Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
2 To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, 7 just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf 8 and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
I’m generally an optimistic person. To a fault sometimes. I see half-full cups, lights at the end of tunnels, and hope for happy days. Most days. But these days, not so much. Statistics tell us that the Christian Church in North America is following the path of the Church in Europe. It’s shrinking daily. Pastors are abandoning their callings. People are absent from worship more than ever before in my lifetime. The younger generations are progressively more disconnected from the church at best and at worst antagonistic to the Christian faith. It seems to me that we’re riding the back side of the wave of Christendom.
It’s hard to be very optimistic in the face of these realities and feelings.
Thank God for Africa! The largest and fastest growing Lutheran Church in the world is in Ethiopia. Ethiopia! The Lutheran Church in Tanzania – a country less than ½ the size of the US is larger than The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. There is no perfect church or completely faithful country anywhere, but there are certainly bright spots!
My optimism is piqued when I think of these things and put that along side Paul’s words:
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth. – Colossians 1:3-6
The gospel is coming to people every day. More and more people are hearing. The number of the redeemed and saved is growing by the grace and mercy of God.
Corrie ten Boom said it well: “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God you’ll be at rest.” Paul is urging us to look to God. He’s pointing us toward our heavenly hope. He’s reminding us that God’s plans are for blessing, good, and eternal joy. He invites us into that hope.
That doesn’t mean we don’t mourn for the lost. It doesn’t mean we don’t seek to bring the message of Jesus to more and more people. Quite the contrary. We rejoice in God’s work in the lives of more and more people, and do whatever we can to help make the world come alive around us. His message of Good News enlivens that hope and sustains us in that effort.