In 1873 Thomas Edison approached the British government – then the most powerful government in the world – asking for investment in his new invention, the lightbulb. The Committee which assessed it turned him down, saying this new-fangled idea was ‘okay for our transatlantic friends…but unworthy of the attention of practical or scientific men.’ The lightbulb went on to transform society – no doubt later government committees which met in the evenings could hardly fail to notice what they’d missed out on. They would have been, I imagine, all around them!
Life is full of missed opportunities. Most of them are small, some are much more important. When Paul writes this amazing letter, he is in prison, but what is fascinating and inspiring is how he still lives as if life remains full of opportunities: (v3) ‘Pray for us, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.’ The prison door, he knew, would remain shut for a while yet – but other doors could open. There were still opportunities for him to share the good news of Jesus. Indeed, he had, quite literally, a captive audience.
This sense of choosing to look for the opportunities in life was something Paul was keen to pass on to his readers in Colosse. ‘Make the most of every opportunity,’ he says to them – meaning primarily opportunities to share faith. This needs wisdom (v5), but also grace (v6), and I am struck by the strong implication that, although we are always ‘outward-looking’, we should always treat these opportunities with respect: ‘full of grace [and] seasoned with salt.’
Salt was less a flavouring in those times than a preservative and a fertiliser – so our conversation should help to guard against decay, and also promote growth. We stand up for what is right, but also encourage what is good and uplifting. Full of grace, seasoned with salt.
This approach can only be bathed in prayer (v2, v4). Watchfulness is not just in social situations – it begins on our knees or in our ‘prayer chair’. As we watch in prayer, so we find opportunities revealing themselves in life. You may have had such opportunities recently, you may not; let’s resolve to pray for them, watchfully and thankfully. And let’s be inspired by Paul’s example, choosing to live hopefully, seeing life as pregnant with possibilities, even in the most difficult of circumstances.