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the mystery of His power

Each day this week, I’ve posted expanded content from my contribution to our church’s weekly follow-up devotions. You may recall that the focus passage is Colossians 1:24-29, so although each day zeroes in on one or two verses, you may want to read the entire passage each day, for context and clarity.

See end of post for full series content links.

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I’ve been challenged to consider this week that the mysteries of God are not dependent on my agreement, my praise, my affirmation, or even my feelings to be true and at work. I serve at the pleasure of the King and His life in me is mysterious. When my four year old was asking me questions today about heaven and Jesus and how come she can’t see Him or touch Him, I just said, “Baby – here are the things I know. But I will tell you now – I do not know everything. God is amazing and mysterious and we get to choose to trust Him.”

Read Colossians 1:29, 2 Peter 1:3-4

The final thought for this week supplies the “how” for the previous days’ thoughts: we strive “according to HIS power”.

How do we rejoice even in suffering? By the power of God.
How do we encounter the mystery of Christ in us, the hope of glory? By the power of God.
How can we believe that God will complete the work He has begun in us who belong to Him? By His own power.

This is cause for relief and rejoicing – we do not need to conjure up our own hope and help, we get to rely on the One who Himself is our great hope!

He has granted to us everything we need for life and godliness.

The struggle with this, for me, is that every day I do not wake up feeling as though I am equipped for life. I wake up in various states, ranging from grumpy to energetic. But if I am truthful, my first thoughts are not towards the life of Christ in me, His power at work in me to respond to absolutely everything I will encounter. A friend quipped today, “I wish that the truth I know about Christ in me would make me FEEL better about things right now.” She voice my very thoughts!

The power of Christ in me is a confidant reality – but it does not alleviate the earthly toil I am subjected to. The power of Christ in me does not exempt me from my body’s physical response to exhaustion, or my heart’s emotional response to change or distress, nor does it exempt me from mental weariness as I work to solve problems and handle challenges. And though at times this frustrates me, this does not lessen His power at work in me.

If a mental, physical, or emotional state effected a change in status of the eternal, righteous Life indwelling believers – we are to be pitied above all men! If I wait until my mind, body, and soul align all properly and in a timely manner with the truth of the power of Christ in me – I will walk in frustration or despair. The mystery of the power of Christ in me does not require my intellectual ascent. Thank God!

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.

To Consider: In prayer today, commit your work to the Lord. Confess (again!) that His life is the only strength for living today, for embracing a holy perspective on suffering, for celebrating Christ in you, the hope of glory!

*****

the mystery [intro]

[day 1] the mystery of rejoicing in suffering

[day 2] the mystery of a life for others

[day 3] the mystery of the hope of glory

[day 4] the mystery of a completed work

[day 5] the mystery of His power

*****
Disclaimer: Everything I write about on SarahSandel.com reflects my personal experiences, opinions, and beliefs. I do not write here on behalf of our church or anyone else. 🙂

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the mystery of a completed work

Each day this week, I’m posting expanded content from my contribution to our church’s weekly follow-up devotions. You may recall that the focus passage is Colossians 1:24-29, so although each day zeroes in on one or two verses, you may want to read the entire passage each day, for context and clarity.

See end of post for full series content links.

*****

Read: Colossians 1:28, Philippians 1:6

the mystery series || colossians 1:24-29 || sarahsandel.com

When I am not sure of a certain thing, I research. I am a BIG researcher. I am certain that somewhere out there, there is a right and best answer for just about any quandary. Is this reality? Probably not. Do I keep researching? Usually.

The quandary presented here, of course, is a seemingly impossible task. Proclaiming God is perhaps a more welcome and familiar work, but the subsequent admonishment, “teach every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ”? This seems much larger than ourselves. I am certain that I do not have the sort of wisdom required for such a task. My job should certainly end with encouraging the saints, sharing the hope I have in Christ with those separated from Him. What is this bit about presenting every man complete?

Thankfully, the full counsel of Scripture supplements and answers for us: IT IS GOD. It is the work of God! Paul’s confidence in the letter to the Philippians can be our confidence, too. It is HE, God, who began the good work and it is HE who will perfect it. Our lives are hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). There is no amount of research we can do or wisdom we can attain to qualify ourselves to proclaim the Good News. So we rest in the work He began in those who belong to Him and we rejoice that He alone will complete that work. It is by grace we have been saved – through faith – and this is not from ourselves (Eph 2:8-9).

Of course, we are mistaken if we believe that Christ’s reconciled life in us absolves of any responsibility to live the Christian life. The work of salvation has been completed, and yet there is plenty to do as reconciled, holy, and blameless children of God! According to Peter, God’s divine power has been given to us to accomplish everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). So we commit our ways to the God who has reconciled us and we “continue in the faith”, becoming stable and steadfast.

I find there is such a fine balance and tension here…working as unto the Lord, yet resting in the completed work.
Work unto the Lord. Continue in the faith.
Rest in the completed work.

the mystery of the completed work || colossians 1:24-29 || sarahsandel.com

For Further Reflection: Is there any work you have been trying to complete on your own? Ask the Lord to illuminate any area in which you can rest in HIS work on your behalf.

Other Resources:
Tim Keller, “Work and Rest” [audio]
Elisabeth Elliot, “Gain What You Can Never Lose” [audio]
Dr. Jeff Robinson, on the completed work [article]
Eugene Peterson, “The Jesus Way” [book]

*****

the mystery [intro]

[day 1] the mystery of rejoicing in suffering

[day 2] the mystery of a life for others

[day 3] the mystery of the hope of glory

[day 4] the mystery of a completed work

[day 5] the mystery of His power

*****
Disclaimer: Everything I write about on SarahSandel.com reflects my personal experiences, opinions, and beliefs. I do not write here on behalf of our church or anyone else. 🙂

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June 17, 2016 - 8:35 am

the mystery of His power » sarah writes - […] the mystery of a completed work […]

the mystery of the hope of glory

Each day this week, I’m posting expanded content from my contribution to our church’s weekly follow-up devotions. You may recall that the focus passage is Colossians 1:24-29, so although each day zeroes in on one or two verses, you may want to read the entire passage each day, for context and clarity.

See end of post for full series content links.

*****

Read: Colossians 1:25-27, Romans 11:36, Ephesians 1:9-12

the mystery series || colossians 1:24-29 || sarahsandel.com

Most people love a good mystery. Not me. I want to love a mystery. But not knowing how a thing will turn out frustrates me to no end. I get nervous and anxious at every plot twist. No mysteries, no surprise parties, no “I’ll give you three guesses!” for me, thank you very much.

This mystery, however? THIS is a good mystery. The Greek text uses the word mystērion here, to describe a hidden thing, something not obvious to the understanding. But this is something God no longer withholds from those who belong to Him – this mystery is revealed in Christ Jesus and is revealed in us, His children! Christ in us – the very hope of glory! What was once a secret is now our precious treasure.

The hope that is being worked out in us through suffering and perseverance yields a glory we cannot contrive. It is only the working of Holy God, through His Spirit. Paul was made a steward by God (v25) and it was God’s will that the riches of this glorious mystery be revealed (v27). The revelation of this mystery happens by God and for God and His glory.

Hope is mysterious of itself, is it not? Paul writes again in Ephesians of this mysterious revelation…”we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory”. The hope he speaks of here is an eager expectation – something in which believers can have confidence. This is a hard concept for me, truly.

I have long wrestled with this idea of hope – an eager expectation – a desire or desired outcome. I imagine we all have wrestled with this in different ways over the years. My struggle is simple: I have inadvertently begun to view Jesus Christ not as Hope itself, Hope Incarnate, Christ in me, the Hope of glory — but as the facilitator of my little hopes, my expectations. It is difficult to lay those down. There is a tension in relinquishing my hopes to settle into the hope of glory. My life is no longer about getting all the things I hope for, the things I hope will result in a beautiful -even spiritual- life. My life is about the indwelling Christ and the resulting glory of the Father.

I am finding that the blessed hope of surrender to Christ Jesus is, indeed, a mysterious tension of loss and joy.

And you? Are you in the tension of that mystery? The precious treasure is being revealed and it often requires so much laying down. But the life of Christ in us, for us – what a gift!

the mystery of the hope of glory || colossians 1:24-29 || sarahsandel.com

 For Further Reflection: What do you hope for, temporally speaking? Have you allowed your hopes to become a wishlist you submit to God? Consider your view of God in light of this mystery: He allows us to be indwelled by His spirit. Our lives have become less about getting and more about abiding. Use your prayer time to praise God for this revelation and ask Him to make “Christ in you, the hope of glory” a richer and dearer “mystery” to you.

Other Resources:
C.S. Lewis – The Great Divorce [book]
Matthew Henry – Colossians 1 [commentary]
Sara Hagerty, on practicing hope [article]

*****

the mystery [intro]

[day 1] the mystery of rejoicing in suffering

[day 2] the mystery of a life for others

[day 3] the mystery of the hope of glory

[day 4] the mystery of a completed work

[day 5] the mystery of His power

*****
Disclaimer: Everything I write about on SarahSandel.com reflects my personal experiences, opinions, and beliefs. I do not write here on behalf of our church or anyone else. 🙂

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June 16, 2016 - 3:12 pm

the mystery [intro] » sarah writes - […] the mystery of the hope of glory […]

the mystery of a life for others

Each day this week, I’m posting expanded content from my contribution to our church’s weekly follow-up devotions. You may recall that the focus passage is Colossians 1:24-29, so although each day zeroes in on one or two verses, you may want to read the entire passage each day, for context and clarity.

To read the [intro] or [day 1: the mystery of rejoicing in suffering] – click the links!
See end of post for full series content links.

***

Read: Colossians 1:24, Galatians 2:20

Paul chose to rejoice in his sufferings because he saw them as an identifying marker of the life of Christ. He, Paul, was willing to take on suffering “for your sake” – for the sake of the body of Christ. It is a hard thing to consider suffering for the sake of someone else. Paying the price that someone else may go free? This kind of tribulation is rarely one we sign up for willingly!

We see an imperfect example here in Paul, pointing to a perfect example in Jesus. The Son of God, who is rich in mercy and loves us with a great and holy love (Eph. 2:4), laid down his life for us while we were still sinners. The perfect dying for the imperfect. Jesus, suffering for our sake, that we could be reconciled to God. And this life – this dying for others, living for others, pouring out for others life – belongs now to believers (Gal. 2:20). This is the power of Christ, which enlivens and strengthens us to lay down our lives for one another (1 Jn 3:16).

In a culture hyper-focused on self (in the name of authenticity, of course), it is difficult to imagine a daily dying to self for the sake of others. We are busy structuring our days around the things that benefit us and our business and families. Caring for our souls and loved ones is not inherently evil, by any stretch. But we often overlook ways we may submit ourselves to one another.  We rise to the occasion when challenged or reviled, looking for ways to defend our reputations, rather than “trusting the One who judges justly” (1Peter 2:23).

This life for others that Christ lived now lives on in us, those who belong to Him and are indwelt by His Spirit. We get to participate in a redemptive sort of suffering – dying little deaths to self daily – because Jesus Himself suffered for us. The apostle Peter challenges us directly here, giving the example and motivation of the perfect One:

“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, nor was any deceit found in His mouth and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”

1 Peter 2:21-25

I’m praying this week that I will be eyes-wide-open for ways my life can be about others…my kid, my husband, my friends, and co-workers. Not in some fake-humility way, but in a way that genuinely “looks out for the interests of others” (Phil 2:3).

Will you join me in suffering for the sake of the body, by living a life that is for others?

the mystery of a life for others || colossians 1:24-29 || sarahsandel.com

For Further Reflection: We don’t often look for ways we can be poured out for others – we are often “looking out for number one”. There is something counter-cultural to the idea of a life that is FOR others. Pray today, asking God to make you aware of big or small ways you might lay down your life – or preferences or comfort or rights – for another, believing that this is the power of Christ in you.

Other Resources:
By author Bill Gillham, on the Christ-in-you life –
Lifetime Guarantee [book]
What God Wishes Christians Knew About Christianity [book]

Pastor Steve Pettit, Centerpoint Christian Fellowship –
on the life for others [article and article]
Passion for Self-Expenditure [sermon and outline]

 

*****

the mystery [intro]

[day 1] the mystery of rejoicing in suffering

[day 2] the mystery of a life for others

[day 3] the mystery of the hope of glory

[day 4] the mystery of a completed work

[day 5] the mystery of His power

*****
Disclaimer: Everything I write about on SarahSandel.com reflects my personal experiences, opinions, and beliefs. I do not write here on behalf of our church or anyone else. :

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the mystery of rejoicing in suffering

Each day this week, I’ll be posting expanded content from my contribution to our church’s weekly follow-up devotions. I say ‘expanded’, because there were simply more thoughts in my head than there was space to submit to the communications director, so these posts will vary slightly from what is available on the app. The plan is super simple, with room to respond and read further as you feel compelled to.

You may recall that the focus passage is Colossians 1:24-29, so although each day zeroes in on one or two verses, you may want to read the entire passage each day, for context and clarity.

Each week will include thoughts or questions for further reflection and prayer, as well as additional resources for study. I am hardly qualified to teach on most of this content, but there are scholars much smarter than I who have covered many of these issues. I will link to those resources I have found to be helpful or reliable in further research.

***

Read: Colossians 1:24, Romans 5:3-5

the mystery intro || colossians 1:24-29 || sarahsandel.com

To “rejoice in suffering” – few things are less welcome in our culture. We rejoice in success, in getting our own way; we rejoice in healing, in winning, in being comfortable. We rejoice in a variety of things that make us happy, but not in suffering. In fact, we usually bristle at the slightest inconvenience. So actual, real suffering? We are indignant. We are grieved. We are frustrated and sure that if we simply had the relief or had the healing, then we could be assured of God’s love for us.

But the Apostle Paul butts up against this idea, as do others in scripture. There are several passages that reveal to us a higher perspective on suffering – a holy perspective on suffering. In Romans, Paul builds on this perspective with a strong reminder that suffering is not an end of itself. Believers who experience suffering may also experience the great grace of knowing that the Spirit of God is at work to produce perseverance, character, and hope. A hope that “does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts” (Romans 5:5).

We may not embrace suffering. We may be grieved, broken, or angry with God for its very existence. But the writers of the scriptures encourage us to consider that even in suffering, all is not lost. The love of an infinitely wise God has been poured out in our hearts – and we can hold to hope and hold to Him.

This is a mysterious paradox – the idea that we could consider anything beyond comfort, healing, safety, or wellness to be of any value or even something in which to rejoice. And suffering is certainly tricky to address, because it is surrounded by so much grief and anger and loss. I cannot speak with any real certainty or clarity on the ultimate problem of evil and suffering in the world in a way that will “solve” or satisfy the issue. There are brilliant women and men who address the problem of pain and suffering succinctly and with grace – but still not conclusively. As for me, I return with a simplicity of mind to the character of Jesus and His Father.

I believe it to be true that God is love. I also believe that God is holy and completely set apart, a perfect and divine Being, without error or flaw, containing and originating within Himself all wisdom. I believe these things on the basis of my study of the scriptures and the hope that the God who authored them was not limiting Himself by using human writers or human interpreters. I also believe this on the basis of my personal experience and that of others. Because I have settled on the belief that God is good, perfect, and holy, I subsequently believe He is capable only of acting in a way congruent with perfect love. I cannot explain how suffering is congruent with love, but the character of God expressed fully in Jesus [also & also] was always about restoration and healing and wholeness.

This is a mystery that sometimes I am comfortable with. And sometimes I am not. But believing that God is love allows me to at the very least consider that my suffering and that of others is worth more than I can possibly see or explain. And that ultimately there will be a redemption that will more than do justice for those things we consider as the greatest pains and evils.

“As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.” [Job 19:25]

the mystery of rejoicing in suffering || colossians 1:24-29 || sarahsandel.com

 

For Further Reflection: Grief in loss or suffering is a normal and right response. If you are experiencing suffering right now, bring your full range of emotions before the Lord in prayer. Consider interceding in prayer on behalf of others suffering. Ask the Lord to reveal His holy perspective on suffering.

Other Resources:
Timothy Keller, on pain and suffering [video] [book]
C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain [book]Veritas Forum, Ravi Zacharias on suffering [video]
Richard Foster, on suffering [article]
Lamentations [the whole book]

*****

the mystery [intro]

[day 1] the mystery of rejoicing in suffering

[day 2] the mystery of a life for others

[day 3] the mystery of the hope of glory

[day 4] the mystery of a completed work

[day 5] the mystery of His power

 

*****

Disclaimer: Everything I write about on SarahSandel.com reflects my personal experiences, opinions, and beliefs. I do not write here on behalf of our church or anyone else. 🙂

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