Sermon for Sunday July 21st, the Fifth Sunday after Trinity
The Lessons: Amos 8:1-12; Psalm 52; Colossians 1:15-28; Luke 10:38-42
The Text: Colossians 1:21-23;
Topic: Remaining firm in the Christian faith
In today’s First Lesson from the Book of the prophet Amos, we read of a famine of hearing the words of the Lord (Amos 8:11-12); in Psalm 52:9, we find the Psalmist expressing his trust in the Lord forever; in the Gospel Lesson we see Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening attentively to his teaching (Luke 10:38-42); and in the Epistle Lesson, we are assured of being presented faultless by Christ to God, if only we remain on the firm foundation of our faith in Him, and are not moved away from the hope of the Gospel (Colossians 1:23). The common theme here is our need to depend on God and on his word in order to grow and flourish spiritually.
COLOSSIANS 1:21-23: WHY WE MUST REMAIN FIRM IN OUR FAITH
Having taught about the fullness of God dwelling in Christ and Christ’s reconciliation of the world to God through his own death on the cross, St. Paul reminds his readers that they were once alienated from God and hostile to him in their minds because of their evil deeds, but Christ has now reconciled them to God by his death on the cross. The purpose of Christ’s death is for him to present all Christians as holy, blameless and faultless in God’s sight (Col. 1:22) when he comes again. But there is a condition to this future event: Christians must “continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel” (Col. 1:23) which they have heard and believe.
Some Christians may imagine they have already reached their goal simply by turning away from sin and believing in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. John Calvin wrote in his commentary on this verse:
This is an exhortation to perseverance, by which he admonishes them that all the grace bestowed upon them hitherto would be vain, unless they remained in the purity of the Gospel. And thus he intimates that they are still only en route and have not yet reached the goal.
– p. 315, T.H.L. Parker (translator): Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965. 5 th Reprinting, April 1979.
God expects his people to persevere in their faith, not to begin the Christian life and abandon it along the way. If we abandon our faith, we cannot be presented to God blameless and perfect at our Lord’s second coming. So important is the grace of perseverance that St. Augustine of Hippo wrote a treatise on it, in which he mentions that in the Lord’s Prayer what is really being requested of God is the grace of perseverance. We can discern this even from the final petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Deliver us from evil.” When God fully delivers us from evil, we shall be made perfect, but that is only at Christ’s second coming. Therefore, in praying the petition, “deliver us from evil,” we are praying that we may persevere in the Christian faith to the end.
HOW WE MUST PERSEVERE
God’s promise and will for the faithful is both their perseverance and their sanctification, which includes both their deliverance from all evil and their being conformed to the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ. But the condition is that the faithful continue in their faith. Their free choice must be to cooperate with the Holy Spirit by remaining faithful. Continuing in the faith is persevering in the faith, but we must persevere willing, not dragging our feet, as it were, and becoming weaker in our faith. In Colossians 1:23, the Apostle shows us how to continue in our faith.
Firstly, as we continue in our faith, we must be established, that is, have a firm foundation. The foundation of our faith is the Lord Jesus Christ himself (1 Corinthians 3:11). Our relationship to Him must be living and strong, and we must renew and refresh ourselves in Him daily. Then also we must know the faith we have been taught, and know it well, so that we can “ earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. ” (Jude 3c).
Secondly, Colossians 1:23 teaches us to be steadfast, or fixed in purpose, in our faith. We must persevere with resolve and determination to do God’s will faithfully to the end. This steadfast resolve will determine the way we practice our faith, and the spiritual disciplines which strengthen it. For example, if we are lax in our daily prayers, how does that show a steadfast faith? A steadfast faith will rather show itself in daily habits of prayer and Bible study, as well as in the good deeds in which the Holy Spirit guides us.
Thirdly, from Colossians 1:23, we learn “not to be moved from the hope of the Gospel” we have heard and believed. There are many forces at work in today’s world that try to cause Christians to give up their faith, but to none of these must we yield for an instant. Not only must we not be moved from our faith, but we must have so strong a faith and such perseverance, that we set an example to everyone. For who will want to imitate your faith in Christ, if it is not a strong, steadfast and immoveable faith? When we share our faith with unbelievers, they will want to see that our faith is strong, not weak. Here is a story about perseverance:
There was once a man named Samuel Scull  who settled on a farm in the Arizona desert with his wife and children.
One night a fierce desert storm struck with rain, hail, and high wind. At daybreak, feeling sick and fearing what he might find, Samuel went to survey their loss.
The hail had beaten the garden and truck patch into the ground; the house was partially unroofed; the henhouse had blown away, and dead chickens were scattered about. Destruction and devastation were everywhere. While standing dazed, evaluating the mess and wondering about the future, he heard a stirring in the lumber pile that was the remains of the henhouse. A rooster was climbing up through the debris, and he didn’t stop climbing until he had mounted the highest board in the pile. That old rooster was dripping wet, and most of his feathers were blown away. But as the sun came over the eastern horizon, he flapped his bony wings and proudly crowed.
That wet, bare rooster could still crow when he saw the morning sun. Like that rooster, we must still sing God’s praises, even when our world may be falling apart, or life may be treating us badly. If we trust in God’s goodness, we shall pick ourselves out of the rubble and sing the Lord’s praise.
St. Jude, near the end of his Epistle, exhorts his readers to build themselves up on their most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit (Jude 20).
What steps will you take to fortify your faith and your perseverance?
 pp. 411-412, Craig Brian Larson & Leadership Journal: 750 Engaging Illustrations for Preachers, Teachers and Writers. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2002, Second Printing, 2008.