Without objectives – defined goals one seeks to accomplish – we stagger; we stagnate; growth often stands still. As the old adage goes, “He who aims at nothing hits it every time.”
That said, our culture promotes a lot of false ideas about what we ought to be striving for. If we do not know what we want or where we’re going, they will be sure to tell us. But what should we be striving towards? What is worthy of spending our most precious commodity – time – on obtaining?
Paul informs us rightly in the opening chapter of Colossians. He prays for the church. He wants his brothers and sisters to obtain these things: to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, to have all spiritual wisdom, and to have all spiritual understanding.
These three things are tremendous blessings in a believer’s life. He tells us that they lead to even better things such as walking worthy of the Lord, being pleasing to God, bearing fruit, doing good works, increasing in knowledge, being strengthened with the power of God’s might, having endurance and patience with joy, and giving thanks to the Father.
What Christian does not want to be found doing these things? Isn’t this what we are all striving for? Paul knows. He appeals to their desire to be holy as a platform for what he is about to teach.
These are the things that every good church leader desires be true of his students. From Paul’s prayer requests, we see great wisdom and love for the church. As I consider his requests, I search for his example. How exactly did Paul put flesh on the bones of these prayers? How did he go about snatching the hearts of his beloved brothers and sisters in such a way that made it possible for what he was about to say to stick?
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that wrong ideas and false beliefs die hard. When one seeks to change them, a lot depends on how he enters the room. Paul knew. He grabbed the hearts of men he had not even met by his entrance. He began his letter to a people he did not personally pastor and gained their trust by conveying imperatives initially. He told them what we all must tell new disciples if we seek to be effective and desire that they stay long enough to listen to the truth God has given us to teach.
1. Who I am
2. Who you are
3. Who God is
Paul opens by telling his readers who he is. He associates himself with one of his best students, Timothy, and offers respect to him. It is a comfort for new students to know that a teacher is respectful of those he has already taught. Paul gives public honor to Timothy and proves his own humility in so doing.
Paul reminds his students who God is. He is Our Father. He is the Father of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. He reminds them of their future hope and glory in heaven. Paul’s emphasis on who God is is reassuring. He isn’t there to ramble on about rules like the heretics were already doing in Colosse. He was there to talk about Our Father – the good One; the worthy One. This is how he bids them come and listen. It is a comfort to know we are serving a good God. Paul is wise to remind his students who they serve and why it is in their best interest to do so.
Paul spends most of his opening statements on reminding the Colossians who they are. Oh, how quickly we forget! Paul knows. He understands his disciples’ weakness. Before he goes any further in deep discourse on who God is, he recognizes how essential this piece of the puzzle really is. Therefore, he reminds and reassures. He reminds and reassures. He reminds and reassures. Good leaders, take note.
As Paul opens giving thanks for them, he reassures these people by confirming his love for them. He is thankful for them. He is thankful for the opportunity to serve them. They are not a trifle or a trouble to him. He reassures them that he is honored and privileged to be their teacher. This is essential for sufferers.
He reassures them also by reminding them of the future hope they have in heaven. This is essential for sufferers.
Finally, he reassures them by reminding them of the gospel and their response to it. He reminds them that they received it. He reminds them that they are bearing fruit. He reminds them that their teacher, Epaphras, is both faithful and proud of their spiritual growth. This is essential for sufferers.
Who would not listen to a leader like this? This is a father loving his children. This is a father seeing his children deceived, suffering, struggling, and stumbling and saying I know you. I love you. I’m thankful I have you. I have heard good of you. I am proud of you and others are, too. Now, I need to tell you some more about the God we love. He is so good to us all…
That is how you open correction. This is how the Holy Spirit uses men to open hearts to the truth.
Humility. Respect. Honor. Reassurance. Thanksgiving. Love.