“Endurance is nobler than strength, and patience than beauty.” So says the 19th century writer and art critic John Ruskin. But is he right? Well, I think so, as long as all those important words are defined properly!
But what if there was a way to understand WHY we should endure? Frankly, most people give up on different things in their lives because they’ve lost the “WHY” in their endurance. Sometimes that’s a good thing. If a particular habit or practice in your life is a dead end, stopping that practice is a great help! But too many people give up on good things in their lives because they forget why it’s valuable. That’s why so many in our modern society are abandoning their faith connections. Or maybe they are finally being honest about who they really were all along.
Look at our lesson today in Colossians 1:1-3; 7-11:
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God and Timothy our brother, to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ at Colossai: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ from the day you heard and understood the grace of God in truth, as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit. And so, from the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.
Paul’s Colossian letter is another one of his “prison epistles.” The Colossian parish had been planted there by Epaphras, a spiritual son of St. Paul sent to do this very work of planting churches. But, as usual, problems with false teachers had begun to undermine the strength of the community. Ain’t that always the way!
Of course, one of the side effects of bad theology is weakness in WHY it’s important to stay faithful to sound wisdom. Bad theology, bad teaching, makes endurance impossible!
So, Paul writes this parish he’s never visited and tries to help them endure with good teaching! And he uses his four prayers for them to help them see WHY staying faithful to sound theology is always worth it!
First, Paul prays they will be “filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” You won’t understand WHY you need to stay with sound teaching if you don’t know the “endgame!” Knowing God’s will for you means a commitment to spiritual wisdom and understanding. It is never enough to simply know “about” God, you have to enter into a “knowing” that is based on personal relationship with Him through timeless prayer and communion with His Whole Church!
Next, Paul prays they will “lead a life worthy of the Lord.” Knowing Christ means entering into WHY He is the epitome of human existence and that takes the ability to keep growing in understanding His WORTH so you can always strive towards worthiness! And you’ll know you are headed toward worthiness when you see your life “bearing” good fruit from your efforts. Of course, this is always going to be a goal in front of us, but that very notion keeps me focused on WHY it’s worth staying faithful.
Next, Paul prays they will be always “increasing in the knowledge of God.” So much misunderstanding about that word “knowledge.” It is always bigger than merely “knowing about.” And that’s where the problems start. If I stop my hunger for God at simply knowing about Him, I’ll rob myself of the depth of power to endure by growing in my love for Him and His Church – it’s a package deal after all!
Finally, Paul prays they will be “strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.” In the end, I’ll always run out of gas to endure if I’m just depending on my own strength to do this! I need to regularly plug into the Source for strength by my prioritizing my relationship with God FIRST in my life in disciplined attendance in worship, daily prayer, and generosity in sharing my life with others.
Today, these four prayer requests reveal the path to endurance in your daily faith. By placing proper value on your spiritual practice, you can always keep your “WHY” in front of you and the end result is always patience and joy! This is the reality of a life lived Orthodox on Purpose!