For six months our family lived in the South Pacific, specifically, the island country of Fiji. We were there serving on behalf of FamilyLife as volunteers with the Methodist Church of Fiji, to help them strengthen their marriage and family training initiative.
Before leaving for Fiji, one of the elders at our church in Arkansas mentioned how their family had memorized some verses in Colossians during a recent vacation. We took that idea and focused on one verse a month while we were there. So I’m going to share some lessons we learned through the lens of Colossians 3:12-17.
#1. IDENTITY MATTERS. There were a number of moments that first month where I really wrestled with questions like, “Why are we here? Will we make a difference?” It started to weigh on me. But Colossians 3:12 was our theme verse for the month. It says, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” One thing that stood out was the truth of who we are in Christ. Who you are in Christ matters so much more than what you accomplish, more than your activity, more than your successes.
#2. PEACE. Part of Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” Man, did we ever learn this one. But it wasn’t as hard as you would think because the culture was bent toward peace. Americans tend to be control freaks. Money and modern conveniences allow for some measure of this. But control is an illusion. Things don’t always go according to plan. So ask, “What is God doing through this? How is he going to use this for His good?”
#3. GRATITUDE. Thankfulness. That word shows up three times in Colossians 3:15-17. I think Paul, the author of Colossians, was trying to make a point. We all need more gratitude. And Fiji is a great place to learn this.
The people in Fiji have to be some of the happiest, most joy-filled people I have ever met. There was one stretch where it rained 37 days in a row. Our thankfulness meter was plummeting. One afternoon I look out, and there’s a group of people playing volleyball. Right in the middle of the street. And it’s pouring outside. And they’re laughing on top of it.
It is sometimes easy to focus on what we don’t have. But we can always find something to be grateful for.
#4. GOD’S WORD AND THE CAREFUL TEACHING OF IT MATTERS. One thing we saw in common among Christians in Fiji was a love of God’s word and hunger for resources that would help them tell others about what a difference Christ has made in their life. “Accurately handling the word of truth,” as Colossians 3:16 says, matters.
People were hungry for Christ-centered, biblically rooted resources they could use to do ministry. So we started putting things in their hands. And when they had them, they flourished.
Rocko took Stepping Up (a 10-week video series on what the Bible says about manhood) and put it in the hands of some prisoners. His hope is to show them that there’s another way forward.
Edwin and Liliana took Preparing for Marriage and started infusing that into the lives of young couples in their home group, teaching them what it means to have a marriage rooted in Christ, not just in their own happiness.
A pastor’s college took HomeBuilders and experienced what it was like to use that material to teach people to learn from one another and not just wait on insights from the pastors.
Save and Bui took Passport2Purity and led the six youth living in their home through it. They all accepted Christ and have a vision for what it means to live a life of purity.
#5. PEOPLE ARE ALWAYS WATCHING. I love verse 17 of Colossians 3 which says, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do all to the glory of God.” Community is so important in Fiji. As a result, people are watching. American culture is very isolated and sick with hurry. But we desperately need one another. And community happens in places where people are watching. And that’s overall a good thing.
How would I wrap up everything we experienced there? I’m not sure it’s possible. But one word keeps coming to mind that I think this passage is all about. God is sovereign. He is in control. He can be trusted completely. So trust him today.