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6. Seeing Relationships from the Clouds

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Thought to Cherish

“And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Colossians 3:17 (NET)

Some of our greatest issues come in relationships. Other people can pose such challenges to our desires to be like Jesus! It sounds so easy to be kindhearted and forgiving until faced with a real person who brings real problems into our lives. Those with whom we have to deal daily, our family members and co-workers, are often the most difficult relationships because of our constant interaction. We wish for relief from them, but the reality is that God uses difficult people to teach us to be like Jesus. This week we consider the kind of people we are to be, especially in relationship with others.

Day One Study

In Colossians 3:5-11 Paul pointed out a number of sins to eliminate from our lives. The verses we study this week are more positive, listing virtues that we should incorporate.

Read Colossians 3:12-17.

1. What positive qualities did Paul list (3:12-14)?

  • Digging for Diamonds: Use your concordance and Greek dictionary to look up the expanded definitions of these virtues.

2. What reasons did Paul give us for taking on these virtues (3:12-14)? Which of these reasons motivates you personally? Why?

3. In light of the verses below, why is forgiveness such an essential for believers?

a. Col. 3:2-3

b. Col. 3:11

c. Mt. 6:14

d. Jn. 17:20-23

e. Eph. 4:16

f. Heb. 12:15

4. Paul called for forgiveness of others “just as the Lord has forgiven you.” To what extent has God forgiven you? Write down your insights from these verses:

a. Is. 53:5-6

b. Rom. 5:6-8

c. Eph. 2:8-9

d. Heb. 10:17-18

5. Responding to God: Write a prayer thanking God for the extent of His forgiveness, giving specifics from these verses.

6. Sharing question: Consider how completely and extensively God has forgiven you. Is there anyone in your life whom you have not totally forgiven, as God has forgiven you? Without naming the person or focusing on her/his sin against you, share with the group your struggle with unforgiveness. Write your sin of bitterness and unforgiveness as your prayer request this week.

Day Two Study

Today we look in-depth at some other virtues and instructions listed by Paul.

Read Colossians 3:12-16.

The word for love here is the Greek word agape, “a word not found in Classical Greek but only in revealed religion… God’s love for man is his doing what He thinks best for man and not what man desires. It is God’s willful direction toward man.”11

1. How do these verses relate to the above definition of agape love?

a. John 3:16

b. 1 John 3:16

c. 1 John 4:7-11

  • Digging for Diamonds: Study 1 Corinthians 13, looking up in a Greek dictionary the words for the various qualities of love listed here.

2. How is that kind of love a “perfect bond” (NET), “the perfect bond of unity” (NASB), or “the bond of perfectness” (KJV)?

3. Contrast agape love with the perspective of love that you hear and see in our culture.

4. How does the command about love in Col. 3:14 relate to the list of virtues of 3:12-13?

5. What does Rom. 5:5 teach you about the source of this kind of love? How does that encourage you?

6. Sharing question: What one person are you struggling most to love? What one act can you do to love them in the way suggested by the definition of agape?

7. Responding to God: Ask God to pour out the love you need in order to follow through with this act of love. Write out your thoughts.

Day Three Study

Read Colossians 3:12-16.

1. Carefully read Col. 3:15. Was Paul calling us to find peace, ask for peace, etc.? What exactly was he telling us to do? Why is this significant?

2. How do peace and thanksgiving relate (3:15)?

3. What should come out of us when the word is dwelling richly within us (3:16)?

Digging for Diamonds: Look up the Greek words for dwell, richly, teaching and exhorting (all in 3:16). Write out an expanded version of this verse including these definitions.

4. Sharing question: How richly does the word dwell within you right now? What specific thing can you do to improve in that area?

5. Sharing question: Read as much of Psalm 119 as you can. Read slowly and meditate upon what God’s word does in our lives. Write down one verse that is particularly meaningful to you today as you consider the benefits of God’s word in your life.

6. Responding to God: Use the verse you wrote down in #18 and pray it for yourself. Ask God to let that word dwell in you. Write down your prayer or poem. You may want to write this request on your card for your group this week. This kind of prayer is a kingdom prayer, when you focus on God’s kingdom work in your life rather than your will.

Day Four Study

Read Colossians 3:17-4:1.

1. How does Paul’s instruction in 3:17 relate to 3:18-4:1?

Household codes, detailing responsibilities of each family member, were common in the first century. Paul used this outline to help Christians understand their responsibilities to one another before God. (Remember that slaves were part of the household of that day, not simply someone hired as an employee.)

The first instruction calls for wives to submit. The word submission is “hupotasso; from hupo, under, and tasso, in order.”12

2. Observe 3:18 carefully. What limits are given to a wife’s submission?

3. How do limits to submission relate to these situations?

a. Acts 5:17-18, 27-29

b. Daniel 3:13-18

4. What can you learn from the attitudes and actions of those who did not submit to authorities in these stories in #22?

Biblical submission does not suggest inferiority. Everything that Paul said in Colossians about the exalted state of believers is true of women as well as men. Dr. Robert Wall comments, “If a wife sees herself as subservient to her husband, she will allow him to dominate and even abuse her. If, however, she views herself as Christ’s disciple and her husband’s equal in Christ, her understanding of submission will be changed; she will submit herself to her husband in the same way that Christ submitted himself to God.”13

5. Read these verses and write down how they verify the truth that submission has nothing to do with inferiority:

a. Phil 2:5-8

b. Gal. 3:28

c. 1 Peter 3:7

6. Sharing question: If you are married, how are you doing at voluntarily submitting to your husband when the two of you cannot come to unity on matters? In what one area do you most struggle in voluntarily following your husband’s decisions and why (finances, parenting, your job situation, household decisions, etc.)?

The household code continues with instructions for husbands and children in 3:19-21. Although household codes were common in that day, Paul added an eternal perspective to the instructions. Suddenly, pleasing the Lord and serving Him in everything is a new motivation for family members. This is the view from the clouds!

  • Digging for Diamonds: Look up other household codes in Scripture and compare them all.

7. Responding to God: Write a prayer for your family, whether that involves you and your husband and children, or whether your family unit involves you and your parents. Pray that Col. 3:17 will be true of all of you.

Day Five Study

Reread Colossians 3:17-4:1.

“There are two important differences between Paul’s exhortations that a wife submit to her husband and that a child obey the same person. First is the change of the verbal idea from submission (hypotasso), which only sometimes means obedience, to the more explicit word for obedience (hypakouo). Second is the change of verbal voice from middle, which implies that the wife’s submission is voluntary, to an active imperative, which implies the child’s unquestioning obedience.”14

1. What insight does this difference in words give you as to husband/wife parent/child relationships?

2. What keys did Paul give to slaves and masters that apply to all work situations (3:22-4:1)?

3. Sharing question: Which of these keys for workplace relationships can help you in your workplace situation or even in your family relationships?

  • Digging for Diamonds: Cross reference the subject of work and labor, focusing on verses that give instruction about your work.

4. Sharing question: How do you focus on work for God when your workplace situation is full of conflict or even boredom?

5. Responding to God: Submitting ourselves to others is difficult. We are driven by personal interest and selfishness. Pray for the humility that is necessary to be like Jesus in your relationships.

Stories from the Workplace

Betty Sue’s Story

I returned to teaching after staying home for several years with my children because of a financial need. However it wasn't long before I began to think that maybe God allowed this need so that He could place me in a public school environment. At first I was not happy about this because I had left a leadership position in a wonderful bible study. Why would God take me out of such a wonderful time of service for Him? It was not long before I realized that "God's ways are not my ways". Sometimes He changes the call in your life right in middle of when you think you are doing your best for Him. So now I use biblical principles without mentioning God or Jesus' name in a public school setting. (I am not allowed to.) However with advising parents on how to raise children in this changing culture, and other moral values I try to teach God's way. Giving them godly principles without mentioning His name. Those parents that are believers pick up on this quickly. So He always provides people that are encouraging and prayerful. As much as I would like to teach in a Christian school, I know that God has placed me in this secular environment which is in such need of His ways. Praying daily for my students and for the teachers on my team seems to be the key. Without His power and peace I could not survive.

Sara’s Story

I worked for a consulting firm during the hey-day years of the Information Technology field, prior to Y2K. Most of the employees were much younger in age than I was, and the predominate topic of conversation around the office was where to go for Happy Hour. Although I believe I was fairly well-liked because I was friendly, dependable, and hard-working, there did seem to be a distinct barrier between me and everyone else because I was "Miss Goody-Two-Shoes."

It was a lonely place to work, not only because I was physically by myself in the front reception area, but also because I was the only Christian and stood alone in my worldview. Whenever I walked into the employee lounge, either the conversations would quickly taper off, or if they did continue, I felt totally out-of-place. I felt like I was not having any impact on my co-workers, and wondering why did God have me here? I even taped the verses Colossians 3:23-24 on my computer so I would have a visual reminder every day that God had a purpose for me there.

Several years later, when the bottom dropped out of the dot-com industry, the company started having lay-offs. I survived the first few rounds, but eventually I was "down-sized." The Vice President called me into his office to explain that he was very concerned that when the news got out that I was being let-go that everyone would be very upset with management for the decision, and also they would panic about the future of the company because everyone respected me so much. So he asked me if he could announce instead, that I was leaving on my own volition. So maybe I did have an impact on the office after all!

The final piece to the puzzle is that this lay-off allowed me to discover some unexplored gifts that God has given me, which has resulted in my finding a new vocation that uses my skills and is my ministry too.

Evelyn’s Story

God cares more about my relationship to Him than about the work that I do. He cares more about the "process" I go through (how I respond to circumstances and people) than about my completing a task.

Being strongly task-oriented, I frequently forget that my being a "Christian professional" is a process, and not an endpoint. In my first professional job, I was going to be the best little worker that God ever had! However, I was so concerned about my work "product" that I neglected my relationship with the Lord! [NOT a good idea - "don't try this at home".]

Since I interact with people at work, seems like the Lord and I are in a continual state of reviewing/checking/evaluating my responses to people/situations in an effort to learn and grow from them. When I get irritated, over-react, or work too many hours, it is likely that the Lord is not pleased. Upon review with the Lord, I'm usually embarrassed to admit that my motives were incorrect - I was either trying to please others or myself, and not the Lord.

11 Zodhiates, 866.

12 Zodhiates, 951.

13 Robert W. Wall, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series: Colossians & Philemon, ed. Grant R. Osborne (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 155-156.

14 Wall, 159-160.

Related Topics: Spiritual Life, Fellowship

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