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2008.05.18 God's People Pray - For Strength Col 1 11

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God’s People Pray: For Strength

Colossians 1:11

May 18, 2008

Intro: 

·        Many of us either in the past or more recently have bought exercise bikes, or treadmills, maybe a Stairmaster or a few free weights or possibly even a membership to a gym/fitness centre to get in shape to become stronger.  I have recently joined a fitness centre (I know you were all thinking…Pastor it was about time) so I went to the Guinness book to set some realistic training goals….I learned that a man recently set a record for the amount of weight bench pressed in one hour….over 305,000 lbs.   That would be like lifted the combined weight of the congregation 5x in one hour.   He started at 200lbs and then after 1,280 reps (times) at that weight, he then bench press 100lbs only 493 times.  So I set my strength training regiment based on these numbers.  I don’t even think I could lift 200lbs at once. 

·        I’m not going to the fitness centre to set a Guinness World Record – I merely want to get a little stronger, maybe build up some endurance by jogging and it wouldn’t hurt to shed a pound or two if I was honest.  I want to turn the fat into muscle – to be strengthened.

·        It is beneficial to be strengthened physically, but more beneficial to be strengthened spiritually – and this is the Apostle Paul’s challenged to us today – He prays for the Colossian believers and ultimately for us too, that they would be strengthened in their walk with Christ.

Prayer

Background

·        This morning’s sermon is a continuation of sermon from last October (I’m sure you all remember the first part)….well we will do a quick review.

·        The Colossian church was mainly made up of Gentile converts, one of which we learned was Epaphras.  You may remember that Paul had never been to Colossae, but he did spend three years in Ephesus on his third missionary journey.

·        Epaphras was from Colossae and likely came to Ephesus and heard the gospel that was preached by Paul, was converted and then went back and shared the message with his people and they too were saved – accepted Christ as Saviour and saved from their sin and the punishment for their sin. v.4

·        Recap:  God’s People Pray: To Know His Will.  Paul prays for the Colossians that they would be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that they would walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, bearing fruit in every good work and increase in the knowledge of God.

·        (Read Col 1:11) Today we will see the second thing Paul prays for the Colossians – that they may be strengthened with all power.

Paul prays that they would be strong!

·        Paul also indicates where this strength comes from and why we need this strength.

·        Psalm 121 - "I lift up my eyes to the hills— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." (Psalm 121:1-2, NIV)

·        He is saying my help to keep going comes from the all powerful creator of all things.

·        Paul indicates the same – the power we need to live for Him comes from Him.

Let’s take a look at being “Strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might”

·        If we are going to strive to know God’s will for our lives, as He unfolds that to us, we will need strength to live it out!

·        The word ‘strengthened’ in the Greek is a present participle – which means that it is a continuous action.  We are to be continually strengthened.  This is not a one time thing.  Fuel up illustration?  Abiding in the vine, apart from me you can do nothing.

·        We are not strengthened with physical power, rather we are strengthened with power according to his glorious might – power to live for Him, for His glory (spiritual power).

·        We must remember that Paul is writing this letter to believers, so it makes sense that it is only believers that will be receiving God’s power to equip them for his service.  That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t use unbelievers for His purposes, but unbelievers are denied access to his mighty power.  Others may know of God’s power, but do not have access to it.  Take for example in Luke 4:33-34, “"In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, “Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”" Even the demons knew of Christ and his power – power to destroy them.

·        John Piper says, ‘The biblical call to endure in faith and obedience is a call to trust the Christ-purchased, empowering grace of God.  God’s grace is first the gift of pardon and imputed righteousness; then it is the gift of power to fight the good fight and to overflow in good deeds.” So first by God’s grace we are saved from our sin, and then we are empowered to live for Christ.

·        So believers have access to this mighty power – not to do as we please, b/c that would many times be contrary to accomplishing His plans – we know that b/c as believers we still sin and go our own way sometimes, so we are equipped with God’s strength to do His will.

·        Paul knows that it is not easy living for the Lord, is not easy living out God’s will for our lives.  In fact, there are several churches today that would preach what is called a prosperity gospel – meaning that God wants us all to be rich and free from sickness and suffering if you have enough faith!  Can you believe that.  What about Romans 5, “suffering produces endurance”…Paul knows that there will be tough times, in fact Paul lived it – furthermore, when he wrote this letter he was imprisoned in Rome for his faith in Jesus. 

·        Life as a Christian is not easy going, in fact the real danger for Christians is when they fail to see that there is a spiritual battle that rages, that there is a race to be won.  When this is not on the radar (the battle and the race) this is when Christians are really in trouble.  When theses biblical truths are ignored many Christians just drift and coast through life and some even grow weary of the hoe-hum church life.  These folks become more and more enamored by the world and what it offers, it seems more exciting than the boring Christian life.  They have totally missed the excitement and the call of believers in Jesus Christ.  Christianity is not for wimps and a crutch for the weak…no it is for those willing to engage in the battle and willing to run the race full out for His glory and to see people saved and others grow in Christ.  So we need strength to fight this battle. 

·        How significant is this power that is available to us?  This power according to His glorious might! 

·        The word might in the Greek is Kratos which speaks of God’s power and is used only of God in the New Testament.  The late J. Hampton Keathley described ‘might’ like this, “Might speaks of manifested power, power put forth in action, specifically , the historic acts of creation, with Israel and especially in the person of Jesus Christ.  It also speaks of a power that overcomes some form of resistance like the resistance of sin, of Satan, of the world system under Satan’s grip and of death (both spiritual and physical).” (see bible.org)

o       Look at Eph 1:18-21 “18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”

o       Paul tells us that this same power the God exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead – is the same power that is available to us who believe. That is amazing!

o       Did you notice in that Scripture it was all God…he has called you; his glorious inheritance; his incomparably great power; his mighty strength; which he exerted in Christ; when he raised him from the dead; at his right hand – it is all God.  Apart from Christ, we can do nothing.  Our power and strength comes from God.

o       What is important to note is that God does not just use his power in the big things – parting the red sea, raising Christ from the dead – but his strength is available to you and I on a daily basis – when we are contemplating doing something in our own strength, going our own way – he is there to provide strength to go His way for His glory.

·        So God provides this power to us, but we have a responsibility to utilize it.  You see this in other passages of Scripture where God provides and we have an individual responsibility to act – like

o       Eph 4 – Paul instructs to put off your old self and put on the new self….  There is an individual responsibility to act.  Likewise, we need to put on God’s mighty power and utilize it.

·        What areas of your life are you operating under your own strength?

o       Is there some area of your life where you say…I just do that everyday w/o thinking about God – then we wonder why we run into struggles and complications…

o       Are you trying to deal with circumstances and people in your own strength?

o       Do you ever wonder why you struggle with certain areas of your life…are you utilizing God’s power that he has provided…to overcome

Paul prays that the Colossians would be strengthened….what do they need to be strengthened for?

1.  Well the first thing Paul prays…is for strength to endure

·        What is interesting about this text is that Paul is not praying that we would be strong and powerful believers as the goal; rather Paul is praying that we would be strong to endure and stand for His glory – seeing His empowerment in our lives.  God’s power is to produce Christlike qualities – his power in our lives should produce behavior consistent with His character.

·        The two words in our text endurance and patience are very similar in meaning, however the first word – endurance in the Greek denotes being steadfast in circumstances, while the second word patience denotes being steadfast in relationships with people. 

·        As believers we are going to have trials to endure or circumstances to stand firm in.  Some trials come as a result of our own sinful behavior and other trials come to sharpen us, to grow us, to make us more Christlike.

o       "Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him." (James 1:12, ESV)

o       Jesus said, “The one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13)

o       Ephesians has a great passage on standing firm…of engaging in the battle.  "Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm." (Ephesians 6:13, ESV)

·        So we know that we need to endure and stand firm – How do we do this?

o       In His strength – so what does that really mean?

o       " Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted." (Hebrews 12:1-3, ESV)

o       Jesus is our example.  We need to look to Jesus – fix our eyes on Him

o       We need to be prepared for trials in order for us to endure

o       A study was conducted with incarcerated criminals who had killed or assaulted police officers.  The interviewers asked, why they had picked the officers they did to assault.

§         They picked the officers that looked vulnerable and unprepared!

§         I was taught in police college how to shine my boots, iron my shirt, where to put my nametag…how to wear my hat.

§         Maybe some of you recognize me know from those vehicle stops…

§         These criminals picked their victims based on vulnerability and unpreparedness

§         The Scripture says in 1 Peter 5:8 "Be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."

§         Who do you think is going to get devoured….(hat up or hat on right?)  then expand on this…hat on right is prepared in God’s strength – the devil may come but this one is enduring in God’s strength and will stand…the other will be eaten alive.

§         Just like the police officer who wears his bullet proof vest in the heat of summer – it is like having an oven around you – you sweat and are hot – but you are prepared…unlike the officer that leaves his vest in the police car and thinks I’ll get it when I need it…its too late when you need like.  Likewise we need to be putting on the armor of God daily, before the trial or difficult circumstance comes – so that we are prepared to endure to stand firm!!!

§         Just like I had someone teach me how to be prepared as a police officer…maybe you need someone to train you how to be prepared for the Kingdom battle – what I am talking about is a mentor or someone to disciple you to teach you how to be prepared.  If you desire to be mentored or discipled then let me know and we will find someone to train you!

§         Jesus was prepared for the battle – he often went to a solitary place and spoke to His Father in heaven, he knew the Word (he was the Word) but he knew the Scriptures, he fasted – he was prepared!!!

o       You know in your own experience of trials and circumstances that you can endure in His strength – you can make it through to the other side.  Please let us utilize that strength that he bestows to us that we may endure for his glory.

2.  Paul prays…for strength to remain patient.

·        As I mentioned earlier this word ‘patience’ is really designed to have us endure those difficult relationships.  We all have them.  Those relationships that we need to work on. 

·        I know I’ve learned about ‘patience’ mostly as a parent.  I often pray for strength to remain patient with my children who maybe are a little disobedient or maybe a lot disobedient.  It is so important to show our loved one’s patience.  In the flesh we handle situations very harsh and rash, but we need patience to truly love. 

·        Maybe you need strength to endure the strained relationships at work – people mistreating you b/c of Christ, ridiculing you b/c of your faith and telling lies about you to misrepresent you – we need God’s strength to remain steadfast.

Maybe you need God’s strength for family relationships – with extended family, with unsaved family that don’t understand your rel’ship with Jesus.

·        A few Scriptures regarding God’s patience:

o       "The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love." (Psalm 145:8, ESV)

o       "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." (2 Peter 3:9, ESV)

·        We need God’s strength to remain patient and steadfast in our rel’ships!!!

3. Paul prays…for strength to experience joy.

·        Paul is telling us here that by the strength of God you can endure and remain patient amidst great joy in the Lord.  I’m sure you have experienced at some point in your Christian walk – a remarkable peace and joy while enduring a trial or a difficult rel’ship…that’s the true mark of a disciple is that regardless of situation or circumstance there is joy. 

o       I think of Apostle Paul in Acts 16 while he and Silas were imprisioned they were at midnight praying and singing hymns to God and the prisoners were listening to them.  It didn’t matter that they were in jail or not – they had the joy of the Lord present regardless of their circumstance.

o       James says, “Consider it pure joy, my brethren, when you face trials of many kinds…

o       Paul says in Roman 5:3, “"More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance," (Romans 5:3, ESV)   

·        So Paul prays for strength to endure and remain patient, but he doesn’t want us to do this enduring and this exercising of patience with a downcast spirit – like this is something I must do…If I follow Christ I have to suffer so lets get it over with…No in fact he prays the opposite – he prays for strength to be joyful amidst whatever circumstances and whatever relationships come your way!!!

·        This is where you really see the difference between believers and unbelievers… believers will go through trials like everyone else we are not shielded from difficult situations, but how you go through that situation is remarkably the big difference.  Having joy while experiencing sorrow/tragedy/hardship that is God’s strength being displayed in the believer.  It is beautiful and the world does notice.  In God’s strength we can bring Him glory!

Conclusion

·        William Barclay prayed this and it is a good summary, “Make me, O Lord, victorious over every circumstance; make me patient with every person; and withal give me the joy which no circumstance and no man will ever take from me.”

·        I talked about going to the fitness centre and that by lifting weights I was becoming stronger and that by running on the treadmill I was building up my endurance – so spiritually how do I become stronger and build up my endurance – well the power comes from God but we need to be connected to Him in order to receive that power – so we need to be

o       in the Word constantly

o       Prayer is paramount. 

o       Memorizing Scripture

o       Meditating on His Word

o       Fasting

·        We receive the power to endure and the power to be patient and the power to have joy in all things through the workout in the Word, prayer, etc. through disciplines – it is not us that is generating the power by the number of disciplines we are engaged in, rather the power comes as we grow in intimacy with God and allow His ways to become our ways – thus being strengthened with all power to do His Will – that we may endure.

·        This morning maybe you:

o       Know Christ and you are fully engaged in the battle….PTL

o       Know Christ yet you are disengaged from the battle – maybe you are running in your own strength

§         Robert Robinson wrote in an old hymn,

·        O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be
Let thy goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to thee
Prone to wonder, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O, take and seal it;
Seal it for thy courts above.

§         Maybe in your workplace

§         In your home in your marriage with your children

§         Maybe with your unsaved family
Repent!

o       Don’t know Christ – don’t have access to his power to endure and be patient & to spend eternity with Him.  Repent!

Prayer

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