Today is one of the great ‘so what’ passages of Scripture. Last week we basked in the greatness of Jesus, day after day. Today we get to the punchline: ‘so, then….’ if Jesus is all of that, how do we respond? Not surprisingly, the answer is quite simple: (v6) ‘continue to live your lives in him’. Jesus was all we needed at the start – he’s still everything we need now, and for the future. Don’t lose heart or get side-tracked by whispers that he’s anything less than what we really know him to be.
To make the point, Paul uses a fantastic mixed metaphor: we are both to be rooted and built up in Jesus (v7). ‘Rooted’ picks up the image of a strong and healthy tree, whose roots spread far out under the surface of the ground. Followers of Christ are to put their roots down in Jesus (‘rooted… in him’): he will provide all the nourishment we need, and give us grace to withstand all the seasons of our lives; and not just survive those seasons, but flourish.
But it’s not just what’s below ground, it’s above ground too, i.e. visible growth: we are to be ‘built up in Jesus’. The structure of our lives is slowly constructed brick-by-brick, according to God’s will. Any of us who’ve tried it know that this kind of human building takes time – a lifetime, in fact! We are all works in progress. But we can also look back and see the ways we’ve grown. A new wall of kindness, a new column of patience, a new flowering garden of peace. Sometimes the odd brick gets knocked out and has to be built again – but little by little, God is at work, the master builder.
And the image has that sense of ‘reinforcing the structure’ – we can all pursue personal growth, but often that feels shaky. God’s type of building has built-in reinforcements – the presence of the Spirit, the power of community support. And Paul mentions two particular visible supports to the growing edifice of our lives: first, staying strong in the faith that we were taught. We keep the main thing the main thing. We choose to remember what led us to Jesus in the first place, and we continue to believe the heart of biblical truth – that Jesus died and rose and is Lord of all, and that he loves us and desires to abide continually with us.
And second, we cultivate thankfulness. Not always easy – but modern science has proved that thankfulness is actually good for our health. Thankful people are happier and kinder. St Paul knew that 2,000 years ago – he also knew that thankful people stay closer to God. God designed us for thankfulness: so it’s no wonder it’s good for us, too. There are times when that is easy, and times when that is hard. God knows which time you’re in.
So – rooted and built up. What is God building in you at the moment? Pray for grace for that work of God in you to continue, and also grace to be as thankful as you can, whatever season you find yourself in.