3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven (Colossians 1:3-5a)
By Brenda Daniels
Do you experience a disconnect between what you read of God in the Bible, and what you experience in life? Perhaps your Bible reading time is a tranquil and inspiring experience. But, by comparison, everyday life – work, health, politics – is frustrating and difficult. Where does the God of the Bible fit into the details of your existence?
This was certainly what I encountered as 2018 dawned. After a cheery, family-full December, my life felt empty when everyone went their separate ways to start up a new year of responsibilities. Without my two daughters I wondered what the point of my life was. Because they’ve flown the nest I thought the best option left for me was to be put out to pasture like a lame racehorse. Yet all through those woe-is-me weeks in January I happened to be reading through the book of Philippians. Much like the Colossians verses above Philippians is full of thankfulness, prayer, certainty of faith and hope. Well, I didn’t exude much thankfulness and hope outside of my uplifting Bible reading sessions. Why was that?
According to Wendy Alsup in Practical Theology for Women the disconnect between what we believe and how we act can be put down to a lack of faith. What we do see in Scripture, though, says Alsup, is that true faith should play out practically in a believer’s life. This is because God is real. His steadfast love is better than life (Psalm 63:3). And he works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28).
Your difficulties will no doubt be different to mine. But when struggles do come we can ask ourselves these questions:
What is it I believe about God?
Do I believe that he is good?
Do I believe his promise to work the hard things for good in my life?
Do I trust that he’s acting consistently with his claims of love for me?
Simply put, do I believe him?
And in those dark moments, am I going to let my belief in his goodness or my despair over my struggle lead me?
Thinking through these questions may just help close the gap between what we read of God in the Bible, and how we live out our faith.Now let’s get to reading the Bible together.
Last month I said we would begin some practical ways of studying Colossians. To start:
Together with your 1-2-1 partner read the passage below. Perhaps take turns in reading the verses aloud. Read it through twice.
Colossians 1:1-14 (New International Version)
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
2 To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father.
3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel 6 that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. 7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.
9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Now each of you go through the passage and look for three things:
Something that stands out for you, anything that shines out in the passage and draws attention. A lightbulb. Choose one thing.
A question. Something you’d like to ask the author about. Something that’s hard to understand. Choose one thing.
Something you can apply to your life. Choose one thing.
Share your lightbulbs with each other and discuss.
Share your questions with each other and discuss.
Share your applications with each other and discuss. (This last one is important if we are to try closing the gap between what we read of God in the Bible and how we live out our faith.)