For several months, my husband and I have been working on memorizing the book of Colossians together. We are progressing slowly but surely, more slowly lately due to our recent international move to South Africa. We are still navigating the ups and downs of settling in, and finding our rhythms of life.
But for a couple of weeks now, the first part of the letter to the Colossians has been marinating deeply in my heart. My husband has preached this passage a few times also, which has brought even more insight to my meditation of the rich truth there. I’ve wanted to write about it and share the encouragement to my fellow pastors’ wives that I have received, but other than saying, “You have hope! The Gospel is at work in you and simultaneously in the entire world! So keep going! It’s worth it!” I was waiting for a good illustration of this passage.
Then I found myself in the position of having to drive for roughly an hour in a new country, on the right side of the car, on the left side of the road, and at night. After I finished panicking, I climbed into the driver’s seat and got myself oriented. Thankfully I simply had to follow my husband home, so that made it a little more comforting. I could just do what he did, right after he did it. This is surely how I passed trucks on windy roads without hyperventilating and skimmed through the round-a-bouts without going blank or stopping uncertainly in the middle of the road!
As our children chattered about their school day in the back seat (yes, they were both brave enough to ride with me), I pondered what it takes to drive even without the added dimension of everything being opposite sided. In order to focus, one must not simply look straight ahead. One must look right in front of them, while intermittently looking far ahead, while checking behind them every so often, while looking from side to side. A driver must assume these several perspectives simultaneously. The similarities to this “must” in ministry are striking.
I smiled as I drove because Colossians 1 wasn’t far from my musings, and this new country driving experience was shining some practical light on the Scripture that has become so precious to me lately.
Paul writes to the Colossians with such grace and warmth, sending his greetings to the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae. Side note: Notice that he highlights their identity in Christ before he acknowledges their national identity (something I think was purposeful):
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
2 To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then he commends their faith in Christ and their love for each other:
3 We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints;
Furthermore, he gives the reason for their faith in Christ and love for each other:
5 because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth.
Trust Paul to be expounding on the glories of the Gospel just as soon into the letter, and as often as he can. I love his writings, if not for this reason alone.
We are constrained first to look ahead, considering the hope that is laid up for us in heaven in the future. This is the driver looking way ahead to anticipate what might be coming up.
Then we are looking back, considering the fact that we have heard the truth of the Gospel before, or, in the past. This is the driver checking her rearview mirror.
Then we zero in and see that the Gospel has come to us, to me. To you. And this same Gospel is continually transforming us in the here and now. This is the driver focused on what is right before her.
Then we zoom out from side to side and understand that the Gospel is at all times going into all the world and is always, without fail, bringing forth fruit in the entire world. This is the driver looking from side to side to see the big, panoramic picture.
Now it seems we are checking the rearview mirror again and remembering the faithfulness of God in allowing the Gospel to bring forth fruit in our own lives since the very first day we heard and embraced it.
And just like that, we’ve assumed many perspectives in a short amount of time. The joy of a Gospel perspective is that it is a well of hope not just for heaven someday, but for all generations on earth right now, and the ones to come. The Gospel is not just for me, but for the entire world. The Gospel is not just effective for the past, but in the present it is changing me as it shines its transforming light on the corners of my heart and makes me more like Christ day by day. This truth fills me with joy!
Oh, that in our churches we could keep a flitting eye on the past, present, and future so that our focus is on the Gospel. If we stay zoomed in on our own church, our own community, our own programs- we lose sight of the big picture of what God is doing in the whole earth. Don’t we all love to hear stories of what God is doing around the world? Truly, ministry is always bigger than us. Yet if we stay broad and focus only on what others are doing (or even what God is doing) around the world, we begin to lose sight of our local calling and the people He has given us to shepherd day in and day out. If we look into the past too often (for reasons other than to remember the faithfulness of God) we miss what is happening/what God is doing right in front of us. If we look too far ahead, we miss the opportunities of today. In reading that last paragraph, can you feel the delicate nature of the process?
So, how do we keep this Gospel perspective in ministry? Be an alert driver, following Christ and doing what He does (you never drive alone) and continually peeking at the different perspectives wherein the Gospel is at work. Are you discouraged today? Look side to side to see what God is doing around the world. Or maybe, lower your eyes to what He has given you to do that is right in front of you. Perhaps you need to check the rearview mirror and remember His benefits and His faithfulness. Or, maybe you need to lift your eyes and look far ahead to remind yourself about heaven and ponder the glory to come.
The Gospel has redeemed and rescued your past, is at work in you and the whole world in the present, and secures the promise of a glorious future with Christ. Truly this should awake a glad shout within you, and a renewed motivation for ministry.
Truly the Gospel = HOPE.
May we all strive to keep this well rounded Gospel perspective that is a fountain of continual hope for our hearts!
A Kindred Spirit
P.S. For those of you who are left-side-of-the-road drivers (most of the world, actually), I know you’re wondering how many times I inadvertently activated the windshield wipers instead of the turn signal. The answer is, many. But it was raining, so my mistakes covered themselves. Whew. This girl is grateful.