Sure Steps on the Right Path
Study #11 Colossians 1:25
by Bob Burridge ©2021
A girl who was almost a teen sat on a stool while her mother stood behind her with a pair of scissors. The mom stretched out a lengthy sheaf of gathered strands of her daughter’s hair. It had taken the whole of that little life-time for it to grow so long. She hesitated and asked, “Are you sure you want to do this? Once its cut I can’t put it back.”
The daughter looked uncertain for a moment, and thought about why she wanted to do this. She realized that it was a step that once taken couldn’t be just taken back. The two talked it over for a little while, then the girl said, “Go ahead mom.”
This time, the look of uncertainty was gone from those young eyes. How ever she would feel about it tomorrow, she was satisfied that it was the right choice. She would wake up in the morning with shorter hair to deal with.
As the mom measured and trimmed the hair, her thoughts drifted back to many times she had to answer that question, “Are you sure you want to do this?” She remembered when she and her dad made a deal to buy and finance her first car. She remembered that day she stood dressed as a bride about to walk down an aisle. There was the day when she and her husband talked about having a baby. Here she was trimming her hair. She thought about deciding to move to a new city, take vows to join the church there. Then she remembered waiting to sign mortgage papers for their first house. Each time she took a moment to ask herself, “Are you sure you want to do this?”
Cutting her little girl’s hair seemed so insignificant compared with these decisions. But her question reminded her of how she had often had to make choices that had lasting effects. She had prayed about each one, made lists of the pros and cons, and talked with trusted friends. But the time always came for the decision. Then she had to deal with the responsibilities of her choices.
We make a lot of decisions
in the course of a life-time,
some are major ones.
Our decisions bring responsibilities and often commitments that aren’t easy to carry out. Once we make them, we are bound to do the best we can with the situation. So those choices shouldn’t be made lightly. We consider how our choices fit with what God tells us in his word.
Paul certainly had confidence in what he was doing as he waited in Rome for his trial. Back when he went to Jerusalem where he was certain to be arrested, he knew the answer to the question, “Are you sure you want to do this?” He was doing the right thing, the thing God had called him to do. That’s what mattered.
In our last study we looked at Colossians 1:24 where the Apostle wrote, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,”
In the next verse he shows us how sure he was of his ministry for Christ and his church. Of the church Paul says, “of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known,” (Colosssians 1:24)
Paul knew he was appointed by God to be a minister of the gospel to the church. God called him, and made him a servant to suffer for that gospel of grace. This would be an encouragement and eternal hope for the church. It was for her benefit.
Encouraging one another in the spiritual family of the church is a wonderful service. The church isn’t just an organization of which we can become members. It’s a family of those called and united by God’s grace. Whatever we do, we’re called to do as children of God, as family members.
Paul’s calling was to be God’s servant in a very special way. The word “minister” translates the word “dia/konos” (διάκονος). It’s the word from which we get the title “Deacon”. He described his calling in its plainest terms. No fancy titles – he was simply God’s servant. In Matthew 20:25-28 Jesus taught his ambitious apostles about the nature of God’s calling. “But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ ”
Whatever we might decide is our calling in life, wherever the Lord may lead us to live, or whoever he may call us to serve with, we need to keep our perspective of service centered on God and his church. Paul saw his work as an appointment from God, a vocation. It wasn’t a career he chose or something Paul aspired to. It was a calling of God.
He understood what his stewardship was. In verse 25 he says concerning the church, “of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known,” Literally he says his assignment was, “to bring to fullness the word of God”. He was to complete the word’s purpose, to bring it to its full potential. By teaching it to the people he delivered that powerful tool of the Holy Spirit. That word announced and clarified God’s promise, and changed lives.
The sense of God’s call in our lives is what gives us confidence as we make our decisions. It helped some of the greatest examples in the Bible through some of their hardest times. Noah was the only ark builder in an age of unbelief and immorality, but he knew God called him to build it, gather the animals, and prepare for a great flood. Paul understood that he needed to go to Jerusalem even though the prophet Agabus warned him that he would be arrested there.
But these men both had supernatural knowledge of their callings. God had specially revealed their duties to them. In contrast, our callings don’t come to us that supernatural way. Yet, God calls each of us to serve him with our lives and abilities. He calls each one of us to do a specific work in his kingdom.
He doesn’t speak to us in visions and dreams to let us know how to decide in all our choices and commitments. There is no sign to tell us what car to buy, who we should marry, where to live, when to have children and how many, when to commit to buying a house, which church family to join, or what career choices we should make.
But he does give principles for us to use, to give us confidence in our decisions. God’s instructions are not insufficient or defective. When we know them and follow them diligently and prayerfully, we’ll have a solid foundation for our service and encouragement even through difficult times.
There are biblical examples of some who were directed by God in their decisions: There was no uncertainty in the heart of Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego as they stood at the rim of the hot flaming furnace. They would not bow down to the king’s idol. Daniel knew that, in spite of the hungry lions in the den of Darius, it was his duty to obey God in prayer offered according to his holy law. Stephen didn’t wonder if he had done the right thing as rocks started pounding against him. He was stoned to death for his open faith that Jesus was the promised Messiah.
If we know we have followed the advice of God’s word, it won’t be hard to answer the question, “Are you sure you want to do this?”
We might hesitate, wondering before we take up really difficult vocations, asking, “Is this really what God expects me to do?” It’s a good question to ask — if it drives us back to God’s principles for instruction.
So, can we know the calling of God in each part of our lives? Can we have a confident sense of duty and commitment? It’s possible to discern God’s direction as we make those life-effecting choices.
First: God’s word helps us
narrow down the options.
There are absolute moral boundaries God sets for us. We need to ask ourselves, “Which choice is most consistent with God’s word morally?”
God’s word can help in decisions about where to settle our families to live. It doesn’t give us a map with a particular state, city or neighborhood marked on it. But he does give us principles to consider. They can help us rule out some, and give high marks to others.
Sometimes we can learn from the negative examples in the Bible. You don’t want to be like Lot in Genesis 13:10-11, “And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other. ”
His decision wasn’t based on how he and his family would best serve the Lord. It was based upon purely worldly motives. He moved into an ungodly community. There were no restraining forces of God’s people, word and teachers. There was no way to be supportive of his distant parents or to be regularly helped by them. The influence his family came under was devastating. The result was tragic.
God’s word should be considered in making career choices. You need to choose work that will allow you to serve Christ freely. It shouldn’t interfere with your family’s needs or with worship on the Sabbath. No one should ever become involved in moral compromises for the sake of your income, not asking you to deceive customers, or promote defective products and poor services.
There are even principles to direct us in choices as seemingly simple as fashion and style. The Bible calls us to be sensitive to how our culture views dress and styles. God’s people were warned against extremes in jewelry, hair braiding, the wearing of hats, and other such matters that had taken on meanings in their society. These were clearly isolated issues that related to one place and one particular time. We need to avoid letting our appearance link us with ungodly attitudes and immoral life styles.
Even marriage choices are carefully directed by God’s word. Will our marriage allow us to have a covenant home? Will our spouses have a common ground in God’s word for dealing with hard choices? Will we become bound to a marriage that will erode our faithfulness to our Lord? Will our children see examples of loving Christ in the home as their young lives are shaped?
It’s amazing how many of life’s daily decisions are helped along by knowing God’s word. This is why its good to talk things like this over with a pastor, an elder, or a friend who is mature in his understanding of God’s word. So first we need to know what boundaries God’s word sets for each decision we make.
Second: God’s providential guidance should
be considered when we make decisions.
God equips each of us with our particular basic abilities. A person who is weak and uncoordinated should probably not count on being an athlete. Someone who can’t carry a tune should probably not plan to be a singer. Someone who can’t do math will probably not have a good career in physics.
This doesn’t mean that weaknesses can’t be strengthened. Sometimes poor education or influences can mask our abilities. If Einstein didn’t do well in a poorly taught math class, he might not have became a great theoretical physicist. But if a reasonable effort is made to get helpful training we should look at what God has or has not gifted us to do before deciding on a career.
God is Sovereign over all things, including the abilities he gives and develops in us. God governs our lives from our genetic potential when we were first conceived, on through the influences, experiences, and education we’re exposed to. These are helpful guidelines to follow since we have a Sovereign God.
We shouldn’t overlook the desires God puts in our hearts. They often show where we need to spend our time and efforts. If we hate being out-doors we probably won’t pursue being a forest ranger. If we have a fear of water we would not likely make a good life guard. If we can’t balance our own check-books we probably shouldn’t become a financial counselor.
If God gives us a love for something, and the ability to do it well, we should consider how it might be developed for service in God’s kingdom.
We need good Christian physicists, life-guards, doctors, designers, lawyers, builders, and financial counselors. We need honest Christian salesmen, dedicated teachers, diligent office clerks, and skilled plumbers and electricians.
God often helps us see our calling by the opinions of others. We need to pay attention to the advice we hear from those who know we well – specially mature believers. Do they see God’s enablement in our lives in some area, a potential we may not see? Have we been offered a job by someone who values a skill we haven’t seen? All advice and opportunities come into our lives only by God’s providence.
Of course some advice is poor and some opportunities are temptations. We should always consider the boundaries set by God’s word, and our own evaluation of our abilities and interests.
But, as with Paul when the church at Antioch called him to come to Pastor their congregation, God often guides us through the Christian community around us.
If no one is interested in hiring us for a certain career, or godly friends are concerned about our particular decision, this should not be ignored. On the other hand if people are always encouraging us in some way, and they offer us opportunities, these should be considered as God’s guidance as well.
There’s a danger: We shouldn’t presume we might miss some secret plan of God.
Our duty is to follow his direction and take the turns he brings your way.
Remember the wisdom of Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
This means we dare not presume about or worry about what isn’t revealed. We can’t mess up God’s plan by our choices. He’s Sovereign, not us.
When we’ve carefully considered God’s word, paid attention to his providential guidance, and good advice, we should be fully confident in our choices, regardless of how things work out. The only bad choices are the ones made without prayerfully considering these guidelines.
Sometimes we will look back and discover that some life-effecting choices were made unwisely. Our only remaining choice is how to properly deal with the continuing results.
Most of us have made these life-effecting choices.
We’ve decided where to live, what we will be busy doing, and who we’ll do it with. Now we face the decisions about how we deal with the results of those choices.
Of course we should follow the same guidelines in dealing with what we now face. We consider the boundaries set by God’s word, and the things he calls us to be doing. We look at the circumstances God has providentially brought our way. We listen to godly advice, and consider what choices most helps us to advance the glory of God.
God’s plan for Paul was imprisonment. He chose to obey his calling to go to Jerusalem, though he knew he would be arrested for his ministry. After that imprisonment he wrote letters encouraging believers in distant cities, and being a witness to the guards and others there in Rome.
Our calling is to be witnesses for the gospel of Christ, and to live displaying God’s grace active in our lives. It may cost us ridicule, rejection by some, even persecution at times. But we need to courageously follow those callings resting in God’s comfort and providence.
Note: Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.