“May you be strengthened with all power according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy. . .” Col. 1:11 [ESV]
I love how shocking Paul’s prayers can be especially when juxtaposed with our expectations. Having become used to prosperity preaching, we have come to expect prayers that revolve around having things and position – worldly things. So coming to this verse in the 1st chapter of Colossians is very shocking. Paul prays that the Colossian Christians would “be strengthened with all power according to His glorious might”. This is something we are automatically drawn to – I mean, who doesn’t want power?
I recently had Bible study with the women at church on Colossians 1:1-14 and they too responded to the place power has in our thinking and society. They pointed to power being about control and calling all the shots and how it was something to be desired in this capacity. Yet when we come to Paul’s prayer for strengthening with amazing God-strength, its use is not in calling all the shots and being in control, it’s about endurance! Now there’s a word we don’t really want to be associated with.
I don’t know about you, but endurance for me implies that there is going to be hardship or that I am in some way weak (especially if I am to be strengthened with power to endure). Hardship and weakness aren’t words that I want to be used to describe me or the Christian faith. In my mind, the Christian faith is meant to be easy and smooth. In my idealistic mind, I am strong. Yet the more I read the Bible and get to know myself, I realize that my view of the Christian life and myself are polar opposites to what God says. But our denial of our need to be strengthened for endurance doesn’t do us any favors. If anything it puts us at great risk – like failing to take heed of a tsunami warning. But what is it that keeps us from hearing this call to endurance? Fundamentally, it is an issue with poor or erroneous understanding of what God is saying in His Word. There are five ways I think this happens. But we will only look at two today.
Firstly, we have believed the lie that getting to the end (to heaven, as this is the context of Col. 1:11, see v. 12) is obvious. We have taken for granted that we will definitely endure. This I fear has to do with how poorly we were told the gospel message. We were told something like, “All you have to do is accept Jesus into your heart and you will get eternal life.” The problem with this is that it acts like a ‘get out of hell free card’ – having no present application but good to have for when we die. We think that heaven is ours because of a box we once ticked – like getting a vaccination shot that lasts our whole life and all we need is the certificate to prove it. But getting to heaven is not like that. Getting to heaven is a matter of continued faith and not shifting from the hope laid out for us in the gospel (Col. 1:23). This means that there are things that are going to try to move us from having a steady faith and hope in heaven. We need to be aware that getting to heaven is not obvious! It is something that must occupy our minds now, moment by moment.
Secondly, we have disregarded the foundation for this endurance, the gospel. We have believed in ‘other’ gospels that are not in fact the Christ-centered gospel that we believe in and by which we are qualified to get to heaven. There are many ‘Christians’ who have believed this line, “The message of the Cross is good for unbelievers and new believers. But mature believers move on from it to better things.” In seeking maturity, we have missed it because we have removed the very foundation we are to stand on and grow. This means that we have also counted ourselves out of the very end that this foundation promises – heaven. It is only as we stick to the Cross-centered gospel, steadfastly rooted in it, that we can get to enjoy the precious inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. Endurance makes sense only when grounded in the Christ-centered gospel, other gospels have no place for it.
to be continued….