Finding Jesus in Our Hardship
Colossians 1: 24-29
Paul’s prayer earlier in this chapter is that the believers at Colossae would be full of wisdom. That they would live a life worthy of their calling in Christ. And that they would be strengthened with the power of God so that they would have great endurance.
Paul is working in his letter to the Colossians toward a direct answer to that prayer.
What helps us to have wisdom?
What keeps us living in a worthy manner?
It is the strength to endure the troubles that come from living in a sinful culture with a sinful heart.
In our passage today, we will see in Paul’s approach to his own life with God:
- How to endure hardship,
- Who We Endure With
III. What Energizes our Endurance.
24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
Paul is obviously acquainted with hardship in his life because of His promotion of the gospel. He is someone we would do well to listen to about this subject!
- How to Endure Hardship
- Rejoice while suffering hardship
I think it is common, when times are good, to think that hardship will be unbearable. If at the beginning of 2020 we said that we would not be able to meet for three months, we will have to sit far apart, only 25% of us will be able to attend church, the pastor would be the worship leader, our midweek bible study will be online via camera, there will be no children or young families in church basically for 15 months, it might have lead us to despair.
In my family, both my parents at one time lost all of their possessions. My dads’ house was destroyed in a tornado, my mom’s house was destroyed in a fire. They don’t talk about it. It shapes who we are, but those kinds of circumstances are not destructive as long as we see them through the lens of faith and connect to God in them. My dad’s family also lost three children before the age of two. And that was after the fire. There is hardship to be had in life!
In reality those kinds of circumstances are not great. We need to fellowship with one another, we need housing, we need clothes etc. and it is a real loss to not be able to have these things. But the greater reality is that God has been with us every step along the way. And that is the way that it always is. But His presence will not do us much good, if we are not trusting in Him. He gives us life as we are faithful to trust and follow Jesus!
We have a very important choice to make concerning our circumstances and God’s working in our lives. When times are tough we can say that God is not at work, we can struggle with our faith. This will happen when we look at our circumstances instead of God.
There was a church sign around the corner here that lately has said, “Look up, not around.” I think that is exactly right.
Is God at work in your life today? Then look at what He is doing and rejoice.
Pray about hardships, they are real.
Pray for those who lose hope, they need to endure.
Pray for the power of God to rule and reign in the lives of people, we need His life!
And rejoice along the way!! In our church, at the beginning of Covid there was a miracle baby, at the end of Covid there will be a natural normal baby. Which one demonstrated the faithful power of God better, the truth is that they both demonstrate God to the same degree. But one tests and strengthens our faith more! If we rejoice in God, they both strengthen us, but one of them will frustrate the attempts of the enemy to get us to pull back from faith in God.
So, we endure by rejoicing while suffering hardship, secondly, we endure as we
- See your life as cooperating with Christ
Matt 11: 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11 we need to take seriously and personally. We are yoked together with Christ in His kingdom work. It is the “fellowship of Christ’s suffering”
We are working in a couple of different spheres to advance the kingdom of God.
- Internal strength and yoke of Christ. We are at work in our own hearts. As our lives conform more and more to the character of Christ, then the rule of God in our own hearts and minds is expanding. Much of that work can’t even happen without hardship. We can’t have faith without hardship. We can’t have patience without hardship. We can’t have gentleness without some hardship. God allows hardship in the lives of His people so we can experience His presence and so that we can demonstrate to others that God is faithful in difficult times. We comfort others with the comfort with which we have been comforted.
- External strength and yoke of Christ. We are at work in the world providing encouragement and examples of how to live a life trusting in God to give us life. This is what the world needs to see. This is what the church needs to see. This is what your family needs to see. And in the hardship, you can say along with Paul that you are filling up what was lacking in the suffering of Christ.
Paul on his second missionary journey:
Acts 14: 19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20 But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.
21 They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. 23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.
As we rejoice, as we see our lives as cooperating with Jesus’ life and ministry, remember…
- Your goal is to serve God verse 25
Service to God is your life goal. That can be done in many different ways, and will be accomplished in every sphere of life that you have!
25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness—
It is very hard to not be able to find opportunities to serve. And in that yoke of Jesus you will find greatness in the service. Not greatness in the kingdom of man, but greatness in the kingdom of God.
OK, Paul speaks to how we endure hardship, next, he looks at…
- Who We Endure With
- We endure with other believers
Shared suffering creates bonding.
We bond over praying for each other’s life issues.
We comfort others with the comfort with which we are comforted.
Pain is isolating. We need to avoid allowing the enemy to isolate us and attack our faith. Job’s friends tried, but they did not have the shared experience.
- People are encouraged by a testimony
If you lose a spouse, it’s comforting to talk to someone who has lost a spouse. I saw that in my dad. I saw real ministry born out of suffering that had a very good impact on his endurance of his hardship. He was not alone.
If you lose a job, I can encourage you.
If you are going through marital hardship, would you rather talk with someone who has always had it great or someone who has worked through real issues. Those are the people who will give you the encouragement and direction that you need. And those are the people who have the testimony of God’s faithfulness that will keep you moving forward. God is at work!!!!! This is why we endure!!
The people at Colossae are experiencing opposition. Paul lives that out every day!
- We endure with Christ
Paul says that everything in his life is worthless compared to knowing Christ, the power of His Resurrection, the fellowship of His suffering, becoming conformed to His death. Jesus was a man of sorrows acquainted with grief. He endured the cross, despising it’s shame. He endured ill treatment from sinful men. And He won by submitting Himself to God and being faithful to the kingdom wisdom that God revealed to Him. Over time, the kingdom of God grew, like yeast, like a mustard seed, like a seed etc.
So, Paul has spoken about how we endure hardship, Who we endure hardship with, finally he writes about…
III. What Energizes Endurance
- Christ in you is the hope of glory
Hope is the attitude of expectation without the possession of the result. Glory is the reflection of the excellence of God, His character and His person.
Romans 8: 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed…
…but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
I Peter 4:
12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
Acts 7: 54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
We expect Jesus Himself to meet us in our trials. Jesus Himself!!
- The goal is strong followers of Jesus
- 28-29 28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
If I want you to be strong, I need to be strong. Now, understanding your weaknesses, and knowing how to rely on the strength of the Holy Spirit in you, is key.
Think about Peter in the Garden, outside the trial of Jesus and then on the day of Pentecost.
- Become stronger by exercising your faith
My view of my family gets stronger as I apply my faith in Christ to it at every level. Service, prayer, teaching, love, care etc. There are difficulties with every person at every level.
The same can be said of work.
The same can be said of those I encounter in the community.
Our culture sees victory through changing others, through winning. But Jesus won by being faithful to God and letting God manage the circumstances of His life. He endured the Cross, despising the shame. He is presently at the right hand of God waiting for all of His enemies to be made into His footstool!!!
Christ is in You! He is your hope of glory!! He is your only hope of glory!!!