The Gospel-Spreading Strategy of Suffering

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.

Today’s Readings
Ezekiel 18(Listen 5:26)
Colossians 1(Listen 4:18)

Read more about Christ’s Supremacy :: A Guided Prayer
We all need repetition in our spiritual lives to reinforce the greatest truths of our faith. One of those truths is the supremacy of Christ.

Read more about Sinless Descendants
They weren’t innocent of their parents’ sins because they were perpetuating them.

Christ’s Supremacy :: A Guided Prayer

Scripture Focus: Colossians 1.18
He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

Reflection: Christ’s Supremacy :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

What I often call “preacher stories” are stories, illustrations, and parables about modern faith that have been passed on and told in many versions by many preachers in many sermons.

One of my favorite “preacher stories” is about a new preacher at a church who keeps preaching the same sermon every Sunday. Eventually a church leader questions the pastor about it and requests a new topic for the following Sunday. The preacher responds, “When you start acting like you remember the first one, I can stop repeating it”

We all need repetition in our spiritual lives to reinforce the greatest truths of our faith. One of those truths is the supremacy of Christ. The supremacy of Christ may seem unassailable. How could we forget it? We all nod our heads and “amen” in agreement…

Yet in our actions and in our lives, we find many ways to place things before Christ. People, issues, politics, career—these things all push to the front of our minds and demand our supreme attention and commitment.

Pray this prayer over the weekend, and repeat as needed to proclaim in faith the supremacy of Christ over all in your life and subjugate everything else to him.

Christ’s Supremacy
We pray to Christ and proclaim his supremacy…

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation…For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…

Nothing we create can displace Christ.
No government can cast him out, for they exist within his creation.
No discovery can reveal anything that Christ did not create.
No achievement or success can accomplish more than Christ’s redemptive work on our behalf.

He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased…through him to reconcile to himself all things…making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

We confess to you our pride, our naked greed, our self-deception, our poverty of principles and possessions.

In humility, Christ, we accept from you…
Peace we are incapable of procuring,
Redemption beyond our means to purchase,
Rescue from darkness of our own making.

Help us to let go of anything which strives to take your place.
Make of us a body that serves, be our head which gives us purpose.
May we continue in faith…

…established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
I will confess you among the peoples, O Lord; I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your loving-kindness is greater than the heavens, and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. — Psalm 108.3-4

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 14 (Listen – 5:22)
Colossians 1 (Listen – 4:18)

This Weekend’s Readings
1 Kings 15 (Listen – 5:30), Colossians 2 (Listen – 3:27)
1 Kings 16 (Listen – 5:31), Colossians 3 (Listen – 3:09)

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Read more about Solus Christus
There has never been and will never be a clearer portrait of God than the person of Jesus himself.

Read more about Downgrading Grace
When we downgrade grace through faith, we chip away the cross of Christ, making it an additive to our life rather than the sole source of our life.