Toil and Struggle

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. - Colossians 1:28-29

Paul’s goal is to present everyone mature in Christ. It is why he was called to the ministry. It is why he wrote letters to churches. It is why he lived. It is why he endured suffering.  And Paul realized that this was no task he could do himself yet at the same time this was no task that he could remove himself from. There was a balance in Paul’s thinking. “I have a responsibility to present these people mature in Christ. I will do it through proclaiming Christ, warning and teaching with all wisdom. And when I’m done doing that work, I will rest on the work that Christ himself does for it is not me but he who works this out. I can’t change hearts but he can and he will. My job is to be faithful in proclaiming him.” Paul understood that the best proclamation was that which proclaimed Jesus in his gospel message. Paul understood that the best warning was that which presented Jesus in his fullness, including the wrath. Paul understood that all wisdom was that which proceeded from the risen Christ. That is why Paul resolved to know nothing among them except Jesus Christ and him crucified. For Paul, there was nothing else that would bring maturity.

Because Paul understood the way in which the life of a Christian works, he recognized that it was not his work that paid off but rather Christ’s work that brought the maturity. The job of a Christian is not to put the entire burden upon himself to change hearts, he could never do that, rather the job of a Christian is to put the burden upon Christ to change hearts. Through the preaching of the word of God, no matter how eloquent or how simple, the Christ-centered Christian will put his trust in Jesus to bring maturity. Paul struggled with all his energy but it wasn’t simply his own energy. He didn’t muster it up. It was Christ’s energy. And it was the power of Jesus that was working that energy out in Paul.

But Paul did toil. Christians who are not toiling are not going to present any people mature in Christ. The Christian life is not a life of passivity. It is a life of work. We are saved by faith in Christ’s work so we work by grace. It is grace-driven effort that now marks our work rather than performance-driven or law-driven or pride-driven work. The work is still done, the foundation is just changed. Therefore, toil. Work hard. Try big things. It won’t be easy. It will be glorious, though. Any time you’re involved in the work of Christ it is glorious. Now go and work as one who has nothing to lose but had everything to give. Give Christ away. It will be tiring. It will be trying. It will bring suffering. But, as we see in Paul’s life, it will bring immense joy. His words to the Colossians just a few verses earlier show us that, “Now I rejoice in my suffering for your sake.”

Therefore, rejoice. All Christians now have the privilege of being involved in the work of Christ.