Scripture: from verse 28
…we warn, confront and teach everyone in all wisdom…
Observation: Paul is describing his ministry. His primary (and perhaps only) goal is to see people united with Messiah. To that end, he draws on God’s wisdom as well as his own to speak to people. And that speaking may not always be pleasant. Some people just needed to be taught, but if a more aggressive or confrontational approach was required, he used it.
We don’t like confrontation. Certainly I don’t. There are conversations I fear enough that my husband offers to handle them for me, for which I am incredibly thankful. But the fact that confrontation is unpleasant does not mean that we can always avoid it.
Sometimes it takes a cold bucket of water to wake us up. If the blunt truth will bring us healing, then that’s what we need. And if it is our job to give that to others, then we have to do it if we love them.
Application: Follow God’s lead, even if that means saying something you’d rather not. It might be exactly what they need to hear.
Prayer: Yeshua, thank you for having the wisdom to know what people need. Please give me the words to say to people, since we both know that I screw it up if I’m left to my own devices. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 25
Yes, I [Paul] am completing in my own flesh what has been lacking of the Messiah’s afflictions, on behalf of his Body, the Messianic Community.
Observation: This doesn’t make any sense. I mean, it does – he’s saying that he is continuing Messiah’s sacrifice to further God’s goal of restoring harmony between humans and God. The problem is that that’s impossible.
Nothing was lacking in Yeshua’s afflictions. He finished it. He paid the debt for us, completely and in full.
But I guess, if we are joined with Messiah in doing His work, and joined with Him in His suffering in the form of whatever persecution or deprivation or sacrifice God calls us to, then we are helping complete what Messiah has already done. He did the work. We’re helping.
Perhaps it makes more sense if I remember that, from God’s point of view, we’re only children. If I comb my daughter’s hair, and then she combs her own hair, I did the work and she helped. Admittedly I usually need to give it a quick re-comb before inserting the barrette, but that’s okay. Because she needs to try doing it herself.
I don’t know how it works. I don’t know how we could be contributing anything meaningful to Yeshua’s work and sacrifice. But apparently we can. Because He lets us help.
Application: What you do has value. God has a plan and a calling and a purpose for everything He has you do, even if it seems meaningless and random.
Prayer: Yeshua, I don’t get this one. I don’t even know whether to be comforted or humbled or inspired to greater effort. But I know you have a plan for it. I know you have a plan for me. Please help me follow it. Thank you for helping me grow and letting me help. Amen.
Scripture: from verses 15 and 16
He is supreme over all creation, because in connection with him were created all things — in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, lordships, rulers or authorities — they have all been created through him and for him.
Observation: Most powerful things have gained power. The environment gains energy from the sun or from gravity or from whatever craziness is going on at the core of the earth. People start as babies, and gain power through intelligence or popularity or apparently random chance. And so on.
But Yeshua’s power is different. His power is inherent. He didn’t gain power by manipulating the universe. He created the universe by being who He is.
That’s why Yeshua’s power isn’t a zero-sum power that leaves us with nothing. His power is not taken from us. Instead, His power is to give us life and power of our own. He is the Source, not just the user, of power.
And we can rest in that. We don’t need to participate in the rat race of local power struggles, because we have a direct line to the Source of all power and authority. We can be nothing and nobody because He is everything. We can follow His ways instead of leaning on our own understanding. It’s not like that works out well anyway.
Application: Rely on Yeshua’s power. There is no need to get it elsewhere.
Prayer: Yeshua, I praise you for being the Root and Source of all things. Please help me to rest in your power and not be anxious about my own. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 15
He is the visible image of the invisible God.
Observation: Batman. The Wizard of Oz. The Shadow. The Hollow Man. Gollum, Bilbo, and Frodo. There is a lot of power in being invisible. Weaknesses can be covered with mystery. Strengths can be amplified because no one can see how you did it. Nobody can see your fear or hurt. Nobody can hurt you.
Invisibility makes you invulnerable, or nearly so.
God had invisibility. We couldn’t know Him. We couldn’t study Him. We couldn’t hurt Him.
He decided to become visible. He made Himself vulnerable. He let us know Him.
A whole universe of people trying to hide and the One with all the power decides to let us see Him sweat.
Application: Get to know Him.
Prayer: Yeshua, thank you for being visible. Thank you for letting us watch you and know you and be close to you. Thank you for being willing to let us hurt you. Help me to talk to you and make myself vulnerable in return. Amen.
Scripture: from verses 9 and 10
We ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will…so that you may live lives worthy of the Lord and entirely pleasing to him, being fruitful in every good work and multiplying in the full knowledge of God.
Observation: “Be fruitful and multiply” was the first commandment given to humans: God told Adam and Eve to have children and fill the earth. That command is echoed here, with a twist. Instead of merely having children and expanding the population, the call is for spiritual growth which expands and strengthens the kingdom of God.
A kingdom is where people do the will of the King. We can’t expand the kingdom of God is we don’t know what His will is. So we ask God to show it to us. Every good work and everything we learn about God and how things work in the spiritual realm stems from learning what God wants.
Application: Seek God’s will and do it. Strengthen the kingdom.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, help me to know God’s will and follow it. Help me to bring light and life to your kingdom. Help me to multiply in the knowledge of God. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 4 and 5
The love you have for all God’s people…springs from the confident hope that you will receive what is stored up for you in heaven.
Observation: We don’t always like people. I certainly don’t always like people. I don’t like people when they don’t listen to me, or when they talk too much, or when they refuse to think clearly about some subject. I have the unfortunate tendency to think ideas are more important than people, and I can ride roughshod over the needs of others if I’m not careful as a result. Sometimes listening is more important than being right.
And I think that’s one of the things that is stored up specifically for me in heaven: answers. Clear, elegant truths that make sense of everything that happens on Earth and unlock new and fascinating questions to explore. And (I hope) the knowledge that everyone else around me also sees God clearly, and God is Truth so because they see Truth and I see Truth we’ll be able to think about things together and not get caught in weird circular logic and human anchoring biases.
Stupid anchoring bias.
And so I can love people even when I don’t like them. Even when they are wrong – not just mistaken (which I don’t mind) but actually refusing to see reason – I know that someday I won’t have any biases and they won’t have any biases and the conversation that I’m finding so frustrating will be long gone and forgotten. Because Truth is waiting.
God already counts me as perfect. I’m not. Hopefully I can love others for how our relationship will be, even if I don’t like where it is. It’s not like I’m perfect either.
And this is different for every person, but God still has stored in heaven exactly the treasure you are hoping for. Time. Affection. Pleasure. Power. Creation. Sleep. Everything we desire – everything we dislike other people for interrupting – God has stored up for us. The current delay is just a drop in the ocean of promise.
Application: Look to heaven. God has what you need. You don’t have to push at others or take from others to get it.
Prayer: Yeshua, help me to be better at seeing things from your perspective. Help me to know that you have all the answers, and that all things will pass but your Truth. Help me to love others the way you do. Amen.