Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 4 July 19:
Note: Here is a short video overview of Colossians — https://youtu.be/pXTXlDxQsvc
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.”
Colossians is another letter written by Paul in prison while he was being persecuted for sharing the truth of Jesus publicly. Paul had been empowered and entrusted by God with the ministry of suffering. We too have been entrusted with the ministry of suffering. Paul rejoiced in suffering for sake of the Gospel; we should too. However, our fleshly nature is to avoid all suffering. Yet, our knowledge of Christ, our love for Him, and the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, overcomes our carnality and compels us more and more to rejoice in our suffering for sake of the Gospel (as opposed to self-induced suffering as the consequences of sin), appreciating the opportunity to fellowship with Christ in His sacrificial love for the lost.
– Luke 9:23; 14:27 – And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me…. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
It is impossible to love like Jesus, grow closer to Jesus, and share the love of Jesus without suffering for others daily. Paul was suffering in prison, but for most of us suffering for Christ, with Christ, and through Christ will be much more subtle but equally powerful. Our suffering will look like radical, on-the-spot giving and forgiving, unmerited grace bestowed upon others in the name of Christ, turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:39), walking the extra mile (Matthew 5:41), forgiving “seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22), giving beyond our means (2 Corinthians 8:3), and truly, from the heart, loving our enemies and doing only good to those who hate us (Luke 6:27), all while sharing the gospel that the focus would always be on Jesus and not on ourselves.
– 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 — All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
We have been entrusted by God with the ministry of reconciliation as ambassadors of Christ. With the ministry of reconciliation comes the ministry of suffering as Christ suffered. God has appointed us and empowered us to share the love of Christ with sinful people who Jesus promises will treat us sinfully, and we are called to take our inevitable persecution to the cross metaphorically as Jesus did for us on our behalf literally, displaying and proclaiming the grace of God by our response in word and deed – “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” (Hebrews 12:4)
Having this mind of Christ in our personal relationships and daily encounters with others is difficult for us as we have not yet been perfected in His love; but as we ‘practice’ walking with Christ as an infant would walk with a parent, we will get better at it as we mature until increasingly we are not even thinking about it – “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3) As any toddler knows intuitively, the key is to get up every time you fall down and keep trying (practice) – “Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.” (1 John 3:7) “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.” (2 Peter 1:10)
– Hebrews 11:6 — And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Practicing anything is an act of faith, believing you will one day master that which you practice. Our practice of godliness is an act of faith that rests on the promise and assurance that God will complete in us the work which He started – “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
All practice is hard, particularly in the beginning, but practice is the path to perfection. And the better you get, the more you appreciate that mastery involves the constant refinement of the ‘little things.’ Growing in Christ involves adjusting how we respond to the little things, how we respond to today’s events and the people we encounter, how we respond when we are offended by someone, how we respond when we see someone with a need, how we respond when someone wants to praise us (tempting us to be prideful), and what we choose to say and do when we are given an opportunity to share the gospel. What we do in the little moments of the day defines how we will respond to the bigger matters. You can’t do great things until you master the little things — “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” (Luke 16:10) You won’t have joy in prison as Paul did if you don’t practice remaining joyful today when someone offends you in some small way. And you won’t share the Gospel boldly to powerful leaders and multitudes as Paul did, if you don’t practice sharing the Gospel with that person you will meet today.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 4 July 19: Practice suffering today for sake of the Gospel.