When I was in high school my parents moved our family from the North Hills of Pittsburgh to Tidewater, Virginia. It was not a move that I welcomed. I was comfortably ensconced in my school and social sphere. I had no desire to move 450 miles away, where I knew no one.
But of all the lures to stay, there was one that tethered me to North Allegheny more than any others – track and field. Throughout junior high and into the tenth grade I ran track for the Tigers, competing in several track and field events. My place on the team was secure. The future looked bright; then the move.
What I never could have anticipated was what I discovered when I arrived in Virginia. Not only did they have a good track team, their coach was a man named Jerry Gaines. I quickly learned that Jerry was the first African American to receive a full scholarship to Virginia Tech. He was a world-class hurdler who ran in the Olympic trials against Rod Milburn, the American gold medalist in the 110-meter hurdles at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. Suffice to say it took only a few days for the memories of N.A. to fade and the dreams of Western Branch High School in Chesapeake, Virginia to capture me. Under Jerry’s tutelage my track and field focus narrowed considerably from five events to three, with a central focus on the hurdles.
I have often thought of the providential blessing it was to move at that time. What appeared to be a major disappointment turned into an unexpected and unanticipated joy. I was able to learn from a master hurdler. In fact, to this day I remember him saying on numerous occasions when we were dogging it, or when we thought we had accomplished something great, “I’ve been where you still have got to go!” No coach, in any sport, ever influenced me as much as Jerry Gaines.
I’ve thought a lot about Jerry over the past few weeks as I have been preparing, with Henry, to lead you in a study of the book of Colossians. It’s not an unfamiliar book to many of you who have gone through The Course of Your Life. It is the letter that forms the foundation of the Course of Your Life study; and I commend that study to all of you.
The striking similarity between Paul and Jerry Gaines is that they spent their time on nobodies. We were nobodies. Paul’s writing to a group of people he’s never met. He’s never even been to the town of Colossae. One famous New Testament scholar calls Colossae, “The most unimportant town to which Paul ever wrote.” Based on worldly measures they were nobodies just like the Western Branch track team was to Jerry Gaines, and yet, he valued them.
More importantly, the letter of Colossians is the most complete and insightful description of the nature of Jesus Christ we find anywhere in Scripture. To put it in theological terms: The letter of Colossians contains the highest Christology found anywhere in the Bible. What we find are words as relevant to us in our Christian lives as they were to their Christian lives. Paul’s purpose in writing is the same as the Holy Spirit’s purpose in our lives – to grow us up in the faith, to present us mature in Christ, so that He may use us to glorify Himself.
This week we begin a new series entitled, “The Incomparable Christ.” This week’s message is on Colossians 1:1-2 entitled, “The Will of God.” We will be focusing our attention on four points: The Place, The People, The Problem, and The Purpose.
In preparation you may wish to consider the following:
1. Where is Colossae?
2. Why would J.B. Lightfoot call it an unimportant town?
3. What populated the town?
4. How did a church begin there?
5. Why did Paul feel compelled to unite them from prison?
6. What prison was he in?
7. What does Paul mean in verse 1 when he says, “by the will of God”?
8. What does “to the saints and faithful brothers” mean?
9. What is the essence of the problem at Colossae?
10. How does Paul use the salutation, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father” as a perfect encapsulation of what Christ has done for us?
See you Sunday!