“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people – the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you.” (Colossians 1)
When Paul thanked God for the young church at Colossae, he put his finger on an amazing quality that they exhibited, that characterised their corporate lifestyle. It was the quality of vision.
They saw something way ahead of them that kept them steady on their journey together, just like the Magi saw the star that led them to Christ. They remained anchored to that vision. Peterson paraphrases:
“The lines of purpose in your lives never grow slack, tightly tied as they are to your future in heaven, kept taut by hope.tightly tied as they are to your future in heaven, kept taut by hope (Col 1 5 MSG).
Someone said: “Vision is the code that decodes every mediocrity out of life.” It sharpens focus, creates purpose, and generates drive.
And, at the very simplest level, you go towards what you aim at.
So what are you aiming at? What is your purpose…your plan? I remember in pre-SatNav days, driving across London clutching an A to Z with my finger firmly on my destination! If I lost track it was because I lost my grip (literally) on where I was heading!
And so Paul commends this community to hang on in there, because their lines of purpose are kept taut by…what? What keeps you on track? Paul narrows it down to one word. HOPE.
“Because of the hope “- This states the cause or reason for their commitment. NIV adds “the faith and love that spring from the hope…” What does this imply? HOPE is the root of FAITH (the plant) and of LOVE (the fruit).
In other words a believer’s hope or confidence in what God will do in the future leads to a greater faith or trust in God and a deepening of love for others in the present. Hope is the certainty that, in spite of the world’s ways, God’s way of love has the last word.
The hope that is laid up – Paul uses the present tense to emphasize that our hope is continually laid up, which signifies that our hope is being kept safe, secure, sure.
We are eternally coupled to what God has done!
That word for Laid up is interesting. It’s apokeimai, meaning to “put something away for safekeeping.” It appears in Luke 19:20, (“Master, here is your talent, which I put aside.” And it’s in 2 Tim 4:8, “In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day...” And finally, it’s in the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus instructs his listeners to “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” The present imperative suggests that it’s something that we do with our entire lives!
And that’s our hope. The everyday meaning of squirrelling away a nice little nest egg for future enjoyment, gives way to a massive sense of immense and amazing blessing in the life to come. What a treasure you store up “in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in or steal for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matt 6:20, 21).
Peter reminds his readers going through hard times that they have an inheritance “which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1Peter 1:4). Heaven is where Christ is, thus heaven is where our hope is and so ultimately our HOPE is not a PLACE but a PERSON, “Christ Jesus our hope“, “the hope of glory” (1Tim 1:1; Col 1:27).
And so the present takes on a new perspective. It’s a switch from a normal earthly worldview seeking present glory, comfort, and satisfaction in this present world for a future glory that is only ours in Christ.
And in that familiar, but glorious quote from Jim Elliot: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose”.
This vision reaches into the future, for it’s wrapped up with Christ’s second advent. This is why Christians are to “love” Christ’s appearing. Someone sent me this clip: “Every Christian who lives daily in the anticipation and expectancy of Christ’s return becomes a steady, firmly anchored, unwavering soul.”
But to enjoy that reality together! Imagine a bunch of believers who were totally animated by that vision and who journeyed through life in its expectation -what would they look like?
Well, I said it, six hundred words back: “Vision is the code that decodes every mediocrity out of life.” It sharpens focus, creates purpose, and generates drive.
A sharp focus – they wouldn’t be distracted by second-best notions about what to do! Creates purpose– they would know exactly why they were doing what they doing! Generates drive – and they would do it with guts and passion.
Because they saw something that changed everything. It was something bigger and higher than anything else.
In Caitlin Moran’s book How to build a Girl, there’s a lovely, whimsical passage that somehow unpacks this for me:
“Sitting in seat 14A, in the sun, I float on a full-moon, tidal joy unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I am getting incredibly high on a single, astounding fact: that it’s always sunny above the clouds. Always. That every day on Earth- every day I have ever had- was secretly sunny after all….I feel like I’ve just flown 600 miles per hour head-on into the most beautiful metaphor of my life: If you fly high enough, if you get above the clouds, it’s never-ending summer.”
Do you see it? Once you get above those confusing clouds, you see for real. You realise that everyday is “secretly sunny.” That was the vision that animated those early Christians. And once you see it, you can’t unsee it.