An anchor in the midst of the realities of 2020
We all know change is one of life’s certainties but 2020 has been like change on steroids. What has changed for you this year? What have you lost or didn’t go as you expected? It’s good to acknowledge these things.
Using Colossians 3, I want to remind us of some huge things that haven’t changed and as surely as the sun rises they will not change for us as followers of Jesus. They can hold us steady, helping us navigate the ongoing change around us as we enter 2021.
God. He hasn’t changed. He is on his throne. Colossians 3:1 says Christ is seated at the right hand of God. The Father is on the throne, Christ is at his right hand. He reigns at this and every other moment. God’s redemptive plan for history is still on course. His purposes will be accomplished. We sing, “Even when we don’t see it your moving.” God is moving in the mess.
Our identity. We have a secure identity in Christ. 3:1 says we “have been raised with Christ.” 3:3 says we have died and our life is hidden with Christ in God. It’s a beautiful picture. Like me holding my son in an embrace to keep him safe from danger. You’d have to kill me to get to him. But Jesus can’t die and he’s the one who’s holding us and guaranteeing our eternal security while everything else is insecure.
Heaven—it’s real. And Jesus is coming back. 3:4 says, “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” We have a secure future hope. We can endure, we know where we’re going. Jesus is coming back and all will be put right.
Christ is our life. 3:4 says Christ is our life. He is still the source of our life. Many people look for life in the wrong places. COVID has shown up where we’ve put our hope and everything other than Christ is sinking sand. Let’s continue to draw on Christ for true life day by day. Only he can sustain us.
We’re chosen. So says 3:12. Into God’s kingdom, into God’s family. We’re called. There’s still work to do. I have a reason to get up, a reason to keep going because I am called and chosen.
The call to be holy. 3:12 says we are holy. Verses 5–17 teach us how to live that out. In Colossians Paul lays out who Christ is, what the gospel is and who we are and then calls us to live according to who we are. There are things we reject and things we embrace. “Put on … compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience” (3:12). COVID may have helped us learn humility and meekness but it’s also tested our patience severely and we’ve probably said or done things we know aren’t holy. Stress isn’t an excuse not to be holy.
We are loved. Also in verse 12 we are called beloved or dearly loved. That hasn’t changed. Nothing changes God’s perfect love for us, not can anything separate us from it (Romans 8:39).
We belong. We’re part of a fellowship of believers as a whole. Also of the church families God has given us. Or the teams we serve with. “One another” or “each other” appear a few times in the passage. 3:15 tells us we “were called in one body.” The many uses of “you” and “your” are plural as Paul writes to a community of believers doing life together. Having this community around us is a huge encouragement as the world changes.
Our unity in Christ. 3:11 tells us that Christ unites people from all cultures and nations. We may be more stressed than ever and this year has thrown up a lot of divisive issues in some parts of the world but followers of Jesus are still called to be one, to love each other, to maintain our unity and cultivate community.
There are always reasons to give thanks. It may feel counterintuitive in some of the situations we face but it’s really radical and really biblical to give thanks anyway. 3:15 tells us to “be thankful,” verse 16 says we are to sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs “with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Gratitude is a powerful weapon. We fight cynicism and grumbling by giving thanks instead and amazing things start to happen. It’s a weapon against hopelessness, despair and despondency. It’s an expression of trust in God. Give time to give thanks.
It’s all about Jesus. That hasn’t changed. 3:17 says that “whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father (there’s thankfulness again) through him.” Our lives, our ministries, our teams are still all about Jesus. Stay focused on Jesus.
Jesus brings peace. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” (3:15). Peace in our hearts is possible because Jesus is alive and with us. The world needs people who’s hearts are inhabited by the Prince of Peace.
Verse 2 says we are to “set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” This doesn’t mean we’re lost in some detached meditation and unengaged in the world. We’re very engaged in the realities around us, it’s just that our hearts and minds are set on the great realities and truths listed in this passage. We’re focused, we’re hopeful, we’re on course in the midst of the seas of change.