Children of the Promise and Vehicles for God’s Blessing

We’ve had several reasons to reflect on history this week. I already mentioned the anniversary of the protests at Tiananmen Square and today is the 70th anniversary of the invasion at Normandy.

We’ve read through a great history of people like Abraham and Joseph, and one emphasis this week was to recognize that the history we read in Genesis is our history. We are children of Abraham because we are children of the promise by faith. So when we read of God’s promises to Israel, we stand under those promises, too.

But remember the promise God makes to Abraham. It is a promise for blessing, but God also notes that through Abraham’s family will all the families of the earth be blessed. If we are children of Abraham, we cannot merely celebrate that blessed status. We need to remember both that we receive a blessing as part of the promise, and we are to also be a blessing for all the world.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

When God makes promises the timing is not always what we’d want. Abraham is promised that he will have descendants whose number will be like the stars in the sky. But then Abraham waits. He waits for a long time. And still he has no children. The promise of God was not for the next day–it was years later. It was to be fulfilled in old age, when he thought it was impossible. In the meantime Abraham took matters into his own hands and deviates from the will of God.

It seems that the trust is not always the hardest part. It is the trust carried out over time. It is the patience. Can we trust God for more than a moment? Can we trust when something promised is on the horizon or out of sight? Faith requires that we place our trust in God and then have the patience to endure.

What can help is knowing that God alone is the one who can really keep his promise. Only he is in complete control of all circumstances. So when he makes us a promise, he is always faithful. He is faithful to Abraham, and now we the descendants of Abraham can trust that he will be faithful to us.

Patience is hard, so we all probably need to pray for patience. (Although I hear that when we pray for patience, God doesn’t just make it appear. What does he do? He gives us practice. So be warned!)

I can’t help but link to this video. When I think of patience I think of the Tom Petty song, The Waiting, from which I took the title of this post. And when I think of that song, I think of this scene from The Simpsons. It’s not the best clip and leaves off the final punchline at the end–but it still gives me a chuckle.

We Have a Spirit Who Speaks

Paul takes chapter twelve to discuss the gifts that the Spirit of God gives to the church. But he begins by contrasting it with the idols of the Corinthians’ old faith. Paul writes:

You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols…

The way that Paul contrasts the old and the new, dark and light, death and life is powerful. Here is contrasts that which speaks and that which is mute.

I think we are reminded all the more about the way the Spirit that dwells in us speaks when we think back to past ways. The church in Corinth, in following after false religion, worshipped idols. Already Paul has discussed how these idols and so-called gods have no real existence. So when we think to the way the Spirit manifests himself in us, it is not like anything from the pagan practices. Those idols were mute. There is no way those idols were going to speak through the people. But that is not what we have now. The living God has sent us his Spirit and by the Spirit we speak. God has not sent us his Spirit to remain idle and mute in the church. The Holy Spirit in us is the only way that we can make our confession of faith, only by the Spirit can we say, “Jesus is Lord.”

More on Colossians 1

I put up the picture inspired by Colossians 1 on Monday, but I did so without explanation. So I thought today I’d talk more about what I see going on in the opening of the chapter. Paul writes beginning in verse three:

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 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, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

You may have noticed by now that Paul likes to use long sentences. This is one good reason to slow down and make sure you’re understanding what he writes. The picture from Monday centers in on ‘hope’ and I did this because although it comes later in the passage, we hear that it is a cause for the faith and love about which Paul has heard. Their hope–their goal, their promise–spurs them on to have greater faith in Christ and to spread his love to others. Christians who journey toward the goal, who are bound to the hope we have in Christ, should exhibit in that journey the characteristics that arise from that hope: love and faith.

Later in verse five Paul tells of where this hope is found, that is in the word of truth, the gospel. These words have power as they have not only taken hold in these Colossian believers, but in the whole world. Where the gospel is sown it bears fruit and this fruit is faith, hope, and love.

The Colossians know what their end will be, they have their hope, and they are exhibiting the marks of followers of Christ, faith and love. But Paul then goes on to pray for them so that they may know best how to live. They are already trusting Christ and loving the saints, but he wants them to excel in it. Paul wants them to know what faith and love will continue to look like, so he writes:

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 May you be 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.

Christians surely know we should have faith, hope, and love. What can be difficult is having the wisdom to know not only the what but the how. This is Paul’s prayer. He wants them to know God’s will for them and to have the wisdom to discern how to follow his will. This is not an endeavor to begin alone so we need the strength of God’s power to endure this life, and to do so with patience and joy.

Even though Paul gives thanks to God when he thinks of his fellow Christians, for their love and faith, he reminds his reader that this is not something we’ve achieved on our own, rather it is the Father who has qualified us to receive all we have.

Keep reading Colossians and you’ll see a beautiful picture of Christ and what he has done for us, and how what he has done is sufficient for all we’ll ever need.

Increasing faith and increasing influence

In chapter 10 Paul writes “our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged…” Here I believe he is talking about the spread and increase of the gospel in the area surrounding Corinth, hoping that the church there can help push the gospel further. But these words got my minding going off on a tangent, something that is not uncommon for me.

Perhaps it happened because of what I was reading previously in the chapter. Given that our struggles are not against the flesh, Paul writes that we should take captive every thought so that our mind will be obedient to Christ. We must not let our minds succumb to temptation, instead we need to place our minds, and by extension, our whole selves under Christ’s control.

So with this on the mind when I came to the passage about influence increasing with faith, I jumped to the fact that as our faith increases so does our understanding of the implications of the gospel in our life. The stronger the faith the more we give over to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. If in faith we take captive our thoughts to give over to obedience to Christ, surely his influence will spread throughout us.

What maybe began as a small understanding of Jesus grows and creeps into every single area of life as Christ grows in our eyes. We cannot keep relationships from his authority, we cannot go about with a belief that our job is a separate area apart from his watch, and we must understand that even our bodies are not our own. The influence of the gospel of Jesus Christ grows as our faith grows. Not that Christ is made to be Lord, but our eyes open wider to see the truth that is there, that he is already Lord, and we make our life correspond to the reality that is in him.

So while the passage may not directly be addressing Christ’s control in a person of faith, certainly if the church of Corinth is increasing in faith, so too will Paul’s ability to influence that geographic area grow, as well, for they will be giving themselves over in obedience to the rule of Jesus Christ.