Colossians 3:16-17

Matt Willoughby reflects on the importance of hoping in Jesus, rather than a holiday, or other escapes.

Matt Willoughby
Matt Willoughby

'Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.' (Colossians 3:16-17)

I wonder what it is you are counting down to? Perhaps it's family time at Christmas, copious amounts of food, or cosy nights without the stress of work the next day. Or maybe you're looking forward to New Year's celebrations and the opportunity for a new start after a hard year.

I reckon having something to count down to on the other side of the cold, rainy, dark autumn days is no bad thing. However, this passage in Colossians 3 reminds me of something far more hopeful and more present than any light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel can bring us.

What's that? In a word: worship. Jesus is alive and present in our lives right now, and so He is able to bring us the content-ness and gratitude that we long for. This is the kind of hope that isn't limited to a time or place. It's also a hope more present and life-giving than the break from the treadmill of life many of us look forward to in a month or so. Worship is about a new perspective on our situations, as we see God take permission over our whole lives.

Let's take a look at what Paul was teaching the Church in Colossae when he wrote this passage:

Firstly, in verse 16: perspective. If we want to know a rich and full sense of gratitude in our hearts, then we need to know and experience the 'message of Christ' on a personal level. There's a challenge for us all in this, because when life's tough and changes around us seem overwhelming, what message do we listen to first? Is it anxiety in our heads telling us to give up, or advertisements telling us to buy into something to escape or feel fulfilled, or the prospect of an upcoming break from daily routine?

I think Jesus wants us to know that we are allowed to experience His peace and presence right now. We don't need to wait for anything to change to get into His life-giving presence and know that He is Lord, and that His message of hope hasn't changed. Worship is about perspective: when we allow Jesus to have His say in our life's situations first, we are allowing Him the space to let all other worries drop out of focus as we go to Him before anything else.

Secondly, in verse 17: permission. When we hand the keys of whole-life permission over to God, inviting Him to have a say in all of our lives, we take a huge step toward true worship. Herein lies a second challenge: Do we allow our 'worth-ship' of God to extend beyond Sunday morning? The moment we start to focus on saying 'thankyou' to Jesus for the good we see in our daily lives, rather than letting negatives lead us to grasp for a hope that might make us feel better on a future date, we are focussing on the hope Jesus wants us to experience in the here-and-now.

So, to sum-up: if we're wishing to experience a heart full of joy, gratitude and peace, it doesn't need to come wrapped up in a box, on a plane to a holiday destination, or even with friends or family at Christmas time. Let's not let this (sometimes exhausting!) time of year take our perspective away. God is with you, He cares for you, and so true hope can be found without longing for anything else. After all, God has already shown us how much He loves us at the cross. He wants you to know that your worries will fade back in the shadow of God's love and care for us. As we give God permission to move in all of our lives, we're worshipping Him in a way that allows us to see His hope every day. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.