Colossians 1:24-29 (NIV)
24 Now I rejoice in what was suffered 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. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness–26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
28 We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. 29 To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.
Paul was a remarkable person. I don’t really know anybody who has done research into his life that doesn’t think so. He carried the gospel to numbers of people that, in pre-television days, no one can come near to. He went on purpose to places where the gospel had never been heard, opening up one mission field after another. He didn’t spend his whole life in one place, but kept moving on to new locations, setting up the necessary structures before he left. He suffered persecution over and over again, being whipped and beaten and stoned. But none of that stopped him. (In fact, each time just seems to have heightened his resolve!) At the end of his life, he could look back at a job well done, and at the end of his life he could write, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8 NIV)
But if we were to sit and talk with Paul, I think he would be shocked at our modern conception that he and his faith were remarkable. That he was something special. It really does appear that, while he understood that he had a specific job to do, that he would consider that the life that he lived was to be more the norm than the exception. In his letters he is constantly urging the people to live full out for the Lord; to endure persecutions; to not be intimidated, but to be encouraged when people opposed them.
I think these days we as Christians tend to live lives far below what God wants to be the norm. We tend to spend way too much time without hearing from God, or understanding where He is leading us. We experience powerlessness in ways that seem totally unbiblical. We let ourselves get intimidated and frightened by what other people will think of us if we talk too freely about Jesus. We shy away from opportunities to share our faith, or to pray with someone in need. As a consequence, most of us do avoid any kind of persecution, but we also avoid the real joy, and peace, and growth that are supposed to be the norm of the Christian life. And, because of our normal reticence, we also are unfruitful, with much of a ripe harvest rotting on the vine due to lack of harvest workers!
Paul talks about himself as a “servant” (the Greek word is “slave”) of the body of Christ, the Church, in order to present to them the word of God in all its fullness. To present to them the mystery that God had finally revealed in the gospel: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Take a few minutes and let those seven words just roll around in your heart.
He then finishes the first chapter of Colossians with his calling and commission. How would it change your life if you heard these closing verses as God’s direct commission to YOU? If you heard God tell you: “Your job, like Paul’s, is to proclaim Jesus, the Messiah, and to admonish and teach everyone with all of the wisdom that I will give you. Your goal in all this is to present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I expect you to labor and to struggle with all of MY energy, which I will so powerfully work within you.” If you received this commission from the Lord (and I am convinced that it is the commission of EVERY Christian!) would your life be able to just go on as usual? Would you spend your time tomorrow doing the same exact things that you did today? Would your focus be the same? Would you see people the same way? Would your conversations be unchanged? What would be your first thought upon opening your eyes in the morning? How would you evaluate your day when you laid down at night?
I am convinced that Paul’s job is OUR job. It is THE job for Christians everywhere and at all times.