Standing Strong in Jesus
By The Rev. Alex Stevenson
It’s hard to be a Christian today. I am not just talking about the materialism and self centeredness of our society. Those things do make it hard to devote ourselves entirely to loving God and our neighbor. They call us to place other things before God. But also the basic building blocks of our beliefs are at odds with society. In a society that values self sufficiency and strength we proclaim that we are entirely inadequate. The idea that Jesus is the only way of salvation is also at odds with a society that cannot understand how we can disagree with other religions and still respect them at the same time.
The Christians in Colossae faced a similar situation. Their faith in Jesus Christ was at odds with the societies in which they lived. On one side people thought that the mostly Gentile Christians in Colossae should follow more of the rules in the Old Testament. On the other side some of the Greeks thought that the Christian faith needed to be supplemented with Greek Philosophy. Somehow both sides through that just believing in Jesus was not enough to save a person.
So Paul wrote the letter of Colossians to help these Christians stand firm. Paul, who was probably in prison when he wrote this, had heard about them. Epaphras, one of his coworkers, had started the church and had reported about their struggle to be faithful. So Paul wrote to them to encourage them. And he says he is praying for them. In his description of his prayer for them are some important clues about how we can stand strong in Jesus Christ.
The first thing that Paul says he is praying for is “that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,” (1:9) What is God’s will? It’s a very important question! When we are faced with conflicts in our lives, how does God want us to respond? God is the one who made us and knows us. What does God want? And how can we know what God wants? How can we seek to be filled with the knowledge of his will in “all spiritual wisdom?”
One way is to look at Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. He is God in human form. When we ask “What does God want me to do?” then we can look at Jesus to see what God did. This has been popularized by the question “What Would Jesus do?” or “WWJD.”
But to know what Jesus would do you have to know what he did and what God did in history. Our source of that information is the Bible. That is why reading the Bible and studying it is so important. That is also why Bible Studies and Sunday School are important. Yes, you can read the Bible by yourself but studying it with others helps us all gain from the varying perspectives of other Christians.
The second thing that Paul says he is praying for is that they “lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”(1:10) It is one thing to know the will of God, but it is another to do it. You can aim to do the right thing all you want but it is no good until you fire. This is where the rubber meets the road. You can ask “What would Jesus do?” but then you have to do it or the asking was pointless.
Paul speaks of the Colossians “bearing fruit in every good work.” Elsewhere Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit being “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23) A fruit is something that grows on a tree because of the kind f tree it is. Apple trees produce apples. Peach Trees grow peaches. And we Christians are supposed to produce the fruits of the Holy Spirit because we are people of the Holy Spirit of God.
But Paul doesn’t stop there. He goes on, “and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Doing God’s will leads to a deeper knowledge of God. You can’t just sit in your ivory tower contemplating God and know God. You have to act on what you have learned to learn more. You have to practice being like Christ to become more like him.
The last thing he says he is praying for is that they may “be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”(1:11-12) We don’t make ourselves strong. I know I told you to study the Bible and to practice what you learn. But ultimately it is not our actions that make us stand strong for Jesus. It is power of God that dwells in us. Our actions simply open or close the door to that power.
John wrote, “For he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”(1 John 4:4) The Spirit of God lives in us. The power source of the universe is in our hearts and souls. The one who spoke the universe into existence out of nothing speaks to us.
We should give thanks to God for this great gift. He has “qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” We didn’t do it for ourselves. He did it for us as a gift of Grace.
Paul said, “He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”(1:13-14) “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” We had all sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. But we have been delivered from that. We are brought out of the darkness of sin and brought into the light of God!
So let us stand firm in this belief. Let’s seek to know God and his will. And let’s endeavor to do that will. And let us remember that any strength we have is not of us but is a gift from God.
Then we can stand strong in the faith that we have heard and believed in!
Copyright 2008 Alex Stevenson. Used by permission.