There are some verses you almost wish weren’t in the Bible. Some of us point to verses like Romans 9:16, where Paul emphatically writes that salvation “depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”
(And all the Calvinists said “amen.”)
Others point to a passage like Hebrews 6:4-6, where we read:
For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit,and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.
(And all the Arminians did likewise.)
We all have these verses and passages that confuse and sometimes frustrate us. Ones that make life far more complicated than we want it to be. Here’s one that’s been sticking in my craw of late:
May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy… (Col. 1:11)
The two thirds of the verse are fantastic. “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might.” It’d be so nice if Paul had just stopped there. Instead, he continues to tell us the purpose of being strengthened:
To endure patiently.
And not only that, but to endure patiently with JOY.
Am I the only one who has a hard time with this?
When the purpose of God’s strengthening of you is not so you can be a gigachurch pastor, super-evangelist or sell a gazillion copies of your latest book, but to endure all things—trial, persecution, failure and that dreaded state of being “average”—to do this patiently, to be as long-suffering by God’s grace as God himself is… it changes everything.
And it also makes you realize just how far short you fall.
It’s also why I’m so glad Paul didn’t stop there. Verse 11 isn’t really so great if you don’t have verses 12-14:
…giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
This is really where the joy kicks in. It’s not that we see trial and go “yippee” as if we are some kind of weirdos who actually enjoy life being difficult (in other words, I’m not talking about the good kind of challenge here). Our joy comes from recognizing what God has done. I love how one commentator puts it when he writes, “In ‘patience and long-suffering’ the Christian is glad, and certain of the victory of his cause, of his reward with God both in his own heart and in heaven.”
That’s where the joy comes from. It’s from knowing God has already qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints. He has already delivered us from darkness into light. He has already redeemed us—and our sins are truly and completely forgiven.
With such assurance, how can we not see even the worst of trials, ultimately, as “light momentary affliction” (2 Cor. 4:17)?