I can't say exactly when it happened or why but somewhere along the way I became borderline obsessed with 30-day challenges.
It started innocently enough. I heard if you repeat a task for a month it becomes a habit and therefore thought doing something for 30 days would be a good test of discipline. And perhaps it would even teach me a thing or two, and be a bit easier to continue doing once it was an established habit.
So after thinking about it for a while I began giving myself (or asking for) 30-day challenges. I tried all sorts of things: workouts, slow-cookery, blogging, garage sailing, and, most recently, reading Colossians.
The 30 days of Colossians was inspired by Chuck Swindoll's message on the book. In it he says, “If you find yourself getting a little bit soft on Christology, I prescribe a month of Colossians. Read it each day for 30 days and your Christology will take on a new spark. Your appreciation and reliance on the Saviour will just begin to soar. Colossians…is a letter committed to strengthening the person of Jesus Christ in the minds of the reader. And, believe me, it'll happen.”1
Honestly, I wasn't sure if I was “getting a little bit soft on Christology” (or even what “Christology” was fully) but I loved the idea of reading a book every day for 30 days. And if growing and strengthening my doctrine and theology were side effects, well I really couldn't see any reason not to do this challenge.
Since Colossians isn't long I was able to read it during my lunch break or when I found a few minutes here and there. I never did develop a routine around reading Colossians although I also didn't feel the need to. My reading plan was casual. Sometimes I took notes, sometimes I talked about what I had read with others, and sometimes I read different translations. Really, my challenge was reading Colossians each day. I didn't worry about the details.
About midway through the challenge my grandmother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. In the two weeks following the diagnosis she declined to the point where there was a steady stream of visitors saying their goodbyes. While my family struggled with the sudden tragic news I was overwhelmed by the peace radiating from my grandma.
Over and over Colossians 3:15 came to my mind, “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful” (NLT). Suddenly these verses I was casually reading were directly impacting my life through my grandmother. Her Christology was continually strengthening her spirit despite her body growing weaker. The Gospel was alive in her…and even housebound, her life ministered to others.
I began to dig deeper into Colossians. One Sunday the sermon concentrated on Colossians 4, which mostly contains Paul's final greetings and a series of instructions for specific people. Before this sermon I had really only glossed over the chapter, thinking it was pretty straightforward.
But after spending an entire sermon on it I no longer read Colossians 4 in the same way. Now I wondered who the people mentioned were. And where else do they come up? What can their stories teach me about Christ? My questions prompted me to pull out a commentary or two to learn more about the Colossian church.
The point of Colossians is simple: every aspect of our faith is tied to Christ. He alone is sufficient for all our spiritual needs. Unfortunately, the Colossian believers had begun to believe this wasn't the case and instead bought into things like self-abuse and worshipping angels, thinking these experiences would take them to the next level of faith. Paul's letter was intended to set them back on course.
“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God's right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1-3)
I can understand how easy it is to doubt that Christ is really enough to meet all our needs. But He is. It's as simple as that really. However, the past few months have made me wonder: if I was given a death sentence would I have the same level of peace and assurance as my grandmother? Maybe no one knows until they're tested, but I sure hope when it comes down to it I can rest in His promises instead of fearing what's to come.
1From the sermon “Colossians: Christ, Our All in All” in the series God's Masterwork: A Concerto in 66 Movements. Copyright 1982 by Charles R. Swindoll Inc. All Rights are Reserved Worldwide.