Friday, February 21, 2014

Being strengthened with all power…

[continued from my earlier post]

Colossians 1:9-12 says that as we are filled with the knowledge of God's will, among other things, we'll be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that we may have great endurance and patience.

One thing I've noticed about this is the purpose for all this strength. Paul doesn't pray that we can be strengthened with all power (etc.) so that we can perform miracles, or win thousands of souls to Christ, or some other spectacular thing. No, his prayer is that we can be strengthened with all power so that we can have great endurance and patience. It reminds me that He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who captures a city (Proverbs 16:32).

Paul prays that for the Colossians (and hence I think it's a good prayer for you and me); how does it happen? How does being filled with the knowledge of God's will give us strength to have great endurance and patience?

Paul also wrote about this in 2 Corinthians 4. After describing some issues (hard pressed on every side… persecuted… struck down, 4:8-9) he writes:
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:15-18, NIV
Two passages come to mind right away: one from Paul, in Romans chapter 5:
1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Romans 5:1-4
If I could consistently rejoice in suffering, then I'd have more endurance and patience than I do today. But how can I rejoice in suffering?

In my admittedly limited experience, it works like this: As the verse says, God desires to use suffering to produce perseverance, character and hope in my life. When I remember this fact, trials become more bearable. The sooner I remember it, the gladder I am that God is working through whatever suffering comes.

What if I were filled with the knowledge of God's will? What if I woke to and ate and lived and breathed the knowledge that God is using everything in my life—the pleasant and the painful, the joyous and the tragic—to make me a better person, one filled with character and hope and love and joy and peace…? Might I be able to rejoice even in the midst of suffering?

I don't really desire suffering. But when it comes, I want to see the good things God will work in my life through it. And perhaps to rejoice.

The second passage that came to mind is from James 1. After encouraging us to consider it all joy when we meet various trials (1:2) and encouraging us in much the same direction Paul does, he writes: Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him (1:12).

I find this fascinating. The one who perseveres under trial receives a crown promised to those who… who persevere under trial, right? No, the text says "…to those who love him." In other words, those who love God are the ones who persevere under trial. How does that work?

I can't prove it, but Jesus himself may have given us the answer in John 14. Here Jesus says those who obey him are those who love him. And, he says, "He who loves me will be loved by my father, and I will love him and disclose myself to him" (from John 14:21, NASB). A little later, he goes on to say, "If anyone loves me… [m]y father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him" (14:23, NIV). The whole paragraph is worth reading, actually.

But what I think he's saying is this: he fills us with the knowledge of his will. We don't resist him (1 Thessalonians 5:19) and indeed we ask for spiritual wisdom (James 1:5). We love and obey him (John 14:21-23) and he reveals more of himself to us and even makes his home in us.

And that's power to strengthen us according to his glorious might, so that we can have great endurance and patience.

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