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I have a generic hearing loss. A few years ago I was finally diagnosed. I got hearing aids. And I came to really appreciate what I had been missing.

The loss I had experienced had been so gradual, over time, that I had simply made adjustments to how my ears weren’t functioning. That is, until I had restored, in one “fitting,” what I had lost.

And that has given me a renewed appreciation for “parts of the body” working well–even though I have artificial parts now. When the battery goes out in a hearing aid (or you have a “technical difficulty” like I have been having over the past few weeks), it’s really obvious. Some part is not fully functioning! And because the loss is substantial and in a short window of time (rather than gradual over a long period of time), the loss is dramatic. It’s not that the loss I had prior to the hearing aids was not dramatic–I just hadn’t realized it.

I wonder how much the body of Christ is “under-experiencing” the life Jesus wants for us because some parts are not fully functioning. Typically, that loss of body function is an over-time kind of loss. Under-appreciated, under-utilized, loss of perspective, insufficient equipping–some members of the body stop functioning at optimum Holy Spirit enabled capability. And if that loss has been a long time coming or has just gradually crept into the life of the church, we might not realize how profoundly incapacitated we have become.

All these thoughts were prompted by a single sentence Paul tacked on to the end of his letter to the Colossians. There, in drawing the letter to a close, he wrote:

Say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.” (Colossians 4:17)

We know very little about Archippus; he is mentioned only here and one time in Paul’s letter to Philemon. In Philemon, Paul identifies him as a “fellow soldier” (Philemon 2). But there are some things implied in this single sentence in Colossians that could really be of benefit to us.

Take heed to the ministry . . .” Paul is calling Archippus to be attentive to, to notice, to get his eyes on his ministry. Why does Paul have to do this? Because it is really easy for us to lose focus, become distracted, get our eyes off of what really matters.

“Take heed to the ministry . . .” Paul wants Archippus to not merely look at his own life, but specifically look at the ministry he is to have. Ministry is a word that refers to the “work of service” that he has been gifted and en-graced to carry out. Whether he is or is not in “vocational ministry,” as a part of the body Archippus does have a particular part to play for the good and growth of others (1 Corinthians 12:7; Romans 12:4–6). And this is true for each of us as well.

“. . . which you have received from the Lord . . .” This thing that Paul wants Archippus to attend to is not an office he ran for or a natural talent he was born with or a skill he learned in trade school or a career he learned to master over the years through education and hard work. This ministry that Paul calls Archippus to give attention to is nothing short of an amazing grace gift granted to him by the Lord. Grace not only saves each of us, but grace gifts us for a purpose as well.

” . . . that you may fulfill it.” Paul seems to think that there is more to Archippus’ ministry than just keeping himself busy. Paul wants him to attend to this grace-given ministry to (literally) “make it continually full.” We get a sense of what Paul has in mind by how he has used this language earlier in this epistle. In 1:25, Paul writes that he was called to “fully carry out the preaching of the word of God”–all in, fully in, every opportunity. In 2:10, Paul asserts that Christians are made “complete” in Jesus–he is all that they need or will ever need. So Paul’s encouragement to Archippus to “fulfill” his ministry is a call to keep on maxing out what he is designed–by Jesus and through the power of the Spirit–to be and to do. And there are echoes in that word to Archippus for each follower of Jesus as well.

We can’t let our part in the life of the body slip away. It would not be good for the body for it to be deprived of the gifts and grace and benefit of what each one of us provides. Ultimately, the body does suffer . . . even if the loss has been nearly imperceptible.

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3 Comments

  1. This example really hit home with me. I recently had cataract surgery on both eyes. I didn’t know anything serious was wrong until I went for new glasses. The doctor said that I was “Legally Blind” with my glasses!! When I had the surgery, the old lenses in my eyes had yellowed so much that the whole world looked Blue to me with the new crystal-clear plastic lenses! My brain finally adjusted back to normal and everything looks correct now color-wise and is also in focus! I wonder how much my spiritual life has yellowed and become cloudy? I pray that the Great Physician will do surgery on my Spiritual Eyes so that I can see the world as He does and function as he has designed me to in the Body!

  2. Interesting thoughts here. My own experience has been with a change in walking and breathing, two important functions for the average person! Sometimes I notice that it’s more of a struggle to walk than it should be, and sometimes I feel that perhaps my breathing is more shallow than it should be. I COULD (and sometimes do) think this is just the nature of aging and continue on as best I can. But then I go to see my chiropractor, and with a few adjustments, suddenly I can truly BREATHE! Walking is easy! I feel more alive! LOL

    In the same way, my spiritual life slows down. I may see that as natural too, as I allow stress and apathy to invade my space. But if I consider that this is NOT how things should be and go see the Great Physician, He can adjust my thoughts and guide me back to the healthy spiritual life He wants for me.

  3. Reblogged this on Grace Partakers and commented:
    I needed to read this particular post by Brian this morning. I’m so glad the Lord lead me to his blog SUMMATHETES. Perhaps you’ll stop by, too.


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