Faith, Love, and Hope

I love that as Paul writes this letter from prison the first thing he does after establishing his authority in Christ is to thank God for the Colossians. So many times in leadership (and in life) I tend to drive straight to the point or the issue and blow past any good along the way.

But Paul, remembering God’s preeminence even in his chains, thanks Him that their faith is in Christ, that their essence is rooted in him – the Son through whom all things were made and are reconciled back to God. He recalls that it all comes from God, because of God. It all starts and ends with God and works ultimately to his glory.

Jesus was the object of their faith; not works, not status, not a theological camp, nor anything else. God alone enables our ability to have true faith in Christ and what Christ accomplished on the cross for us.

How many times do I misdirect my faith into myself and strut confidently down my life without even a thought to the grace that led me here? How often do I misplace it in someone else, expecting them to instinctively know what I need and how I want them to respond to me?

I say that I have faith, and yet today I’m overwhelmed with worry and angst. I know that the sun will set and rise again and each day will have new troubles. But do I trust that God’s promise is enough?

Paul then thanks God for the love by which the Colossians live. They all join hands despite differences and commit to do life together – in deed, not just in word. Their practical, all-encompassing, life-changing, Christ-centered love transformed the world. Where have I lost such love in the busy rush of my life and the constant ballooning of my own selfishness?

And hope. Oh, hope! I’ll admit my hope is often a self-absorbed, self-serving escape hatch from my present woes. But genuine faith and authentic love spring from true hope in Christ! What do I do anything for if not because of hope in the future – hope in Christ? The gospel gives me hope. The gospel is good news of a better reality, of a fulfillment of a promise that the best is yet to come, of the greatest reconciliation yet to be completed.

The funny thing about Christianity, faith, love, and hope is that they have no true meaning or authenticity outside of our interactions with each other. The more I mature in Christ, the more I realize that engaging with others grows me the most.

But people are just plain hard! They require effort, patience, understanding, and empathy – none of those come naturally to me. Still, God our very essence is designed for relationship. Our triune God models perfect relationship within himself – something that I barely even pretend to comprehend. And he has created us in his image – therefore, with an innate requirement for himself and community.

I spent years avoiding community. Community requires accountability, commitment, and consistency. True community pushes you to face those hard things and wrestle those old demons. It doesn’t allow you to wallow in the complacency and stagnation of self-absorption and self-pity.

I desired to be known without knowing those around me. I wanted to be seen without truly seeing those whom walked beside me. When I look up from my own issues I glimpse my brothers and sisters silently struggling, desperate for a loving shoulder to unload on. I observe my fellow man rejoicing in incredible blessings and milestones in their journey of faith. All this remind me of the goodness and grace of God.

But it has taken me engaging in community to feel a part of it. When I finally stepped out and gave something that I wanted for myself I ended up gaining far more. I see God working most through my insecurities, my vulnerabilities, and my failings instead of my strengths.

In response, I aim to live by faith in Christ alone – not my abilities; in love for my fellow brothers and sisters – because of the love first given to me; welling up out of hope in Christ’s work on the cross. May my life be Christ’s alone.

Based on Colossians 1:3-8

Check out the Identity Crisis message series at Discover Grace (http://discovergrace.com/messages/)

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