Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Colossians 3:16-17 BSB)
Far too often we believers think that a blessed life depends more on fortunate circumstances than the leadership of God. In the instructions in the word of God, however, there is very little said about luck, or that joy is the result of the coming together of various random favorable circumstances – a new car, a new sales account, pleasant neighbors, people in church that I can relate with, etc. Though these are all “nice things” they are also out of our control, and as such they are things we never can depend upon nor need to.
God’s formula for a blessed life is that His word richly dwells in our hearts and in our minds and in our conversations, that we edify one another through “teaching” and “admonishing” one another, and to do it with all wisdom. To teach is to respect the capacity of another person to learn, letting the material become theirs in heart and logic. To admonish someone in the biblical sense is to reason with them spiritually, to show them and to help them choose the will of God. These two words used together do not mean to put someone down, but rather to build them up.
To rebuke without teaching is to treat the other person as though they cannot learn at all. But teaching is to explain the benefits of having Godly values and obedient actions. To admonish someone in the Biblical sense is also to give them knowledge of how to correct the error, and to assure them of God’s forgiveness and restoration. And we are to do this with the right motive – not to show ourselves superior to the other one, but to do so for the glory of the Lord Jesus.
The way we are to do this is with gentleness. “All wisdom” would inform the teacher and admonisher not only on what to say, but also on how to say it. The scripture warns us: “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you” (Prov. 9:8), and that we are to teach with meekness, avoiding needless arguments.
…a servant of the Lord must not be quarrelsome, but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, and forbearing. He must gently reprove those who oppose him, in the hope that God may grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth. (2 Tim. 2:24-25)
Citing psalms and hymns and “spiritual songs” (whatever those were) brings the counsel of God into public worship and into the church fellowship without causing needless conflict.
And through heartfelt gratitude modeled and lived out we may also encourage and instruct one another. The faith of someone who trusts the Lord and is grateful for what the Lord has done for them is a powerful example to others. And this is why constant complaining is so harmful – it is the opposite of the attitude of gratitude.
In whatever circumstances we find ourselves, we are to live in Christian knowledge and hope and love, we are to teach and encourage one another, and in so doing we make our own lives more blessed. When Christ leads us, He first leads us to accept and live by a new set of values, by His ethics. His guidance in our hearts will lead us to a blessed life.
Are you like a farmer who wants to come upon land already developed, with the machinery and tools already purchased, with the seeds already prepared, where all you have to do is just begin work? Or are you like the farmer who can come upon undeveloped land, cut down the trees, tear out the stubborn roots, find the means to purchase bit by bit the tools and machinery you need, and turn it into a beautiful and productive farm by the sweat of your brow?
It is the second farmer that is more useful to the land, and more fulfilled in his heart. Anybody can sit on a tractor purchased through the sweat of another person – there is nothing remarkable in that. (See footnote below)
Remember the admonition of God: “An inheritance gained hastily in the beginning will not be blessed in the end” (Prov. 20:21). This is as true for a church family, as it is for a financial inheritance. When you see a mature believer or a loving church never underestimate the hard work done by others, by the grace and power of God, to bring them to that condition – their prayers, their teachings, their patience, their example. More often than not, God puts His choicest servants in spiritually undeveloped places, among immature people, and gives them the grace to help them mature and grow in the knowledge and grace of God.
Remember Paul’s ambition was not to step into an easy ministry situation and adopt the work begun by another. On the contrary, he wrote: “I have aspired to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation” (Rom. 15:20).
(Footnote) Certainly God calls some to inherit the works begun by others – both ministers and lay people alike. And these are precious people, for no work would survive were it not for those who come afterwards. And they do real and meaningful work, often taking what was done at the beginning and through innovation, obedience, and courage, making something significant out of it, just as the parable of the talents teaches us. But those who are most useful to the Lord have respect for the work that went on before them.
This fact is generally true in all of life and not only applicable to church and to the ministry. If, for example, a woman marries a man, she should appreciate the work done by the man’s mother to turn him into a decent sort!