Embrace Your “Agon”: Colossians 2:1
“1) For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face,”Colossians‬ ‭2:1‬
It would be a mistake and an oversight to try to understand this verse without connecting it to the final two verses in the previous chapter. In the context Paul was talking about the intense labor he embraced for the sake of spreading the gospel. It was an “agonizing process” despite that fact that the power of God was working through him. This underlines the fact that ministry is not easy.
He opens chapter two by describing the great “struggle” he had on behalf of the believers in Colossae and Laodicea. The Greek word “Agon” that Paul uses here describes the all out effort of competing in the Greek games of running, boxing or wrestling. It was a continual agonizing process for the athlete to compete at a peek level. It was far from easy.
Paul was saying that ministry and the Christian life takes the same kind of effort and resolve. They require commitment and focus. The Holy Spirit mightily worked through Paul, but he was constantly vigilant and on guard against his own flesh and the unseen enemy. Let’s look at a few of his challenges.
Chapter one started with him agonizing in prayer for the believers. Don’t expect prayer to be easy. He also struggled with daily trials as a prisoner in Rome. He had manifold restrictions and heart aches to contend with in his daily routine. He also fought against many false teachers and against the Jewish leaders who sought to destroy him. Beyond these, he also had a physical handicap or thorn in the flesh to contend with daily. (See 2 Corinthians 12:7-10) Life and ministry were not easy for Paul. He suffered much for the sake of Jesus Christ and the gospel.
Yet the tone of Colossians 1:28-2:1 is not that of complaining. Paul was merely laying out the facts. He exemplified the truth that the Christian life has hardships and is challenging, but is worth any trail or sacrifice. The love of Christ constrained him to go the extra mile for the faith and progress of others. He joyously carried his cross for Jesus and others.
The modern church is conditioned to think that trials and hardships in the Christian life are abnormal or possibly even some form of discipline. But the testimony of Paul and the early church was much to the contrary. They welcomed the daily struggle and agonizing as part of the cross every Christian is called to carry. What they found in Christ far out weighed what they gave up in the world. (See Philippians 3:1-16)
It must be noted that life for everyone in Rome was difficult. Non-Christians suffered and carried heavy hardships as well, but they had no hope, agape love or Christian support network. We must never forget that sin is a terrible taskmaster. The kingdom of darkness is often cruel and merciless. Many endured miserable lives.
But the early Christians understood there were also normal struggles associated with the Christian life. For them, “Agon” was part of the turf of life. Embrace your “Agon.” Don’t deny your struggles. Ask God for the grace to help carry your daily cross.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global