READ – COLOSSIANS 1:9-14
We’re in a series called F1RST on Paul’s letter to the Colossians. The gospel is that Jesus is the resurrected and reigning King of the World – the implication being He’s to have first place in everything (Colossians 1:18). This week were focused on Paul’s opening prayer at the beginning of the letter – a prayer for life to the fullest in Jesus.
Paul’s main idea here is that to live a full life, we don't need a supplement to Jesus. Instead, when Jesus is truly first, life is truly full. Paul shows us what life to the fullest is and how it works.
1. THE SIGNS OF LIFE TO THE FULLEST
What does life to the fullest look like? Paul says there are signs. A full life is fruitful and growing. The idea is that when the gospel fills a person or a community you will know it because it will bear fruit and grow. Paul’s language is drawn from agricultural. What’s the takeaway from the botanical language? The gospel’s power to bear fruit in a person or community’s life is both a comfort and a challenge. It’s a comfort because fruit-bearing is both gradual and organic. It’s slow and takes time, but is also real and natural. It’s a challenge because if our lives are not bearing fruit, we must ask ourselves “What is my life filled with?” Paul’s organic language here is also an echo of Genesis 1. God’s original purpose for humanity was that they live life to the fullest by bearing fruit and growing – not just in the sense of reproduction, but cultivating relationships and the world in a way that filled the earth with God’s glory. Paul is reminding us that the gospel is re-creating us into the kinds of people that God intended all along.
2. THE STRENGTH FOR LIFE TO THE FULLEST
The reality is our lives often don’t feel full. Where do we turn when our lives are empty; when we’re not bearing fruit? Paul says that Christians are “being strengthened.” That critical. There’s a huge difference between being strong and being strengthened. Paul is praying for a strength that comes from outside of him and us. That’s one of the keys for a full life and something that makes Christianity unique. All other approaches to life say that it’s the strong who are full and the weak who are empty. The gospel says it is only through weakness – only through admitting and embracing weakness and looking for strength outside of ourselves that we find fullness. The gospel says strength is found in another – in God.
Where is God’s strength needed most in your life? Paul is praying for endurance and patience. Typically, we need endurance for hard circumstances and patience for handling hard people. Why? Because hard circumstances and hard relationships are when doubts arise in our hearts that maybe we’re not living a full life. But Paul’s logic is revolutionary. Fullness isn’t somewhere else; instead it’s right in the midst of tough times and tough people. Our default setting is to pray that God would take us out of hard circumstances and change hard people. Paul’s focus is to pray for our own hearts – that we would have endurance and patience through God’s strength.
3. THE SECRET OF LIFE TO THE FULLEST
How can your life show the signs of fullness? How are we strengthened for difficult situations and difficult people? Paul says it’s by giving thanks. That sound too simplistic, doesn't it? How does it work? The choice isn’t between giving thanks and not giving thanks. Rather, the choice is between thanksgiving and its opposite = coveting, complaining, criticizing, and comparing (4C’s). Those are habits of the heart that drain us and empty us of life. The 4C’s erode our ability to see what God is doing in our lives, the lives of others, and the world. In effect, what we’re saying is that Jesus is not enough – we’re entitled, we deserve more or better.
What do we give thanks for? Certainly we can give thanks for the blessings that God has chosen to give us – health, home, meaningful work, relationships. But Paul has something even more powerful in mind. At the heart of biblical thanksgiving is grace, a gift I receive that I don’t deserve – that I’m not entitled to. Grace is the reality that Jesus took what I deserve so that I can receive what He deserves. We can give thanks because even though I was once disqualified, Jesus has qualified me. Jesus was delivered to death, so I could be delivered and transferred into His kingdom. Jesus was a ransom for sin, so I could be redeemed out of slavery to sin.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION:
1. What about the sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?
2. If there’s time, read through the entire letter to the Colossians as a group. How often does Paul talk about “fullness” or being filled? Do any of those passages add depth or better understanding of this week’s sermon?
3. Why is Paul’s language of “bearing fruit and increasing/growing” both a comfort and a challenge? Where are some areas in your life where you’ve seen fruit? Where are some areas where you sense God’s call to bear fruit? Pray for that.
4. Christianity claims that it’s not the “strong” who can live life to the fullest, but the “weak.” How is that possible?
5. Where’s a situation or relationship where you need strength? How might the gospel be applied?
6. Our hearts are prone toward entitlement – we deserve more than what God in Christ has already done for us. What are some practices you have to draw your heart back to gratitude for the grace of Jesus that we don’t deserve?
7. As a group, pray for the situations, relationships, needs of each other. Perhaps you can include language from Paul’s prayer into your own – asking God to show and strengthen us with the fullness of Jesus.