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. -Colossians 1:24-2:7
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I have come to realize that I am a recovering workaholic, striving in a land full of other workaholics.
We move. We try. We please. We fight. We excel. We strive. We form. We plan. We develop. We buy. We act. We clean. We do. We go. We think. We want. We work. And we end up doing it over and over.
I do not know about you, but if I do not take a step back, I can quickly find myself constantly thinking, behaving, and aiming for things defined by being more, better, efficient, successful, honored...and the list can go on and on.
In our world, we toil and struggle for so many things. In fact, let's bring them to mind right now... What is the thing - the obstacle - the task - the job - that you are toiling through right now? What struggle is occupying your life, heart, and mind?
If you cannot think of an answer, simply sit down, recount the last five conversations that you have had with someone close...and pinpoint a complaint, a stressful explanation, an excited monologue, or a boastful banter that has occurred more than once.
Often, the very things that we are toiling and struggling over will always (intentionally or unintentionally) find their way out of our lips.
So, I ask again...What is your current toil?
For the toils of man will always reveal his heart.
The Apostle Paul was a man so familiar was struggles and pain. Just like Christ, he was beaten, mauled, stoned, starved, and ridiculed by his own people. He had sleepless nights, stressful encounters, rough seasons, and dreadful hangups.
And just like everyone...Paul's toils reveal his heart."I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake... It is Christ 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."
In his day-to-day life, Paul was suffering, working, and struggling for the sake of the church, or more specifically, "everyone." And he was doing it all because of his holy calling.
Paul was a man, driven to deliver a message of hope and reconciliation. He saw the open door of the gospel as a great opportunity to invite the world inside. And "with all the energy" that God "inspired within," he proclaimed, he warned, and he taught anyone who would listen.
But what strikes me with such conviction is the awesome truth that we have this same holy calling. No, we are not all "preachers" or "teachers," but we are all "witnesses" and "participants" in this life changing gospel.
In 2 Timothy, Paul writes "join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to His own purpose and grace" (1:8-10).
As I mentioned before, I can tend to be a workaholic. And this kind of busyness is fully according to my works. It is a striving based on my fleshes attempt to prove myself, to better myself, or to glorify myself. And every time I do it, I am left exhausted, worn-out, tired, and bitter towards the next day (when I have to do it all over again).
But what Paul is talking about - to work and struggle within the message of the gospel - is completely different. It is a life unhinged from a to-do list. It is never too busy, too stressed, or too stretched to slow down and see. And it is always found with the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
You see, every time I work "with the energy that He gives" and "according to His own purpose and grace," something unusual happens... I am left exhausted, worn-out, tired, and excited towards the next day (when I get to do it all over again).
Do you see the difference? To work without Christ is to work without purpose. But when we unite all that we do with the ministry and glory of the gospel, we begin to take ownership of our holy calling and we have the energy to keep it growing.
So right now, think back to your answer earlier; the thing that you are currently toiling over. Though seemingly good, this may be the very thing blocking you from seeing the work that God has designed you to take over. Perhaps you have labeled a strong "have to" on this thing for far to long...
Or, this may be a work that God is calling you to unite with His gospel. Maybe for the first time, you need to begin asking how God could be at work in it, where He is desiring to move, who He is desiring to change, and how you can get involved.
Regardless of what it is, may we all become people who toil for His purpose and glory. Have a great day. As always, if you enjoyed today's devotion, please help us out by sharing it with others!
Greg, Declare Glory