Colossians 1, Philippians 1

There is that delightful antipodes which puts us in Australia far from Europe and near its contrary, at the other side of the earth. It is interesting and fruitful for all. However there is an antipodes which is far from fruitful, and it is this which is at the other side of the highways of spiritual life, amid the byways of human invention. This leads, as it has led, to murder as a profession so dear to the heart of so many Islamic activists, Communist scrutineers and sundry militants. It has led to wars of attrition, aggression, revenge.

It has led to the atomic weaponry and now to its proliferation, probably one reason why Einstein was so extremely vocal about the warrior uses of the bomb: he was about terrified, it seems. At one point, it appears he was not sure whether it would blow away the atmosphere. That is to come, by divine means (II Peter 3), and the earth then goes with it.

Actually, it is not so hard, the spiritual life. To be sure, it involves discipline; but the nethermost alternative, estrangement from God, that involves agony and anguish, angst and anxiety as well, delusion and violence, vileness and force; and even humanism, how largely it has used its own peculiar type of force, refusing debate, avoiding instruction in creation, and seeking by all means to enrol a new generation manipulated from reason, divorced from truth, far from God.

Christianity does not need manipulation since truth speaks; but these violences of thought and word, deed and war, they remain under judgment just as they cannot stand in the truth.

What however of living the Christian life ? It is not just that it is less destructive and more pardoning, for you COULD be rich and comfortable on this earth, your conscience apart (though it never is); it is that it involves truth. The truth that God loves is in constant contradiction of the fact that mankind, in large segments, is now vocationally set as a hater. Explosive words and deeds fester with irrational unruliness about intemperate mouths and hearts, and thousands are continually being wounded, children included. What a race that sets the pace in terms of indifference to the divine, or even war on God! However, the test of truth does not need violence: it speaks for itself. It is indeed so dominant that many REFUSE even to hear it, in schools, colleges and universities, not least in this State.

War on God ? It has been done before, in Israel (Micah 3:5), and the result in the Jewish people over sad centuries is not hard to see! They prepare war on Him, says Micah of his generation, who puts nothing into their mouths - that is, they speak in His name or against Him, but not FROM Him, merely at Him, or misusing His very name. Then was it in the places of power in Israel; but  now in most of the power plants in the nations. The earth itself  is in upheaval and it groans.

Now it is not merely ancient Israel which does it; it is the wayward world itself. Just as Israel in much, would not learn, so now this world; and just as Israel was for a time swallowed up, so will such a fate on a far grander scale be the inheritance of this world (Matthew 24:12,  25). As Zechariah 7:12 puts it: Yes, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts has sent in his Spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts.

As to the current war on God by many a nation, many a group, an individual: it is declared whether  that is realised or not; and it not only does not, but cannot produce anything less than catastrophe, as in the flood which men naturally try to swallow up with more mental hope than then the inundated earth managed. Its evidences abound. Next time, says Peter , it is fire.

Now let us ponder the spiritual contrast with the antipodean rewards of spiritual sloth, sloughing off the truth, and find the splendour of light amid the dismal depths of darkness; for this Light continues unsullied by its environment, indubitable, indomitable, clean and pure, stable as truth is (John 9:4-5, 8:12). Let us see the life of truth in the Lord in the prayers, perils, appointments of the apostle Paul.

Today then, by contrast, we consider some of Colossians 1 and Philippians 1, in order to find some of the beautiful principles of godly living, spiritual life, the paths of peace in the name of the Lord! 




LIVING IN THE LORD: what prayer reveals!

I   The Ingredients and Dynamics - Colossians 1:1-11

Paul revels fatherly in compassion, and rejoices at their faith which produces love to all saints, with the hope fixed in heaven to come a constant stimulus and reminder of that godly perspective in which love flourishes. Such is the proper procedure in a Gospel actually believed and HENCE applied! Do we believe in love and practice hate ? not when the love of God is practised by His power in our hearts, effulgent from heaven to which our destiny leads, in which our desire rests.

This result, says Paul, has worked from them as the word of truth in the Gospel moves to all the world, its heavenly hope fruitful in them, from day one of their conversion, when they found the grace of God in truth. It is not in propaganda, in paid party membership, in imagination or in postulation: it is in truth. Truth like an undying companion, first and inspiring, carries them and keeps company: indeed Jesus Christ declared Himself to be, and is ... the truth (John 14:6). It has a face and it is His, a heart and it is shown in Him, a Spirit and it is this which He sends from the Father (John 15:26). Man with Christ is not orphaned, and lives in the truth of love and love of truth.

He prays then three things. Firstly, it is that they be FILLED with the knowledge of what God wants and in ALL things live pleasingly to Him, fruitful in spiritual function and increasing in the knowledge of God. What an instant change that would be if this world did so; yet it is precisely this which is to be the continual aim of every child of God! How else with such a Father ...

Secondly, he prays that they be STRENGTHENED WITH ALL MIGHT, and so thirdly,  SECURING  all patience and longsuffering with joy. It is not resignation: it is aspiration, continuation and company with the Lord Himself.  Such mutual love, such empowerment, such wisdom and self-control, such gratitude to God and concern for one's fellow man, such awareness of the place of the Creator and the role of the Saviour: these are the things this world lacks, and in lacking, becomes lackey to evil on all sides. Evil is easy; it is what is good that requires longsuffering with patience; and it is in Christ, something done with an inner joyfulness to be in His presence and on the work assigned. 


II The Apostolic Income -  Philippians 1

Always has Paul been making request in the case of the Church at Philippae, for their fellowship in the Gospel; and with these prayers, he is confident that the God who began a good work in them will COMPLETE the same to the day of judgment itself, yes that of the Lord's return for His saints (I Thessalonians 4). Partakers with Paul of divine grace, they may well be so considered, and it is so whether he be in chains (as then) or in the defence and confirmation of the Gospel, in journeyings often, shipwrecks, when beaten with many stripes (not merely abstract stripes), in showing the error of unbelief, attesting the power of God in the truth, arguing with the Jews in synagogues, proclaiming God's power and pardon through Jesus Christ to the world, at Athens or in many a centre.

This is the apostolic income in terms of suffering; and he suffers not in vain, since there is the robust salvation of Christ and His enduring felicity, with all wisdom imparting all knowledge needed and all guidance, grace and governance, not so as to remove the reality of life, but to enhance it in due and true meaning without concussion or repercussion, all being under His wise grace and alert love (cf. Romans 8:29ff.).

PRAYER ? He has them in his heart and his prayer for them is that their love may grow IN KNOWLEDGE AND DISCERNMENT increasingly, rather like someone speeding in a car, and the faster  he goes, the faster  is the rate of increase of his speed.

There is much spiritual territory to be covered: there is no place for laxity. Imagine if Christian, in Pilgrim's Progress, had stayed in the near precincts of the City of Destruction! Then, it would have been merely an ambivalent dream! He prays moreover that they would approve what is excellent, and so discern it, discriminate what it is, love it and pursue it as a greyhound a rabbit, seize and hold it. That they should be filled with the fruits of righteousness is his constant desire, things gained in Christ (as in Galatians 5), love and peace, joy and longsuffering, faith and goodness. Sincere and unstumbling: this is his desire for their spiritual career!

What a world it would be if such were all its inhabitants! This, it is for heaven; on earth let us seek so to be and thus to seek for others, to rescue them indeed from this ship of sin, on which are atomic bombs aplenty! If Christ had to die for the sin of others, an undertaking breath-taking in its immensity of spiritual scope and magnitude of mercy, then others like Paul have to live for the health of others, that they be brought out of the onslaught of the weapons of selfishness, while being blind and arrogant, the devices of devilishness, invasive and destructive, the seduction of sickness of soul and heaviness of heart, the elation of idiocies or extravaganzas of irrelevancies. "For me," he says in Philippians 1, "to live is Christ" - Philippians 1:21.

It is not a game or a religious refresher course. It is the truth; and so Paul declares in this same epistle, "according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death."

Does he inflict wounds, does he blow himself up, or invade eating places with arrogant explosive force ? Does he manipulate countries and declaim in favour of revolutions, seek to induce them or to take over the power base ? No need. He is presenting truth and mercy, and until the time comes, this is the program, the purpose and the marvel of God! When judgment does arrive, it is to be after thousands of years of Gospel offer (cf. II Peter 3:9), such as now indeed have passed! Then it is no more intrusive or abusive than garbage collection, in truth; for with God, the designations are not theories, not theses, but realities! (cf. Matthew 13:37-43). Truth rules, and mercy laps the shores, to cleanse them while there is time.


III Apostolic Outcomes - Philippians 1 

As for Paul's own case, in chains in Rome, he has had remarkable success in presenting Christ to the palace guard (1:13), and to the whole array of those about him. Appointed for the defence of the Gospel, he preaches in heart, whoever merely insults grace by using the name of Christ lightly (1:15 - even then! cf. II Corinthians 11)! Thus does he lead, and thus pray and thus is set his constant desire for the people of the Lord, and such should each of us here be, and such should be our rapid progress in persevering love, patient faith and active endeavour (as in Colossians 1:11).

The power resides as you abide in His will, ways and works, not hoping merely for this and that, but actively, ardently, continually seeking like Daniel of old, to find, know and do precisely what is most productive, most pleasing for Him (Philippians 1:9, Colossians 1:9-10); and the peace that follows (Colossians 1:2, 3:15, Philippians 4:6-7, Isaiah 48:16-19) is like a flowing stream, when you follow it faithfully through briar and beauty, hill and valley, to its issuance.


The power resides as you abide in His will, ways and works, not hoping merely for this and that, but actively, ardently, continually seeking like Daniel of old, to find, know and do precisely what is most productive, most pleasing for Him (Philippians 1:9, Colossians 1:9-10); and the peace that follows (Colossians 1:2, 3:15, Philippians 4:6-7, Isaiah 48:16-19) is like a flowing stream, when you follow it faithfully through briar and beauty, hill and valley, to its issuance.

It is challenging; it is questing and yet in it, there is resting from all concern, for the burden is His and it is cast on Him (Isaiah 53:6, I Peter 5:7); and again, there is wrestling as befits danger, so that the evils may be met head-on and flee headlong (Ephesians 6, I Peter 5:8-9); but it is wrought by faith.

It is life, and life more abundantly (John 10:10). It is constructive, productive of peace, effective, reliable and with its rest, is the charge, the challenge and the spiritual power to perform. Blessed be God: it works because He works! and in love surges like a cleansing stream into the lands of the heart.