Running the Race: Painting the Church in God’s Colors

by Rev. Doug Gray

The blog, Godreports, tells this story:  “My life began in an unusual way,” says Akiane Kramarik, 17, who spent her early years in rural Illinois. By unusual, she refers to her underwater birth in “a shack” on the edge of a cornfield. “Our family had no money, no friends, no relatives, no television or radio. Our life was quite simple—long walks in nature, open conversations, and hands on explorations of knowledge,” she says…. In her early family life, there was no prayer, no discussions of God, and no visits to church. Yet in the insular atheistic environment her parents created—free from media influences or even outside babysitters—Akiane suddenly began to talk about God….She spoke of colorful dreams and visions about heaven, Jesus, and God’s amazing love. Her stunned parents realized her intense focus on God could not have been inspired by anything in the world they created for her…At a tender age, God implanted the desire to articulate her divinely-inspired dreams and visions into art. “When I was four years old, suddenly I started experiencing vivid impressions…and a great desire to express them through art,” she says.”[1] What an amazing thing! To see heaven, to have a vision of God, and then to have the ability to express that. Wouldn’t you like to see that painting? In our passage for today, Paul paints a beautiful picture of what God is like when God comes into our life together is supposed to be with three primary colors.

The first color our life together should have is the bright yellow of joy. Joy colors everything Paul says about the Christians in Philippi. He writes in verse 4:  “In all my prayers for all of, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now…” The joy comes from their togetherness, the way they work and play together in the good times and the hard times. Joy! Do you know 68% of churches that are growing say they laugh a lot together? But joy goes deeper than happiness, because even when we are sad, when we mourn each other’s losses, if we are together, then we experience joy as a “rightness” or a “peace” together. Paul writes in verse 7:  “for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.” Grace and joy shared in whatever we do, even the hard, heart-breaking stuff. Joy is what we have when God’s grace is shared. The more our fellowship becomes what God wants it to be, the more joy will color everything we do and are together.

1.    We have confidence because it’s God! One of my favorite quotes of all time is
       from the great Baptist preacher, E.V. Hill, “If God is in it, God will win it.”
2.    We have confidence because the good works bring about God’s justice
       —no more oppression, but freedom; no more greed, but people seeking the
       common good ahead of their own interests.
3.    We have confidence because God is the one who began the good work and
       God is bringing it to completion. It will be done the way God imagines it. One of
       my favorite bumper-stickers is “Be patient. God’s not done with me yet.
       ” How awesome!

The more our fellowship becomes what God wants it to be, the more our confidence in God and what God wants to do through us will saturate our life together.

The third color our life together should have is the warm, rich red of love. Paul writes in verse 9:  “And this is my prayer:  that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight…” Leonard Sweet tells how “Illustrator/painter Gustave Doré, one of the patron saints of the DreamWorks team of Spielberg/Katzenberg/Geffen, was handed a painting of Jesus just finished by one of his students. Asked for his critique, Doré studied it, his mind searching for the right words. At last he handed it back to the student. “If you loved Him more,” he said, “you would have painted Him better.’”[1] Love leads us into deeper knowledge of God, of what makes God smile, of how we can follow God best. The result is that we will be “filled with the fruit of” a right-relationship with God. The more we love, the more wonderful things will happen, not because of what we do, but because of what Jesus Christ is doing through us, and not so we look good, but as Paul puts it, “to the glory and praise of God.” Love is meant to abound more and more—our love for God and for each other can grow, for the heart which pumps the deep, strong love is not our hearts, but God’s! Our infinite God wants us to abound in love! The more our fellowship becomes what God wants it to be, the more love fill everything we do and are together.

So our life together is meant to have the strong, vibrant colors of joy and confidence and love. But what will this actually look like? For the next several Sundays, we will explore the vibrant colors with which God wants to paint our lives—yellow the color of heart-filling joy, blue the deep confidence in God’s Presence, and red the life-giving color of love. For a world adrift and at a loss, these colors paint a picture of hope, a picture of Jesus Christ, who gives Himself again today, that we all might have new life in Him. The story is told about a little girl who, on the way home from church, turned to her mother and said, “Mommy, the Preacher’s sermon this morning confused me.” The mother said, “Oh!  Why is that? The girl replied, “Well, he said that God is bigger than we are.  Is that true?” “Yes, that’s true,” the mother replied. “He also said that God lives within us.  Is that true too?” Again the mother replied, “Yes.” “Well,” said the girl.  “If God is bigger than us and He lives in us, wouldn’t He show through?” As we draw on the great reservoirs of God’s grace to paint our church and our lives, may the King who is among us and within us be revealed.

[1]Leonard Sweet, SoulTsunami, p.