Tag Archives: hope

Colossians: Pray and Keep on Praying

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Colossians 1:3-14

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant,[a] who is a faithful minister of Christ on our[b] behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,[c] 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you[d] to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

I did not write the lesson on this section in Colossians, but I would love to share some thoughts concerning this passage. I would encourage you to read through the passage above and record your own observations (noting key words, admonitions, tone of voice, connectives, and so on).

The first thing I noticed this time around is Paul’s very friendly and encouraging tone toward the Colossians. It reads quite differently from his letter to the Galatians for example. He also introduces us to a new name, Epaphras. New names immediately pique my interest and result in me following a rabbit trail that takes me hours to get back to my original path. In order not to take you on too many rabbit trails, I’ll simply choose a few ideas from the passage I found interesting (trust me when I say this is very hard to do for me. I’d like to pick apart every. single. verse.).

If we look at this section of the letter very broadly, we would note his common habit of giving thanks and praying for the recipients. It is a beautiful way to start a letter. I find that Paul teaches me about being thankful and how to pray for others simply by the way he writes his letters.

As I mentioned he’s very encouraging toward the Colossian believers, noting their faith and their love (v. 4, 7) which is a result of the hope (v. 5) they have in Christ {hmm…where have I seen those three qualities together before??}. He also comments on the gospel bearing fruit and increasing among them since the day they heard it and understood it (v. 5-6). I find the idea of an inanimate object being able to bear fruit very fascinating. The good news (gospel) which Epaphras spoke to the Colossians continues to produce good things among them.

I would like to look closely at the idea of faith. Webster’s 1828 defines it as “a full and affectionate confidence in the certainty of those things which God has declared and because He has declared them.” Another way to put it is an “affectionate, practical confidence in the testimony of God” or a “firm, cordial belief in the veracity of God, in all the declarations of His word.”

Perhaps it is best to point out that the power of faith depends not on the person who has the faith but on the One in whom the faith is placed. Christ is the object of our faith. Our faith has power because it is on Him, and He does not fail. C.F.D. Moule wrote this:

Regardless, the issue is not just the presence of faith, but a faith that resides in Christ. It gives the thought of reliance going forth to Christ, and reposing on Christ, so as to sink as it were into Him, and find fixture in Him; as the anchor sinks to the floor of the sea, and then into it, that it may be held in it.

To recap, Paul gave thanks for their faith and love because of hope (and this hope does not disappoint because it is also in the person of Christ who has secured glory/heaven for us). One of the ladies I teach with said this, “The validity of faith is not the fervency with which you believe, but the degree to which the object of your faith is true.”

It is in verse 9 when he switches to praying for these people he’s never even met. He asked that they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will. I couldn’t tell you how this happens, I only know that if he asks for it, it must be something that can happen to any believer. We can know God’s will for our lives. Isn’t that such a comforting thought? I also happen to love that he prays this for them as a father would pray for his own children to know God fully.

Hopefully you had a chance to read my post detailing the background of Colossians. You see, there was a threat of false teaching in Colossae, and those opponents were promising spiritual fullness with things that were not Christ. Paul tells the believers that true spiritual fullness can only be found in Christ alone. Just look at these verses in the letter about fullness or being filled:

1:19 For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell

1:25 …to make the word of God fully known

2:2 …all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ,

2:3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

2:9 For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,

2:10 and you have been filled in Him…

4:12 …stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.

Christ is sufficient. (more on this later!)

Now on to verses 10-11. Paul had spoken of the gospel which was bearing fruit in the lives of the Colossians and now in verse 10 he tells them to walk in a worthy manner, being pleasing to God, bearing fruit in every good work…. One of my favorite teachings of Jesus (and which Paul continues) is this idea of the Vine and branches. We abide in the Vine (which is Christ), and He produces fruit in us (fruit of the Spirit for example). I realize this can be a touchy subject since too many people believe they must work really hard to be “good” and accepted by God (or whoever it is they believe they need to work for). I would clarify that it’s not so much that we work for God but that God works in us. {I feel a blog post bubbling to the surface so I had better stop at that.}

In verse 11 Paul tells them their strength comes from God. The words for strengthened and power come from the same word in our English language for dynamiteDunamei means “to make strong, strengthen” and carries the idea of making something strong that is inherently weak. Paul says this power helps us to endure and have patience with joy. Again, this is his prayer for the Colossians and gives me such encouragement knowing this can happen for me as well.

Paul wraps up this section in verses 12-14: we give thanks to the Father who has qualified us to share in His inheritance, He has delivered us from darkness and transferred us to His Son’s kingdom, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Now those verses are truly packed with some dynamite!

What I learned from this passage is that the words used for delivered and transferred give the idea of military conquest. In Biblical times it was common to take a people who had been defeated, uproot them from their culture and environment, and re-root them somewhere else. That is exactly what God did for us! He broke the bonds of our past life (out of darkness) to assimilate us into a new life with Him (His kingdom of light – see also 1 Pet 2:9). It’s His grace to us, because we don’t deserve a single thing He did in those verses. We have been qualified, delivered, transferred, and redeemed.

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A Great Light

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Why is it that darkness can seem so dark sometimes? I’m not talking about night darkness. I mean a darkness in the soul. The darkness of evil. The darkness that you can feel and yet can’t seem to escape. It’s the kind of darkness that makes you feel like it will never pass. That you’ll be stuck in the dark forever.

The darkness is so thick, that you can’t see past it. You just can’t see period.

The thing I love about God is that He is completely unaffected by the dark.

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you. Psalm 139:11-12

What is more, He is unaffected by your darkness. And at any moment in time, He can shine into your darkness, removing the feeling that it will last forever, and He brings hope. A deep, abiding hope.

Have you ever wondered why in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul writes,

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

???

These three things are spiritual gifts. Just like someone receives the gift of teaching, so can you receive the gift of faith or hope. This is why I can pray for someone walking in soul darkness to experience God’s deep, abiding hope and know that it will happen. He’s given me the gift of faith which helps me to trust that He will bring hope where it is most needed.

Let me explain it this way. Have you ever been in a situation in which everything seemed completely hopeless or impossible to change for the better? And then suddenly or over time, your feeling changed to one of hope, despite the evidence of your “hopeless” circumstances? Your situation did not change. Your heart did. It was a gift from your Father who knows your needs and desires. He reaches down and helps you come out of your darkness.

This is easier said than done, I realize that. I too have walked in darkness at different points in my life and will likely encounter more. Thank God we don’t go through the hard times at the same exact moment. Some of us are in a pleasant season and can bring hope to those who are in a troublesome season. He gives us words to encourage one another. He gives us His truth to brighten up the dark places. Maybe He gives some of us faith and hope so that we can spread it to others who don’t feel an ounce of faith or hope.

Remember this with all your heart if you remember nothing else. He is the God who fights for His children and will not leave any of them alone in their darkness.

This may look like a sweet smile from your 3 year old. Or a call from a friend. Or a letter full of His truth. Or a memory of His faithfulness. Or any number of jewels that direct your heart to Him and away from the clutching darkness. Be on the look-out. He is there, and He is not silent.

Isaiah 9-2

Isaiah 9:2

john 1-4-5

In Him was life and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4-5

The Day I Knew Ashleyland Didn’t Exist…

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I know you’ve done it too.

Please tell me you’ve done it too. Because then maybe I won’t seem so crazy.

Creating scenarios of how things might be is unfortunately a large part of my thought life. “When we move into our house then…” “When the baby comes then…” “When my husband starts his classes again then…”

Sometimes the part after the “then” is pleasant, like a daydream. “When we move into our house, then I’ll feel more settled here.” But most times, it’s not so pleasant. “When the baby comes then I’ll be getting no sleep at all. Plus, my youngest will become the middle child, and he already plays that part all too well.” “When my husband starts his classes again then I’ll be a complete wreck trying to do this parenting thing at night by myself.”

It’s as if I’m constructing my own little world all in the comfort of my own mind. Ashleyland. Yeah, that sounds pretty ridiculous.

Life gets interesting when the scenario doesn’t quite play out like I’d imagined. Who am I kidding? It rarely turns out like I imagine! And most of the time, it’s a very good thing.

Jesus speaks to this issue and calls it by name – Worry. Well, that’s the unpleasant side of it anyway.

31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:31-34

The pleasant side of this thought game is more like planning, or trying to project our desires/plans onto the future. I call it the “pleasant” side because, even though it’s highly unlikely in our daydreaming state to really get what we want, it’s still nice to dream about how nice things could be.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9

Did you notice a common denominator between the worry and planning sides of our thought life? God is in them both. Or at least, He NEEDS to be in them. Jesus says that our Father knows exactly what we need, so that means we should not worry about how things will turn out.

Easy for Jesus to say… is my first response to that statement. Jesus and the Father have such a unique and close relationship that Jesus can speak this statement without flinching, without second-guessing, and He completely believes it 100%.

That’s exactly the kind of relationship the Father desires to have with each of His children. He wants us to believe Him without flinching, without second-guessing. The best part about believing Him is that He doesn’t disappoint.

Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. Psalm 34:5

Paul and the writer of Hebrews both speak about how we can have hope in God because He had sent His own Son, delivering His promise of salvation for all. I would say that if He can deliver in this, a MAJOR issue, He can deliver in ANYTHING else that this life brings our way.

Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense,
And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” Romans 9:33

17In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, 20 where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:17-20

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:1-5

In other words, trusting or believing God (hoping in Him) does not leave us disappointed or ashamed. You might say it would make one unflinching. Steadfast. Confident.

Now the flip side or the pleasant side of this is that we also can trust God to plan our ways, in the most perfect way. Remember, God is in the worry side and the planning side. We can plan our lives until we earn an “expert” rating in our own little worlds. However, planning doesn’t make it so. And there’s the rub! A man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. No amount of daydreaming will ensure that I’ll get just what I want. Even more interesting to ponder is that what I want may not be the best anyway. This is quite possibly the most obvious reason we should trust God’s heart for us. He directs our steps for good, and not to harm us. Sometimes His good feels painful (like in times of discipline), but it’s ALWAYS good (see my previous post on this!).

To take a peek into Ashleyland recently, you may go here. I can’t promise that you’ll even find it interesting, but you will find that it is what I’m really thinking…