Colossians #5 Colossians 1:24-29 Suffering Love

 


Colossians 1:24-29  Suffering Love

 Welcome to our 5th exploration of Paul’s letter to the Christians in Colossae.  As we close out chapter 1 we are going to consider the road of suffering as a natural part of a disciple’s journey.  Paul will again affirm that God’s gift of reconciliation is for anyone who will receive it and highlight the simplicity of the message.  Then we will touch upon God’s empowerment to those who are doing the good works that have been assigned.

 Col 1:24-29 (MSG)

I want you to know how glad I am that it's me sitting here in this jail and not you. There's a lot of suffering to be entered into in this world—the kind of suffering Christ takes on. I welcome the chance to take my share in the church's part of that suffering. 25 When I became a servant in this church, I experienced this suffering as a sheer gift, God's way of helping me serve you, laying out the whole truth.

26 This mystery has been kept in the dark for a long time, but now it's out in the open. 27 God wanted everyone, not just Jews, to know this rich and glorious secret inside and out, regardless of their background, regardless of their religious standing. The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, therefore you can look forward to sharing in God's glory. It's that simple. That is the substance of our Message. 28 We preach Christ, warning people not to add to the Message. We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less. 29 That's what I'm working so hard at day after day, year after year, doing my best with the energy God so generously gives me.

 Suffering.  We don’t like the word.  We don’t want to hear of suffering.  We don’t want to see suffering.  We don’t want to experience suffering.  Suffering involves pain, distress, hardship, and misery.  As the Tornados of December ripped through the Bible belt they left suffering in their wake. Suffering involves heartbreak, grief, sorrow, and unhappiness.  I think of those who lost loved ones this past year.  We stand at gravesides, look at pictures capturing the past good times, remembering what we have lost, suffering a constant companion.  Suffering involves anguish, affliction, and torment.  Cancer, migraines, MS, and a thousand crippling diseases, brain injury, stroke all dump suffering upon people. Suffering we want to avoid it.  Yet suffering is a way of life in a world broken by sin.

 You might think that faith in Christ, moving you from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of Light, from estrangement to reconciliation, from hate to love would also free you from suffering.  It doesn’t, oh, I wish it did.  Jesus told us the truth:

 John 16:33 (MSG)

I've told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world, you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I've conquered the world."

 There is suffering because we live in a broken world.  We believe in the second coming of Jesus everything will be set right, everything will be what it always was intended for it to be. “He'll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone"

(Rev 21:4 (MSG).  We have this great hope.  We need hope because these types of sufferings always leave us wondering why, wondering what the purpose is, wondering how this can be God’s plan to prosper us (Jeremiah 29:11). When you have no idea why you are suffering you need hope.  Hope looks beyond the problem and sees the promise.

 There is another kind of suffering.  You’ve read the sign “No Pain, No Gain.”  There is suffering we choose to enter into to obtain some desired goal.  You want to be healthy, eat right, exercise, but you want your favorite dessert, but you sacrifice dessert for achieving the goal.  Time, treasures, and instant gratifications are sacrificed for the sake of getting what you want, where you want.  This is a kind of suffering you can understand, a means to an end, and the result is what you want.  You want to get closer to God, then you will need to practice the 7 habits of a disciple, you will have to sacrifice something to make room in your day for reading the bible, prayer, fellowship, service, worship, obedience, and contemplation. 

 Then there is the kind of suffering that Paul writes of, its suffering love.  Love for others, meeting their need, giving that hand up, always comes at the cost of a personal sacrifice.  The sacrifice is always suffering to some extent.  For Jesus to meet the need of humanity He suffered.  For Paul to meet the need of the Colossians, he said a result was his imprisonment, Paul suffered.  A good parent will suffer for their child.  There are sacrifices that come along with bringing a child into the world, nurturing that child, providing for the child.  And those sacrifices don’t stop when they become adults.   Suffering love is voluntarily giving what you could use for yourself, and giving it away to someone else, using what you have for the benefit of another.

 Paul writes that Jesus suffered to bring to you reconciliation with God.  Do you know how to be reconciled to God?  First, realize that it doesn’t matter how good a person you are, or for that matter, how bad a person you are, every person enters life estranged from a right relationship with God.  Second, know that Jesus died so that He can present you to the One He called Father, forgiven, spotless, and holy.  This knowing is accomplished when you believe the Message: 

 Romans 3:22-25 (NIV)

There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.

 The response to this realization and this knowing is committing to be a disciple of Jesus.  Jesus told those who would follow to count the cost.

Luke 14:26-28 (MSG)

Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one's self!—can't be my disciple. Anyone who won't shoulder his cross and follow behind me can't be my disciple.

"Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn't first sit down and figure the cost so you'll know if you can complete it?

 When you count the cost and trust that these promises are true, you bend your knee and ask God to save you, to make you one of His called-out ones, to make you one set aside to do His will in this world.

 This is how you are reconciled to God.   It is God’s gift, but it is a gift costly to give.  Suffering love, Jesus gave what we consider most precious, life, His life, so that all who acknowledge, believe, commit, and ask can live their lives to the full.  If reconciliation with God is something you desire, today is a good day to seek God with all your heart, as you do God Himself will find you and change your life forever.  Let me know if God meets with you, I want to encourage you in your new-found faith.

 Paul wrote that Jesus suffered to bring you to God and now he Paul was suffering to continue the mission.  That mission was to proclaim the Message and to mentor believers.  Because Paul was carrying out his mission he was arrested.  We can imagine that while in Ephesus Epaphras was trained by Paul, who in turn proclaimed the Message is Colossae.  If it wasn’t for Paul’s suffering in Ephesus, the message would not have been preached to the Colossians. Paul says suffering love for the sake of the gospel is a privilege.  One that he readily accepts, and not with gritted determination, but accepts suffering love as a gift, finding joy in the fact that others are blessed because of his efforts.  Suffering love is a gift.  It is an imitation of Jesus, doing what he has done, and now continuing through you. 

 Suffering love is not easy.  I just rather love instead of suffer while doing it.  This paradigm, suffering that others might be blessed, makes you a hero.  Something is worth suffering for and you decided to do it.  God rewards your heroism. 

 Revelation 22:12 (MSG)

"Yes, I'm on my way! I'll be there soon! I'm bringing my payroll with me. I'll pay all people in full for their life's work.

 Watching someone grow deeper, grow up, and grow fruit is a reward in and of itself.  To be an agent of blessing to others is what your service is all about.  Love meets the needs of another at the cost of a personal sacrifice, this task is what Christians are expected to do.   God has gifted you, now you go gift another.

 We know that the Jews were called God chosen people.  Now Paul proclaims God’s mystery.  Salvation was not to be the personal blessing of the Jews, but open to all. 

 Romans 10:12-13 (NIV)

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile--the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

 Everyone who enters into a right relationship with God shares in God’s glory.  Paul wants everyone to know that God’s gift is free to all.  A right relationship is to be maintained as we learned last time, God’s glory is yours “if you continue in your faith, established and firm (Colossians 1:23).  Behind the scenes, we can surmise that teachers were wanting to do add ons.  Believe in Christ and...  Believe in Christ and do… Paul writes “no.”  When you bend the knee, Jesus is in you. 

 Paul explains to his readers, that he is glad to suffer to mentor them, to present them perfect in Christ.  One more thing we should not.  Suffering love is empowered by God.  When we are serving others, loving others, God fills you with His power, it is still a struggle, but you have everything you need to get the job done.

Paul had an end game.  Preach, teach and mentor as many people as possible. What’s your end game?  What are you called to do?  Whatever it is, and it will be something, do your best, pray that it’s blessed, and let Jesus take care of the rest.

 

There is a hard reality in today’s teaching: suffering is normal.

 We want to do everything we can to avoid suffering but we are stuck in a world that is suffering. 

 We suffer to obtain something we want putting aside the pleasures of the day to obtain a future reward. 

 Suffering love is suffering we willing enter into for the benefit of another, but it’s still suffering, your deed is given at the cost of a personal sacrifice.

 The good news in God empowers you to be like Jesus, so all you have to do is choose to be a blessing.


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