He is before all things, and in him all things hold together… (Colossians 1:17)
…if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. (Colossians 1:23)
Where does your mind go?
What do you think about when you’re bored? Or worried about something? If you can’t sleep at night, or if you’re pounding away at the gym on a mindless treadmill, how do you entertain yourself? What do you think about? When I’m bored or worried I invent scenarios with myself at the centre. The scenarios expand – often negatively – on something I may already be fretting about. And by the end of my storytelling I feel miserable and quite hopeless.
To illustrate, when my youngest daughter got married and moved away from home I felt our separation keenly. When she began hinting about emigrating at some vague juncture in the future my sadness went into overdrive. Sleepless nights and boring treadmill sessions were taken up with thoughts of seeing her only on a jumpy Skype connection, and not having a relationship with as-yet-unborn grandchildren because I lived on another continent. My sense of purposelessness grew as the story grew.
What’s it like for you? What things do you worry about? Do you mull over those things until they are so big you don’t know what to do with them?
‘Stop!’ Says Wendy Alsup in Practical Theology for Women, ‘put your pencils down’. In other words, stop this thought process. Stop this descent into worry. Instead, set your hearts – in fact, force your minds – to dwell on Christ. Set your minds on Jesus because he is ‘before all things, and in him all things hold together’ (Colossians 1:17). God is sovereign, whatever your situation. Instead of taking your problems to the worry treadmill actively view them through the lens of the eternal, sovereign God. As we do this we may just glimpse what God means when he says in Romans 8:28 ‘And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.’ With this focus we may begin to close the gap between our lives and our faith (a subject we discussed last month).
A sovereign God
If you’re a Christian you may already believe that God is sovereign. That He’s all powerful. And that you fit somewhere into His overall, eternal purpose. So why do you, we (I!) sink into faithless worry? What is it about us that makes us turn our eyes from the eternal to the temporal? It’s because we forget, says Alsup. We forget who God is. And we forget how He has provided for us in the past. And this forgetting, this faithlessness, is sin.
How reading together helps
This is where reading the Bible 1-2-1 can come in. Reading the Bible, discovering the Bible, together, can help us remember God. As we relate to one another, share our faith in the God we believe in during our 1-2-1 times, we can remind each other to ‘continue in our faith, established and firm, not moving from the hope held out in the gospel’ (Colossians 1:23). Together, we remind each other about the God we know and can then challenge each other to act like we know him in our individual circumstances.
So, to Bible study then!
Last month we started looking at Colossians using what is known as the ‘Swedish Method’.
We will continue with both this month:
- Set a time to meet with your 1-2-1 partner and decide how long you need to spend together (45 to 90 minutes might be good).
- Pray before you meet.
- Read Colossians 1:15-23 together.
Colossians 1:15-23 New International Version (NIV)
The Supremacy of the Son of God
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of[a] your evil behaviour. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.
Now each of you go through the passage and look for three things and discuss them:
- Something that stands out for you, anything that shines out in the passage and draws attention. A lightbulb.
- A question. Something you’d like to ask the author about. Something that’s hard to understand.
- Something you can apply to your life.
Do two more things and discuss these:
- Restate the central idea of the passage in your own words.
- Think of one person who might benefit if you shared with them what you’ve learnt.
- Set a date for next time.
- Pray about what you’ve learnt.
Next month we’ll look more in depth at who God is, and go on to study Colossians 1:24-2:5 together, using a different Bible Study method.