Visible Faith

“If something’s going to be done right, you’ve got to do it yourself!” Is that always true? Of course not. In preparation for the sermon I delivered yesterday, I came across an exciting passage of Scripture found in Colossians 2:7. I’ve read it many times in my life, but this time, I pulled out my Greek New Testament and considered the verbs and participles. I can already see your eyes glazing over. I know. I try not to get too excited about Greek grammar, but I think what I discovered will light your fire. It did mine.

First, here’s the text:

Colossians 2:6-7 “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith…and overflowing with gratitude.”

The command is to live every day in Christ but notice the words I underlined in verse seven. These are all participles modifying how we are to walk in Him. Participles, like verbs, express tense, voice, and mood. I know we’re reaching way back to our English class but stay with me.

The first one, rooted, is in the perfect tense, which means it is something that happened in the past but continues to have present and future impact. The action is not continuous, but the effect is. Isn’t that a great thought? You became rooted in the past when you surrendered your life to Jesus, and you will constantly enjoy the effect of being stable in Jesus—no matter what.

The next three participles, built up, established, and overflowing, are all present tense. This points to continuous action. In other words, as I follow Jesus and walk about in Him through my life, I am constantly being built up, continuously being established, and unceasingly overflowing with gratitude. Nonstop. Every day!

The last participle, overflowing, is written in the active voice. That means you are doing the action. You are choosing every day to live a life of gratitude. No one can make that choice for you. It is a choice we have to make. Right? Here’s the thing. Whenever you and I are obedient and walk about in Christ every day, we will be grateful.

Look back at the middle two participles: built up and established. These two words were inspired to be written in the passive voice. That means someone else is doing the action. Who? Jesus! We are just receiving the action. Jesus, through His Spirit, is building us up and establishing us in our faith. How many times have we tried and tried and tried to live right and follow Jesus only to fall on our faces? We can try to be godly, but the secret is to train to be godly and receive the consequences of placing ourselves in a position to receive God’s activity in our lives.

One writer compared our spiritual lives to piloting a motorboat versus a sailboat. You are required to control the motorboat. In other words, the outcome is up to you. You put in the gas. You start the engine. You steer the boat. Compare the difference with a sailboat. It is true that you hoist the sail and control the rudder (training to be godly), but you go nowhere without the wind. The wind determines your destiny.

God’s Holy Spirit is the wind who does the action of building us up and establishing us in our lives. It comes in our lives as we employ various spiritual disciplines, like Bible reading and prayer (hoisting the sails). God makes us godly, mature, and stable as we prepare ourselves to receive His wind.

So, if you are a Christian, thank God that you are rooted in Jesus, prepare your spiritual sails to be built up and established by the wind of God’s Spirit, and choose to constantly overflow with gratitude for all God is doing in your life. God will be honored. We will live out a visible faith. The world will be changed.

Is It Here to Stay?

“The virus is never going away.” I just read that statement in an article and felt chills run down my back—not from the virus, but from the dread. Fortunately, a vaccine will be developed, and world citizens will learn how to live with it, just like we have with the normal flu. Still, I’m weary—coronaweary. And you probably are, too. So, what do we do about it? Most of us can’t help with vaccine research, but we can take specific steps in our own lives that will help us cope. In previous articles, I addressed coping with this challenge spiritually and emotionally. Today, I’d like to address one more area: physically.

I’d rather skip the medical precautions we’ve all heard about daily since mid-March: six feet apart, masks, etc. My concern right now is to think about what physical challenges are we experiencing because of our spiritual and emotional struggle, and what can we do about it?

Sometimes, the most spiritual thing we can do is take a nap. I hesitate to say that because a lot of lazy people in our country need not be such sloths, but many Americans are burning the candle at both ends. Rest is an important part of our physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. At one time, doctors viewed sleep problems as symptoms of some forms of mental illness, but now, they recognize it as a possible cause. A representative from Harvard Medical School wrote, “Neuroimaging and neurochemistry studies suggest that a good night’s sleep helps foster both mental and emotional resilience, while chronic sleep deprivation sets the stage for negative thinking and emotional vulnerability.”

Since I’m beating the health drum, I should also underscore our need for exercise. Most Americans are fat! Okay, it’s easier to take if I say we are health challenged, not reaching our weight indicators, or at worse, overweight. 

God made us to move, and when we don’t move, we suffer. I know 1 Timothy 4:8 is some people’s life verse (“exercise profits little”), but Paul was comparing it to disciplines leading to godliness. And let’s face it, Paul walked everywhere he went. I suppose if we walked five to ten miles a day as a normal course, we wouldn’t need more exercise either. We cannot be at our spiritual, emotional, and physical best without exercise. We don’t like to admit it, but overeating and general unhealthy living is a sin. Being healthy is one of the greatest stress defeaters available to us, and it doesn’t cost anything to walk a brisk two miles in the morning.

Do you want to pull yourself out of the coronaduldrums? Go take a walk or a nap…and lay off the fast-food while you’re at it.