The Purpose-Driven Pastor, II
Colossians • Sermon • Submitted
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Over the summer, I spent a weekend out in Arcadia with a sweet family from our church. While we were riding around their property, we would have to stop from time to time in order to open up gates that were padlocked for security reasons. After a few hours of coming across these gates, I figured I would hop out and try to open a few myself. Little did I know, I had no idea what I was getting into.
Five minutes later, zero progress had taken place, and I had to bring in a substitute to bail me out. Needless to say, the next time we approached the gate, I was a bit more hesitant to take it on. My utter failure earlier had discouraged my zeal by a great deal.
That’s just a silly example from my life, but we can all relate to the crippling nature of discouragement. It happens so easily, doesn’t it!?!? We hate it, we know it’s wrong, we know it’s not right, yet it seems to get the best of us every single time.
Do you remember the first time you rode a bike? If you’re like me, you probably fell. Discouragement.
Have you ever tried to plan a special day for a close friend or family member and your entire plan turns out completely disastrous? Discouragement.
Have you ever tried to bake a specialty apple pie on Thanksgiving, only to find out in horror that it tastes absolutely terrible, because it didn’t have enough sugar and you used green apples instead of red apples? Not that that’s ever happened to me or anything, but, obviously, discouragement.
All these examples are simply to say that we are all familiar with discouragement and we know it very well. But, while all of those situations are irrelevant in the grand scheme of things and we can joke about them later, spiritual discouragement is no laughing matter.
Spiritual discouragement, or even spiritual depression, is basically like Kryptonite for our spiritual lives. The train of progress we’ve made in living like Christ, however large or small, can and will be derailed by discouragement if left unchecked. Sin is a terrorist, and discouragement is no different.
But if we’re expected to show discouragement the door, how exactly do we make that happen if we’ve never done it before? According to the culture, we should just live it up now because we’re just going to be discouraged in life and there’s nothing we can do about it. That sounds pretty pitiful. Is that really all that life is about?
You and I know the answer is no, because that’s not how life works for all who have been saved by grace. So as children of God, how do we grow in grace when life seems to be full of discouragement?
Our answer, of course, is to dwell on all of the wonderful things that God has given to His children for encouragement. In our passage today, the apostle Paul gives us one of the best sources of encouragement we could have: a godly shepherd.
And in , we find two traits that every godly shepherd must have: a divine mettle and a divine motive. Follow along in the text as I read.
1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Now, the letter to the Colossians was written sometime between 60-62 AD, while the apostle Paul was on house arrest in Rome. The occasion was this:
The church at Colossae was growing spiritually, but faced a potentially deadly threat from within: false teachers were rising up in the congregation and their false gospel was beginning to gain traction among the sheep. The situation seems to have been a big enough deal to cause their founder, Epaphras, to travel close to 1300 miles on foot to get some help from the apostle Paul himself.
In response, Paul wrote this letter to a congregation he had never met before, hoping to remedy the situation.
Colossians as a whole can be split up into three main parts:
1) The wisdom of the gospel,
2) The folly of any false gospel,
3) The fruit of the true gospel.
So far, we’ve explored the first arc of the letter in chapter 1, where Paul introduced himself to the Colossians on the basis of Christian fellowship before reminding the Colossians of what they had been taught before: that the true gospel results in thankfulness (verses 3-14) and worship (verses 15-23).
Now, we are well into the second arc, which began in chapter 1, verse 24. In this arc of the letter, Paul is getting to the reason why he wrote to them in the first place: to stamp out any unwanted seeds of false teaching. What’s his next move? Display the stark contrast between a real shepherd and fake one.
In 1:24-29, Paul revealed the ambition behind the ministry of a real shepherd. And here in 2:1-3, we see Paul passionately sharing the heart behind the ministry of a real shepherd. For what reason?
To teach the Colossians on the purpose behind the labors of every faithful shepherd: the encouragement of the hearts of God’s sheep allotted to his charge.
A Divine Mettle ()
A Divine Mettle ()
So without further ado, let’s dive right into the text and unpack all that Paul was communicating here.
The first trait of a godly shepherd that Paul shows us is a divine mettle… a divine mettle. Look at with me for a moment:
1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face,
Back in verse 24 of chapter 1, Paul had just told the Colossians about how he rejoices in his sufferings for their sake. Then, elaborating on his ministry in the church in verse 28, he tells them about his ultimate goal in that ministry: to present every man complete in Christ. Directly after is verse 29, the capstone:
29 For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.
This context is crucial to understanding all that Paul is trying to communicate here. For Paul, it is of the utmost importance for the Colossians to be aware of how great his struggle is. And not just any struggle, but his struggle on their behalf. And not just on their behalf, but on behalf of all who have not seen his face in the flesh. In layman’s terms, we can conclude this: For Paul’s ministry, “the struggle was real.”
However, we do run into a slight problem here: what kind of struggle is Paul talking about here?
Is it a struggle to communicate? That might make sense, considering they didn’t have cell phones or computers, so he couldn’t just FaceTime in from house arrest to solve all of their problems.
Is it a struggle to care? Maybe Paul felt like he had enough on his plate, considering he was going to potentially be beheaded, and it was hard for him to turn around and deal with some needy sheep who were having trouble dealing with a crazy guy in their congregation. That doesn’t seem very likely though.
So what’s the answer? What in the world could this struggle be? The answer lies in the context clues. Context is king!
I mentioned earlier that verse 24 back in chapter 1 introduced the second arc of the letter. I wasn’t kidding! The whole context leading up to this passage and following it is all about Paul’s ministry in general and his ministry to the Colossians. So, this struggle is in regards to ministry work!
The word group for “struggle” here carries the idea of a competition, or a fight against opposition. In this passage, the sense is more in line with the latter option.
29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
44 And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.
7 In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety.
Make no mistake, this was no ordinary struggle. No, this was a bloody affair. Paul was fighting with blood, sweat, and tears in ministry on behalf of a group of people whom he had never even seen before.
Automatically, this comes as a huge rebuke to our own hearts, isn’t it? I know when I first came across this passage, I felt like I should be sitting next to Spongebob at the Goofy Goober because my ministry output looked pretty lame in comparison. It’s already hard to serve people that have prominent roles in our lives, let alone people we’ve never even met before! And now here’s Paul, saying that he’s fighting tooth and nail in ministry for a group of people who have never even seen him before? And that’s supposed to be the standard???
Our temptation here, mine especially, is to wallow in self-pity. “Woe is me, I’ll never be Paul, wretched man that I am, etc.” But we have to be honest with ourselves. A large part of our problem is that at the end of the day, we’re just lazy. We see Paul’s heart on display, and we think to ourselves, “That’s great for him! The church needs people like that.” Yes, that’s true. But what about you and me?
Make no mistake, Paul’s main point here is to display what the heart of every true shepherd should be. But is clear: the church is for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry! So we can conclude then, that whatever shepherds we decide to put ourselves under, they are going to have a major impact on every facet of our Christian lives, ministry included.
Now with that in mind, let’s just flesh this out a bit more. This is the main question that we all need to be asking ourselves: “Does my pastor spend himself in ministry?” What does that look like?
One thing is that
What does that look like? That looks like spending hours in study to understand every facet of whatever text of Scripture he is going to preach that Sunday.
It looks like spending hours in study to understand every facet of whatever text of Scripture he is going to preach that Sunday.
It looks like spending hours in discipleship to help people learn how to live more like Jesus, by teaching them how to war against sin so that they can teach others also.
It looks like spending hours in fellowship to build relationships with fellow believers in the congregation and being a source of exhortation and encouragement.
The list goes on, but you get the point. The godly pastor can, will, and must spend himself in ministry to the Lord, the church, and his family.
Now back to the question. If your answer is yes, then go thank him! Encourage him by telling him that his labors are not in vain. Encourage him by letting him know how your time at his church has benefitted you. Most of all, encourage him by living a holy life! Grow in living like Christ, and you will bring unbridled joy to any true pastor’s heart.
Now back to the question. If your answer is yes, then go thank him! Encourage him by telling him that his labors are not in vain. Encourage him by letting him know how your time at his church has benefitted you. Most of all, encourage him by living a holy life! Strive to live more like Christ, and you will bring unbridled joy to any true pastor’s heart.
And if your answer is no, then you need to ask yourself this: “Why does he not?” Is it a heart issue? Is it a temporary issue? Is it a systemic issue?
A Divine Motive ()
A Divine Motive ()
The Goal of Full Awareness ()
The Goal of Full Awareness ()