Colossians 1:11-12, “11 being 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.”
The Christian life is a strange dynamic. The work has been done, but there is still work to do. The price has been paid, but we are still asked to pay the price. The cross of Christ has opened the way to eternal life, but true followers of Jesus are commanded to carry our cross. It is this dynamic that forms the second half of Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1:11-12. Come along, and we will see this dynamic and how it all fits together.
Behind the scenes of vs. 11 lies a few principles for the Christian life. In this part of the prayer, Paul prays that they will be strengthened with all power. The power that they are to be strengthened with is the power of God, the power of God that works powerfully in us. But, behind the scenes of this is the reality: we need strength from God for living as followers of Jesus.
The reason we need strength is that we are not able to stand on our own amid a spiritual battle for our hearts. As you read through the often sad history of the Old Testament, it is readily apparent that the Israelites are not able to withstand the pull of the world around them. As they prepare to enter the promised land, Moses, followed by Joshua, speaks the words of God that tell them to completely drive out the inhabitants of the land and destroy their gods. If they do not, they will be drawn away to worship the false gods of the Canaanites. Unfortunately, they do not drive out all of the people and don’t destroy all the gods. It is not because God ran out of power or tricks to overcome the enemy. The people simply did not follow through on their commitment to God, and the result was they could not do it on their own. Paul knows this and prays that God would strengthen them, realizing the Colossians (and us too) cannot stand on our own. So the first thing we see behind the scenes is that this is a battle. It is a battle we can only win with the strength of God behind us.
The second thing to notice behind the scenes is that this is not just a skirmish, but an enduring battle. We often will say or hear about “having victory over …”, with the idea that we have overcome a particular sin or struggle. The reality is, though, that the battle is not over for us. With this in view, Paul prays that would be strengthened for all endurance. The fact that Paul prays for their endurance and patience demonstrates that it will be a long and often slow war. For the Colossians, this was difficult, but in our microwave, instant gratification mindset, we are not used to having to wait very long. Our endurance is often rather weak, and we, perhaps even more than the Colossians, need God to strengthen us for the endurance needed. It is an enduring battle, so we need endurance and patience. How many of us want to run from or avoid the battle entirely. We will get hurt, or someone we love will get hurt. But God has us stay in the battle, not in our strength, but with God’s strength.
Before we move on to what God has done, there is a word at the end of vs. 11 that is a beautiful word in Scripture: joy. Joy is a beautiful word because it is something that does not have to be based on circumstances. Joy is frequently equated with happiness, but that is not how the Bible presents joy. Joy often shows up in some of the strangest places. For example, James tells us to consider it all joy when we face trials of many kinds (James 1:2). How can a trial be considered a joy? It can only be considered a joy if we don’t get distracted by the trial around us. It can be considered joy because, as James tells us, it moves us further along in our walk with God. Here, Paul includes this, so we don’t walk away from vs. 11 with a “grit your teeth and get through” mindset. Joy is only possible if given by God as a fruit of the Spirit, and only when we see things from God’s perspective, not the perspective of our own.
Finally, it is important to remember that all of this prayer, from the start of vs. 9 through the end of vs. 11, is made possible through the finished work of Jesus. He did the work so we can do the work God has for us. The only appropriate response is one of thankfulness for the finished work of Jesus, the work that now qualifies believers to share in this great inheritance.
I was saddened to hear, recently, that Together for the Gospel (T4G) had to cancel its 2020 conference. It is not surprising given the current situation, but in reading the notice of cancelation, they mentioned that they had already mailed out the wristbands needed for entry to the arena during the conference. I remember in past years when I have attended how important that wrist band was. With it, you would be allowed in and without it, you were stuck on the outside looking in. Through the finished work of Jesus, we have that “wristband” that allows us into heaven and our lives, then, are lived out giving thanks to God.