Anyone who has any ambition of accomplishing something truly monumental needs first and foremost to have the “big picture” in clear view. When Michelangelo was commissioned by Pope Julius II in 1507 to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel he didn’t just pick up his brush and begin painting. He labored for months over hundreds of sketches, colors schemes, and themes before he ever began setting his scaffolding in place. Michelangelo painted while lying on his back from 1508 to 1512, working meticulously on every detail until the Chapel was completed. It has been said that one day Michelangelo was painting in an obscure corner of the Chapel when he became frustrated with his work. He was so frustrated that he decided to blot out what he had done and start over. One of the workers who was working in the Chapel said, “Michelangelo, why do you worry over something nobody will ever know about?” The great artist said, “Because I will know.” It was the big picture that gave him the endurance, stamina, and vision necessary to complete the details of his work with such determination and focus.

Before Michelangelo began working on the Sistine Chapel, he completed a work that others had given up on. The story begins with the Italian sculptor Agostino d’Antonio working diligently on a large piece of marble trying to determine what he would do with it. Unable to produce his desired masterpiece, he threw up his hands and said, “I can do nothing with it.” Other sculptors also tried to work the difficult piece of marble, but to no avail. Michelangelo discovered the stone and the problems the other sculptors were having. He studied the large piece of marble and mapped out his plan. Four years later the world beheld one of the greatest pieces of work anyone had ever sculpted — Michelangelo’s “David.” Michelangelo began his work on the colossal figure of David in 1501, and by 1504 the sculpture stood 14 ft. 3 in. tall and was placed outside the Palazzo Vecchio. Michelangelo kept the big picture in mind throughout his four years of labor and it was the big picture that gave him the endurance and vision necessary to complete such a monumental task.

Gutzon Borglum had a plan when he set out to carve four faces of prominent Americans into the face of Mt. Rushmore. Mr. Borglum saw the big picture before he ever started blasting stone and carving the details of the faces of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson. President Calvin Coolidge dedicated the beginning of Gutzon’s work in 1927, but the work would not be finished for another fourteen years. Mr. Borglum worked day-in and day-out on the side of the mountain until he died in March of 1941, never seeing his finished work – or so they say. Borglum’s son Lincoln took over his father’s vision and completed the work for the world to marvel at for generations to come, but I say that Gutzon saw the work, the big picture, and that is what inspired him to work so enthusiastically.

When finished the entire sculpture was 365 feet long and 160 feet from the top of the heads to the lowest point. Washington’s face was 60 feet long, his nose 20 feet long, his eyes 11 feet wide, and his eye projection was 22 inches. Roosevelt’s mustache when finished was 20 feet long and Lincoln’s mole 16 inches across. Gutzon Borglum had a plan and he worked his plan until his death.

Likewise, when Jesus prepared to leave His disciples and ascend to the right hand of the Father, He gave His followers a plan that was much more than details–it was the big picture. Jesus told His followers in Matthew 28,

{18} Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. {19} Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, {20} and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV)

Jesus didn’t tell them how to build the buildings they would meet in one day. He didn’t insist that they use one particular kind of music or certain musical instruments. He didn’t spell out for them if they were to use the King James Version of the Bible or the New International Version. Jesus didn’t insist that they use individual communion cups instead of one common cup. There were a lot of details that He could have instructed them on while He was visiting with them for the last time on earth, but instead He planted within their hearts the big picture of all the nations of the world becoming His disciples. The big picture is crucial if we are truly going to make our mark on this planet for the Kingdom!

It is not that details are unimportant. They are very important! Jesus took time during the three years that He lived with the disciples to instruct them on the little things of faith, the particulars of living in relationship to the Father that make a big difference. He taught them how to pray, He taught them what truly matters to God, and He showed them by the way He lived how to be a servant. Details are important, but details without the big picture can quench our spirit and wear us out.

As Paul begins his letter of encouragement to the church in Colossae he gives them the big picture. Paul lets them know that he is praying for nothing less than for them to possess full knowledge of God’s will and for them to be empowered by the might of Almighty God Himself. Paul doesn’t begin by digging into the details of what he will share with them later on. He paints a very big picture of his hopes, dreams, and prayers for the church. Let’s take a look at Colossians 1:1-14

{1} Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, {2} To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse: Grace and peace to you from God our Father. {3} We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, {4} because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints– {5} the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel {6} that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. {7} You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, {8} and who also told us of your love in the Spirit. {9} For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. {10} And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, {11} being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully {12} giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. {13} For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, {14} in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:1-14 NIV)

What is the big picture that Paul wants to communicate with the brothers and sisters in Colossae? He wants them to experience the fullness of Almighty God. The fullness of the Lord results from living the kind of life that Paul will lay out for them in the first fourteen verses. When you study this section of Colossians it appears that there are two big pictures, but in fact there is only one, growth which flows from gratitude. You say, “But Mike that is two isn’t it?” I say, “Not at all.”

The big picture that Paul paints for the folks in Colossae, and for you and me, is similar to the reality of a coin. Is a coin “heads” or “tails”? It is not an either/or question is it? The answer is, “It is both.” A coin with only “heads” or “tails” is not a coin, but a coin with both sides is complete. So it is with the big picture Paul paints for us. Without gratitude and growth you and I will never experience the fullness of the Lord. Let’s take a look at what I am talking about.

In verses 1-14, Paul shows us: The Big Picture of Gratitude and The Big Picture of Growth. These are the two main lessons that I want us to concentrate on this morning. I believe these “Big Picture” issues are central determining factors in our having a fulfilling and strengthening walk with the Father that will touch the lives of those around us. First, let’s take a look at the big picture of gratitude. Let’s take a look at Colossians 1:1-6.

{1} Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, {2} To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse: Grace and peace to you from God our Father. {3} We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, {4} because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints– {5} the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel {6} that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. (Colossians 1:1-6 NIV)

The big picture of gratitude is the beginning point of our walk with God. It is gratitude that enables us to maintain a right relationship with the Father and with the Body of Christ. Some of you, who are going through a tough time right now, may be asking, “What do I have to be thankful for?” First and foremost you and I can be grateful that the Father has provided a way for our sins to be forgiven. The Psalmist was well aware of the misery and despair that accompanies sin when he wrote, “If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3 NIV) Sin will drive you to the depths of despair in your relationships. Sin will separate you and me from God. Some will argue against that biblical truth, but the truth remains. Sin also separates us from one another. There is no argument against that truth because we experience its reality every day. When you have problems in your relationships what is it that causes you such problems? You can call it whatever you want as it wears many faces and manifests itself in many ways, but underneath it all is sin. Sin separates!

The Good News is this: God has provided a way for us to be forgiven for our sin and to begin to walk with Him in newness of life. Do you realize that the sole reason Jesus came to earth and lived among us for thirty-three years was to restore us to God? Jesus gave us His mission statement in Mark’s Gospel when He said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45 NIV) In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10 NIV) In John’s Gospel, Jesus told Thomas, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV)

Before Jesus was ever born, God’s deep love for us caused Him to prepare a perfect plan so that we could be forgiven and restored to Him. When the angel appeared to Joseph to explain the strange situation he found himself in, the angel said, {20} Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. {21} She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21 NIV)

It was God’s perfect love for you and me that led Jesus to Calvary’s cross. Preceding the cross, it was God’s perfect love for us that led Jesus to leave the throne room of Heaven and come to earth. We have much to be grateful for my friend. Through Jesus your sins and my sins are forgiven. We have the opportunity to have a meaningful, life-changing relationship with the God of the Universe who loves us so!

Secondly, our gratitude can be expressed towards our brothers and sisters who are walking faithfully with the Father. Paul says to the Colossian church,

{3} We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, {4} because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints… (Colossians 1:3-4)

We need to express our gratitude to God for what He has done for us. We also need to express our gratitude towards those among us who are demonstrating their faith in Christ and their love for God’s family.

Expressing gratitude to our brothers and sisters is almost a lost art in many churches today. Folks are quick to express their disappointment with one another. We are quick to walk away from one another when we are disappointed. We are highly skilled at determining what is wrong with those around us. We are so slow to pat someone on the back and let them know what a blessing they are to the Body of Christ and what a strong witness they are for the Kingdom. Paul embraces the church from the beginning by letting them know that they are the focus of his prayers because of their faith in Jesus and their love for the saints. We are lacking in this Christian art and it is killing the Church of America.

It is not enough to state a problem. There are many today who want to point out all of the problems that have come about in the Church throughout the years, but I want to share with you why the problem is so prevalent today. The reason we are so skilled at dissecting and demolishing one another is because we lack a key component that was prominent in the early church of Colossae. Paul says in verses 5-6,

{5} the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel {6} that has come to you. (Colossians 1:5-6 NIV)

The believers in Colossae were looking ahead. They had set their sights on the future that God had promised them. God has promised a glorious future for those who will walk obediently with Him. The Colossian Christians knew that they were to look to others as more important than themselves, bless those around them, and live in faithful obedience to God no matter the cost. They were empowered to live this type of lifestyle because of their hope for the future. So many of us today have our sights set on the present. We look to the future as some kind of “pie-in-the-sky-in-the-sweet-by-and-by.” We want the promises of God, but we want them now. When people focus more on the present than on the hope of the future then they will consistently and continuously look to benefit themselves at every turn. As long as I can stay focused on the glory that awaits me in Heaven I can put myself aside and demonstrate the kind of love for the saints that Paul commends the Colossian believers for in his letter. When I lose sight of the hope of Heaven then I will focus on me and mine, and my love will be shown only to those who are easy to love. The hope that Paul talks about is a unique attitude of expectation that permeates everything a person does. The Greek word Paul uses, “elpis,” means: (1) as an expected and awaited good hope, expectation, prospect (Acts 27:20); (2) as hopeful confidence in a trustworthy person. (1Thessalonians 2:19); (3) as expectation of a divinely provided future. (Colossians 1:27); (4) as a Christian attitude of patient waiting. (5) In expectation of something (Romans 5:2).

It is this hope that enables us to continue to love the saints even when they are not acting so saintly. It is hope that causes us to continue to bless others even when we are being cursed. It is this hope that causes us to bless God when our world is falling apart at the seams. It is hope that gives us a vision of a brighter day, some day! Hope, not immediacy! Hope, not what is presently happening! Hope, not the past! Hope has eyes to see what eyes can’t see! Hope has ears to hear a Heavenly choir when the sounds of turmoil and tribulation thunder in the night! We need hope and when we possess the hope of God it will transform our lives and equip us to be a blessing to the Body!

There is a second side to the big picture Paul shares with the believers in Colossae: The big picture of growth. (verses 9-14) Paul wants the believers in Colossae to know the will of God for their lives, their church, their city, and the world. He says,

{9} For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. {10} And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, {11} being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully {12} giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. {13} For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, {14} in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:9-14 NIV)

Paul is praying, giving thanks for the church, but he is also praying that they would be full of the knowledge of the will of God. Paul says that he is asking God to “fill” the Colossians with knowledge of His will. The Greek word means: (1) “To fill up completely (Acts 2:2); to become full, be filled with (Matthew 13:48). (3) To bring to completion.” We talk about knowing God’s will in a particular situation, or for a decision that we need to make, but Paul wanted much more than that for the believers in Colossae. He wanted them to be filled to the brim with all spiritual wisdom and understanding. Paul wanted God to complete the knowledge of His will in their lives.

Why would Paul pray such a thing for the men and women of Colossae? Was it because there were some folks who were not members of the church in Colossae who claimed to possess superior wisdom and insight and Paul wanted the Christians to look better than them? Was it because Paul wanted them to become gurus who could show-off their brilliance in the public square, make new discoveries that would bring them fame and fortune, or corner the Colossian “Wall Street?” I don’t think so. We can see why Paul prayed this prayer for the believers in verses 10-14. In these verses Paul lists the characteristics that flow from lives which are full of the knowledge of God’s will and empowered by His might. Being filled with the knowledge of God’s will leads to some very specific actions on our part.

When we are filled with the knowledge of God’s will we will be better equipped to live a life worthy of the Lord. That is kind of ethereal and subjective isn’t it? I mean, if you were to survey our congregation this morning and ask, “What does it mean to live a life worthy of the Lord?” You would get so many different answers. I’m glad God is smarter than we are and has anticipated our uncertainty with answers. Take a look at verse 10.

{10} And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:10 NIV)

To live a life worthy of the Lord means that we please Him in every way, we bear fruit in every good work, and we continue to grow in the knowledge of God. That about covers it don’t you think!? What it means is that God doesn’t want part of us, He wants it all! He wants your Friday night as much as He wants your Sunday morning. He wants your walk at work as much as He wants your worship at church! He wants you when you are on a date with your boyfriend or girlfriend as much as He wants you when you are at youth group! He wants you in the locker room as much as He wants you when you’re in the Sunday school classroom. God wants every part of you and me and when we surrender every corner of our heart to Him then we will live lives worthy of the Lord.

Paul closes out this section of our study for today by saying, {11} being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully {12} giving thanks to the Father… (Colossians 1:11-12 NIV)

Paul wants the believers to have their knowledge of God’s will completed, but he also prays that they would be strengthened with all power according to His glorious might. A life that is marked by God’s power is characterized by certain traits just as a life that is marked by the knowledge and understanding of God is marked by specific characteristics.

Paul says that God’s might at work in our life will grant us great endurance, patience, and continuous thanksgiving offered to God with joy. God’s might makes us able. Let me ask you a question as we get ready to close, “Is endurance a desirable characteristic for your life?” How many folks do you know who are able to endure with patience and joyous thanksgiving? The only ones I know of are those who are filled with the knowledge of the will of God and His mighty power. Before you jump to conclusions and say, “Boy, I wish I was one of those folks.” Let me tell you that God desires for all of us to be filled with the knowledge of His will. He desires for all of us to be empowered by His mighty power. God is no respecter of persons. He doesn’t play favorites. He is willing to grant His knowledge and power to anyone who desires to possess it. What is your desire this morning? Do you desire a little bit of God or do you desire to be completed, to be filled to overflowing? If your desire is to know the Father in a deep way, to accept Jesus as Lord of your life, then I want to invite you to ask Him to forgive you of your sins and to come into your heart this morning. Paul’s prayer for the people of Colossae is the same prayer that he would pray for you and me. It is a prayer from the heart of God. The big picture God is holding before us this morning is that we would find completeness and perfected power in Him. There is only one place to find it my friend. Won’t you invite Him in?

Mike Hays
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
August 7, 2010
bccpreacherman@gmail.com

The Big Picture
Colossians 1:1-15