“I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.”
Colossians 1:29 (NASB)
This week we glimpse into Paul’s heart for ministry. Since all believers are called to be ministers, we can learn from him what it means to serve others. In our lesson last week we looked at his prayer life, the foundation of his ministry. What else do we learn from this man who was such a great leader of the church? What do we learn from his model as we seek to minister to others, fulfilling the ministries that God has given each of us?
Read Colossians 1:24-29.
1. Describe Paul’s attitude toward his sufferings (1:24).
2. The last part of Col. 1:24 says, “I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (NET). Some have suggested this means that we must suffer to gain our final entrance into heaven. Consider the context, specifically what Paul has just said about Jesus and His work for us in 1:19-22. How does the context prevent us from understanding 1:24 that way?
3. Compare these other passages, in which Paul described his sufferings, with what he says in Colossians. What reasons for his attitude do you see?
a. Romans 5:3-5
b. 2 Cor. 1:3-9
c. 2 Tim. 4:5-8
4. How do the following verses encourage you to have the same attitude as Paul as you face suffering?
d. John 16:33
e. James 1:2-4, 12
f. 1 Peter 1:6-7
g. 1 Peter 5:10
5. Sharing question: What kinds of suffering are you facing right now in your life? From the verses you have considered today, what truth helps you face it with the attitude Paul had?
6. Responding to God: Write a prayer to God, asking for the grace, faith, and strength that you need to face the sufferings in your life. Incorporate into the prayer a verse from #4 that was meaningful to you.
Reread Colossians 1:24-29.
If you were an investigative reporter, you would ask “who, what, where, when, why, and how” kinds of questions as you covered a story. We do the same when we observe the Scriptures.
1. What do you learn about Paul and his ministry by answering these kinds of questions from Colossians 1:25?
Paul called his ministry a “stewardship” (NASB, NET) or a commission (NIV). John MacArthur, Jr. defines this term in detail: “Stewardship translates oikonomia, a compound word made up of oikos (house) and nimo (manage). It means to manage a household as a steward of someone else’s possessions. The steward had oversight of the other servants and handled the business and financial affairs of the household. That freed the owner to travel and pursue other interests. Being a steward was thus a position of great trust and responsibility in the ancient world.”4
2. In light of the meaning of “stewardship”, why would Paul be concerned to “fully carry out” (NASB) or to “complete” (NET) the preaching of the word of God?
3. How do the following verses reinforce the seriousness of a believer’s stewardship before God?
h. 1 Cor. 4:1-2
i. 2 Tim. 4:1-5
j. 1 Peter 4:10-11
4. Sharing question: What is the personal mission, ministry or commission that God has given you? How did you discover it? If you do not know what it is, what do these verses suggest about the importance of discovering it?
5. Sharing question: If you know what stewardship God has given you, what are you doing to complete it? Are you taking it as seriously as you should? What can you do to improve?
6. Responding to God: Write a prayer or draw a picture representing your heart toward your stewardship before God.
Reread Colossians 1:24-29 to review the context.
1. How did Paul describe the content of his message in these verses?
2. Sharing question: Paul called Jesus “the hope of glory”. How do you keep your eyes upon Him as your hope of glory when you are discouraged and dealing with difficulties?
3. What was Paul’s goal for preaching Christ? What specific methods did he use? (1:28-29)
In our memory verse this week, Col. 1:29, Paul said that he labors. The Greek word for labor is kopiao. Vines says it is akin to kopos, which “denotes a striking, beating; then toil resulting in weariness, laborious toil, trouble.”5
4. Sharing question: Do you “labor” in your ministry or does it receive your “leftovers”? Explain.
The word for striving (NASB) or struggling (NIV) in Col. 1:29 is agonizomai, meaning “special pains and toils. It implies hindrances.” 6
5. Sharing question: What hindrances are you facing in your ministry? Are you striving to overcome them? What specific things can you do to help you strive rather than quit when problems occur?
6. Responding to God: Go before God and listen for His voice as you consider your efforts in ministry. Talk to Him about your labor. Confess when you have not given Him your best efforts. Write down your thoughts.
Read Colossians 2:1-5.
Paul used a Greek term that suggests a contest. In 2:1 he said that he “struggles” for these people. The Greek word agon “implies force or violence. It referred to strife, contention, contest for victory or mastery as pertained to the Greek games of running, boxing, wrestling.”7
We are in a battle. It is so easy to forget that and give up when obstacles face us in ministry. Even as I write this, I am facing some disappointment over some ministry plans that are not working out as I had hoped. It helps to know that Paul “struggled” when faced with obstacles. He realized that he was in a contest and needed to win over the opposition.
1. According to this passage, for what was he struggling on behalf of the believers (Col. 2:1-3)?
2. Sharing question: Choose one of the phrases that you listed in #19. What person in your life comes to mind for whom you can pray that phrase? Why? Write out your prayer.
3. Paul emphasized understanding and knowledge. What is the result of these (2:2)?
4. Paul balanced the need for the Colossians to grow in feeling and in knowledge. How do these verses relate to that?
a. 1 Cor. 13:1-3
b. Rom. 12:1-2
c. Rev. 2:1-7
5. Sharing question: What is one practical way that you grow in knowledge and in love?
6. Responding to God: Pray for the grace to “struggle” in ministry rather than give up. Pray for growth in knowledge and in love. Write your prayer or poem before God.
Review Colossians 2:1-5.
1. What danger did Paul fear for these believers (Col. 2:4)? What is the antidote (2:2-3)?
2. How did Paul encourage the Colossians in their faith (Col. 2:5)?
3. Review this week’s lesson. Summarize what you learn from Paul for your own ministry.
4. Sharing question: Think of someone whom you can encourage today by telling her how well she is doing in an area of faith. So often we notice someone’s spiritual growth but fail to mention it directly. Contact her today and write down what happens.
5. Responding to God: Write a prayer for one of the members of your small group. This is part of your ministry to others and your struggle in prayer on behalf of believers.
We have the privilege of reading three stories of women and ministry today. Consider what you learn for your ministry from them.
I've been thinking about "mission" a lot lately. Maybe it's because I sense I'm not getting any younger. Maybe it's because I realize that if I don't focus on God's mission for me, I'll succumb to other people's purposes and plans for my life (including my own), and though I can stay very busy doing that, I'll lack the peace and fulfillment that comes with simply being a good and faithful servant, doing whatever God asks and being where He wants me to be.
As I thought and prayed about what my mission might be, I considered what the consistent patterns in my Christian life have been. I thought about what I learned from taking the SHAPE equipping class (Spiritual giftedness, Heart, Ability, Personality, and Experience). I was also encouraged and challenged by Kay's lesson last spring on mission (I even got the CD so I could listen to it again ;). The consistent patterns in my spiritual life have been prayer, bible study, and community (meeting in small groups and forming intentional relationships). I felt like whatever I was to do, it would include these elements. I sought input from others concerning spiritual giftedness, and learned that one of my gifts is probably teaching.
And, after trying a variety of settings over time (high school ministry, children's ministry, women's ministry), I sense God is directing me toward women's ministry. I've been on a couple of committees and tried different roles, but the one that seems to fit best is being a small group facilitator. When I'm not doing it, I miss it. When I am doing it, it's a lot of work and I have to put aside some other things, but it's an easy yoke and I learn a lot. Being a small group facilitator gives me an opportunity to serve God and others while causing me to be completely dependent on Him.
About 20 years ago the Lord guided me back into the field of teaching when I fell in love with learning different children (dyslexic, attention deficit). I could not afford to go back to college for training, but He provided money from every imaginable source. I found He had truly given me a gift for this service because I have undeniably seen many miracles due to changed lives in these families. I am given abundant opportunities to witness and give God the glory when others see the fruit of this gift. My reward has been great in following God's mission in serving LD kids.
After coming to our church 4 years ago, I became somewhat overwhelmed at all the different opportunities to serve. It was so exciting! Through Bible study and prayer I was able to focus on the gifts God had given me, and not go flying off into other areas. Along with providing Language Therapy as a volunteer at West Dallas, God blessed me with the Paws to Care ministry. He combined my love for needy animals (I currently have two adopted Golden Retrievers) and my heart for the elderly. Here I can share my beloved Micah's ability to love with sharing the gospel to those in nursing homes. It "fits" how we were both designed by God. My heart's gift is from Him and I can joyously serve and receive love in return by following His direction. Here His work is accomplished. I thank the Lord for giving me gifts to glorify Him.
I still struggle with prioritizing ministry over other things. My Bible study leader several years ago reminded us that there are many great causes, but Christian organizations need Christians. For example, the Heart Association is great, but it doesn't NEED Christians. So basically when prioritizing volunteer work, consider "Does this need a Christian?" Of course we need Christian influence everywhere, but again Christian ministries can only use Christians and anyone can help with secular work.
Another consideration is motivation....is this about me, my resume, pleasing someone else or is this ministry where I feel God is directing me, something to which He has given me the gifts and passion?
No matter how noble the pursuit, if you volunteer for too much, your family does suffer. You may be choosing "people" over "housework", but even if you are gone just when your kids are in school, you must ask, "Is my home in order and am I ready to welcome them when they come home? Have I inadvertently chosen others over my family?”
4 John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Colossians & Philemon, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), 72.
5 W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1966), 303.
6 Zodhiates, 868.
7 Zodhiates, 869.