Struggling for You

Colossians 2:1-5 (NRSV)

For I want you to know how much I am struggling for you, and for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me face to face.  I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  I am saying this so that no one may deceive you with plausible arguments.  For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, and I rejoice to see your morale and the firmness of your faith in Christ.


By John Grimm

Watching cars and SUVs go by is fascinating.  Each vehicle is heading hither or yon, maybe to an appointment or on a work assignment. The kids might be going to or coming back from ball practice. And as we race about, we’re all potentially in need of assistance, grateful to receive it when in need. 

We who are part of the church on occasion might have someone offer us spiritual assistance, by way of prayer and other means.  As we read about Paul’s compassion for the church in Colossae and in Laodicea, it is not an occasional gesture that he gives.  As we know Christ Jesus is interceding for us right now, Paul is encouraging us, by his example, to struggle for other Christians.  Why would we want to struggle in such ways?

We struggle for other Christians so their hearts may be encouraged, and they would be united in love.  It is difficult to have the assured understanding and the knowledge of Christ himself when we feel disconnected from other Christians.  It is the Holy Spirit who connects every disciple of Jesus Christ.  This connection can be found in every local church, across international borders, and across denominational boundaries.  We grow in wisdom and knowledge of Jesus Christ as we experience Christian connectedness.

It also is good to see the morale and the firmness of other Christians’ faith in Christ, as it refreshes our own faith in Christ!  A single stalk of corn cannot produce a good yield by itself.  It takes multiple rows of corn to pollinate each other for a good yield to be produced.  That is how it is with Christians.  As we struggle for the sake of other Christians, we all are encouraged.

Almighty God, thank you for the disciples of Jesus Christ on this planet.  As sisters and brothers in Christ are perplexed, struggling, battered, and feeling abandoned, we lift them up to you.  May each disciple and each church know Christ in full.  We ask that you strengthen us all, so we know we grow firm in our faith.  Amen.

Survival Plans

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Matthew 24:1-2: Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

There are a couple of ways to respond to serious threats in the world. There’s always the stereotypical “lone wolf” approach: Stock up on food and ammo (and apparently, toilet paper) and hunker down for a fight. But today, I want us to consider how a healthy church community serves as a key part of any survival plan.

With Covid-19 affecting everyday life so drastically, planning for worst-case scenarios doesn’t seem so kooky right now. We don’t like to think about disasters that very well may never happen in our lifetimes, particularly when we live in a relatively secure environment with easy access to water, food and heat. Serious events do happen, though.

Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about. You’ve volunteered or even been employed to work in the aftermath of a natural disaster, and you’ve seen how quickly modern urban areas like New Orleans and San Francisco can spend days, weeks or even months without basic necessities.

Human-caused disasters can wreak even more long-term havoc. For example, in 1984, Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, was modern and peaceful enough to host the Winter Olympic Games. By 1992, however, the Bosnian War was underway, and the city came under siege for four years. Its residents went from being model citizens of eastern Europe to constant targets of sniper fire as they ran about trying to buy a little bread.

And of course, we will never forget Sept. 11, 2001.

I’m not trying to make us feel more scared. It’s just a reality that the brokenness of the world can intrude anywhere, and people can be left struggling in the wake of such events. We’re talking about a truth that has been constant throughout human history.

Jesus was very open about what a hard place the world can be, and near the end of the Gospel of Matthew, in chapter 24, he is quoted as speaking in apocalyptic tones.

“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars,” Jesus said. “See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.” (Matthew 24:6-8)

Hearing Jesus’ words as a child must have affected me. Since I was a boy, I have enjoyed reading books and magazines on survival skills. I suppose there’s something comforting in at least thinking you might know how to start a fire and make water clean enough to drink under difficult circumstances.

I ran across an interesting magazine, “Living Ready,” a few years ago. Within was one of the best survival articles I’ve ever read, mostly because the author went in a different direction than what you usually find in such a magazine.

In the article, Dr. Kyle Ver Steeg contrasted the stereotype of the lone survivalist in the “Army Guy” costume vs. the reality of how people actually survive difficult situations. He drew heavily on his experience working in Haiti shortly after the massive earthquake that struck there in 2010.

To prepare for a long-term survival situation, “I am of the opinion that the single most important thing you can do is to build a network of trustworthy, capable and likeable people,” Ver Steeg writes. “I would add that you should also work on becoming a part of your community and to develop skills that will be useful to your particular group.”

Later, he makes this particularly pertinent point: “If you are a churchgoing person you already have such a network in place. Think about it for a second. Churches already have leaders and a community of like-minded people with varied skills. They are used to working together to accomplish goals. Many churches already do mission work in desolate areas of the world. These people have knowledge and experience that some of the most survival-minded people do not.”

It makes sense, doesn’t it? In a crisis, relying on the relationships and shared skills we’ve been developing for years in church should be a natural response. Most churches contain all sorts of people useful in an emergency: medical professionals, soldiers, scientists, engineers, food-handling experts, logistical experts—that’s just a quick start to a very long list. And in the midst of all that, we have Scripture as our guide and the Holy Spirit to sustain us.

As terrible as Covid-19 is, perhaps there’s an opportunity here. By the time we get through all of this, we may have a better understanding of just how valuable our community of Christians is, and perhaps we will be better equipped to work in this sin-broken world.

Lord, may we sense how we are part of something bigger than ourselves when we gather as a church. Amen.