I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church. 25 God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you. 26 This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. 27 For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.
28 So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29 That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.
2:1 I want you to know how much I have agonized for you and for the church at Laodicea, and for many other believers who have never met me personally. 2 I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself. 3 In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
4 I am telling you this so no one will deceive you with well-crafted arguments. 5 For though I am far away from you, my heart is with you. And I rejoice that you are living as you should and that your faith in Christ is strong. – Colossians 1:24-2:5 [New Living Translation]
I really appreciated learning about Five Capitals which may be invested for the sake of the reign and rule of God. Those five are: (in increasing order of importance)
- Financial capital: Measured in dollars and cents (least important)
- Intellectual capital: Measured in concepts and ideas
- Physical capital: Measured in hours and minutes
- Relational capital: Measured in quality and depth of our relationships with others
- Spiritual capital: Measured in wisdom, power, and authority (most important)
Jesus had tons of spiritual capital. He had wisdom, power, and authority beyond all comparison. He healed diseases. He raised the dead. He walked on water. He confounded his enemies. He had “all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). Jesus was and is the source of incredible power for us today as well. Paul prays that we know “the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe according to the working his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead” (Ephesians 1:19-20).
And here in this passage he speaks of the power of Jesus working in him as he struggles to carry out the mission of God for the sake of the Colossian and Laodicean believers. It’s not clear whether Paul knew when he was met by Jesus on the road to Damascus, and subsequently when Ananias was sent to restore his sight how much he would need this power. “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name,” God says to Ananias. (Acts 9:16) By now, however, he has a good idea.
Written after Paul’s third missionary journey, he had experienced beatings, imprisonment, ridicule, scorn, and even the disappointment of co-workers withdrawing from the missionary task. He had to rely on the power of God to continue his work. He certainly would have needed that power, wisdom, and inner strength to remain faithful and fight the discouragement of trouble in the churches he had founded (think of the church in Corinth!).
One of the most grave misunderstandings about the Christian walk is the idea that if we’re following Jesus life will be smooth and easy. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. We can and should be thankful when God draws the lines of our lives in pleasant places (cf. Psalm 16:6-8). But when we face difficulty and challenge we must never think we are not pleasing God. In fact our suffering may result in great and glorious blessings for others, and ourselves. Jesus promises as much: “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29).
Seems to me that I can appropriate these lessons in two important ways. I can view the struggles I must face (and they are surely comparatively few) as opportunities to lean into Jesus and his glorious power. I can also recognize that I have little power of my own to impact people’s lives eternally. Perhaps that will move me to work more diligently for his kingdom’s sake all the while looking to Jesus for strength and true spiritual power, wisdom, and authority. I’m guessing I may have an opportunity to do that today. How about you?