"REJOICE IN THE STRUGGLE"
(A Series on Colossians)
Westgate Chapel 8/1/99 a.m. Colossians 1:24-2:1
PROPOSITION: The call to pursue Christ was never intended to be trouble free, but rather a struggle with a purpose, a living hope, and inner power in Christ Jesus.
- COME to Jesus and find peace of mind!
- BECOME a Christian and be freed from all guilt!
- FIND your healing in Christ Jesus!
- BE fulfilled following Christ!
- FIND your purpose in life, come to Christ!
- LET Jesus heal your marriage!
- JESUS will put your broken life back together again!
- COME to Christ and you will prosper....you'll be happy.
- ALL of these statements are true, and based on promises in God's Word.
- BUT they are only part of what it means to follow Christ.
- UNFORTUNATELY, since we don't want to scare anyone off, and since we feel a responsibility to do God's PR work for Him......we tend to emphasize the benefits of being a disciple of Christ and we play down the struggle.
- ADD to that the consumer mentality of my generation today and you have, in America, what Chuck Colson calls "Hot Tub Religion."
- THE demand for a "feel better" religion is at an all-time high....."which is why" says a recent NEWSWEEK article, "the least demanding churches are now in the greatest demand."
- COLSON says, "Spiritual consumers today are interested not in what a church stands for but in the fulfillment it can deliver."
- SO, as churches compete for people's discretionary time, alongside TV, Sports, and Nintendo.....many are pressured into making the Gospel as attractive as possible....even if it means leaving out some of the costs, some of the struggle in following Jesus.
- THE Bible is full of examples where following Christ was costly, and a tough experience.
- LISTEN to Jesus' instructions when he sent a prophet named Ananias to the newly converted Saul in Acts 9.
"Ananias, I have shown Myself to a young man from Tarsus named Saul. Actually, Ananias, I kind of blinded him. He knows who I am, but he is in an apartment just off Main Street in Damascus and he has a lot of questions about becoming a Christian.
Ananias, I want you to go to him and tell that I have chosen him to be my disciple...and...tell him I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." (Acts 9:11-16)
- I WONDER if the Lord knew that that was not a real good sales approach......."suffer for My name."
- I THOUGHT the Christian life was about getting my sins forgiven, finding happiness, getting healing for my body, and finding a good church that meets my needs?
- C.S. LEWIS wrote,
"I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don't recommend Christianity."
- (POSSIBLY read Beuchner on Moses.)
- WE have done the cause of Christ a great disservice by trying to sell Christianity as a quick and painless fix for all life's problems.
- CHUCK Colson writes,
"By responding to market pressures, the church forfeits its authority to proclaim truth and loses its ability to call its members to account. In other words, it can no longer disciple and discipline. But as alien and archaic as the idea may seem, the task of the church is not to make men and women happy; it is to make them holy."
- NOW, turn with me to Colossians 1:24 please.
ii. there is a purpose to the struggle
- IT is true, there is forgiveness, mercy, grace, freedom and peace that passes understanding in following Jesus....but it is also true that pursuing Christ is a struggle.
- HOW many of you here this morning have found that pursuing Christ is a struggle?
* You want to read God's Word. You know that the Holy Spirit will reveal Jesus to you through it....that you will be built in your faith by it.
* But it is a struggle to make the time for it. Seems that there are always other pressing things to be done.
* You want to be in God's house for the all church prayer meeting on Wednesday nights. God always meets with you when you are here. His Word says not to neglect coming together.
* But it seems that you are never more tired coming home than on Wednesdays. You have to fight the traffic all the way....and then supper's late.
* You want to share Christ with your friends and family.
* But it is never the right time. And you are afraid they will think you are super spiritual or something.
* You decide to give the Lord His tithe out of obedience to His Word, and thanksgiving for all that He has provided.
* But whenever you start, the car needs a new transmission and the washer and dryer go out....and where to find the money to tithe.
* You have been gifted by God for a ministry. You know you have and you want to use it for His kingdom.
* But there are so many other commitments in your life....so many other demands.
* You want to live a holy life, because you know that without holiness no man shall see God.
* But then the temptation comes and down you go......again.
* You want to pray.
* But you can't get out two thoughts without your mind wandering.
* You want to live at peace with all men....because that is what God's Word commands.
* But then your temper and your mouth run out ahead of you....and down you go in flames.
- IF the battle isn't on one front then it is on another....and sometimes the battle is on more than one front at a time.
- LISTEN! That is not abnormal for the Christian life!
- PAUL faced opposition more often than not in His pursuit of Christ.
- IN I Corinthians 9:26-27 He said,
"Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."
- HE wasn't weird. He didn't lack faith. He wasn't abnormal. He knew that the Christian life was a struggle.
- AND in our opening verse in Colossians 1:24 he writes,
"Now I rejoice in what was suffered 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."
- IN verse 29 he writes,
"To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy...."
- IN chapter 2, verse 1 he writes,
"I want you to know how much I am struggling for you...."
- WHAT was this struggle like?
- HE writes in II Corinthians 11,
"I have been in prison, been flogged severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches." (2 Corinthians 11:23-28)
- WHAT a summary of one Christian's life!
- HOW bad are your struggles by comparison?
- HOW did Paul make it?
- DID he pack up and quit?
- DID he look for someone to blame?
- DID he pull back?
- DID he throw in the towel and say, "I didn't sign up for this!"?
- IN Colossians 1:24 he says that he rejoices in the struggle.
- HOW can you rejoice in the struggle?
- BECAUSE IT IS A STRUGGLE WITH AN ETERNAL PURPOSE.
- PAUL says that the suffering in his life was for the benefit of the church in Colosse.....the body of Christ.
- HOW can that be? He never met them, never was in their church.
- THIS is how it worked.
* God used the struggles in Paul's life to shape Paul's life.
* To refine his faith, as by fire, so that it would come out like gold.
* In 2 Corinthians 12, to keep Paul from becoming conceited over the revelation that God had given him....he experienced some kind of the thorn of suffering that he asked three times to have taken from him.....and God said, "No."
- SO, all the times he was beaten, heckled, thrown out of town......God was refining Paul, so that he could be a blessing to the church.
- IT was some random struggle.
- IT was a struggle with an eternal purpose.
- ROMANS 8:28 says,
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son..."
- THE grand purpose is that you be conformed to the likeness of Jesus.
- EVERY struggle for the follower of Jesus has an eternal purpose.
- NONE are accidental.
- NONE are flukes.
- THAT is why James writes,
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4)
- PETER writes,
"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." (1 Peter 1:6-7)
- WHEN you endure the trial and struggle through....you are also building up the church of Jesus.
- WHEN you hang in there....When you struggle through....When you come through the trial victoriously....we all are strengthened with you.
- YOUR perseverance strengthens our faith and together we are built up.
- (TELL story of Patti Burnett)
- SO, from Colossians 1:24 I want you to remember that there is an eternal purpose in your struggle.....something far bigger than "just another trial."
iii. there is a hope during the struggle
- WELL, sometimes when you are the one in the middle of a struggle...it is hard to see far enough ahead to see any purpose, much less an eternal one.
- IF you are in that kind of a situation this morning, I want you to see that there is a hope during the struggle.
- LET'S go back to Colossians 1:25. Speaking of the church for which he is still suffering in prison, Paul writes,
"I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness--the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. 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." (Colossians 1:25-27)