I dropped my forehead to my hand with a sigh, “I don’t know how I’m going to get it all done.” My friend’s voice crackled through the phone: “You have to give yourself some credit. You’re doing a lot.” He then listed the things I was trying to do—maintain a healthy lifestyle, work, do well in graduate school, write, and attend a Bible study. I wanted to do all these things for God, but instead I was more focused on what I was doing than how I was doing it—or that perhaps I was trying to do too much.
Paul reminded the church in Colossae that they were to live in a way that glorified God. Ultimately, what they specifically did on a day-to-day basis was not as important as how they did it. They were to do their work with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12), to be forgiving, and above all to love (vv. 13–14) and to “do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (v. 17). Their work wasn’t to be separated from Christlike living.
What we do matters, but how we do it, why, and who we do it for matters more. Each day we can choose to work in a stressed-out way or in a way that honors God and seeks out the meaning Jesus adds to our work. When we pursue the latter, we find satisfaction.
It appears that the faith community in Colossae was a sister church to the church at nearby Laodicea (the same Laodicea Jesus so strongly challenged in Revelation 3:14–22). Paul writes to the church at Colossae: “After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea” (Colossians 4:16). Not only were these cities close geographically, but there was a solid relationship between them—even to the point of sharing their letters with one another. Additionally, the church at Colossae received a letter written to one of its leaders, Philemon. The Colossians would have had the benefit of no less than three letters from the apostle Paul.