I Am Struggling
I am struggling. I am unemployed, homeless, and dependent on the people I am suppose to take care of. It's a humbling place to be. But it also has refocused my attention and effort to a call that God placed on my life; the ministry of the gospel.
I have been meditating on this passage for the past week, "For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me" (Col. 1:29)"
it has been a difficult meditation for several reasons.
- It's bigger than me. I can't get my head around the mystery of God in Christ. The facts are easy to know, but the depth of it; I can't even scratch the surface. How is it that God sacrificed His Son for my sin? The perfect for the imperfect, the light for the dark, the infinite for the insignificant.
- It's all encompassing. God's grace covers all sin, and requires full surrender of those who believe. You can't be a half Christian. You can't walk in the light and in the dark. You either follow Jesus or you don't. It's not about perfection, it's about commitment to an everlasting cause.
- It's all pervasive. Priorities aren't linear. You can't put God as number one, then your spouse and kids, and then your job. Life fluctuates too much to identify what I give my time, money, and effort as an indicator of priority. Priorities are like a circle with God at its center, spouse, family, church, the world move out in concentric circles. Things like money and time are dictated by what is at the center. God moves in and through everything. As a believer He dictates what is important about everything in our lives. That's hard when His will flies in the face of my feelings, experience, and will.
That is the context of the Apostle Paul's statement that he toils for the gospel. He works hard, and when ministry is hard, he works harder. The image of toil is not one of joy. It's plugging away through the pain when you would rather give up. It's about setting your eyes on Jesus and not growing weary when you think it's all for nothing. You keep on toiling.
When the Apostle Paul said he struggled for the gospel, he identified with all who want to see fruit, but the harvest seems meager. He struggled with rebellious, unforgiving, bitter, and contentious people, like us, and kept going. He saw people through the eyes of Jesus and he struggled through their imperfections, but not in his own strength. He struggled with the energy that powerfully worked within him. He did not rust in his own strength but the power of the Holy Spirit in him. What the heck that does that mean?
How does the power of God work in me when:
- The church has mistreated me.
- Leadership is so focused on their vision that I become invisible.
- Congregants are consumed by their own needs that they demand the leaders to meet them perfectly.
- Evil seems to be winning the culture wars.
- Believers forget that we are to forgive 70X7.
- When everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes.
These are the burdens that weigh us down and cause us to give up. But Jesus said that he has overcome the world! The Holy Spirit resides in us to remind us that we are more than conquers! God's mercies are new every day. When I face a situation that seems overwhelming I rest because the outcome is not in my hands. Yes, I toil, struggle, and press on, but the Father judges, draws, redeems, and transforms.
I am to do my part; pray without ceasing, love without discrimination, teach the word, admonish the wayward, exhort the convinced, evangelize the lost, disciple the committed, shepherd the hurting, forgive those who have hurt me, have mercy on all, and give judgment over to God. I am thankful that Spirit of God gives peace, comfort, and encouragement. He does that in two ways:
- Through His indwelling. The Spirit of God in us is beyond our understanding. He prays for us when we don't know what to pray. He convicts us when we are starting down the wrong path. He gives us unimaginable peace when chaos looms unrelenting. He reminds us of God's promises in His Word. He Speaks to our spirit and reminds us that we are the children of God.
- Through the Church. Like the Apostle Paul, who had faithful people around him, we have believers who have not forsaken their call. They come along side of us to encourage and console. They lift us up in prayer and remind us that we are loved. The church is the body of Christ. No believer can truly follow Jesus without being a part of His body, good and bad.
To this God has called me, and to him I give my struggles. For in Him I have the strength to do all things. I'm just saying.