Rejoicing in the Face of Death, by Sween
April 3 reading
|Bible Study Aids and
* Colossians videos: Google and YouTube|
* General Colossian resources, TextWeek
|ENCOURAGEMENT: "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as LORD, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." (2:6)|
| Thought for today:
Lord, help me to understand and practice the mystery of Christ and how death and resurrection increase my faith in you.
(from 1:27, 2:9)|
Today, in 2005, is the day after Pope
John Paul II died, and many people throughout the world are feeling the pain of personal loss. In 2004 I wrote: in just a few hours, the memorial service for a high school friend of mine is scheduled to begin. Carlotta, a Christian, was one of the most intelligent and ingenious people in our class. She died a few days ago of brain cancer. Yesterday in our reading, Joshua and Eleazar died in their old age. Joshua described death as going "the way of all the earth." (Josh 23:14) So as I read Colossians, not only was I remembering what we have just read about the Israelites conquering the promised land by the LORD's leadership, but I was also remembering Carlotta and another friend, Evelyn, and other people who have died.|
And then through the book of Colossians, here comes the apostle Paul! In prison, in limbo from his evangelical travels, Paul is thanking God, praying for other Christians and writing to encourage them. Paul has a secret - a mystery, he calls it - and no matter what his situation around him, he counts it joy and responds accordingly. There is a purpose for suffering, and it's part of God's plan for our hope, not for his revenge or our punishment. Yes, once we were all alienated from God, our minds against Him because of our evil behavior. But He sent Jesus who had all of God the Father's fullness dwelling in him. God sent Jesus to die and bleed on the cross, not for his punishment, but for ours. God sent Jesus with the plan that through his death and resurrection, people who caught the vision saw - wonders of wonders - that Jesus Christ's death can strengthen us, can qualify us, can rescue us, can redeem us, can forgive us. Our blemishes? Gone. Accusations against us? Gone. This is the gospel offered to all who don't wander off to worship angels or human regulations only appearing wise. The message is to keep following Christ. Hold fast to this faith; set your heart on things concerning Him, not earthly things. Christ is our life. The mystery is Jesus the Christ. Just don't leave your hope behind when you may not feel hopeful or feel like rejoicing. Keep focused - patiently rooted in Christ and overflowing with thankfulness - even when the Christians you're praying for are struggling. God's plan for our perfection is free, but no one says it's easy.
Long before we physically die, our job is to spiritually starve whatever belongs to our earthly nature - sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed, anger, rage, whatever. Are you seeing how the covenant God made with His chosen people, Israel, compares to the offer God makes to us to be His chosen people, holy, dearly loved, through Christ? We learn to bear with each other, forgiving as the Lord forgave us. We aren't judged by appearances. In fact, the Law given by Moses was a shadow of things to come through God in Christ. And we don't work by appearances, either - productive only when the boss's eye is on us. We are promised a share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. So we serve Christ. We pray. We watch. We thank the LORD all the time. We choose our words to outsiders with grace, seasoned with salt! We persist in completing the work the LORD has assigned us.