Encouragement in the Journey: Are You Thriving or Surviving? #2

05/07/2020 - By Pastor Todd Nathan

As I watch the news for updates regarding COVID and talk with other Pastors and ministry leaders, I believe we are all in a place of wondering when things will changed. Many are proceeding slowly and cautiously, even as restrictions begin to be lifted in some States. The NJ Governor announced yesterday that restrictions will remain in place through June 5. He has listed churches as "non-essential" businesses which would not open until Phase 3. Yet we are hearing more talk about the 1st Amendment right to gather as a church which has been upheld already by federal courts and the DOJ. With all of this said, wisdom tells me that it may be a while longer before we actually get back to any sense of life as we knew it. Hearing this may make you anxious and put you on edge. Does this mean I have to continue enduring, trying to make the best of my personal situation? How long can I maintain what I am doing without any hope for change? Will I be able to stay in survival mode much longer? DON'T LOSE HEART! God is not bound by government restrictions or the 4 walls that surround us. He has given us His Holy Spirit to do more than help us survive in life. In fact, His Holy Spirit purposely indwells every believer by God's design so that we can grow, be comforted, hold fast to the truth, endure with His power and strength, and stay eternally focused.

Paul provides some important instructions to the believers at Colossae so that they are equipped and ready for each new day, and so that they are thriving and not surviving. He makes it simple by using language that is visual and simple to understand. In fact, you could look at it as small steps to take each day. He writes in Colossians 3:1-2, "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth."

Step 1 - As you wake up to a new day, start your day by "seeking what is above" and "setting your mind on what is above." The word for seek means, "to devote serious effort to realize one's desire or objective, to strive for, to aim." The word for set means, "to give careful consideration to something, set one's mind on, be intent on". We need to take deliberate steps to focus on what is eternal and devote serious effort to it and be intent on staying focused upward. If all we do is think about our circumstances, we will stay in survival mode!

Step 2 - Once we have adjusted our focus, Paul tells us in v5 to "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you." Just in case we are not sure what is "earthly" and the stuff that we should not be seeking after or focused on, he gives examples in verses 5-8! To put something to death means to remove any potential for it to remain alive in you. He adds to this in verses 9and 10 by using the visual picture of , "putting off the old self with its practices" 10 and "putting on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator." I love this because it is so easy to understand. The way we put something to death i s by putting off our old way of life, our old habits and those things that are not pleasing to the Lord, as if we were putting off a piece of clothing. Then we intentionally replace it by putting on something that i pleasing to the Lord - new habits and Christ-like qualities - that are a result of our upward focus! We want be proactive at getting rid of anything and everything in our lives that is fleshly, earthly and purely sinful. It's not hard to figure out what those things are. Our worst may be more obvious when we are in survival mode and just trying to get through the day!

Step 3:Finally, Paul instructs the believers to take one more step. He says in verses 12-17 to "put on" those things that are Christ-like, that reflect what it means to think eternally, and are a product of a mind that is set above! Each of the things Paul lists are to be put on like a garment each day. They are key character qualities that have to do with the way we relate to one another. "12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

What will help you get out of survival mode and actually begin to thrive is simple. Take to heart the practical steps Paul provides in Colossians 3. Be proactive tp set your mind above, seek what is above, put to death whatever sin is controlling your life, put off what is more reflective of who you used to be before you met Jesus, and put on what is more reflective of a new life in Christ. Put on intentionally those qualities that strengthen relationships and glorify God. Put energy to these things and you will find life, freedom, hope and you will thrive!

With much love and compassion for you all, as we strive together as a church family,
Pastor Todd