Life Up Close: “Grow Up!”

1 Colossians 1:9-20, 28 & 29
How many times during the week do your plans for the week change? How about during the day? What about during one hour? Is your life today how you pictured it 5 years ago? 10? 20? Maybe it is something like this...

It is like living in a theme park. We're 0-80 one minute, slowing down to a stop the next. Let's not mention the long lines! If you spend a day at Six Flags, I think you should get a credit for one year of life because in 12 hours @ Six Flags you get all the emotions and experience and you have to pay for it. You may never have been to Six Flags, but most of us have been to Disney or a county fair and we know the thrills and the fear, and how thankful we are when we get our feet back on the ground.

Even the tamest of amusement parks give customers the unexpected however. A few years ago @ Ghost Town in Maggie Valley, customers boarded the chair lift to take them from the parking lot to their day of fun. Suddenly the chair lift jolted to a stop. Nobody anticipated most of the people on the chair lifts would spend over 24 hours stuck, hanging in mid-air. Amusement parks, like life, don't always seem to go as we anticipate them. (BTW - everything works great now!)

In their book, "Happiness is a Choice," Doctors Minirth and Meier make a simple but profound statement: HUMAN BEINGS RESIST CHANGE (pg. 118). They go on to print a scale giving events a point value. During the course of a year, if those point values reach and exceed 200, there is a significant increase in mental health.^Some of the items include the death of a spouse which has a value of 100 points, divorce @73, health of a family member @ 44, change at work @ 20 points, even vacation @ 13 ranks among others. In the year 2000, during a 7 month period, my point total exceeded 350 and was diagnosed with depression.

No one is immune to the ups and downs in life. Contrary to what some may teach; being a disciple of Jesus Christ is not a free pass either. In this letter to the Colossian church, the writer, Paul, gives us the counsel that no matter our circumstances, being a disciple of Jesus offers us true hope and a freedom from fear, from fate, from trap of materialism and social and economic disorders. We should have a confidence during the ups and downs.

Much like the letter to the Galatians, Paul is writing to respond to a problem in a church. There is a problem in what is being taught or maybe what is being neglected to be taught. In the first chapter, Paul wastes no time in bringing us to know the solution: Regardless of what you are hearing: JESUS CHRIST IS GOD'S SON AND THE ONLY WAY TO ALL SPIRITUAL WISDOM AND SALVATION. Coming from a person like Paul who is writing this letter from jail (4:10, 18), been beaten by mobs, shipwrecked and sick, this letter and these words carry a lot of weight. This comes from a man who knows first hands the ups and downs.

It seems to me then we are offered a pattern or guide by Paul in this opening of his letter. Starting in verse nine Paul tells the church they are praying for them: non-stop. Like a NASCAR race sure there are pit-stops but there are no time outs. The Colossian church had a reputation and Paul and the Christians around him believed in it. But they didn't just "pray for them," they got specific about it too. The pray had purpose. First, it addressed part of the problem, Paul prayed for wisdom and knowledge, knowledge about God's will for their church.

Second, the prayer is one for the church to live lives worthy and pleasing to God. The words are a reminder from the faith's past, when the Psalms declare: The sacrifice you want is a broken spirit. A broken and repentant heart, O God, you will not despise. (51:17)

Finally, as one who knows how difficult life can be, Paul prays for strength: to endure and to be patient and joyful. Why? Because we have been RESCUED from the darkness, our failures and the failures of humanity, our sin. And the rescue is performed by none other than the God's Son, Jesus Christ:

Paul wants us to have no confusion. In a world where everybody's beliefs are ok and truth is flexible depending on the situation: there is truth in Jesus Christ.

Starting FIRST with this: Jesus is God (v. 15/19). No escaping it, Jesus said it himself in John: If you see Me you have seen the Father (14:9-1 1).
SECOND: Jesus is the Creator (v!6). Every thing you see and even what you don't see, HE made it! Do you think angels are more important than Him? Satan? Nope.
THIRD: Jesus is the Leader (v. 18). No person is the boss of the Church, it is Jesus alone who directs our purpose and it is Him alone we follow.
FOURTH: Jesus is the Sacrificer (v. 20). Believing in His blood and death on the cross and His resurrection are all that is necessary for becoming His disciple. Nothing else is needed.
FIFTH: Jesus is the Perfecter (v. 28). There is a purpose for us: to become like Jesus; to help others become like Jesus. But how does Paul say it happens? "I labor, struggling with HIS energy"
As we deal with the ups and downs of life, there is a purpose which we are to strive and pray for, as individuals and a church. Hear Paul's mission statement for his life and for the church:

It is he whom we preach, warning everyone, and teaching everyone in all -wisdom; that we may present everyone mature in Christ Jesus. Colossians 1:28

We are going to face difficulties, the ups and downs, the changes. As I look back I see how this pattern of Paul's: non-stop prayer and getting wrapped up in my beliefs about Jesus brought me healing from depression along with a caring doctor to guide me. I have had the opportunities to help others through similar situations. Paul's own life was marked by many ups and downs we have never come close to experiencing yet he remained faithful to the end.


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