An e-publication of Living Hope Presbyterian Church
Colossians 1:11 (pt 1)
“Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;”
Verse 11 springs in anticipation of doubt arising from the previous verse. Verse 10 refers to believers “walking worthy of the Lord”. The doubt that Paul anticipates is whether anyone can live in a worthy manner before the Lord. Verse 11 continues to answer the question, “How shall we fulfill that duty?” Paul begins to answer that question at the end of verse 10 by telling the readers they are to be fruitful. However, we are not only to walk worthy of the Lord by “being fruitful in good works”, Paul adds here that we will also be “strengthened with all might”. The efficient cause, or beginning, of that strength being “His glorious power” to its particular uses of “all patience and longsuffering” which in turn make known the quality of joyfulness.
“Strengthened with all might” speaks of an inward ability of the mind and will, because the concept is used in regards to patience and longsuffering which are inward graces of the mind and will. The descriptor “all” is not referring to the quantity of might given. Instead the word is a reference to all kinds of inward strength which is connected “to the quality or mutiplicity of trials and afflictions.” “His glorious power” means the actual power of God that He uses to accomplish His will. But “glorious power” also denotes His special power which works grace in believers (Eph 1.19 and 3.16).
Thus the Puritan, Edward Elton, says the verse may be paraphrased: “Strengthened with all kinds of inward ability of mind and will, through the actual power of God, which works grace with them that believe, to the special manifestation of His glory.”
Note that “Strengthened” is written in the past tense. Strength to bear affliction must be provided before affliction comes. One must be ready. This idea is a corrective to the normal teaching that God will provide when the time comes, or that He will provide grace only when it is needed. That teaching is true, of course, but it is not complete. We must also prepare now. We cannot be “ready” for all possibilities, but we are responsible to ready ourselves as we are able. The Armor of God is to be put on now so that we will be able to resist the assaults of Satan when they hit us (Eph 6.13).
Thus the means that God has provided are to be used to provide us with strength against times of affliction. First, we are to hold and enjoy the good things in this life (health, wealth, relationships, etc) “conditionally”. They are temporary. God, in His providence, may take them away at anytime. Remember the Cross. Seek Him first. For what does it profit a man to gain the world only to lose his soul? (Mt 16.24-26)
Second, meditate on the immutability (unchangableness) of God’s love. He is the same good God when He afflicts us, as when He prospers His children. God may change the conditions under which we live as it seems good to Him. But God is “good before affliction, good in affliction, and forever good to His children.” Remembering God’s love and our conditional hold on possessions steadies us in times of affliction and loss.
Lacking this preparation will either make us grow impatient and seek unlawful means to change our circumstances, or cause us to become angry toward God and question either His sovereignty or goodness. Neither of those reactions are biblical and can bring spiritual shipwreck to your faith. Consider the author of the circumstances and His use of our affliction. He has His loving reasons. Sometimes we are able to learn those reasons in this life, sometimes not. Distrust is the root of all grumbling and complaining. But we can always trust, knowing that He has the best in mind for His people (Rm 8.28).
But we must not only try to ready ourselves for the times of affliction, we must in every way be furnished with strength from God to bear affliction (Ps 34.19). And not just the mind, but also the heart must be supplied with strength. Be ready and willing to forego the good things in life, and be fully assured in our hearts of God’s love toward us. A heart established with grace keeps out covetousness. Our hearts should respond as Job did when he was going through his trials, “though He should slay me, yet I will trust in Him.” (Job 13.15, KJV) Not at all an easy attitude to accomplish, but God works in us to that end.
Affliction will look into every corner of our hearts and minds and draw out from us what is within. It will discover and show to ourselves and others where we love the world too much and God too little. Affliction showed Job’s strength and his wife’s weakness (Job 2.9-10). Remember David’s prayer, “May my heart be blameless in Thy statutes, That I may not be ashamed.” (Psa 119:80)