being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; - Colossians 1:11
When we read this full prayer, we notice that Paul is praying for the Spirit to strengthen the people of Colossi with the power of His glorious might so that they would have endurance and patience. That might be an interesting dichotomy to many in the world. Strength and power are typically associated with force and influence, courage or fighting a battle. While strength is generally active, endurance and patience are idle verbs. By the world’s standards, endurance and patience are often associate with weakness because they require no action. So, to some in the world, it may seem at first glance that Paul is praying for the people of Colossi to be strengthened in order to be weak. But to any of us who have been on this journey with Him for any length of time, we know that we need strength to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.
If the purpose of God’s strengthening is endurance and patience, it’s important we try to understand what Paul is referring to with these words. The original Greek word for endurance refers to long suffering toward people. We need endurance when we have difficult people in our lives. The world suggests we walk away from difficult people. We are taught to set healthy boundaries around people who may not be kind to us, or to step away from those who don’t consider our feelings or who might take advantage of us. The world tells us we should only surround ourselves with people who make us feel good about ourselves or who build us up, and to distance ourselves from people who are discouraging.
But God doesn’t teach us that at all - God calls us to live in peace with all people. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. - Romans 12:18. It grieves God deeply to see conflict, most especially when it happens between two of His children. As a parent, there is little that grieves me as much as two of my children quarreling. Imagine how God must view our arguments. But it’s not just fellow believers that we need to work to be in communion with - He wants us in relationship with nonbelievers as well. He uses those unions to impact unbelievers and draw them to Him. How well are you working for the kingdom when you cut off a relationship with an unbeliever? And what does it say about God? He would never close the door to you, He would never distance Himself from you, He would never say He needs to take a break from you, and He would never pull Himself away from because your relationship is not healthy or needs boundaries. How dare we say that about the people He has placed in our lives.
Obviously, I’m not referring to physically abusive relationships - there are situations that it is necessary for our safety to place boundaries in a relationship, but those are few and far between. The problem is many have chosen to distance themselves from difficult people, and have defended it under the boundaries category. Not only does that diminish those who truly deal with abusive relationships, it’s simply not what God calls us to do.
God calls us to endure difficult relationships. In fact, He even allows those difficult relationships into our lives to chasten our rough spots of self righteousness. The reality is God allows interactions with difficult people to bubble up to the surface the darkness that lives inside your heart. Just set a recording the next time you interact with a difficult person and listen. Listen to the complaining, harsh, and unforgiving words coming out of your mouth.
Perhaps reading that has been convicting to you. But here’s the kicker - you can’t just think about that difficult person in your life and resolve to be kinder to them. It won’t work. You need to be STRENGTHENED by the SPIRIT to be able to demonstrate the endurance needed to deal with those difficult people. THAT’s how He grows us with the difficult people in our lives. If we walk away from them or set boundaries around them, we never acknowledge our need for the Spirit to fill us, we never acknowledge our need to rely fully on Him. Instead, we have a tendency to act in our own strength and manage the situation. I’ll avoid them, I’ll bite my tongue, I’ll set boundaries around them.
The Greek word for patience translates as the long suffering for situations or circumstances. When we walk through the valleys - both those that are caused by us and those that are the result of someone else’s sin - we need His strength to keep walking, to put one foot in front of the other.
Life is hard. It is a constant battle and there are difficult people and difficult situations all around us. God never meant for us to do this in our own power. We know that God calls us to live a life of endurance and patience, but we also need to understand He has made no provision for us to do this on our own. He has given us His Spirit. If we are going to walk in a manner that is pleasing to the Lord, we must learn to yield our desires, and allow His Spirit to fill us.
Press on ~ you are loved 💗
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