chose to participate in certain activities. In my case, I needed to convince her that I wasn’t a complete psycho who thought she was a terrible person. I simply got to know her, learned her story, and then prayed that God would open up the door of opportunity and waited for him to do so. So often, when it comes the to gospel, we feel that we must tell them what they need to hear more as a benefit for our own feelings of guilt than because of the necessity of the other person to hear it instead of waiting for open doors and being intentional with that relationship.
>>If you want to have great impact, be intentional and often times living intentionally means constantly thinking about what is the best way to bridge this person from a casual interaction to where there is an opportunity to share the gospel. The passage in Colossians 4 says, “Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.” The original language literally means, “buy up your opportunities” as though you are an avid shopper who is looking for the best deal. In the same way, live your life so intentionally that you are constantly looking for ways, looking for opportunities, looking to be used the wisest way possible in someone’s life to lead them towards the things of Christ.
>>This means that in your jobs that you will be going to tomorrow, live intentionally at your jobs recognizing that God has placed you there for the purpose that you might not just be an accountant but you might be that accountant who can make the best use of his time in that office that God has placed you in. This means that if you are a teacher, live intentionally at your school making the best use of your time at the school that God has placed you at. This means that when you go eat at the restaurant that you love to eat it, do so intentionally asking for the same waiter so that you might conduct yourselves wisely and buy up the opportunities you have with that person to bridge them towards the things of the gospel. If you are a young married and you are having a play group where the moms are going to get together with your kids, do it intentionally at Willowbend mall or at a public place where other moms might be so that you can buy up those opportunities to form relationships where you can talk with them about Christ. For one of our directors, this meant playing softball with one of his co-workers because this was a relational bridge for the gospel. For one of our classes it means doing a class function at a neighborhood park so they can meet their neighbors instead of doing it at someone’s house inside. This means that if you are someone who enjoys jogging or tennis or gardening or whatever hobby you enjoy, look for opportunities to be involved in a club or activity center that would help encourage your interest but would also help you find yourself intentionally in relationships with people who also love those hobbies but don’t yet love Jesus. It doesn’t mean adding new activities but it means doing the activities and passions you enjoy intentionally. If you want to have great impact, be intentional. Look at how Paul says it in Eph. 5:15-17:
15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
If you want to have great impact, be intentional. The question we must all ask ourselves is this: who are we intentional about forming relationships with who do not know Jesus Christ? And if we look up and we find ourselves in situations where we are surrounded by people who are “insiders”, what are we strategically doing to make relationships with those who don’t know Christ? For Hillary and I, when we looked at our lives and we examined who we are in relationships with, we quickly realized that we know very few lost people. So we are signing up our daughter for a program that is going to teach her to exercise (even though she cant yet walk) with one goal in mind…meet people who also have children who are teaching them to exercise who don’t know Jesus. And we are praying that we will “buy up” every time that we have and are wise in those interactions. Tomorrow night I will be attending for the first time my homeowner’s association meeting with my neighbor and I am not going to complain about the landscaping or why we don’t have more common grounds, I am going for one reason, to meet people. What is it for you? For some it might mean simply using lunch to go out with people at work and be intentional with that lunch? For others, you might have to be more creative to be intentional but if you want to have great impact, be intentional.
>>Finally, if you want to have great impact, be intentional, then it will affect what we say. Read again verse 6:
6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
May our words be such that they are engaging and inviting. May our speech be gracious and salty meaning that people are drawn to the God that we serve by the words that we say. May we use our relationships to invite people over to our homes and into our lives so that we can invite them to our church. May we ask more questions than give answers. May we always be prepared to give the answers necessary when asked about the hope that we have. Paul suggests here that different people require different responses. Different people will ask different questions. My hair stylist has asked me different questions than my Hindu neighbor. The person in the office next to you will ask different questions than your family. The key is that we are intentional with people to such a degree that we know what questions they are asking and we are able to respond to those questions. This means that we must be so intentional with people that we are willing to engage with them and know that there is no question that our bible is not equipped to answer and give hope to. This doesn’t mean we get on a bullhorn and yell at people, but we speak with salt towards those who we have relationships with. We need to build relationships with people so that we can with grace, we can move those conversations towards matters that are spiritual. We can speak with words that will change their lives.
>>So the question is, do you want to have great impact for the kingdom of God? If you want to have great impact, be intentional. You don’t have to go overseas, you don’t have to go across town, you just have to do everything that you normally do and you do it intentionally.
>>Some of you today are here and you don’t know anything about your life being intentional because for you, your life seems so random and disconnected. On the back of your worship guide, it tells you how you can know that your life does have a purpose and God the Father sent his only Son Jesus Christ intentionally to die on the cross from your sins and raise from the dead so that your life could be lived differently. For others, it is time for you to start making an impact by being intentional this week.