AND FOR THIS PURPOSE
I LABOR: eis o
kai kopio (1SPAI) agonizomenos (PMPMSN): (Acts 20:35 2Co
11:21-33 Col 4:12 1Co 15:10 Php 2:16 1Th 2:9 2Th 3:8 2Ti 2:10 1Ti
5:17 2Ti 2:6)
For this end I train myself in the discipline of self-denial; for this
end I commit myself to the arena of suffering and toil’ (Lightfoot)
to which end also I am constantly laboring to the point of exhaustion
For this I labor unto weariness] (Amplified)
for which also I labor, striving according to His supernatural
working, the one supernaturally working in me in power. (Analyzed
Toward this goal I also
(for this end, unto this end) is not in the original Greek sentence but it is
implied. The idea of the preposition for
(eis) expresses motion toward, thus one could translate
it "toward this end". What end? Every man complete in Christ. One is reminded of
Paul's description of his physical toil in 2Co 11:21-33 and the revealing addition,
"Apart from such external
things, there is the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the
churches." (2Co 11:28).
As an aside
(hopefully an encouragement and a challenge),
Colossians 1:29 is one of those
verses (along with Colossians 1:28) upon which we do well to
frequently meditate, begging the Spirit to open the eyes of our
heart to understand and experience "the surpassing greatness of His
power" (the same power that raised Jesus from the dead! - see Eph
in our lives, our marriages, our ministry, our workplaces, etc.
Begin by committing Colossians 1:28-29 to memory. Then take a few
moments each day to prayerfully meditate on these two passages, even
taking time to record your observations and praying these truths
back to God, that you might imitate Paul's experience of a
supernatural life, in which, yes, the labor is to the point of
fainting, but the life is one of His power working in and through
you for His glory. I can guarantee time and eternity will show that
this was time well spent!
In his letter to the saints in
Thessalonica he sums up the effort required writing "For you recall, brethren, our labor (kopos
= engage in an activity that is burdensome with associated distress,
trouble, discomfort, difficulty)) and hardship, how working night
and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you
the gospel of God. (1Thes 2:9-note)
Adam Clarke - Whoever considers the original
words (the Greek sentence)...will find that no verbal translation can
convey their sense. God worked energetically in St. Paul, and he
wrought energetically with God; (Colossians
1 - Adam Clarke Commentary)
John Eadie - To attain this blessed end, I also
toil — agonizomenos — “intensely struggling,” or as Wycliffe renders—I
traueile in stryuynge. It was no light work, no pastime; it made a
demand upon every faculty and every moment. 1Ti 4:10. Since the
apostle had many adversaries to contend with, as is evident from
numerous allusions in his epistles, Php 1:29, 30, 1Ti 6:5, 2Th. 3:2,
many suppose that such struggles are either prominently alluded to
here, or at least are distinctly implied in the use of the participle.
But the context does not favour such a hypothesis. It would seem from
the following verses, that it is to an agony of spiritual
earnestness that the apostle refers—to that profound yearning
which occasioned so many wrestlings in prayer, and drew from him so
many tears; meta polles tes spoudes, as Chrysostom paraphrases
it. When we reflect upon the motive—the presentation of perfect men to
God, and upon the instrument—the preaching of the cross, we cease to
wonder at the apostle's zeal and toils. For there is no function
(pursuit in life) so
momentous,—not that which studies the constitution of man, in order to
ascertain his diseases and remove them; nor that which labors for
social improvement, and the promotion of science and civilization; nor
that which unfolds the resources of a nation, and secures it a free
and patriotic government—far more important than all, is the
function of the Christian ministry. What in other spheres is
enthusiasm, is in it but sobriety. Barnes well says—“In such a work it
is a privilege to exhaust our strength; in the performance of the
duties of such an office, it is an honor to be permitted to wear out
life itself.” It was, indeed, no sluggish heart
that beat in the apostle's bosom. His was no torpid temperament. There
was such a keenness in all its emotions and anxieties, that its
resolve and action were simultaneous movements. But though he labored
so industriously, and suffered so bravely in the aim of winning souls
to Christ and glory, still he owned that all was owing to Divine power
lodged within him— (Colossians
The work to be perform'd is ours,
The strength is all His own;
'Tis He that works to will,
'Tis He that works to do;
His is the power by which we act,
His be the glory too.
[word study] from
= labor which involves toil and weariness and
sorrow) means to engage in hard work and implies difficulties and trouble.
Kopiao speaks of intense toil even sweating and straining
to the point of exhaustion if necessary. (present
tense = continually)
Kopiao was used for work which left one so weary it
was as if the person had taken a beating. Henry Blackaby says that God
will wear you out when you are in the center of His will. It is not
surprising to see that Paul uses kopiao frequently to
describe the quality of labor involved in ministry for the Lord .
Kopiao was sometimes used to refer to athletic training.
It was also common used among the down-trodden masses of the Roman
emphasizes that this was Paul's lifestyle. The
indicates this is his volitional choice. Remember that Paul calls us
all to be imitators of him, just as he is of Christ Jesus!
-23x in 21v - Study all of Paul's uses of kopiao to get a good sense of
what it means to toil and labor in ministry -
Meditate especially on
Memorize it. Imitate it!
Kopiao is translated in the NAS as: diligently labor, 1; grown weary, 1;
hard-working, 1; labor, 3; labored, 4; labors, 1; toil, 4; wearied, 1;
weary, 1; work hard, 1; worked, 2; worked hard, 1; worked hard, 1; workers, 1; working hard, 1.
Matthew 6:28 "And why are you
worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow;
they do not toil nor do they spin,
Matthew 11:28 "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden,
and I will give you rest.
Luke 5:5 Simon answered and said, "Master, we worked hard
all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down
Luke 12:27 "Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil
nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed
himself like one of these.
John 4:6 and Jacob's well was there. So Jesus, being wearied
from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the
John 4:38 "I sent you to reap
that for which you have not labored; others have labored
and you have entered into their labor (kopos)."
Acts 20:35 "In everything I showed you that by working
hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the
words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, 'It is more blessed
to give than to receive.'"
Romans 16:6 Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you.
Romans 16:12 Greet Tryphaena and
Tryphosa, workers in the Lord. Greet Persis the beloved, who
has worked hard in the Lord.
1 Corinthians 4:12 and we toil, working with our own hands;
when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure;
1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His
grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more
than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.
1 Corinthians 16:16 that you also be in subjection to such men and
to everyone who helps in the work and labors.
Galatians 4:11 I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored
over you in vain.
Ephesians 4:28 He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he
must labor, performing with his own hands what is good,
so that he will have something to share with one who has need.
Philippians 2:16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day
of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain
nor toil in vain.
Colossians 1:29 For this purpose also I labor, striving
according to His power, which mightily works within me.
1 Thessalonians 5:12 But we request of you, brethren, that you
appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and
have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction,
1 Timothy 4:10 For it is for this we labor and strive,
because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior
of all men, especially of believers.
1 Timothy 5:17 The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy
of double honor, especially those who work hard at
preaching and teaching.
2 Timothy 2:6 The hard-working farmer ought to be the
first to receive his share of the crops.
Revelation 2:3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My
name's sake, and have not grown weary.
Kopiao is the word Jesus used in His famous
(Yes, Jesus invites, but He does so by issuing the invitation in the
form of a loving command - ) to Me, all who are weary (worn out,
ready to faint from exhaustion) and heavy-laden, and I will give
you rest." (Mt 11:28-note)
ye weary, heavy laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all.
by Fernando Ortega & Amy Grant)
An excellent illustration of
toiling according to our power versus God's power is
found in Luke 5. Peter the famous fisherman is given instructions by
Jesus to "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a
catch". (Lk 5:4) Peter was an experienced fisherman and could have
ignored Jesus' command, but instead he submitted and said "Master,
all night and caught nothing, but (this
term of contrast
is like a hinge - here it separates spiritual failure, from
spiritual victory!) at Your bidding I will let down the
nets." (Luke 5:5) What was the
result when Peter worked according to "His power"? Luke records that
he experienced supernatural results and "enclosed a great
quantity of fish; and their nets began to break!" (Luke 5:6)
Beloved, may our hearts be so
inclined to the still small voice of the Spirit of Jesus, that we
continually experience our "nets breaking" for the glory of the
Paul knew that investment now would bear fruit for eternity and
thus encouraged Timothy to "Let the elders who rule well be
considered worthy of double honor, especially those who
preaching and teaching (didaskalia
= derived from
used in Col 1:28)." (1Ti 5:17)
What would be the result of such a
Spirit enabled ministry?
It would be a body
of believers who were becoming more and more like Christ, becoming compete in Christ
(Col 1:28). Preaching and teaching are hard work, but the benefits
can be eternal.
In a parallel passage to
encourage Timothy Paul wrote that "The
(kopiao) farmer ought to be the first
to receive his share of the crops (fruit)."
in God's field, do you ever feel like you're
at the end of your rope?
You've labored in the fields
where God has placed
you (see Eph 2:10) and yet you encounter so little pursuit of godliness and holiness and fear
of the Lord. You are exhausted to the point of giving up. Paul would
encourage you "Let us
not "lose heart in doing good for in due time we shall reap if we do
not grow weary" (Gal 6:9-10-note).
command to continually be) steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,
knowing that your toil (kopos) is not in
vain in the Lord. (1Cor 15:58-note).
is undoubtedly one of the greatest modern expositors of God's Word and
so it is interesting to read his comments on this section...he writes
"People sometimes tell me that I work too hard. But compared to
Paul, I am not working hard enough. It saddens me to hear of pastors
or seminary students who are looking for an easy pastorate. When I was
a young pastor, a lady (Who did not know I was a pastor) advised me to
go into the ministry. When I asked her why, she replied that ministers
did not have to do anything and could make lots of money....No
one can successfully serve Jesus Christ without working hard. Lazy
pastors, Christian leaders, or laymen will never fulfill the ministry
the Lord has called them to. Striving...refers to competing in an
athletic event. Our English word agonize is derived from it. Success
in serving the Lord, like success in sports, demands maximum effort."
J. Colossians. Chicago: Moody Press
Paul uses the same combination
of words (kopiao and agonizomai) in
reminding Timothy that "it is for this (disciplining one's self
for godliness 1Ti 4:7, 8, 9-notes) we
strive (agonizomai - Note: Textus Receptus has oneidizo), because
(This is a strategic
term of explanation
- What is the question
it begs? Check the preceding context? What motivates Paul's
willingness to work so hard?) we have
fixed our hope on the living God (So
if we are feeling burnt out in ministry, what Biblical truth might
we consider meditating on that the Holy Spirit might use it to renew
our mind and fan the flames of our passion for the Gospel?),
Who is the Savior of all men,
especially of believers." (1Ti 4:10-note)
LIghtfoot comments that kopiao
is "used especially of the labor undergone by the athlete in his
training and therefore fitly introduces the metaphor of
A T Robertson writes that
toils on...In order to present every man perfect in Christ, Paul
undergoes labor like the athlete in training and even to the point of
weariness, if needs be. . . . Every preacher is called upon to be a
spiritual athlete like Paul (1Cor 9:25). The struggle is both
inward and outward. . . . Jesus as God's Son had fullness of power in
touch with His Father, and yet He sat in weariness (kopiao) on the curbstone of
Jacob's well (John 4:6), slept for sheer weariness on the
cushion in the stern of the boat (Mark 4:38). Even Jesus felt
power gone out of Him when He labored for men. And the spiritual agony
of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane is expressed with the same root
by Luke in Lk 22:44. Paul's struggle, like that of the true
preacher always, "is carried on in proportion not to his natural
powers, but to the mightily working energy within him" (Peake).
The context does not make clear that energy is God's or Christ's. In
Php 4:13 Christ is the one who gives Paul all strength.
The context here rather calls for Christ. Here the "energy" works "in
power," while Eph 3:20 it is "the power" that works in
us. But in both instances it is divine power, not mere human energy.
Paul is able to make superhuman struggles because he has the strength
of Christ to help him. He wishes no men under his ministry with
talents hidden in a napkin (Paul and the Intellectuals, pp.
69-72). (Colossians 1:24-2:5 The Mystery of God
in Christ Made Manifest)
STRIVING ACCORDING TO HIS POWER
WHICH MIGHTILY WORKS WITHIN ME: agonizomenos (PMPMSN)
kata ten energeian
autou ten energoumenen (PMPFSA) en
emoi en dunamei:
15:30 1Co 9:25, 26, 27 Php 1:27 1Ti6:12 2Ti4:7) (1Co 12:6,12:11 Eph
1:19 3:7,20 Php 2:13 Heb 13:21) (2Cor12:9,12:10)
Here is my expanded paraphrase
(taking into consideration the tenses)...
I am continually striving even to
the point of agonizing (laboring fervently, exerting great effort
intensely like an Olympic athlete contending in the competitive games)
according to (not out of but proportionate to) His (indwelling
Spirit's) supernatural, effectual working (in me), continually
supernaturally energizing in me in (Spirit enabled) power
(supernatural ability to accomplish my task)
Here are some
other renderings of this great passage...
putting forth in the conflict all
that energy which He inspires, and which works in me so powerfully.’
engaging in a contest in which I am
controlled by His energy which operates in me in power (Wuest)
striving according to his working
that is working in me in power. (Young's Literal)
striving with all the superhuman energy which He
so mightily enkindles and works within me. (Amplified)
with His strength that works powerfully in me (CSB)
struggling according to his power
that powerfully works in me (NET)
by His active energy which is
mightily working in me (Williams)
according to His energy which is energizing itself in me with power.
striving with all the energy that
he stirs up in me so mightily (Jewish NT)
striving according to His working
that is working in me in power. (Young's Literal)
Weymouth also words it
beautifully - To this end, like an earnest
wrestler, I exert all my strength in reliance upon the power of Him
who is mightily at work within me.
Paul labors. Paul strives. But it
is by the mighty power of Christ that works in him, enabling him.
NOT INSTEAD OF
BUT THROUGH OUR WORKING
John Piper said it this way
- "God does not work instead of our
working, but through our working. God does not energize
instead of our
having energy; he energizes our energy. Therefore it is unbiblical and
irrational to say that because the grace of God produces an active
trust in God, we don't need to exert an active trust in God.
At the end of your life, after decades of loving ministry, however God
uses you to stir up the obedience of faith in others, what are you
going to say about the grace of God and your lifelong labors? Are you
going to boast? No. You are going to use the words of Paul in Ro
"For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has
accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles."
You will say something like a paraphrase of 1Corinthians 4:7, "What
did I have that I did not receive? If then I received it, why should I
boast as if it were not a gift?" (God
Has Allotted to each a Measure of Faith)
R B Kuiper relates
Sovereignty and Man's Responsibility to two ropes "I liken them to two ropes going
through two holes in the ceiling and over a pulley above. If I wish to
support myself by them, I must cling to them both. If I cling only to
one and not the other, I go down. I read the many teachings of the
Bible regarding God’s election, predestination, his chosen, and so on,
I read also the many teachings regarding, ‘whosoever will may come’
and urging people to exercise their responsibility as human beings.
These seeming contradictions cannot be reconciled by the puny human
mind. With childlike faith, I cling to both ropes, fully confident
that in eternity I will see that both strands of truth are, after all,
of one piece.” (NETBible-
Sermon Illustrations -- Hang On to Both Ropes) Comment: All natural
analogies of course are imperfect in attempting to define any of God's
perfect attributes. That said, Kuiper's illustration brings to mind a
row boat - unless both oars (God's sovereignty, Man's responsibility)
are effectively engaged in the endeavor, the rowing is ineffective.
Martin Luther alluded to the
mysterious interaction of God's sovereignty and Man's responsibility
when he said "If God did not bless, not one hair,
not a solitary wisp of straw, would grow; but there would be an end of
everything. At the same time God wants me to take this stance: I would
have nothing whatever if I did not plow and sow. God does not want to
have success come without work, and yet I am not to achieve it by my
work. He does not want me to sit at home, to loaf, to commit matters
to God, and to wait till a fried chicken flies into my mouth. That
would be tempting God.
Compare the "natural and
supernatural balance" in Paul's testimony in First
Corinthians "But (term
of contrast -
forces us to check
- 1Cor 15:9-note)
by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not
prove vain; but (Another "change of direction") I labored (kopiao)
even more than all of them, yet not (strongest negative
= absolute negation) I, but (His fourth term of
contrast - Paul wants to make sure we don't miss the importance of
this last great truth) the grace of God with me. (1Cor 15:10-note)
ALL OF CHRIST <> ALL OF ME
Believers are 100 percent dependent
on the power of the Spirit of Christ in order to participate in the
work He has prepared for us (Eph 2:10). As the psalmist writes "Unless the Lord builds the house
(God's part), those who build it (Our part) labor in vain. Unless the
Lord (God's part) watches over the city, the watchman (Our part) stays
awake in vain (Psalm 127:1).
Comment: Do not miss the
simple yet vital, profound truth - UNLESS we rely on God's
supernatural enablement (cp Php 2:13), our human efforts are just that
-- our effort and will avail nothing of eternal value (Jn 15:5)! This
is very humbling, but it is the secret of the fruitful Christian life,
learning to daily, moment by moment dependent on the enabling power of
the indwelling Spirit of Christ, trusting His power, submitting to His
leadership, walking with His energizing strength. Notice in this
Psalm, Jehovah does not just "help" us build, but He actually builds!
Mysterious? Indeed it is. True? Absolutely. And so we walk out in
faith, trusting that His grace is sufficient, that we can do all
things through Him Who strengthens us. Notice what this passage does
not say - Let go, let God. A better saying would be "Let God and let's
go!" Think of it this way -- God supplies all the enabling
power, and believers do all the tangible work.
Life Application Bible
Commentary - This verse vividly portrays the
necessity of cooperation and combined effort between believers and
Christ. The will of Christ and the will of the person must work
together. The work of salvation is "all of Christ and none of me." The
daily practice of servanthood is "all of Christ and all of me."
[word study]) (intensely struggling like an athlete, agonizing with great intensity, purpose and effort, fighting,
competing in the games, contending with adversaries, struggling with
difficulties and dangers, endeavoring with strenuous zeal to obtain
The Greek agonizomai gives us
our English words "agony" (a violent struggle
suggesting pain too intense to be borne. Agony can describe the
struggle that precedes death), "agonize" -
to suffer agony, torture, or anguish. agonizomai is in
present tense which describes this as
continuous effort on Paul's part. The
middle voice of
the verb indicates that Paul initiated the striving
and participated in the results or effects.
Agonizomai means to strive or contend
for victory in the public athletic games, to wrestle as in a prize
contest, straining every nerve to the uttermost towards the goal.
uses this word in his exhortation to the Corinthians writing "And
everyone who competes (agonizomai) in the games exercises
self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable
wreath, but we an imperishable. (1Cor 9:25-note)
adds "By usage, the word agonizomai gives the thought of the
strife and stress of the athletic arena; a thought conspicuous in
e.g. 1 Corinthians 9:25; 1 Timothy 6:12. It thus conveys an
impression of contest with obstacles in view of a definite goal." (Colossians
1 Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)
clearly understood the vital importance of Colossians 1:29 in every
Christian's life writing those famous word "Did we in our own strength confide, our
would be losing" (A
Mighty Fortress is our God)
root word is
which Vincent notes referred "originally
to an assembly, a place of assembly, especially for viewing the games.
Hence the contest itself, the word being united with different
adjectives indicating the character of the contest, as of horses;
gymnastic; of music, where the prize is a brazen shield, etc.
Generally, any struggle or trial."
One thing is clear -- spiritual
"exercise" is not easy! A Christian who wants to do
the work of His Lord must not approach it with a half-hearted attitude
for to excel must
really work at it, by the
grace of God and to the glory of God. This
was no light work Paul refers to, no pleasurable pastime but a work
that made a demand upon every faculty and every moment.
Why is Paul willing to
strenuously strive and struggle?
Eadie addresses this question writing that "When we reflect
upon the motive—the presentation of perfect men to God, and
upon the instrument—the preaching of the cross, we cease to wonder at
the apostle's zeal and toils. For there is no function so momentous,—not
that which studies the constitution of man, in order to ascertain his
diseases and remove them; nor that which labours for social
improvement, and the promotion of science and civilization; nor that
which unfolds the resources of a nation, and secures it a free and
patriotic government—far more important than all, is the function of
the Christian ministry. What in other spheres is enthusiasm, is in it
but sobriety. Barnes well says—“In such a work it is a privilege to
exhaust our strength; in the performance of the duties of such an
office, it is an honour to be permitted to wear out life itself.”
This is a truth which every minister of Christ (remembering all
believers are "in ministry") needs to recall frequently to spur them
to press on. (Colossians
1 - Eadie's Commentary on Colossians)
Wuest discussing the meaning of
agonizomai adds that ""The first-century Roman world was
acquainted with these Greek athletic terms, for the Greek stadium was
a familiar sight, and the Greek athletic games were well known in the
large cities of the Empire. The Bible writers seized upon these terms,
and used them to illustrate in a most vivid manner, the intensity of
purpose and activity that should characterize both Christian living
and Christian service. The present day football game is a fair example
of the terrific struggle for supremacy in the Greek athletic games
that was commonly seen by the first-century stadium crowds. The point
is that if we Christians would live our Christian lives and serve the
Lord Jesus with the intensity of purpose and effort that is put forth
in a football contest, what God-glorifying lives we would live." (Eerdmans)
Would it be true of all of us at the end of our "race" that we would
be able say with confidence like Paul "I have fought (agonizomai) the good fight (agon), I have finished the
course, I have kept the faith" (2Ti 4:7-note)
or as Wuest paraphrases his words
"The desperate, straining, agonizing contest marked by its beauty of
technique, I, like a wrestler, have fought to the finish, and at
present am resting in its victory. My race, I, like a runner, have
finished, and at present am resting at the goal. The Faith committed
to my care, I, like a soldier, have kept safely through everlasting
vigilance, and have delivered it again to my Captain”. (Eerdmans)
Lord, may his tribe increase in our day. Amen.
Paul was continually striving, contending, fighting,
wrestling, straining every nerve to the uttermost to reach the
goal. This pictures our task as one calling for us to persevere amid great temptation
and intense opposition.
Agonizomai was used in reference to the
athletes who took part in the marathon races, willing to undergo the
most self-denying discipline to be at their fittest, thereby hoping to
win an earthly crown. The athlete engaged in the intense competition
of the games even to the point of physical agony. What a commentary
this is upon first-century Christianity. What intense lives these
early Christians must have lived. With what desperate earnestness they
must have worked for the Lord. What fervor and intensity there must
have been in their prayers.
Struggle? (George Noble)
• In prayer Col. 4:12
• In ministry Col. 1:29
• In conflict 2 Tim. 4:7
• In running 1 Cor. 9:25
his "spiritual sinew" to the maximum in order to present every man
complete in Christ. We see a similar picture in Thessalonians "For you recall, brethren, our labor
(kopos = labor involving toil and weariness and sorrow) and hardship,
how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we
proclaimed to you the gospel of God. (1Th 2:9-note)
remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in
order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of
Paul reminds the Colossian saints of a worthy example of one who had
agonized to present them mature mentioning "Epaphras,
who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ...always laboring earnestly
(agonizomai) for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect
and fully assured in all the will of God.
As someone has well said "If church members today put as much concern and enthusiasm into their
praying as they did into their baseball games or bowling, we would
- I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we
stand, as in what direction we are moving: To reach the port of
heaven, we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against
it—but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.—Oliver
According to - Greek preposition kata, which does not
mean 'out of' but in proportion to God's infinite,
inexhaustible supply. Let's illustrate the meaning by imagining
you are a billionaire and you give me one dollar. You have given me out of your riches like Mr. Rockefeller who
used to give his caddy a dime! Now on the other hand if you give me a
million dollars, you have given me according to your
riches. The first gift is a portion while the second is a proportion.
Annie Johnson Flint's beautiful poem
put to music captures the idea...
Listen to this powerful vocal by
grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials he multiplies peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
His love has no limits, His
grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.
Where does the energy come from? This amazing apostle, with his
indefatigable journeying night and day, through shipwreck and hardship
of every kind, working with his hands, laboring, traveling up and down
the length and breadth of the entire Roman empire, is ceaseless in his
endeavors...but he is ever conscious that it was only as he was
empowered by the Lord that he was able to serve Him at all.
conscious of your need to be totally dependent on Him for His Spirit's supernatural power
and that you are but a tiny, frail "branch" and Christ Alone is the Vine and that
apart from Him you can do absolutely nothing that will last throughout eternity?
(cf Jn 15:5)
John Eadie - According to His working, that
works in me with might - The preposition kata expresses
the measure of Paul's apostolic labor. He labored not only under
the prompting of the Divine energy, but he labored just so far as
that imparted energy enabled him. 1Cor 15:10. “By the grace of God I am what I
am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I
labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of
God which was with me.” The pronoun autou = refers not to
God, as many imagine, but to Christ. The participle is not in the
as in Gal 5:6. [Eph. 3:20-note]. The phrase en dunamei...has an adverbial sense,
specifying the mode of operation. Ro. 1:4-note;
2Th. 1:11. The occurrence of the noun and a correlate verb intensifies
the meaning. [Eph 1:5, 6-note]
It was no feeble manifestation of Divine power that showed itself in
the great apostle of the Gentiles. Its ample energies clothed him with
a species of moral omnipotence. Phil 4:13-note.
The sublime motive to present
every man perfect in Christ, through the preaching of Christ, could
only be realized by the conferment of Divine qualification and
assistance. Mere human influence cannot reach
it, though the faculties be kept in full tension, and the mind be
disciplined into symmetrical operation. Learning, industry, and
genius, are of little avail, without piety and spiritual
support. “Our sufficiency is of God.” 2Co 3:5, 6 (cp 2Co 12:9-note,
1 - Eadie's Commentary on Colossians)
Ray Stedman writes
"Christ in you! The hope of glory. Now that is why I say if
Christians would begin to understand what it is that God has made
available to them, they would never be the same again. We would
never have to plead with people in the church to take on needed
enterprises, ministries, or teaching Sunday School. We would not be
met with the excuse, "Oh, I just don't have the strength to do it. I
don't have the energy." You see, here is a source of energy, Paul
says, that is constant and consistent and which flows through him,
created by the Spirit of God indwelling him. As he saw the task, he
moved to meet it with energy which God gave.
That is resurrection power.
of Colossians- Power to Endure with Joy)
sing this little chorus...
power, fill me this hour.
Jesus be Jesus in me.
power which mightily works within me
- This reads more literally "the working (energeia =
noun) of Him Who is working (energeo =
verb) in me in power (dunamis)".
according to His energy which energizes me in power".
Two different words for
power are used. NKJV
translates it "striving according to His working which works in me
mightily." Note the play on words describing God's "working
works" or "energy energized" in Paul! What an awesome
description of a saint's sufficient supply to carry out the
stretching, strenuous ministry of presenting men complete in Christ.
R Kent Hughes
offers a challenging comment on this section - It is often said, "When all is said
and done, there is more said than done." It ought not to be that way!
Luther worked so hard that many days, according to his biographers, he
fell into bed. Moody's bedtime prayer on one occasion, as he rolled
his bulk into bed, was, "Lord, I'm tired! Amen." John Wesley rode
sixty to seventy miles many days of his life and preached an average
of three sermons a day, whether he was riding or not. Alexander
Maclaren would get to his office when the workmen went to work so he
could hear their boots outside, and would put on workmen's boots to
remind him why he was in his study. G. Campbell Morgan kept a
newspaper clipping for twenty years, entitled "Sheer Hard Work," and
said: "What is true of the minister is
true of every man who bears the name of Christ. We have not begun to
touch the great business of salvation when we have sung, "Rescue the
perishing, care for the dying." We have not entered into the business
of evangelizing the city or the world until we have put our own lives
into the business, our own immediate physical endeavor, inspired by
spiritual devotion." [Read
G. Campbell Morgan's entire article "My Lambs-My
Sheep"]. Paul's ministerial drive is a model
for us all. We will never have an authentic, apostolic ministry unless
we are willing to work to the point of exhaustion...Some years ago a
woman in Africa became a Christian. Being filled with gratitude, she
decided to do something for Christ. She was blind, uneducated, and
seventy years of age. She came to her missionary with her French
Bible and asked her to underline
in red ink. mystified, the missionary watched her as she took her
Bible and sat in front of a boys' school in the afternoon. When
school dismissed, she would call a boy or two and ask them if they
knew French. When they proudly responded that they did, she would
say, "Please read the passage underlined in red." When they did, she
would ask, "Do you know what this means?" And she would tell them
about Christ. The missionary says that over the years twenty-four
young men became pastors due to her work.
R. K. Colossians and Philemon: The Supremacy of Christ: Crossway Books
Moule - Observe the
intimation, at once restful and animating, that the presence and
movement within him of the power (“works [energeia] within me") of
God were the force behind all his apostolic activity. “By Him he
moves, in Him he lives;” while yet the man’s “moving” and “living”
is none the less genuinely personal. Cp. 1 Corinthians 15:10; 2
Corinthians 3:5; 2 Corinthians 4:7; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10; Php
2:12-13; Php 4:13; and above, Colossians 1:11. (Colossians
1 Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)
Power (1753) (energeia
from en = in + érgon = work) describes working,
efficiency or active, effective power and is exclusively a Pauline
word used only to describe superhuman power, whether of God or of the
devil; of God. Energeia is found in the
classic Greek writings first in Aristotle describing diabolic
influences. And so in In Hellenism, as in Philo, the word group
energeia/energeo (noun/verb) is used of cosmic or physical forces at
work in man or the world around.
Commentary notes that in this verse energeia "stresses the inner strength
supplied by the Lord. The Greek text actually reads with a double
emphasis: “struggling according to his energy which energizes me in
power.” Two different words for power are used, and the
interpretation above attempts to capture the spirit of the Greek
- 8x in 8v - Eph 1:19; 3:7; 4:16; Phil 3:21; Col 1:29; 2:12; 2 Thess
2:9, 11 NAS = activity, 1; exertion, 1; influence, 1;
working, 4. The KJV translates the word with a slightly different
flavor - effectual working, 2; operation, 1; strong, 1; working, 4.
Energeia is not used in the Septuagint (not counting the Apocrypha
where there are 8 uses).
is found in the classic Greek writings first in Aristotle describing
diabolic influences. And so in In Hellenism, as in Philo, the word
group energeia/energeo (noun/verb) is used of cosmic or physical
forces at work in man or the world around.
for example, is describes God’s power in raising Christ, Paul
instructing the Colossian saints that they have "been buried with Him (Christ) in baptism, in which you were also
raised up with Him through faith in the (supernatural)
of God, Who raised Him from the dead (Col 2:12-
In Php 3:21
(note) our Lord Jesus Christ
transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body
of His glory, by the (supernatural)
exertion (energeia) of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself."
Energeia describes Satan's supernatural power Paul recording that the
"Antichrist" or "lawless one" "is the one whose coming is in accord with the (supernatural)
of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders and with all the
deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not
receive the love of the truth so as to be saved." (2Thes 2:9, 10)
The other uses of energeia
in the NT are found in:
Ephesians 1:19 (note)
and what is the
surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in
accordance with the working of the strength of His might." In
context energeia here speaks of the energy put forth or
effectual power of God that was active in the resurrection of Christ.
Ephesians 3:7 (note) of which I was
made a minister, according to the gift of God's grace which was given
to me according to the working of His power.
Ephesians 4:16 (note)
from whom the
whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint
supplies, according to the proper working of each individual
part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in
2 Thessalonians 2:9 that is, the
one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all
power and signs and false wonders...11 And for this reason God will
send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is
[word study] from en = in + érgon = work.
English = energetic) means to work effectively to cause something
to happen. To energize, to operate, to work effectually in. It means
power in exercise, and is used only of superhuman power. To work
energetically, effectively and/or efficiently. To put forth energy. To
be at work. To produce results.
present tense = continually
works. This refers to energy that "powerfully works" or "energizes" in the apostle. In a similar use of energeo, Paul exhorts the Philippian
motivated by the truth that one day every tongue will confess Jesus
Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father, to "work out
= as your lifestyle, the pattern of your life. Not perfection but
direction. How is this even possible? Notice the strategic "for"
that begins the next verse! Work out...) your salvation with
fear and trembling, for (see the value of learning to
term of explanation) it is God
Who is at work (energeo) in
you, both to will and to work (energeo) for His good pleasure."
Phil 2:13 can be accurately paraphrased God Himself (the indwelling
Spirit) gives us both "the desire and the power to do
what pleases Him." (New Living Translation)
Paul's point is that God
energizes His children to obey and serve Him. His energy enables
ongoing, daily process of sanctification. The truth is that believers can do
nothing holy or righteous in their own power or resources
and this even includes "church work" (if that work is done in our own
power and motivation!) (cp Jn 15:5, 1Co 3:11-15)
energeo in his great benediction - "Now to Him Who is able (God
is Able) to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we
ask or think, according to (not simply a little portion but in
proportion to) the power (dunamis)
that works (energeo)
within us (A power in us is "description" of the Holy Spirit Who
indwells us! cp Acts 1:8-note),
Warren Wiersbe commenting on Eph 3:20
issues a challenge to all of
us, writing - "It is
the Holy Spirit Who releases the resurrection power of Christ in our
lives...(many Christians) have been cut off from their source of
power. Unbelief, unconfessed sin, careless living, worldliness in
action or attitude—all of these can rob us of power. And a Christian
robbed of power cannot be used of God. “Without Me, ye can do
nothing” (John 15:5)...Get your hands on your spiritual wealth by
opening your heart to the Holy Spirit, and praying with Paul for
strength for the inner man... for a new depth of love... for
spiritual apprehension... and for spiritual fullness. “Ye have not
because ye ask not” (James 4:2)."
21x in 19v - Matt 14:2; Mark 6:14; Ro 7:5; 1Cor 12:6, 11; 2Cor 1:6;
4:12; Gal 2:8; 3:5; 5:6; Eph 1:11, 20; 2:2; 3:20; Phil 2:13; Col 1:29;
1Th 2:13; 2Th 2:7; Jas 5:16. NAS = accomplish(1),
brought about(1), effective(2), effectually worked(2), performs...
work(1), work(6), working(2), works(7).
POWER - What an encouragement to the Christian. Like those who
light their lamp from power generated by the mighty Niagara, we plug
our lives into the omnipotence of God, finding power for victorious
living. Paul talked about God’s “energy which so powerfully works in
me” (Colossians 1:29, NIV), and he prayed that the Ephesians might
understand the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who
believe” (Ephesians 1:19-20). Much of our anger and anxiety in life
comes from underestimating the implications of the omnipotence of
God in our lives. (Rob Morgan Sermon)
[word study]) refers to inherent power residing in a thing
by virtue of its nature and is especially "achieving power" or power
which overcomes resistance. For example the Gospel is the
inherent, omnipotent power of God operating in the salvation of a lost
soul who accepts it (Ro 1:16-note). Paul is saying he has that same power residing in
him, enabling him to labor and strive to present every man and woman
complete in Christ.
John Piper (Godward
Life Book Two) - The point is this: God does not
will instead of our willing; he wills in and through our willing. God
does not work instead of our working, but through our working. God
does not energize instead of our having energy; he energizes our
energy. Therefore it is unbiblical and irrational to say that because
the grace of God produces an active trust in God, we don't need to
exert an active trust in God.
Robertson - Paul was conscious of God‘s “energy” at work in him
“mightily” (en dunamei), “in power” like dynamite. (Colossians
1 - Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament)
Eadie writes "It was, indeed, no
sluggish heart that beat in the apostle's bosom. His was no torpid
temperament. There was such a keenness in all its emotions and
anxieties, that its resolve and action were simultaneous movements.
But though he labored so industriously, and suffered so bravely in
the aim of winning souls to Christ and glory, still he owned that all
was owing to Divine power lodged within him—
work to be performed is ours,
The strength is all His own;
'Tis He that works to will,
'Tis He that works to do;
His is the power by which we act,
His be the glory too.
Eadie goes on to add "It was no
feeble manifestation of Divine power that showed itself in the great
apostle of the Gentiles. Its ample energies clothed him with a species
of moral omnipotence. The sublime motive to present every man
perfect in Christ, through the preaching of Christ, could only
be realized by the conferment of Divine qualification and assistance.
Mere human influence cannot reach it, though the faculties be kept in
full tension, and the mind be disciplined into symmetrical operation.
Learning, industry, and genius, are of little avail, without piety and
spiritual support." (Colossians
1 - Eadie's Commentary on Colossians)
Paul's words to the Corinthians
are apropos "Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming
from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us
adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the
Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2Cor 3:5,
All Christians serve Christ in
some capacity. Paul’s message to all in this passage is "The
things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me
(including laboring to the point of exhaustion and struggling like an
athlete in a strenuous contest),
= command to make this the dominant pattern of your life, something
only possible if we are continually filled with and enabled by the
Holy Spirit! Supernatural living always requires a supernatural
things” (Php 4:9-note).
J Vernon McGee sums up
this section with this plea "Oh, this should be
the desire of everyone today who is working for Christ—that He
would work in us mightily to do two things: to get out the
gospel that men might be saved and then to build them up in the
faith. These are the two things the church should be doing today."
(Thru the Bible Commentary)
This is the secret of the apostle’s remarkably successful ministry. It
was not his education, considerable though it may have been, nor his
culture, deeply rooted in the life and literature of God’s ancient
people, nor his shrewd methodology—and he was a master of missionary
strategy—nor was it simply hard work. His secret lay in his Companion.
Like King Asa who before joining battle with the Ethiopians prayed "help us, O LORD our God, for we trust (rest ~ lean on) in Thee, and in
Thy name have come against this multitude. (2Chr 14:11)
Paul labored in the strength which Christ supplied (cf.
Writing to the Corinthians
Paul reiterated this vital principle of a truly effective ministry
declaring that "by the
grace of God I am what I am, and His
grace toward me did not prove vain (fruitless, without usefulness in terms of furthering God's kingdom,
unaccompanied by the demonstration of the Spirit and supernatural
power) but I labored (kopiao)
even more than all of them,
yet not I, but the
grace of God with me. (1Co 15:10-note)
(as usual) was correct when he said "There will never be any mighty
work come from us unless there be first a mighty work in us, no man
truly labors for souls unless the Holy Ghost has first wrought
mightily in him."
ministry occurs only in, through, with and
by the unseen Spirit of Christ in us the Hope of glory. You might call
it the "YET NOT I" principle of successful ministry!
SAID THAN DONE!
Kent Hughes -
R. C. Sproul is right:
the ministry of the gospel is a glorious thing. But we do not
have to be an apostle or a reformer or a preacher to do it. Some
years ago a woman in Africa became a Christian. Being filled
with gratitude, she decided to do something for Christ. She was
blind, uneducated, and seventy years of age. She came to her
missionary with her French Bible and asked her to underline John 3:16
in red ink. Mystified, the missionary watched her as she took
her Bible and sat in front of a boys’ school in the afternoon.
When school dismissed, she would call a boy or two and ask them
if they knew French. When they proudly responded that they did,
she would say, “Please read the passage underlined in red.” When
they did, she would ask, “Do you know what this means?” And she
would tell them about Christ. The missionary says that over the
years twenty-four young men became pastors due to her work. She
had it all: • a
• a ministerial charge.
• a ministerial purpose.
• a ministerial energy. This call is for all of us!
R. K. Colossians and Philemon: The Supremacy of Christ: Crossway Books).
Major Ian Thomas, (Click
to listen to many of the Major's powerful sermons)
former British Army officer, who made it his lifelong ministry to
travel all over the world and teach the wonderful truth of "Christ
in you, the hope of glory" put it succinctly speaking of Paul's
powerful enduring ministry -- "He had to be what He was, in
order to do what he did! In the same way, Jesus had to be both God
and man in order to die in our place, be raised again, ascend into the
heavens, and send the Holy Spirit, and thus come into our life.
Second, He had to do what He did, in order that we might have
what He is. We could never have this new power, this new source of
energy, this new comfort and strength in our life, if Jesus had not
done what He did. It is on the basis of His death and resurrection
that we have what He is. Third, we must have what He is, in
order to be what He was. The world knows nothing of this mystery.
You will never find it mentioned by the media, except by Christians.
You will never learn about it in the great universities of the world.
In all secular wisdom and knowledge there is no recognition of this
incomparable source of change in a human life. It is found only in the
gospel of Jesus Christ. That is why this message is such a powerful,
world transforming, revolutionary statement, and why we ought to give
ourselves to understanding it more than any other thing in life. The
apostle points out three stages of change. First, the new birth begins
a process which is intended to perfect us, spirit, soul and body. To
advance that process requires pain and commitment on the part of
others on our behalf; and when we come to Christ we are to undertake
that same pain and commitment on behalf of others. Finally, all
progress occurs only by coming to understand and to practice the
mystery of "Christ in you, the hope of glory." That is how to stop the
terrible downward slide of any human life!"
The same truth of God working in us is not new to the NT but
was promised to all Jews who would eventually place their faith in the
Messiah, Ezekiel recording God's promise that "Moreover, I will
give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will
remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of
flesh (This is clearly God's supernatural, sovereign work of grace!). And I will put My Spirit
you and cause you
to walk in My statutes (Again,
clearly this is a gift of God's sovereign grace = "His power which
mightily works within me"), and you will be careful
to observe My ordinances (Man's responsibility = "for this purpose I labor")." (Ezek 36:26-27-note).
In the great prayer ending the epistle to the Hebrews we find the same
truth "Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great
Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even
Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do (MY
RESPONSIBILITY) His will,
working (GOD'S PROVISION OF POWER - working is in the present tense = continually)
us that which is
pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to Whom be the glory
forever and ever. Amen."
(Heb 13:20, 21-note)
In light of this great truth that although we do
have to exercise our will to obey, ultimately the results are up to
God working in and through us, let us pray "Now to Him who is able
to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think,
according to the power that works (energeo = efficient,
effectual working; present tense = continually)
us" (Eph 3:20-note)
I LABOR...HIS POWER
Jerry Bridges has a great
explanation of the spiritual dynamic in Colossians 1:29 in his
book which I strongly recommend
The Bookends of the Christian Life. In
Chapter 7 entitled "Dependent Responsibility" Bridges begins by
quoting Paul in Romans 8:13-note
"But if by the Spirit (God's Part) you put to death the deeds of the
body (Our Part), you will live." (Ro 8:13). Bridges then asks
"So where does our own responsibility come into the picture? In
responding to the synergistic work of the Holy Spirit in the second
bookend, where do we draw the line between what we are to do and
what he is to do? Does such a line even exist? Throughout the New
Testament, the answers to these questions are consistent: we’re
both responsible and dependent. This is true whether we’re
referring to our growth in character or our effectiveness in
ministry. In the same letter in which Paul urged Timothy to be
“strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus,” (2Ti 2:1-note)
he also exhorted him, “Do your best to present yourself to God as
one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed” (2Timothy
“Do your best” could also be translated “Be diligent” or “Make every
effort.” Timothy’s dependence on the Spirit did not negate his
own responsibility to work hard. Paul’s life exemplified
dependent responsibility. Referring to his ministry he wrote, “For
this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works
within me” (Colossians 1:29). Toil means to labor to the
point of exhaustion, and struggling translates a Greek word
from which we get our English word “agonize.” Obviously Paul was
unusually gifted, and he worked extremely hard. He was a theologian,
an evangelist, a church planter, and a cross-cultural missionary.
Meanwhile he partially or completely supported himself through his
trade of tent-making (Acts 18:3-4; Acts 20:34-35-note).
And yet Paul’s giftedness wasn’t a substitute for relying on the
power of Christ as applied by the Holy Spirit. Paul realized he
needed divine enablement to perform “with all his energy that he
powerfully works within me.” Some have misunderstood Paul’s
words to mean he never got tired, as if Paul were a mere pipeline
through which Christ’s power flowed. Rather, the Spirit worked
through Paul in such a way that all his physical, mental, and
emotional faculties were fully engaged. The Spirit’s role was not to
make Paul’s own energy unnecessary but, rather, to make it
effective. And of course even Paul’s natural abilities and spiritual
giftedness were the result of the Spirit’s work. Although
Colossians 1:29 is in the context of Paul’s ministry, the same
principle of dependent responsibility applies to our effort to grow
in Christlikeness. In Colossians 3:12-14-note,
Paul makes it clear we’re to actively “put on” a number of
Christlike character traits. Yet he elsewhere calls a similar list
of traits “the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23-note).
So while the putting on is 100 percent our responsibility, we’re at
the same time 100 percent dependent on the Spirit of God to produce
the fruit. Earlier we looked briefly at Philippians 2:12-note,
calling attention to our dependence on the Spirit of God for our
transformation as seen in the phrase, “For it is God who works in
you, both to will and to work.” Here we want to emphasize Paul’s
preceding phrase: “Work out your own salvation with fear and
trembling.” We’re to work diligently at our Christian growth but in
the assurance that God is at work in us. (The
Bookends of the Christian Life)
I cannot recommend this book
too strongly - I have
personally read through it probably 7 times. I know what you're
saying - "Why don't you begin to practice what you've read!" And I
agree! Like you I am a work in progress and I am confident that God
Who began a good work in me (and you) will finish it in the day of
Christ Jesus. (Phil 1:6-note).
Better Than Your Best - When
John became a salesman in a well-known insurance company years ago,
his aim was to work effectively in his firm without compromising his
Christian integrity. But there were those who considered him naive. In
their view, one could possess job security or Christian integrity--not
But John did not waver in his commitment to be a godly witness in the
business world. Although he was in a job that required accurate
calculations, he had a weakness when it came to simple arithmetic.
This forced him to depend more on Christ in everything, which enhanced
John eventually became the company's top salesman, and God used him to
win many colleagues to Christ. Later, as branch manager, John and his
team became the company's largest branch worldwide--all without
compromising Christian integrity.
Are you striving to live and work without compromise in a tough place?
Are you doing your best, but your best is not enough? Colossians 1:29
reminds us that dependence on God's mighty power within us is what
makes us effective. John, the businessman, summed it up like this:
"God helps me do better than I can!"
He will do the same for you. — Joanie Yoder
Savior, let me walk beside Thee,
Let me feel my hand in Thine;
Let me know the joy of walking
In Thy strength and not in mine.
May our boast be not in what we do for Christ,
but in what Christ does for us.
(1Co 1:31, Jer 9:23)
Dartboard Or Pipeline? - One
day during my devotional time, this thought came to my mind: "Don't
let life happen to you. Let life happen through you."
The first phrase described me to a T, for I tended to see life as
something coming at me. I felt like a worn-out dartboard. I was using
all my energies to shield myself from the darts of life's trials.
But the second phrase, "Let life happen through you," presented a
different approach. Instead of dodging life's fiery darts, I was to
let God's life and love be channeled through me, blessing me on its
way to blessing others.
Instead of being life's dartboard, I chose that day to become God's
pipeline. Then I could begin living more effectively for Him.
Some days I revert to being a dartboard, but I soon run out of the
love and power to bless others. Then through confession, faith, and
obedience, I reconnect myself to my heavenly supply center and resume
In his letter to the Colossians, Paul mentioned the many troubles he
was facing. Yet he was determined to be a channel of blessing by
allowing God to work through him.
What about you? Are you a dartboard or a pipeline? It's a God-given
challenge and choice for every believer. — Joanie Yoder
Give as 'twas given to you in your
Love as the Master loved you;
Be to the helpless a helper indeed,
Unto your mission be true.
© Renewal 1952 The Rodeheaver Company
you to bless others.
A Mighty Fortress is
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A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide, our
would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever
I HAVE chosen this text principally because it brings together the two
subjects which are naturally before us to-day. All ‘Western
Christendom,’ as it is called, is to-day commemorating the Pentecostal
gift. My text speaks about that power that’ worketh in us mightily.’
True, the Apostle is speaking in reference to the fiery energy and
persistent toil which characterized him in proclaiming Christ, that he
might present men perfect before Him. But the same energy which he
expended on his apostolic office he expended on his individual
personality. And he would not have discharged the one unless he had
first laboured on the other. And although in a letter contemporary
with this one from which my text is taken he speaks of himself as no
longer young, but’ such an one as Paul the aged, and likewise, also a
prisoner of Jesus Christ,’ the young spirit was in him, and the
continual pressing forward to unattained heights. And that is the
spirit, not only of a section of the Church divided from the rest by
youth and by special effort, but of the whole Church if it is worth
calling a Church, and unless it is thus instinct, it is a mere dead
So I hope that what few things I have to say may apply to, and be felt
to be suitable by all of us, whether we are nominally Christian
Endeavourers or not. If we are Christian people, we are such. If we
are not endeavoring, shall I venture to say we are not Christians? At
any rate, we are very poor ones.
Now here, then, are two plain things, a great universal Christian duty
and a sufficient universal Christian endowment. ‘I work striving’;
that is the description of every true Christian. ‘I work striving,
according to His working, who worketh in me mightily’: there is the
great gift which makes the work and the striving possible. Let me
briefly deal, then, with these two.
I. The Solemn Universal Christian Obligation.
Now the two words which the Apostle employs here are both of them very
emphatic. ‘His words were half battles,’ was said about Luther. It may
be as truly said about Paul. And that word ‘work’ which he employs,
means, not work with one hand, or with a delicate forefinger, but it
means toil up to the verge of weariness. The notion of fatigue is
almost, I might say, uppermost in the word as it is used in the New
Testament. Some people like to’ labour’ so as never to turn a hair, or
bring a sweat-drop on to their foreheads. That is not Christian
Endeavour. Work that does not ‘take it out of you’ is not worth doing.
The other word ‘striving’ brings up the picture of the arena with the
combatants’ strain of muscle, their set teeth, their quick, short
breathing, their deadly struggle. That is Paul’s notion of Endeavour.
Now’ Endeavour,’ like a great many other words, has a baser and a
nobler side to it. Some people, when they say, ‘I will endeavor,’ mean
that they are going to try in a halfhearted way, with no prospect of
succeeding. That is not Christian Endeavour. The meaning of the word
—for the expression in my text might just as well be rendered
‘endeavouring’ as ‘striving’— is that of a buoyant confident effort of
all the concentrated powers, with the certainty of success. That is
the endeavor that we have to cultivate as Christian men. And there is
only one field of human effort in which that absolute confidence that
it shall not be in vain is anything but presumptuous arrogance;
namely, in the effort after making ourselves what God means us to be,
what Jesus Christ longs for us to be, what the Spirit of God is given
to us in order that we should be. ‘We shall not fail,’ ought to be the
word of every man and woman when they set themselves to the great task
of working out, in their own characters and personalities, the Divine
intention which is made a Divine possibility by the sacrifice of Jesus
Christ and the gift of the Divine Spirit.
So then what we come to is just this, dear brethren, if we are
Christians at all, we have to make a business of our religion; to go
about it as if we meant work. Ah I what a contrast there is between
the languid way in which Christian men pursue what the Bible
designates their ‘calling’ and that in which men with far paltrier
aims pursue theirs I And what a still sadder contrast there is between
the way in which we Christians go about our daily business, and the
way in which we go about our Christian life I Why, a man will take
more pains to learn some ornamental art, or some game, than he will
ever take to make himself a better Christian. The one is work. What is
the other? To a very large extent dawdling and make-believe.
You remember the old story,—it may raise a smile, but there should be
a deep thought below the smile,—of the little child that said as to
his father that ‘he was a Christian, but he had not been working much
at it lately.’ Do not laugh. It is a great deal too true of.- I will
not venture to say what percentage of—the professing Christians of
this day. Work at your religion. That is the great lesson of my text.
Endeavour with confidence of success. The Book of Proverbs says: ‘He
that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great
waster,’ and that is true. A man that does ‘the work of the Lord
negligently’ is scarcely to be credited with doing it at all Dear
friends, young or old, if you name the name of Christ, be in earnest,
and make earnest work of your Christian character.
And now may I venture two or three very plain exhortations? First, I
would say—if you mean to make your Christian life a piece of genuine
work and striving, the first thing that you have to do is to endeavor
in the direction of keeping its aim very clear before you. There are
many ways in which we may state the goal of the Christian life, but
let us put it now into the all-comprehensive form of likeness to Jesus
Christ, by entire conformity to His Example and full interpretation of
His life. I do not say ‘Heaven’; I say ‘Christ.’
That is our aim, the loftiest idea of development that any human
spirit can grasp, and rising high above a great many others which are
noble but incomplete. The Christian ideal is the greatest in the
universe. There is no other system of thought that paints man as he
is, so darkly; there is none that paints man as he is meant to be, in
such radiant colors. The blacks upon the palette of Christianity are
blacker, and the whites are whiter, and the golden is more radiant,
than any other painter has ever mixed. And so just because the aim
which lies before the least and lowest of us, possessing the most
imperfect and rudimentary Christianity’, is so transcendent and lofty,
it is hard to keep it clear before our eyes, especially when all the
shabby little necessities of daily life come in to clutter up the
foreground, and hide the great distance. Men may live up at Darjeeling
there on the heights for weeks, and never see the Himalayas towering
opposite. The lower hills are clear; the peaks are wreathed in cloud.
So the little aims, the nearer purposes, stand out distinct and
obtrusive, and force themselves, as it were, upon our eyeballs, and
the solemn white Throne of the Eternal away across the marshy levels,
is often hid, and it needs an effort for us to keep it clear before
us. One of the main reasons for much that is unsatisfactory in the
spiritual condition of the average Christian of this day is precisely
that he has not burning ever before him there, the great aim to which
he ought to be tending. So he gets loose and diffused, and vague and
uncertain. That is what Paul tells you when he proposes himself as an
example: ‘So run I, not as uncertainly.’ The man who knows where he is
running makes a bee-line for the goal. If he is not sure of his
destination, of course he zigzags. ‘So fight I, not as one that
beateth the air’—if I see my antagonist I can hit him. If I do not see
him clearly I strike like a swordsman in the dark, at random, and my
sword comes back unstained. If you want to make the harbor, keep the
harbor lights always clear before you, or you will go yawing about,
and washing here and there, in the trough of the wave, and the tempest
will be your master. If you do not know where you are going you will
have to say, like the men in the old story in the Old Book, ‘Thy
servant went no whither.’ If you are going to endeavor, endeavor first
to keep the goal clear before you.
And endeavor next to keep up communion with Jesus Christ, which is the
secret of all peaceful and of all noble living. And endeavor next
after concentration. And what does that mean? It means that you have
to detach yourself from hindrances. It means that you have to
prosecute the Christian aim all through the common things of Christian
life. If it were not possible to be pursuing the great aim of likeness
to Jesus Christ, in the veriest secularities of the most insignificant
and trivial occupations, then it would be no use talking about that
being our aim. If we are not making ourselves more like Jesus Christ
by the way in which we handle our books, or our pen, or our loom, or
our scalpel, or our kitchen utensils, then there is little chance of
our ever making ourselves like Jesus Christ. For it is these trifles
that make life, and to concentrate ourselves on the pursuit of the
Christian aim is, in other words, to carry that Christian aim into
every triviality of our daily lives.
There are three Scripture passages which set forth various aspects of
the aim that we have before us, and from each of these aspects deduce
the one same lesson. The Apostle says ‘giving all diligence, add to
your faith virtue,’ etc., ‘for if ye do these things ye shall never
fail.’ He also exhorts: ‘Give diligence to make your calling and
election sure.’ And finally he says: ‘Be diligent, that ye may be
found of Him in peace, without spot, blameless.’ There are three
aspects of the Christian course, and the Christian aim, the addition
to our faith of all the clustering graces and virtues and powers that
can be hung upon it, like jewels on the neck of a queen; the making
our calling and election sure, and the being found at last tranquil,
spotless, stainless, and being found so by Him. These great aims are
incumbent on all Christians, they require diligence, and ennoble the
diligence which they require.
So, brethren, we have all to be Endeavourers if we are Christians, and
that to the very end of our lives. For our path is the only path on
which men tread that has for its goal an object so far off that it
never can be attained, so near that it can ever be approached. This
infinite goal of the Christian Endeavour means inspiration for youth,
and freshness for old age, and that man is happy who can say: ‘Not as
though I had already attained’ at the end of a long life, and can say
it, not because he has failed, but because in a measure he has
succeeded. Other courses of life are like the voyages of the old
mariners which were confined within the narrow limits of the
Mediterranean, and steered from headland to headland. But the
Christian passes through the jaws of the straits, and comes out on a
boundless sunlit ocean where, though he sees no land ahead, he knows
there is a peaceful shore, beyond the western waves. ‘I work
Now one word as to the other thought that is here, and that is,
II. The All-Sufficient Christian Gift.
‘According to His working, which worketh in me mightily.’ I need not
discuss whether’ His’ in my text refers to God or to Christ. The thing
meant is the operation upon the Christian spirit, of that Divine
Spirit whose descent the Church to-day commemorates. At this stage of
my sermon I can only remind you in a word, first of all, that the
Apostle here is arrogating to himself no special or peculiar gift, is
not egotistically setting forth something which he possessed and other
Christian people did not—that power which, ‘working in him mightily,’
worked in all his brethren as well. It was his conviction and his
teaching —would that it were more operatively and vitally the
conviction of all professing Christians to-day, and would that it were
more conspicuously, and in due proportion to the rest of Christian
truth, the teaching of all Christian teachers to-day!—that that Divine
power is in the very act of faith received and implanted in every
believing soul. ‘Know ye not,’ the Apostle could say to his hearers,
‘that ye have the Spirit of God, except ye be reprobates.’ I doubt
whether the affirmative response would spring to the lips of all
professing or real Christians to-day as swiftly as it would have done
then. And I cannot help feeling, and feeling with increasing gravity
of pressure as the days go on, that the thing that our churches, and
we as individuals, perhaps need most to-day, is the replacing of that
great truth—I do not call it a ‘doctrine,’ that is cold, it is
experience—in its proper place. They who believe on Him do receive a
new life, a supernatural communication of the new Spirit, to be the
very power that rules in their lives.
It is an inward gift. It is not like the help that men can render us,
given from without and apprehended and incorporated with ourselves
through the medium of the understanding or of the heart. There is an
old story in the history of Israel about a young king that was bid by
the prophet to bend his bow against the enemies of Israel, as a
symbol; and the old prophet put his withered, skinny brown hand on the
young man’s fleshy one, and then said to him, ‘Shoot.’ But this Divine
Spirit comes to strengthen us in a more intimate and blessed fashion
than that, for it glides into our hearts and dwells in our spirits,
and our work, as my text says, is His working. This ‘working within’
is stated in the original of my text most emphatically, for it is
literally ‘the inworking which inworketh in me mightily.’
So, dear brethren, the first direct aim of all our endeavor ought to
be to receive and to keep and to increase our gift of that Divine
Spirit. The work and the striving of which my text speaks would be
sheer slavery unless we had that help. It would be impossible of
accomplishment unless we had it.
‘If any power we have, it is to ill,
And all the power is Thine, to do
and eke to will.’
Let us, then, begin our endeavor, not by working but by receiving. Is
not that the very meaning of the doctrine that we are always talking
about, that men are saved, not by works but by faith? Does not that
mean that the first step is reception, and the first requisite is
receptiveness, and that then, and after that, second and not first,
come working and striving? To keep our hearts open by desire, to keep
them open by purity, are the essentials. The dove will not come into a
fouled nest. It is said that they forsake polluted places. But also we
have to use the power which is inwrought. Use is the way to increase
all gifts, from the muscle in your arm to the Christian life in your
spirit. Use it, and it grows. Neglect it, and it vanishes, and like
the old Jewish heroes, a man may go forth to exercise himself as of
old time, and know not that the Spirit of God hath departed from him.
Dear friends, do not bind yourselves to the slavery of Endeavour,
until you come into the liberty and wealth of receiving. He gives
first, and then says to you, ‘Now go to work and keep that good thing
which is committed unto thee’ There is but one thought more in this
last part of my text, which I must not leave untouched, and that is
that this sufficient and universal gift is not only the means by which
the great universal duty can be discharged, but it ought to be the
measure in which it is discharged. ‘I work according to the working in
me.’ That is, all the force that came into Paul by that Divine Spirit,
came out of Paul in his Christian conduct, and the gift was not only
the source, but also the measure, of this man’s Christian Endeavour.
Is that true about us? They say that the steam-engine is a most
wasteful application of power, that a great deal of the energy which
is generated goes without ever doing any work. They tell us that one
of the great difficulties in the way of economic application of
electricity is the loss which comes through using accumulators. Is not
that like a great many of us? So much power poured into us; so little
coming out from us and translated into actual work! Such a ‘rushing
mighty wind,’ and the air about us so heavy and stagnant and corrupt!
Such a blaze of fire, and we so cold! Such a cataract of the river of
the water of life, and our lips parched and our crops seared and
worthless! Ah, brethren! when we look at ourselves, and when we think
of the condition of so many of the churches to which we belong, the
old rebuke of the prophet comes back to us in this generation, ‘Thou
that art named the House of Israel, is the Spirit of the Lord
straitened? Are these His doings?’ We have an all-sufficient power.
May our working and striving be according to it, and may we work
mightily, being ‘strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might!’
J R Miller has a few words on the hard work that Paul alludes to in
Choosing to Do HARD Things
"I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in
me!" Colossians 1:29
The man who seeks only easy things—will never make much of his life.
One who is afraid of hard work—will never achieve anything worth
In an art gallery, before a great painting, a young artist said to
Ruskin, "Ah! If only I could put such a dream on canvas!" "Dream on
canvas!" growled the old master. "It will take ten thousand touches of
the brush on the canvas—to put your dream there!" No doubt, many
beautiful dreams die in the brains and hearts of people—for lack of
effort to make them realities.
On the tomb of Joseph II, of Austria, in the royal cemetery at Vienna,
is this pitiable epitaph, prepared by direction of the king himself.
"Here lies a monarch who, with the best intentions, never carried out
a single plan."
There are too many people who try to shirk the hard things. They want
to get along as easily as possible. They have ambition of a certain
sort—but it is ambition to have the victory without the battle; to get
the gold without digging for it. They would like to be learned and
wise—but they do not care to toil in study, and "burn the midnight
oil," as they must do—if they would realize their desire. They wish to
have plenty of money—but they hope to get it from some generous
relative as an inheritance, or to have some wealthy person endow them.
They have no thought of working hard year after year, toiling and
saving as people have to do—to earn for themselves, with their own
hands, the fortune of their dreams. They may have a certain longing to
be noble and Christlike, with a character that will command respect
and confidence—but they have not the spirit of self-denial and of
earnest moral purpose, which alone can produce such a character.
They may want to be godly and to grow into worthy manhood—but lack
that passionate earnestness which alone will yield vigorous piety, and
manly virtue, and the heroic qualities of true Christlikeness. Mere
"holy dreaming" will yield nothing better than spiritual effeminacy!
No religion is worthy—which does not seek to attain the best things;
and the best can be won only by the bravest struggle and the most
In all departments of life this indolent, easygoing way of getting
on—is working its mischief. There is much of it in school or college.
It also abounds in the trades and professions. A successful business
man says that the chief reason why so many young men never get
advancement nor make anything worth while of their lives—is the lack
of thoroughness. They do only what is easy, and never grapple with
anything that is hard. Consequently, they do not fit themselves for
any but the easiest places, and no position of importance ever can be
Indolence is the bane of countless lives! The capacities in them are
never developed, for lack of energy. They do not rise—because they
have not the courage and persistence to climb.
A mark of a all noble character—is its desire to do hard things! Easy
things—do not satisfy it. It is happiest when it is wrestling with
some task which requires it to do its best. Young people are fortunate
when they are required to do things, which it seems to them they
cannot do. It is under such pressure, that they grow into their best.
One is usually thought to be particularly favored, who misses
difficult experiences and the enduring of hardships in youth. "Until I
was fourteen years old," said a lady in middle life, "I never had a
disappointment of any kind." It was regarded as remarkably fortunate
that her early life had been so easy—so free from anxiety or burden.
But those who knew the woman well—saw in this very fact, the secret of
much in her life that was not beautiful. Her indulged and petted
girlhood—was not the best preparation for womanhood. She had not
learned to endure, to submit to things that are hard. She had not
grown strong, nor had she acquired self-discipline. Even in her mature
womanhood, she was only a spoiled child who chafed when things did not
go to please her.
It is not so easy—but it is better, if young people have
disappointments, burdens and responsibilities, and do not always have
their own way. Thus, they will be trained to self-restraint, and
taught to submit their wills to God's.
Of course, not always do people get the lessons and the character they
should get—out of the hard things of earlier years. Some are not good
learners in life's school. Some grow bitter in disappointment, and
lose the sweetness out of their lives when they have to endure trial.
But in all that is hard—there is the possibility of blessing. The goal
of noble living, is to gather new virtue and grace—from all life's
struggles, cares and sorrows.
It is perilous presumption, to rush into the battle when we have no
business in it, when it is not our battle. Yet, on the other hand, we
are not to be afraid of any struggle or temptation, when it lies in
the way of our duty. It is cowardly to shrink from the battle—when we
are called into it. When God leads us—he means to help us. No task
which he assigns, will ever prove too hard for us—if we do our best in
Christ's name. When we face a new condition for which it seems to us
we have neither strength nor skill, the only question is, "Is it our
duty?" If so, there is no doubt as to what we should do, nor need we
have any fear of failure. Hard things become easy—when we meet them
with faith and courage.
Some people have a habit of skipping the hard things. It begins in
childhood in school. The easy lessons are learned, because they
require no great effort—but when a hard one comes in the course, it is
given up after a half-hearted trial. The habit thus allowed to begin
in school—work easily finds its way into all the life.
The boy does the same thing on the playground. When the game requires
no special exertion, he goes through it in a creditable enough way.
But when it is hotly contested, and when only by intense struggle can
the victory be won—he drops out. He does not have the courage or the
persistence to make an intense effort.
The girl who lets her school lessons master her, who leaves the hard
problems unsolved and goes on—soon begins to allow other hard things
to master her. The home tasks that are disagreeable, or that would
require unusual effort—she leaves unattempted. It is not long until
the habit of doing only the easy things and skipping whatever is hard
pervades all the life. The result is that nothing brave or noble is
ever accomplished; that the person never rises to anything above the
In many ways does this habit of failing at hard things hurt the life.
These difficult things are put in our way, not to stop us in our
course, but to call out our strength and develop our energy! If we
never had any but easy things to do, things requiring no effort—we
would never become strong! If we timidly give up whenever we come to
something that is hard—we shall never get beyond the attainments of
childhood! If we decline the effort, and weakly say we are not able to
make it—we have lost our chance of acquiring a new measure of strength
We should not forget, that no one ever did anything of great value for
others—without cost. A quaint old proverb says, "One cannot have an
omelet—without breaking eggs!" If we would do anything really worth
while, that will be a blessing in the world—we must put into it not
merely easy efforts, languid sympathies, conventional good wishes, and
courtesies that cost nothing. We must put into it thought, time,
patience, self-denial, sleepless nights, exhausting toil.
There is a legend of an artist who had found the secret of a wonderful
'red' which no other artist could imitate. The secret of his color
died with him. But after his death an old wound was discovered over
his heart. This revealed the source of the matchless hue in his
pictures. The legend teaches that no great achievement can be made, no
lofty attainment can be reached, nothing of much value to the world
can be done—except at the cost of heart's blood!