For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you, for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me in person (Colossians 2:1, HCSB).
One of Paul’s favorite analogies for the spiritual life is in the realm of athletics. The word “struggle” here is used elsewhere in the ancient Greek world to describe an athletic contest (like a marathon) that is strenuous and demanding. If you’ve ever competed in something like this, you know there are many competitors against which you struggle.
First of all, there’s your opponents. They want to win. They want the prize. For Paul, there were many opponents of his gospel. Most of them were outside the church, but there were even a few inside. Of course, the Apostle had a constant reminder of his opponents – he was writing this letter in chains from a prison cell in Rome.
But sometimes the more difficult struggle is internal. Will you persist in prayer? Will you keep the faith? Will you give up and become dejected?
I’m sure Paul’s struggle for the churches must have included both internal and external elements (For a fascinating and riveting modern-day depiction of this, read The Heavenly Man – or come hear Brother Yun in March).
More than likely, our modern-day struggle is mostly internal. So my encouragement to you today is “don’t give up!” Hang in there. The prize is worth it!
You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! (1 Corinthians 9:24-26, The Message)