Room For Improvement

Bible Book: Colossians  1 : 9-14
Subject: Growth; Progress; Christian Living

Room For Improvement

Dr. J. Mike Minnix

How satisfied are you with your financial situation? Could you use a little more money? Would you say that there is room for improvement in your monetary circumstances? How is your health? Could you do with a little more exercise? Do you perhaps need to be on a diet? Would you say that there is room for improvement in your body?

What about your home? Is there any improvement that you need to make? Maybe you would like some new furniture, or you might need to update the paint or some other repair. Would you say that there is room for improvement in your home?

Almost everyone would admit that there is room for improvement in these areas and other areas in our lives. But there is a question much more important concerning personal improvement. Just how satisfied are you with your spiritual life? Have you reached a point that you feel you are all you can be or should be in your walk with God? Maybe you don’t even think about this very much. Yet, in Colossians 1:9-14 we note that Paul prays for the spiritual progress of the Colossians.

There is a great danger in becoming self-satisfied. “About 400 years before Christ, a gifted Greek named Timanthes took instruction in art from a well-known tutor. After several years, the budding young painter created an exquisite picture. When he was commended for his accomplishment, he became so enraptured with what he had produced that he sat day after day just gazing at the portrait. He mistakenly believed he would never be able to advance beyond that point. One morning when he went to admire his work again, he discovered that his master teacher had blotted it out. Angry and in tears, Timanthes ran to him and asked why he had destroyed his cherished possession. The wise man replied, "I did it for your own good. That painting was retarding your progress. While it was an excellent piece of art, it was not perfect-even though it appeared that way to you. Start again and see if you can do even better!" The student took his advice and produced his masterpiece called ‘Sacrifice of Iphigenia,’ which is regarded as one of the finest paintings of all antiquity. When the famous Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen was asked which of his statues was the greatest, he replied, ‘The next one!’ Evidently he was never content to rest upon his laurels. He sought continual improvement. His constant hope and his driving desire were that his most noble achievement was still ahead." (Infosearch Software Illustrations)

That is the attitude that is needed by the believer in his or her spiritual life. Christ never wants us to become content in our walk with Him. Either we will take this seriously, or He may have to shake things up to get us to move forward. Certainly it seems He is doing that to us on a national level right how. In fact, we can say without question that even when you are on the right track you will get run over unless you keep moving forward.

Now, lets look at these words of Paul and note four areas of Christian progress which are pointed out in this passage.

I. We should make Progress in our Learning

Paul was saying that there is always room for improvement in our spiritual understanding. There is always room for advancement in our knowledge of God. There is always, to some degree, a mental vacuum in the life of every child of God. Paul says we can increase our spiritual knowledge in at least two ways.

A. We can Grow in Learning the Purpose of God

Look at Romans 12:2 and you will see that it is a part of God’s plan for you to know His good and perfect will for your life. In our passage today, Paul uses three special Greek words to describe the kind of knowledge we are to have.

“Sunesis” knowledge is an awareness of the facts. God desires that we obtain "sunesis" knowledge. We need to know and understand the “facts” of the Gospel.

Then he speaks of "sophia" knowledge. Sophia knowledge means the ability to apply facts. There was once a preacher who had great "sunesis" knowledge, but lacked "sophia" knowledge. He wrote several books. He left his wife, his church, and went to work in a jewelry store in a local mall. He was very intelligent, but he lacked the ability to apply that "sophia" knowledge and thus lacked spiritual wisdom. Paul was concerned that the Colossian Christians might have a head knowledge without heart knowledge. When that happens to a Christian, sin and failure will not be far behind.

Then he uses the word "epignosis" which means to know something through and through. This is a kind of Suped-up or Super knowledge. It means to know the facts, how to apply them, and how to help others know them as well.

We must grow in what we know.

We must advance in what we can apply.

We must expand so that we can exhort others.

B. We can Grow in Learning the Person of God

Single people are often told about someone they ought to meet. The people who tell you are called matchmakers. They are trying to get you to find a spouse. Then one day someone introduces you to a person and nothing they said about that person can equal what you feel in your heart. Being with that person and getting to know that person is beyond words. That is the way it is with Jesus. You hear about Him, you meet Him, but nothing a preacher or friend ever said can match what He really is like or how much He means to you.

Jesus is so special that you can never see all His glory. You need to grow in your knowledge of Him because He is always unfolding more of His glory to you.

Listen to what Paul said in Philippians 3:10, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” You can see that Paul wanted to know Christ more fully. He never ceased learning to know more and more about Jesus.

A teacher noted that one of her students came to school 2 hours late. She asked, “Why were you so late for school?” The boy answered nonchalantly, “I had to say good-bye to my pets before I left for school.” The teacher said, “What, are you telling me it took you 2 hours to say goodbye to your pets?” The boy replied, “Yes, it took me 2 hours to say goodbye to my pets. You see, I have a large ant farm.” Actually, that boy just didn't want to be in school.

Be assured, God’s desire is for every Christian to be faithful as a Christian student - we can know Him better and we do His will more fully. You can never learn too much about your Lord.

II. We should make Progress in our Living

Knowledge always precedes action. But, once we know better, we must begin to do better.

A. We can Please God in the way we Live

Is God pleased with us? That is the question we need to answer. I am not asking if you are pleased with your Christian life. I not asking if your friends are pleased with your life for Christ. I'm asking if the Lord is pleased with your life with Him and for Him.

The word “worthy” in our text means to "weigh." It is believed that the word “worthy,” which is “axios” in Greek, is derived from a word meaning “to go.” Simply stated, Paul is sharing that we are to consider our lives as being weighed by the Lord as we live each day. We are weighed in the balances with Jesus. We are not to judge our lives as being weighed in balance with the preacher, the deacons, or a Sunday School teacher, but weighed in the balance with Christ. In other words, we are to live our lives to please Him.

In 2 Corinthians 5:9 we read, “Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may (please Him) be accepted of him” (Emphasis added).

B. We can be more Productive in the way we Live

Look at the word "fruitful" in our text. Paul is pointing out that we are to grow in our productivity for the Lord.

D.L. Moody said that every Bible should be bound in shoe leather. Moody was saying that Christians should live out their faith The Christian life is more than merely avoiding wrong behavior. For example, think of a child whose parents go out for the evening. The child sits at home and does not destroy anything, but he doesn't do anything good either. He leaves dishes unwashed. He eats snacks and leaves the bag on the floor. He drinks a soft drink and leaves the can on the end table. Is the boy doing really bad things? No. But, is his behavior good? Certainly not. Likewise, the Christian life is not the absence of wrong things, but it is the presence of right things.

Now, note another area for progress in the Christian life ...

III. We should make Progress in our Lasting

Much is said in Scripture about our persistence, our faithfulness, or the lasting quality of our faith.

A. We can be more Persistent

The word "markothumai" speaks of endurance and the ability to be consistent. This means to be faithful even when people don' treat you right, when they let you down, when they oppose you, or fail to believe in you.

A young man was dying on the battlefield. He told the chaplain to send a letter to his former Sunday School teacher telling her that he was dying as a Christian because of her teaching and witness. The letter arrived in the hand of the Sunday School teacher after the young soldier had died. The teacher opened the letter and wept. You see, she had given up her Sunday School class just 3 weeks before the letter arrived because she didn’t think that she was making a difference. She rushed to the pastor of her church and asked if she could have her old class back. Fortunately, the class had not yet found a permanent teacher. She was restored to the work of teaching God’s Word. A lot of people give up in the service for God because they cannot see the results. The results of your service are in the hands of God. Your duty and my duty is to be faithful.

God’s desire is for us to learn to last – to progress toward persistence in serving Him.

B. We can be more Patient

Now we come to the Greek word "hupomune" in our text. This word speaks of patience and means to keep going forward even when circumstances are working against you.

My son-in-law and daughter serve as examples of this principle. As you know, Vince pastors the First Baptist Church in Cherryville, North Carolina, where he has served faithfully now for over 20 years. However, when he and Sherry (our daughter) got married in 1984, they moved to Southeastern Baptist Seminary in Wake Forest, North Caroliona to continue toward his Master’s degree, and eventually earned his Doctor of Ministry Degree there as well. On the way down to Wake Forest to begin his studies for his Masters Degree, the truck carrying their belongings caught on fire. Everything was burned up. All the precious gifts and items handed down from both families was gone in a matter of minutes. But they were not dissuaded. After arriving at seminary and getting started with classes, a dump truck hit Vince’s car from behind. It was only a miracle that he was not killed. A year later a car struck Vince and Sherry head on as they drove down US 1 toward Raleigh, North Carolina. The car was destroyed and they were injured. None of these incidents were their fault. At this point, most of us would have considered giving up – we would have decided that the ministry was not the best path for us. But Vince and Sherry were not dismayed. They never considered quitting! We must be patient and faithful in the midst of all circumstances. Give God time to show you what He is up to in your life.

IV. We should make Progress in our Loving

We note that Paul speaks of the Son whom God loves. This statement occurs in a passage referring to God’s blessings to us. Paul is reminding us of the blessings we have received through Christ. It seems that he is pointing out how loved we are. After all, we have been redeemed by the Son whom God loved. But, even though God loved Him, He gave Him for us (John 3:16) because He loved the world. Dear friends, we should grow in our love of Christ.

A. We can show our Love through Greater Adoration

We can offer more Praise.

"Joy - thankfulness"

1. Praise because He removed us from something

He rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and placed us in the kingdom of light, the kingdom of His dear Son.

2. Praise because He removed something from us

My wife’s brother is now with the Lord, but he was a Vietnam veteran. I came back unscathed, but Kenny was hit in the arm, hand and head by shrapnel from a satchel charge while he was there in the 1960s. They took him out of the battle. But my friends, it took more than that. They had to take the battle out of him. They had to remove the shrapnel from his body. He spend a long time at Walter Reed Hospital being treated and healing.

Friends, always remember this, it was easier for God to get the children of God out of Egypt than to get the Egypt out of them. So often, while wandering through the Wilderness, the Hebrews longed to go back to Egypt. God had to work on them to get Egypt out of them.

God removed us from our lost condition but He is working on us to get the world fully out of us. We need to praise Him from what he has taken from us and for what He is removing from us.

B. We can show our Love through Greater Appreciation

We must appreciate what He brought us out of and what He has brought us into. Appreciation is best expressed with actions not just words. Praise must be followed by practice.

If you have never experienced the salvation Christ offers, today is the day for you to trust Him. Turn from you sin and He will take you out to kingdom of darkness and place you in the Kingdom of Light.

For many of us, the call of God is different. We have been delivered, but we have stopped moving forward as we should. We may not be all that bad, but there is so much good lacking. The tree of salvation has been planted in our hearts, but we are not producing the fruit God desires.