Lord, may I learn who I am through trust in you, the One who can make me more than I can imagine.
Read COLOSSIANS 1:24 – 2:5
Paul’s Labor for the Church
24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
2 I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2 My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. 5 For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.’1
Sometimes when someone is forthright we comment with a smile: ‘Tell us what you really feel!’ In these verses Paul holds little back. His claim that his suffering is filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions (v 24) is not slighting the atonement’s efficacy. Christ’s suffering on the cross accomplished salvation once and for all, yet sharing the good news has meant further suffering, as in Paul’s current imprisonment. Elsewhere he lists more of these personal costs,2 but they are always a result of his commission to proclaim the gospel (v 28). Genuine ministry combines divine energy with sacrifice and hard work (v 29). That’s the formula for Christian vocation. Hard work with God’s energy has eternal value.
Though Paul has not met his hearers personally, his encouragement is warm – he struggles for them and the neighboring Laodicean church (2:1). It’s a struggle to confront those who are deceiving the church by fine-sounding arguments (v 4). Their need for ‘full riches of complete understanding’ (v 2) to know Christ in his fullness is critical amid the false teaching. So much is at stake. Distant from them, he reminds them that his absence in body does not prevent his presence in spirit and his delight at seeing God’s work with them (v 5). This last verse has greatly encouraged my wife and me as the pandemic made us housebound for many months. Though we could no longer be with Christian friends physically, our spiritual bonds have held us. In different ways, by telephone, online, letter and especially by prayer we have known belonging together in Jesus’ love.
Pray for Christian leaders who are struggling, that they might know God’s energy powerfully at work. Think of your own church – you may not know what struggles your leaders face.
Holy One, I pray for the leaders of my church. Encourage them and prosper their ministries for your glory.
1 1 Pet 5:10 2 2 Cor 11:16–33
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