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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, January 16, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading | Colossians 1:24–2:7

I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil and struggle with all the energy that he powerfully inspires within me.

For I want you to know how much I am struggling for you, and for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me face to face. I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

I am saying this so that no one may deceive you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, and I rejoice to see your morale and the firmness of your faith in Christ. As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. (NRSV)

Sometimes doing the right thing is hard. Sometimes standing up for the truth requires a sacrifice of our own comfort. Sometimes working for justice attracts the attention of powers and principalities and we become the targets of injustice. When Paul says that he is “happy” to suffer for the sake of the church (Colossians 1:24, Common English Bible) or that he is “rejoicing” in his sufferings (New Revised Standard Version) for the sake of the early Christian followers, he’s saying that even if or even when his work brings suffering to him, he’s still willing to do the work.

The suffering is not the good thing. His work is the good thing, and the suffering is the price he pays. This is an important distinction. When people talk about the incredible suffering that Christ endured in order to save us, it’s important to remember that the suffering didn’t save us. Jesus’ will to confront evil saved us. He stood up to the powers and principalities, and he wouldn’t stand down. Even though the empire brought him down, God brought him back up. That’s the victory. Sunday morning is the answer to Friday afternoon.

Paul suffers because he’s committed to bringing the good news that Christ is alive in us. Paul wants to encourage the hearts of Christ-followers, to give us hope, to guide us to being united in love. He wants it so badly that he’s willing to suffer if that’s what it takes to get the message out there, to lead and guide the people, to encourage them to trust in God. Go ahead and be thankful for Christ’s love, he says. I want to follow that advice.

Holy God, I don’t want to suffer, and I pray that I won’t suffer much. But I surrender myself to your desire that love and justice may flourish in the world. Give me a rootedness in Christ’s love and help me trust your eternal presence as I try to follow you in the way of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Written by Nanette Sawyer, Associate Pastor for Discipleship and Small Group Ministry

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