Why Christians Are Powerless

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“To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.”

One thing I appreciate about the “YouVersion” app of the Bible on my phone is the feature that lets me hear the scripture spoken aloud. In listening to Colossians 1 recently, the last verse in the chapter captured my attention in a fresh way:

“To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.”

Consider it with me.

  1. Paul has a very clear goal or purpose at the very core of his life. “To this end”
  2. He works hard. He struggles. In Paul’s day this word meant to wrestle or contend for victory in an athletic contest or to strain every nerve to the end of accomplishing the goal or to face opposition and strife and press forward. In other places he likens this struggle to the pains of childbirth.
  3. Here’s the kicker—the energy for this effort comes from God. Paul does not muster up the strength. He isn’t digging deeper or reaching for the bootstraps to pull himself up. Paul participates with a source of power and strength that he is not generating.
  4. This is not an impersonal “force” Paul somehow taps into (like a Jedi Knight). Paul is not “using” the force. This energy is “in” him.  This working of God happens “in me,” says Paul. Paul is “presenced” with God. He will go on to explicitly identify this dynamic energy as “Christ in me.”
  5. One might think “all his energy” might make things a bit easier for Paul. Not so. Paul seems to be living and laboring toward a goal—“this end”—that requires a different way to accomplish. I don’t think it means Paul is giving all his energy and God is giving all his energy. I think it means God is supplying all the energy and Paul is supplying all of the struggle and labor. The struggle may actually be learning the human way of participating in the divine nature.

What if it’s not Paul’s hard work that wears him out.? What if the struggle actually ensues from Paul’s  labor to work with this energy as a human person? What if the “energy of God” does not work like worldly power, triumphing and overcoming through dominance and force. Rather, what if divine energy actually works completely opposite—through submission and suffering and humility; through poverty of spirit and meekness and purity of heart and through a voracious appetite for the highest good. What if that’s the struggle? Isn’t that precisely what we behold in Jesus?

What if Christians are powerless because we completely misunderstand power? What if to work with the power of God is the greatest struggle because we do not understand how the power of God works?

A final question: To what “end” was Paul laboring?

Image attribution: Voyagerix / Thinkstock

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

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