Stalwarts

Colossians 1:1-2 (the message)
I, Paul, have been sent on special assignment by Christ as part of God’s master plan. Together with my friend Timothy, I greet the Christians and stalwart followers of Christ who live in Colosse. May everything good from God our Father be yours!

Recently, as I flipped over to the book of Colossians (one of my favorites) I was struck by the first two verses.

What jumped out at me was in Paul’s greeting to the “Christians and stalwart followers” in Colosse.  Well, that’s all these verses contain you  may be thinking!!  True…but I believe Holy Spirit kind of stopped me in my tracks and showed me two groups, not just one, being addressed.  I am no Biblical Scholar or Historical Expert by any stretch but for me, as I began reading, I saw two groups…Christians all, yes…but not necessarily stalwart followers.

Stalwart: strong and brave; valiant, firm, steadfast, or uncompromising. (Webster’s)

Whoa.  See what I mean?  How many professing Christians do you know that are really, truly stalwart followers?  What about our own Christianity?  This isn’t about condemnation or judgement.  It’s not really even so much about how well we measure up to the definition above.  Here’s the thing for me…I could have somewhat wished I was a stalwart follower instead of an “inside the box” average Christian my whole life, but wishing produces little.  Let’s be really honest.  Many of us are saved but we don’t really have the desire to be a stalwart kind of follower.  Authentic and life-changing Christ following starts, continues and ends with our hearts.  So, being real, what are we supposed to do with ourselves if the truth is that in theory whole-heartedly following Jesus sounds good but in real life we just aren’t all that interested?

My prayer as I write today, if you relate to this post, is that the Holy Spirit will open your heart to experience a bit of hunger…passion…desire.  See, I am just like everyone else.  And I lived most of my  life with spurts of passion for God but vaguely dissatisfied and in performance mode.  I was no doubt a Christian.  But a stalwart follower?  Not so much.  Until…Until…I was hungry and desperate.  The question is…what are we hungry for?

If you are hungry for personal glory you will live as a climber…
If you are hungry for approval you will live as a pleaser…
If you are hungry for control you will live as a manipulator…
If you are hungry for safety you will live as a coward…
If you are hungry for attention you will live as a performer…

But if in our pursuit of personal glory, pleasure or control we remain dissatisfied, if in our mundane and ho-hum professions of Christianity we still crave something more real then we may become hungry for God.  If in our personal achievement we find that still we have an itch we can’t scratch…If in our Sunday best we still feel our worst…If in our professions of faith we find an undeniable conflict with the way we live…If in our most honest moments alone we can admit that no matter how hard we try to please, manipulate or perform it is never enough…If in our hand-clapping, tear-strained and arm waving worship we find our lives do not really carry the tune…If deep within the hard shell of our tattered and broken hearts we find a place that longs so fiercely to be loved and live a life of genuine passion and freedom…then we may just become hungry, ravenously hungry, for God.

You know what?  You can’t conjure this up.  You can’t try to be a stalwart follower.  I write that because I tried so hard for so long!  And you know what trying so hard really made me?  A judgemental Christian.  The kind whose first response was to recoil inwardly to someone’s broken life of sin rather than have my heart break for them.  Strong…but true.  Eventaully, I just got so sick of pretending I was a loving Christian when I was really so conflicted because I will still so bound.  Coming to the end of myself and all of my efforts at Christianity has been the very best thing that ever happened to me.  Because I find over and over and over that as I grow into a stalwart follower it is simply the natural response of my heart and life as I decide daily to let God be the nourishment to the hunger and need in my soul. 

The truth is, though, that you don’t have to do it this way.  You can be saved and on your way to Heaven and let your passion be for everything and anything but the lover of your soul.  You can remain stubborn and determined to hold on to your family’s way of doing things.  You can stay in your comfort zone of success.  You can even, brace yourself, stay in your pity party and victim  mentality.  Even as I write I pause…You sure about this, Lord?!…but I sense an urgency on the inside this morning and it comes because I lived this way.  I know my mother and best friend will read this and they know the countless hours I talked about my woes and my childhood and my sufferings, etc.  I know about living as the victim…there is a time to uncover and understand hurts, wounds and issues and then there comes a time to heal and be free and move on.  The truth is that nothing, nothing, nothing will hold you back once your hunger and passion for God ignites.  There will be no family stronghold, no childhood wound, no lack or personal pride that won’t melt like wax in the presence of the Lord.

I challenge you today.  Perhaps my dramatic side coming out…but I literally tremble writing this morning because I know  your life can change.  I know that regardless of how successful or pitiful you are God can transform you into a passionate and stalwart follower of Jesus.  All you need is a taste.  The Bible says taste and see that the Lord is good.  It’s almost like a dare!  Jesus is talking to you…come try me out…not religion…ME.  Let me encourage you to let Jesus in….let Him take the reigns…stop pretending…stop fighting. 

When you’re hungry for God’s glory you live as a vessel…
When you’re hungry for God’s approval you live in freedom…
When you’re hungry for God to take control you live in surrender…
When you’re hungry for God’s safe arms you live in confident boldness…
When you’re hungry for God to get the attention you live in greatness…

He is an all-consuming fire.  He is the answer.  He is the joy, peace and freedom you crave.  Life as a Christian is indeed supposed to be exciting and fulfilling.  And it is as we grow into  Stalwarts.  Even in the midst of pain and loss…even in the midst of troubles…even on the best and worst kind of days…there is Jesus.  His very real presence filling and permeating your life everywhere you go and in everything you do.  There is no formula.  But there is freedom.  Getting to know Jesus on very real terms is changing my life in big ways.  And the biggest ways aren’t the flashiest ways…they are the ways that effect who I am in my everyday life.  How I see people.  My  motives.  My hunger…My passion.

Let Jesus draw you into the life of a stalwart follower.  You won’t regret it and you’ll never want to go back.  I promise.

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