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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Colossians 1:11 - Praying for power

Paul mentions three divine provisions designed to produce a guaranteed result. The three terms are strength, all power and glorious might, and the outcome is joyful endurance and patience.
We might have expected Paul to pray that the Colossians would receive this divine power in order to work miracles or to receive exciting answers to prayer. Paul had other reasons, and his mentioning of endurance and patience tells us two basic facts: (1) endurance is difficult and (2) some may give up because of the difficulties.
This petition reminds us that the personal strengths of a person are not adequate for persevering in the Christian pathway. It is possible for an individual to persist because he has gritted his teeth and maintained a stoical attitude in a difficult situation, but that hardly fits Paul’s description of joyful endurance. Sometimes we admire tenacity, but we should not assume it is what Paul was praying for here.
Or again we are often likely to assume that there is safety in numbers and that an outlook of shared intentions will get us through. But such camaraderie is not what Paul knew was needed. Gifts of character and camaraderie are useful, but we need something above human resources. Paul’s prayer reminds us that we need God’s power.
What are the barriers to our progress that requires the ongoing help of divine power? They can be summarised in the well-known evil trilogy of the world, the flesh and the devil. The world includes a wide range of temptations and allurements, the flesh is our own inner tendency to go off in sinful directions, and the devil has marshalled his ingenious methods in order to defeat us. We don’t keep on going by making resolutions, but by continually praying for and then experiencing God’s power.
But is it possible to rejoice in such difficult situations? The answer is yes. Recall Paul’s own experience of divine power given to him in connection to his thorn in the flesh. When he was informed by God, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,’ Paul responded, ‘Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong’ (2 Cor. 12:9-10). In a situation in which we might have expected complaints, Paul instead showed joy at experiencing the Lord’s strength.
Of course, what made them joyful was their knowledge of what they would experience as an outcome of perseverance. Paul knew that, through his prayers, the Colossians would receive divine power that would result in joyful appreciation of spiritual blessings, no matter the difficulty.

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