I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me face to face, that they may be encouraged in heart, knit together in love, and filled with the full riches of complete understanding, so that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:1-3 BSB)

The nature of spiritual service for Christ, whatever earthly shape it takes, whatever actions it calls us to engage in, is a spiritual struggle. God working within us, and us striving and struggling by His empowerment, to think the truth, live the truth, and teach the truth, and to do so in a fallen world with fallen natures — this is the nature of all Christian service.

The power of a personal example

Paul’s words about his struggling for the people is not a statement intended to elicit pity or sympathy, nor to boost his popularity ratings. This was not a boast, but a wise and practical statement that the Colossian believers needed to hear. Paul was writing to new believers who had very few good earthly or human examples to follow. To be a Christian was not just about believing the right teaching, but about experiencing and living the Christ-life itself. Paul was very aware of this reality, so he said things like this, or like what he wrote to the Philippians: “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me, put into practice” (Phil. 4:9).

We parents and grandparents should be very much aware that our children will do what we do more often than they will do what we tell them to do, if we are not actually doing it ourselves. Elsewhere Paul, in taking the Christian message into the Greek speaking world, taught and lived out the truth of spiritual conflict and spiritual struggle. At Lystra this struggle turned very physical and Paul was stoned and presumed to have been killed by his attackers. Yet he rose up off the ground and went back into the city. In Acts 14 it says of him and Barnabas:

They preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples and encouraging them to continue in the faith. “We must endure many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. (Acts 14:21-22)

The power of an unlimited objective

Paul prayed and strove and struggled for those who had not seen his face, nor had he seen theirs. His mission in life was not to be well-respected among a few close friends, but to please the Lord and to fulfill God’s mission for his life. (Again) as he wrote to the Philippians: “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Phil. 3:12). The love of God, if it is from God, will lead us to have compassion and concern for those whom we have not yet seen. Anything less than this is not worthy of the gospel.

It is amazing to me how young Christians will have a certain nation, race, or ethnic group on their hearts, and will sacrifice everything to go to that place and tell those people about the love of Christ. My wife and I have experienced this, leaving the safety of home and family and good church ministry in the USA to go to rural Mindanao in the Philippines, to live, serve, and raise our family.

It is human to love who loves us, to be concerned for who we enjoy being with, to find identity in a certain setting and among kind and friendly faces. God is, of course, in these moments and in these relationships as well. But if God is in our hearts, if He is directing our service, we will love whom He loves and love them for His sake, whether they make us feel good or not. There is the power of God’s unlimited love that is evidenced in this type of action.

We need more of this type of love and of this kind of vision. God so loved the world that rejected Him, that ignored Him, that ran away from Him, but He loved this world so much that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him might not perish — and to perish is exactly what the world deserves to do because of its unbelief — but that the undeserving might have eternal life.

Know the mystery of God

And Paul prayed and struggled not that these lonely misunderstood people might have better friends and community, but that they would be brought into the “full rich of complete understanding,” the transforming knowledge of Christ!

His goal was not to get these new converts together and have them under his control. His goal was to teach them of Christ and have them receive the life and love of Christ through this knowledge. This is the overwhelming vision and power of God in the gospel. In Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” When someone finds Christ — or more appropriately when Christ finds someone — that life is now connected to the Source of all life and all wisdom and all knowledge.

Too many Christians and too many churches, I am afraid, have a Christianity that falls far short of this. They have an inferior type of “Christianity” that offers salvation but then unplugs itself quickly from the Source of that life from heaven and tries to live in the batteries of past experience, though their strength is draining constantly. May God forgive us for neglecting Him and His power in our daily lives.

Questions:

  1. What type of “Christianity” do you have? One that is more bound to earthly affections, earthly rewards, earthly praise, or to the life of God in Christ?
  2. Who has God put on your heart to love in His name for His sake?
  3. Where has God put on your heart people you have not yet seen or met, but still are burdened by their need?

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