Scripture Focus: Colossians 1.9-14; 24, 29
9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church….29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
Reflection: The Gospel-Spreading Strategy of Suffering
By John Tillman
Colossians, like Philippians, shines with joy, despite being written from confinement.
Paul challenged the Colossians to live as those belonging to the “kingdom of light” who have been rescued from the “dominion of darkness.” Like Jesus, Paul referred to a kingdom that is not “of this world.” (John 18.36) Paul challenged them to continue spreading the light of the gospel, as Epaphras had spread it to them, but however dark the dominion of Rome was, Paul wasn’t requesting rescue from an earthly empire.
Paul had already been rescued and delivered by God the Father into the kingdom of Jesus from the kingdom of sin. (Colossians 1.13) When Paul, in his own hand, signs this letter, “Remember my chains” (Colossians 4.18), he wasn’t asking for a jailbreak. He’s reminding his readers, including us, what it might take to spread the gospel.
Paul rejoices in his sufferings. He sees them not as something to be freed from but as part of his work on behalf of Christ’s Church. (Colossians 1.24) Today’s church needs this challenge. Especially in the United States, Western Christians know little of suffering for the gospel. We seem to think the gospel depends on our being freed of all constraint, inconvenience, oppression, or mistreatment. How far from Paul’s gospel strategy we have come!
If we are in Christ, we are already in the kingdom. We are ambassadors, not invaders. The kingdom is revealed when we live the life Paul described—one of joy, wisdom, understanding, bearing fruit, doing good works, growing in the knowledge of God, and having power not for conquering but for the patient endurance of suffering. (Colossians 1.11) Like Christ in the garden, we don’t need to be rescued or to conquer by force. (Matthew 26.52-54) Like Christ, and like Paul, our gospel-spreading strategy depends more on what we are willing to suffer than who we are willing to conquer.
Are there freedoms we are fighting for that, if abandoned, would free us to serve the gospel or the church? Are there sufferings we are avoiding that, if accepted and rejoiced in, would show the power of God in us?
Not all sufferings spread the gospel and we certainly shouldn’t seek suffering to gratify our pride or make ourselves feel “righteous.” But let us remember Paul’s chains, and those of fellow Christians around the world, by considering what we are willing to suffer in spreading the gospel.
Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “I tell you, if anyone openly declares himself for me in the presence of human beings, the Son of man will declare himself for him in the presence of God’s angels. But anyone who disowns me in the presence of human beings will be disowned in the presence of God’s angels.” — Luke 12.8-9
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.
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