Meditations in Colossians: 7. Visible Faith
Col 1:3,4 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus
I find every time I am examining one of these things the apostle Paul says, I am lining it up alongside the modern church and churches that I know. Paul had reason to thank God for these Colossians because he had heard of their faith. Now if someone said of you or of your church, “I have heard of your faith,” what could we take that to mean? They clearly have in their mind’s eye things about you and about your church that are obviously visible. What sort of things might they be?
Well before we look at specifics, we need to remind ourselves what the Bible, and specifically the New Testament, says about faith. Giving a general description of faith, the writer to the Hebrews explained, “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Heb 11;1) That is the nature of faith – a way of seeing. He then goes on to show it is all about relating to the Lord. Faith is a relational thing.
The apostle Paul wrote, “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ,” (Rom 10:17) i.e. faith comes as a response to hearing from God. Every act of faith is a response to what God has said. Faith is thus simply a response to what God says to you. So when we speak of a person who ‘has faith’ we simply mean they are someone who has heard God and responds to Him. The response may be in the mind (Abram believed God and was justified – Gen 25:6) but what starts in the mind is turned into action (Jas 2:17) Thus when Paul says he has heard of the faith of the Colossians he will have in mind things he has heard about them, things they have done, so let’s consider some of the things we may expect to ‘see’ in believers.
- Change of Life. When someone is ‘born again’ they have been convicted by God’s Spirit, have surrendered to God declaring their belief in Jesus’ death for them, and have received His Holy Spirit and a new life. They are changed, they are different: “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor 5:17) When a person is born again we may expect to see a change in life. For each of us there will be different things that stand out. For some the positives will stand out – they become more compassionate; for others it will be the negatives they will be most aware of. For me the habit of swearing was broken, and lots more other things have changed over the years, but that was a big issue thing for me. And why do these people act like this? Because they heard God and responded to Him.
- Change of Values. This new person suddenly starts thinking in a completely new way and that involves their moral or ethical values. The apostle Paul described our old life in the first part of Eph 2 and he starts out, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” (Eph 2:1,2) Previously we lived according to the standards of the godless world and at the beck and call of Satan (see also 1 Jn 5:19). He describes what went on in us: “gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.” (Eph 2:3) The values that we had were utterly self-centred. When we came to Christ that all changed, we become God centred and caring and concerned for others. Instead of inward looking we became upward and outward looking. We found we had become concerned for what God wanted and what God was doing in us and so things like reading the Bible and praying and worshipping became expressions of our life. We became more concerned for His will than what the world encouraged us to do. His values became ours.
- Change of activity. Meeting with other Christians became a norm and we came to realise that we were the church and being a part of it, God had plans for us, to release gifts and abilities in us, and as we recognized and used them so we found He gave us opportunities to bless and serve others and we found joy in serving others. We looked for and took opportunities to share this new found love with others, we looked for and took opportunities to bless others, and every time we did, it was the Holy Spirit prompting and guiding, leading and equipping us to be a blessing to His world. Every time we did we were hearing God and responding to Him – that was faith.
Now I have written with the assumption that this is how it has been for each and every one of us who call ourselves believers, Christians, but it is possible you have looked at these three paragraphs above and questioned whether that has been your experience, that faith has not been a visible element of your life, that the likes of Paul would not be able to look at you and ‘see’ faith. It has not been visible because it has not been there. To conclude may I give three quick reasons why that may be your case.
- Never born again. Very simply you may never have come to the place of crisis where you surrendered your life to God and called out for the salvation that only the work of Jesus on the Cross can bring to you – forgiveness of your sins, cleansing and adoption as a child of God. But if this is what you want, why not do that today – come to Him in surrender, declaring your belief in Jesus as your Saviour and Lord and putting your life in his hands for the rest of your days on this earth. Do it today.
- Early days. You may be born again but you are only a young believer. That’s OK, it is a learning process and we will continue to learn every day this side of heaven. Simply ask Him to take you on deeper in the knowledge of His love for you and His plans and purposes for you and be open to receive all He has for you.
- Slipped away. You might have found yourself reading this page and realised that that was how it used to be but for a variety of reasons you have stopped listening to and responding to God and life has gone cold and stale. It’s not too late to change that. It requires confession, acknowledgement of failure and a desire to start again. You know it is that simple but, yes, it is hard to make that fresh commitment, but it is worth making. Why do you think you were reading this today? This is Him calling you back. Heed His call.
So there we have it, the possibility of being people of faith, people with visible faith. Don’t let the enemy suggest this is for spiritual super-heroes; this is actually the normal Christian life as the Lord has spelled it out in the New Testament. Accept nothing less!