Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us. – Colossians 1:9-12, The Message
I am struck this morning by Paul’s prayer for the Colossians that they would “live well for the Master.”
If we are to live well then we have to live. That sounds a bit ridiculous, I know. Yet it seems to me that many people who go to churches on Sundays and even those of us who preach in the pulpits too often make following Christ out to be something that we accomplish in our minds. For a while now right believe, orthodoxy, has outweighed right living, orthopraxy. This has come as a result of people not wanting to become legalistic or somehow infringing on the beauty of God’s grace.
It turns out though that God’s grace is most greatly demonstrated in us as we live out our faith. The Christian faith is not one that is practiced through ideas or concepts. It’s a lived and embodied faith. We carry it with us where we go and we are to practice it in our daily lives.
I don’t think that anyone would ever claim that Paul teaches some sort of “works based salvation.” Yet, I do think that many have said that he teaches how we live matters little as long as we believe rightly. I think that if we take seriously what he writes in its entirety that we just can’t get there. It turns out for Paul that living well is crucial to following Christ.
To follow Christ is a call to live in the way of Christ. That is to live a life marked by, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
Do you want to know what else is beautiful about what Paul writes here? He doesn’t expect the Colossians to have it perfected. He assumes growth as they learn the way of Christ. Did you catch that? “As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work.” In the Christian life there is an expectation of growth, change, and maturity. It will take time to grow. We won’t have it all figured out. But, we will grow if we are seeking to follow Christ.
Following Jesus therefore demands all of who we are, body and soul. It’s not an either/or. There is no room for dualism in the Christian life. Following Christ is an all encompassing calling for all of who we are.