by Wayne Barber
We have seen the message of the church: “Christ in us the hope of Glory” (Col. 1:27). We have seen the mission, which is to model the message and to mature the saints. The motive of why we do this is “to present all men complete in Christ.” We want all men to be living exhibits of this wonderful truth that they are complete in Christ.
For our last message in this series we want to look at our means. What means do we need to accomplish all this in the church? Colossians 1:29 tells us: “And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.” This is the message that should never change. Paul worked not in his own strength but in the strength that God and God alone provides.
First of all, let’s look at the price! The mission of the church is to make disciples, but the cost is high. “And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.” “Labor” and “striving” pop out at us. There is a righteous striving. There is a righteous labor. This dispels any thought that the message of Christ in us is a message of passivity on our part!
The word for labor is kopiáo, which means to work hard in the effort that one is making. Paul uses it of the hard-working farmer in 2 Timothy 2:6. He uses it of his own working to earn his living in 1 Corinthians 4:12. He uses it of the man who ought to earn an honest living so that he can share with others in Ephesians 4:28. He uses it to describe the labor of those who lead in churches in 1 Thessalonians 5:12.
With the same thought in mind he uses it to reflect the labor of the one who teaches God’s Word in 1 Timothy 5:17: “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” So, there is no question that the word refers to hard work; the kind that will bring us many times to the point of exhaustion. But the word for strive is agonízomai, which is the word from which we get “agonize.” Paul was obsessed with the Greek games and particularly with the runners. He uses this word to describe the intense effort expended in running a race in 1 Corinthians 9:25. In Colossians Paul uses it to describe the effort which Epaphras put into prayer (4:12). He uses it in 1 Timothy to encourage Timothy to “fight the good fight” (6:12). So there is much effort required in getting out the message of “Christ in you the hope of Glory.” Don’t ever think that the task is a passive one. No, there is a ton of labor and intense agonizing effort! We need to realize this, but the balance comes in the phrase that is tagged to both words.
We want to see secondly, the power! “And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me” (Col. 1:29). The word for power is dúnamis. Dúnamis is the ability that only God has. It is His divine enablement in our lives. During the same imprisonment Paul wrote something very similar in Ephesians 3:16 and uses the word “power.” “That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.” Again, from the same imprisonment, he writes in Philippians 2:13: “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” You see, as we surrender to Him, His desires well up in us and He not only motivates us but He gives us the ability to do what needs to be done. I love what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:7: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves.” There is a striving, there is labor, but it is according to His power working in us. The word “strive” is the in the middle/passive. The reason he is striving is because of the power of God working in him. He is choosing to do the action, but it is because Christ’s power is working in Him.
As we avail ourselves of His power, as we realize our insufficiency and cry out unto Him, He fills us with the strength we need to do what He has assigned us. The balance is beautiful!
Wayne Barber is senior pastor of Hoffmantown Church, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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