Ministry is difficult. And when I say ministry, I don’t just mean vocational ministry, although that’s included. If you are a believer, you have a ministry. You have people in your life who have been placed there by God for you to love and serve.
Paul takes the last six verses of Colossians 1 to talk about his ministry. As we look at his ministry, it gives us guidelines for how we minister to others. The Lord recorded these words in Scripture for our edification.
Colossians 1:24-29, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now 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. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”
Here are five truths about ministry from this passage:
Ministry Often Involves Suffering
Paul rejoices in his suffering because it is “for the sake of His body, that is, the church” (v. 24). Paul experiences suffering as he equips the church, and he does not present a “sugar-coated” idea that ministry is easy.
When you minister, whether that be in a vocational setting or in a personal relationship, there will be times of suffering. People will mock, people will reject, and people will walk out on you. Some will not receive your encouragement and others will not agree when you confront their sin. While knowing this doesn’t take the suffering away, I hope it’s encouraging to be reminded that even in our suffering God is working in us and through us for His people. Don’t assume that if you are suffering it’s because you’re doing it wrong, it could possibly mean the opposite.
Ministry is a Stewardship From God
Every good and perfect gift is from above (James 1). Our ability to serve God in any form should be seen as a privilege. God is moving all of creation to His desired end, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against His plan. Praise God that we get to be a part of that! Ministering to a coworker might seem small, but it’s one of the many ways that God is at work in this world, which is a reminder of how significant it truly is.
However, knowing ministry is a stewardship also serves as a warning. We have a responsibility, and we will be held accountable. Let us not be like the lazy servant who sat on his talents and did nothing with them (Matt. 25), nor let us be like the watchman who saw the army coming but didn’t warn the people (Ezekiel 33).
Ministry is Making the Word Known
Paul gives us more details into what the Lord has called him to do: make the word of God fully known. As we minister to others, we are not just spreading our ideas and opinions, we are seeking to make God’s Word known.
For those who teach and preach in the church, this verse should be always on the forefront of your mind. It’s easy to get caught up in the wave of popular opinion and try to feed people what they want. However, that is not our stewardship. We are to make the word of God fully known.
Ministry is Proclaiming Christ
Because the Scriptures teach us about Christ and his works. If we teach the Bible accurately, we are making known “the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints,” and that mystery is “Christ in you, the hope of glory!” If we are not proclaiming Christ and his gospel, we are not doing ministry.
Again, this applies to preaching and also to non-vocational ministry. Either way, we proclaim Him! Paul says as we proclaim him, we warn everyone and teach everyone. We warn of the judgment to come, knowing that one day everyone will stand before God and give an account. Warn them of that day and do so with wisdom. And, as we do, we pray that God is using it to draw people to himself and mature them in the faith.
We Do Ministry by His Power in Us
Doing all this might sound tiresome. The truth is we lack the strength to do it. We lack the ability on our own to persevere. However, there’s a great encouragement in verse 29 where Paul says, “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”
Notice its His energy that is powerfully at work in Paul. Be encouraged that our Lord supplies the strength we need to do the task he has called us to accomplish. He does not ask us to do what he hasn’t equipped us to do. Look to him for strength and not yourself!
May we all go out as faithful ministers who are willing to suffer to make the Word known, who point others to Christ, and do it all in God’s strength!