Paul does not see his imprisonment as punishment but as his participation in Christ’s suffering as Messiah. Our challenge is to see our own hardships as joy.
00:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us.
00:07 Turn with me to Colossians chapter one. If you have a Bible, if not, it'll be on the screen and that's cool. We'll read it to you. here's what it says. We're gonna be chapter one, Colossians one, verse 24 to chapter two, verse five. And here's what it says. Paul says, now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you. And I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, which is the church I have become. Its servant by com, commission. The commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness. The mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord's people, to them God has chosen to make known among all the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory Christ in you, the hope of glory.
01:16 Verse 28, he is the one we proclaim, admonishing, and teaching everyone with all wisdom so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end, I strenuously contend with all the energy. Christ so powerfully works in me. I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those in od and for all who have not met me personally. My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ in whom all, are hidden, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that you may, so that no one may deceive you with fine sounding arguments for though I am absent from you and the body, I am present with you and the spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.
02:21 Amen. This is God's word. Will you pray with me Heavenly Father? we believe your word is alive. So Holy Spirit come and would you move our our minds, Lord, would you, transform us into Christ's likeness as we sit under your word here, Jesus, use this time. God, I pray for your spirit to be on, on my words. God, this is you speaking to your church father. So get me out of the way here. And you do the work, Lord, for your church, for your glory. In Jesus name, amen. Amen. Amen. Well, we have been in this book of Colossians. Now, this is our third, part to this series. And it is, it is this letter written to a church in a town called COIs, which is in modern day Turkey. And Paul is writing from prison. He has never met these people.
03:17 He did not plant this church. He really has no personal connection to these folks. He is contending from a place of suffering for people he doesn't know at all. and now this church in Coe is in this really important region. It's very close to the near east, but it's also connected to the west. And so there's all these people groups that are moving into the city with a lot of belief systems and a lot of ways of operating in, in the world. And all of these are connected in the Roman Empire. So Paul has spent his life going from city to city, cities like COIs say, and preaching the word, preaching the good news, preaching the gospel, that Christ is the one we've been waiting for the Hebrew people and loves the Gentiles and adopts 'em into the family of God. And he's going, he's preaching this good news to city, after city, after city.
04:13 And he writes this letter just cheering on the people in Coe. Like, I don't know you, but I heard the good stuff that you've been doing. And I know you are in this place where a lot of things are pressing you. I don't know if you've ever lived in a place where there's a lot of different belief systems. my my wife, my family and I, we pastored in San Francisco, the city of San Francisco for several years. And that is a place I, I called it, never, never Land. It's where, adults move to be kids forever. and there's money and there's sex and drugs and like all the things you could ever want are just all available all the time. And nobody wants to get married or have kids or grow up or like be a responsible
04:59 and you can imagine, you know, living there and trying to be this people of Jesus in a place that, has lots of ideas. And we're in this time now culturally where Jesus is cool. That's cool. I like Jesus and I like this. And you know, the universe speaks to me and the universe is kind of on my side and there's all this language that is like, well, yeah, kind, kind of, you know, the universe has a name. The universe actually has been pursuing you from the beginning of time is what these, the scriptures say that we Christians listen to and follow and give our our lives to learning, is that the universe has a name and the universe wasn't content to be far away from you. It pursued you and came into this world, became flesh. And so you can imagine, you know, living in a city with these beliefs and all these other things happening, COIs is experiencing that.
05:55 And and we have to remember, remember, it's a good reminder for us 'cause it's not just the Colossians that are wrestling with a lot of belief systems and things pulling at what we believe and how we live. Jesus says that we are to be a city on a hill
06:37 The church leads into the city instead of the city leading into the church, right? So Paul is just encouraging and admonishing and, and loving on this, people group who are really contending for in a space that's hard. We can relate to that a bit. last week, our second part of this, Paul, is giving the recipe for how to think about living in a multi belief system. And he doesn't, interestingly, he doesn't argue each point of, well, that's wrong and that's wrong and you're evil and you're out. And he doesn't do that. He actually instead writes a poem. He writes a poem and he exalts Christ as king and creator and the author, author and the finisher of all things and says, this is the one you've been waiting for. This is the one. All the other things kind of point to. He exalts Christ up.
07:34 And so we seem to be on this like ascending journey with Paul, right? He's encouraging the church, you're doing great. Keep it up. And then he talks about, this is the one in whom all things were made. They were made in him, they were made through him, they were made for him. This, he is king Jesus. He is the ultimate, right? And then we get to where we started today, and Paul says, now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you. And this should be like the scratch on the record. Like, like, wait, what suffering you just talked about like all authority, all power, all why would you his main guy be in prison suffering? That doesn't seem to, to make much sense. Paul just spent 10 verses telling us how powerful and how authoritative, authoritative God is. How, can suffering be a part of a story with someone so great? How can someone so great allow suffering to happen? Perhaps most confusing, how can someone writing about the greatness of God be doing so while shackled to the wall in a Roman prison?
08:54 This is the conundrum of following Jesus. We follow a suffering savior. We worship a king who was killed but not defeated so that everything on earth might be reconciled to himself. So we are gonna dive into this idea today of suffering. Welcome to church. I bet you're happy you can today.
10:38 I was happy to go 'cause I'm a good dad. and I, the few little spoilers I wanna tell you, go see this movie. Go see it. Go with open eyes and open arms and an open heart. There's a lot of super interesting things. It kind of presents itself as this dumb play thing. and then it gets to the heart of a lot of human things that I think are really important. But there was one, that made the storyline so compelling to me as I as I watched it. Barbie obviously lives in Barbie land and she has a Barbie mansion. She has a Barbie car and she has Barbie clothes. and Ken's there too. And he has a ken space and they, every day they have the best day ever, just like yesterday and just like it will be tomorrow.
11:32 And, and Barbie's on this, this life that's just awesome all the time until things start to go wrong, a little haywire. And Barbie has to go into the real world. And when she goes into the real world, what she encounters is a lot of pain, suffering, anger, things she has never experienced in Barbie land
12:50 The reason I find the story so interesting, is because I see this mirrored in the church. Follow me. I see this mirrored in the church. there is a, a way of thinking in the Jesus movement, particularly out here in the West, that proclaims an idea that your birthright as a follower of Jesus is to have the best day ever, just like yesterday and just like it will be tomorrow, there's a strand of thinking of theology that you maybe have experienced if you stayed up late watching televangelists or, maybe just have heard in the ecosystem of the church that says you deserve to be wealthy and healthy and happy and Christ died for you to have all of those things.
13:47 And I'm here to pop your bubble and tell you that is a fun idea in Barbie land. It just doesn't show up in the Bible and it doesn't show up in the story of the people of God and it doesn't show up most importantly in the life of Jesus. Now hear me out, as with every popular idea, there are grains of truth in here because when Christ comes and proclaims the kingdom of God on earth, we see sick people made. Well that does happen. Yes. And we see oppressive systems, both spiritual and structural, be confronted and dismantled. Yes, yes. And we see deep levels of joy in the people of Jesus. Yes, absolutely. But there's more to the story and there's an invitation for us from Paul, but more importantly from the Holy Spirit to go into deeper places. And the world needs us in deeper places, not exposing and promising Barbie mansions and Barbie cars. We need us to have substance people of substance.
15:00 Paul sets up, the greatness of God. He's extolling this in his poem and all the encompassing authority of Christ. And it's juxtaposed when we see Christ or see Paul sitting in a cell as he's declaring the greatness of God. This should mess with us if God is great and powerful and, and all those things. Paul spent 10 verses telling us about how's the right hand man in prison suffering? If God is great, as great as Paul proclaimed, why doesn't he prevent bad things from happening to Paul? Ironically, again, Paul's not phased. Hear this, the Christian life is a journey not from bad to good, not from struggle to success. The Christian journey is a life moving and receiving the love of Christ because he adores you.
15:59 And the love doesn't stop there. It moves into the world through you. The Christian journey is a life of receiving the love and the hope and the joy of Christ regardless of circumstances. And then we take that love into the world. This was God's master plan from the beginning. And I don't get it. It seems like it, there's more, efficient ways to do this, but that's, this is the way he chose to do it through us are messed up broken selves. The Christian life is not a li life of dodging the darkness, of dodging the suffering. Instead, it is one stepping headlong into it. I wanna tell you the story of Sanford Greenberg. You don't know probably who Sanford Greenberg is. I wouldn't expect you to. Sanford was an inventor and he was an investor and he was a philanthropist and did a lot of successful things in his life.
16:57 But before he was any of those things, Sanford was a student at Columbia University where he met Arthur, and Arthur became his best friend. And Arthur and Sanford did what college kids do. They talked about philosophy and they listened to music and they talked about the meaning of life. Remember when you had time to think about any of those things,
17:52 And as you can imagine, this is so traumatic for Sanford. And he goes into a deep depression and he drops outta school and he moves in back in with his parents and resigns himself to a life of being cared for by other people and probably sitting in this house forever and never accomplishing any of the dreams that him and Arthur and other students dreamed about at Columbia. But Arthur was not satisfied with this. A friend, his friend, he, he goes to Sanford's house and talks to his parents and say, listen, this isn't the end of the story here. I'm going to be Sanford's eyes and bring him back to school. We're gonna get him back in school and I will show him around the dorm and I will read his textbooks to him each night and I will help him find his classes. And his parents agree. And Sanford goes back to school and begins this life of trying to reorient with Arthur's help. And one day in this journey, trying to relearn life, Sanford and Arthur are in Grand Central Station, New York City, and it's busy. It's the busiest time of the day. And Arthur turns to Sanford and he just says, I gotta go.
19:10 And Sanford's like, excuse me. And Sanford sits and he waits and he waits and he waits. And then he's like, Arthur, Arthur, anybody. Can somebody help me out? And he waits and he waits. And Sanford decides I have to get out of here. And so he begins crawling his way through Grand Central Station. You can imagine how disgusting and how busy and how chaotic and how embarrassing this must have been. He's bumping into people and not trying to fall downstairs. And it takes hours and hours and hours the rest of the day. Sanford finds the train to get back to Columbia and he gets off the train and he stumbles and bumbles his way back to campus. And when he gets to campus, he hears Arthur's voice and he follows the voice. And he confronts Arthur. And he says, how could you do this to me? How could you do this to me? Why would you leave me like that? Could you even imagine the shame, the embarrassment, the fear that I experienced? Why would you leave me? And Arthur says to his friend, I never left you. I've been walking with you all day everywhere you went, I was behind you and I wasn't gonna let you fall onto the tracks. I wasn't gonna let you fall down a but I knew you could do this and I knew you had to do this. I want you just to pause in that moment of that story and process how you feel, how you feel about Arthur, how you feel about this experience Sanford must have gone through
21:09 For you. Maybe there's an injustice here, but I want you to hear a really remarkable word. Sanford Greenberg wrote a memoir in which he said, this moment was the beginning of my liberation. This moment was the beginning of my liberation. I no longer chose to be the blind guy. He never carried a cane. He became very successful in the things he put his life towards. And he said, this is the moment where that liberation and the possibility came not dodging around the darkness, but diving into it covered by love. Interestingly, Sanford had a chance to pay back Arthur or Art as he had later go on to be known. Art Garfunkel and Art came to Sanford later in life and he said, Hey, my buddy Paul and I are gonna, we need when we, we wanna record an album, but we need $400. And Sanford was like, you got it?
22:16 And they recorded their album and they recorded in that a song called The Sound of Silence, in which the opening line says hello, darkness, my old friend. And that is a gift back to Sanford. It's beautiful, right? Yeah. This was the beginning of my liberation, said Sanford, not without darkness, not without suffering, but a pathway through with a love of a friend. This was the journey to his liberation. The beauty of this friends is that this is the story of the gospels. This is the story of the Bible. It is a through line that we see back to Joseph
23:28 And the angels of God come around him. And he comes out and the king says, you're my man. I believe in whoever was with you in that darkness. I'll follow. This is the promise of Isaiah who said, there's a, there's one coming. A king who will be a suffering servant. This is Paul's story redeemed by Christ, spreading the gospel taken into prison and counting it as joy that you and I sit here and bend Oregon 2000 years later and read these stories. But most importantly, this is the story of Christ himself. Think of it Christ himself. It says in John one was in the beginning, at the beginning of all things, the breath of life, all of creation says the word was there with God and was God. And the story says, and the word became flesh stepped into the chaos, stepped into the darkness. Christ was not content to be far from you. The universe has a name and he made himself known in Christ. I wanna talk about two people in the stories of Jesus who experience Christ and have to choose the life they will live under Jesus. One is, a man we only know, we don't know His name. We all we know is he was a rich guy. He was a young guy, and he ruled something. All they did is call, I mean, what a name Rich young ruler, that's like a rap name
25:12 And the rich young ruler stands across from Christ and says, what do I need to do to get in with you and your kingdom? And Jesus lays out all the laws and the, you know, the ways we live and all. He's like, yeah, good. I do all of that. And Jesus seeing the man's heart, not just his exterior, but the heart of the man, he calls into something deeper and says, if you want to be perfect, sell everything you have and then follow me. This is an invitation to suffering. This is an invitation to surrender.
25:49 If you know this story, you know, the young man walks away as too high a cost. The cost of that love is too high pass. And then we hear the story, later of a woman who has had a medical condition most of her life and is suffering daily. And on top of the suffering, her community has told her, you're suffering because of something you've done. It's your fault that you have this shame on top of suffering piled on top of this woman. And she has been alone and rejected and an outcast. She has no money left 'cause all the doctors have taken her money and haven't helped her. And she's at the bottom and she hears that Christ is coming.
26:40 And in the midst of all of her shame and everything she's been told about her identity and herself, she moves out anyway toward the place of Jesus. And it says, it's so crowded. You can barely, Jesus can barely move. And the woman doesn't yell at Jesus. Doesn't ask for a prayer request over here. She just says to herself, if I can just touch the end of his robe, I I know I'll be healed. And she does this. And you can imagine the eyes and the faces and probably what was said about her and to her, she moved towards Jesus. And she doesn't wanna meet him. She doesn't need anything from him. She's not asking to be his best friend. She just needs to touch his robe. And as she does it says, Jesus felt the power, the glory leave him and she's healed and he stops. Why does Jesus stop? Why does he stop? He doesn't have to stop. Woman's healed, robe touched next town. He stops and he turns. And he who touched me, and the disciples who are not quick to the take often are like, who? What are you talking about? Everybody's touching you.
28:00 And he sees the woman and he says, daughter. He says Daughter, he gives her back an identity and that dignity. He says, daughter, your faith has healed you.