As you seek to live on mission for Jesus Christ, remember that your objective is to bring God glory. This is easier to do when you remember that Christ is in you. The truth is that you will never be like Jesus; however, Jesus can be Himself in you.
Colossians 1:24–25 says, “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….”
When he wrote this, the apostle Paul was suffering, but his response to struggles was abnormal. He found joy in his sufferings. Think of how you respond to sufferings in your life. A good book on the subject is Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2018), by Paul David Tripp. This book will help you process the various areas of suffering in your life with a Christocentric worldview.
What kind of suffering was the apostle Paul experiencing? His enemies came to Colosse and questioned the Gospel he was preaching. They thought that if this God of whom Paul spoke was real and active, then Paul wouldn’t have to sit in jail.
What gave Paul the strength to rejoice in his sufferings? He knew the temporal nature of them. He saw his struggles as part of God’s plan for his life so the Gospel would be furthered. Paul viewed his sufferings as a mere price to pay for the growth of the Church. Talk about dedication to the Lord’s Bride and her growth!
The Roman Christians knew this attitudinal response from Paul. Romans 8:28 teaches us that Paul believed this: “and we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Furthermore, Paul went on to say that nothing can separate us from Christ (Romans 8:38). It is clear that Paul was able to grasp and apply the reality of worshipping a sovereign God much more than many may be able to relate. He was – plainly and simply – a man of great faith in Christ.
For the sake of reiteration, Paul suffered unjustly for the purpose of the advancement and growth of the Church. If you’re ever in need of a recalibration of your attitude about a struggle in your life, revert back to this Colossians 1 passage.
QUESTION: What would you be willing to suffer through in order to advance the purposes and plan for God in your life?
The word afflictions in the middle of Colossians 1:24 is important to study in depth. In John 15:20b, Jesus says, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.”
In Matthew the context of affliction is one of persecution, where the disciples are maligned falsely as devil-type people (10:24), while in Luke the phrase is used in a context of teaching (6:40). [Gerald L. Borchert, John 12–21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 155.]
The afflictions Jesus faced resulted in His persecution and ultimately His suffering on the Cross to the point of death. Paul viewed his sufferings as a way to glorify God and point people to Jesus.
When you go through difficult days in life, this is a reminder to seek to respond with an attitude of joy because Christ had to hurt in order to advance glory onto His Father. We follow our Savior’s lead.
Look again at Colossians 1:25, “… 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 know….”
Let’s break apart a fascinating word in this verse: stewardship. It comes from two Greek words, most commonly translated as “house” and “law.” [Craig L. Blomberg, Christians in an Age of Wealth: A Biblical Theology of Stewardship (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013)]. The rules or laws by which a household is governed result in stewardship.
What was Paul stewarding? Responsibility. Every Christian has a responsibility to steward as part of the body of Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:15–26). We bear these responsibilities upon each other. The body of Christ only functions properly when His people are assuming their respective responsibilities and fulfilling the Word of God.
I. MAKE THE WORD OF GOD FULLY KNOWN
In verse 25, when Paul said, “… to make the word of God fully known,…” what did he mean? He meant to proclaim the Word of God. That is the Church’s responsibility.
The Bible is not just some ancient tome at which we stare; it is a living Word to apply to our lives. When we fully make known the Word of God, we must proclaim and apply it. Don’t say you believe the Bible is true if you’re not living it because your actions show what you really think. There is a message that is implicit in the Gospel: practical expression of obedience.
We proclaim the Word of God by stewarding what we have received. It is time we start to practice what we preach. Proclaim the Word of God via word and deed.
II. BEHOLD THE MYSTERY OF THE WORD OF GOD
Colossians 1:26–27 says, “… the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
The mystery used to be unknown. However, the secret was revealed as God’s being accessible not just to Jews, but to the Gentiles, too. The Jews had to swallow their pride and learn to accept that God doesn’t just love some people; He loves all people.
The apostle John made it clear that Jesus didn’t just come for the Jews, but to be the Savior of the entire world. That’s why he wrote in 1 John 2:2, “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. The mystery was clarified.”
QUESTION: What is something mysterious from the Bible you think about?
III. GLORIFY GOD
Look again at Colossians 1:27, “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
Look at the beginning part of that verse: “the riches of the glory.” The purpose of this chapter is to point to the purpose of your life – to glorify God.
The English word glory is from the Greek doxa. It speaks of the effulgence, the brightness of the purposes and presence of God. Paul was speaking of the riches of His brightness. God desires for you to make known the blazing brightness of His truth and love for all of humanity.
The expression “riches of the glory” means that Christ was their hope of receiving and participating in glory. Because of what He did – His death and Resurrection – the Gentiles could expect to share in glory. Here again Paul stated that the only hope of glory is Christ. Gentiles, like Jews, must rely on Him for their salvation. [Richard R. Melick, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, vol. 32, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 242.]
Keep in mind – the Gentiles were once hopeless and shrouded in darkness, but then they had the light of Christ. The riches of the glory of Christ are now known amongst the Gentiles.
The Gospel is all about Christ in you, the hope of glory (v. 27b). Paul put it another way in Ephesians 3:16–19:
… that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Paul didn’t just speak to this with the churches at Colosse and Ephesus. He also did it with the church at Galatia. Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
As you seek to live on mission for Jesus Christ, remember that your objective is to bring God glory. It is a lot easier to bring God glory when you remember that Christ is in you. The truth is that you will never be like Jesus; however, Jesus can be Himself in you. Come to Christ today with a heart that proclaims you are helpless without His presence within you.
Think about how this truth will drive you away from temptation so you can live holier before the Lord. If you constantly remember that Jesus Christ is indwelling you, you will be a uniter and not a divider. You will make better decisions in every facet of life. Tony Robbins and Oprah don’t know this life hack, but Paul did – the indwelling of Christ and constantly remembering it makes both God and you joyful. Want to live on mission for Jesus? Remember that He indwells you!
Here is a problem with constantly remembering the indwelling of the Lord Jesus: self-consciousness. Live on mission for Jesus by remembering that you cannot do anything of significance apart from the presence of the Lord.
QUESTION: Have you experienced a time when you became self-conscious or embarrassed while talking about God? What was that like?
IV. PROCLAIM JESUS
Colossians 1:28 says, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”
Paul makes a subtle yet important clarification at the beginning of this verse. He says we should proclaim someone, not something. His focus is less on doctrinal declaration and more on deity proclamation. Proclaim Jesus!
Part of proclaiming Jesus also involves warning people about the need to repent of sin. Colossians 1:28 shows how proclaiming Christ involves both the positive and the negative – talk about grace and repentance.
Why proclaim Jesus this way? The end of verse 28 says, “… that we may present everyone mature in Christ. Proclaim Jesus with intentionality by proclaiming who He is and warning people about what life is like without Him.”
V. CHRIST IS WORKING
Colossians 1:29 says, “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”
Let’s make this clear: Satan lacks the power to stop someone from receiving Jesus Christ as their Savior. He can, however, exhaust people and get in their way. He will do whatever possible to keep you from growing in your faith.
The middle of verse 29 says, “… struggling with all his energy.” This infers a work ethic. There is no place in the Christian life for laziness. Paul did not have an easy life in his mind when he spoke of the working of Christ through you.
Let’s focus on the word energy in this verse. It is talking about God’s working – God’s energy. Paul labored not in his own energy, but with God’s. This is awesome news. We don’t have to worry about exhaustion. God empowers and strengthens us with Jesus-sent energy. God gives the energy and God gets the glory.
It is absolutely possible to work in the flesh, but God doesn’t bless that. His favor isn’t upon that work. As you seek to live on mission for Christ, work for Him in His power.
Your part is to be available to Christ so you can be obedient. When that happens, He assigns the task and works through us. Through all of it, God gets the glory.