Why I Sometimes Want to Cuss for the Glory of God—but I Don’t!


Colossians 4:3–4

And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.


Hang on! Did he just say chains? Why are we just now hearing about this? All of this magisterial manifesto on the mystery of Christ, and only in the last chapter does he tell us he is in prison! This is one of those places where I want to artfully arrange a string of cuss words together for dramatic effect . . . but I won’t.

Go back and read it through again. You won’t find the first word of his unholy  accommodations until Domino #4|3. That’s amazing, Paul! And all this time we thought this masterpiece of a letter was flowing out of your morning quiet times from some scenic vista on the Mediterranean Sea.

And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. (v. 3)

Here’s the kicker. When Paul asks for prayer for God to open a door for his message, he’s not talking about the door of the prison. He’s not talking about a door for himself at all. He’s talking first and foremost about a door “for our message,” a.k.a. the gospel of Jesus Christ. Note also his use of the plural, “we.” Gospel proclamation is a team sport; think football, not golf. This is not pray for “Paul of Tarsus Apostolic Holy Ghost Ministries dot-com.” Paul has been benched, taken out of the game, sidelined, locked down, and yes, even chained up.

Do you have any ideas how many doors have opened between Paul’s imprisoned pen and today’s reading for this message of the mystery of Christ to reach us? Talk about the domino effect!

And that right there, my friends, is the mystery of Christ. The message of the gospel can’t be reduced to messaging. That’s the mistake we make. The message of the gospel is a mystery. In the worst, darkest, most apparently unfruitful and least-fulfilling moment of Paul’s life, he’s proclaiming the mystery of Christ. And isn’t that the mystery itself—that the apostle Paul, en route to his own cross, can’t stop declaring the wonders of Jesus?

“In Christ” is not a theory for Paul. It’s not a morning devotion. It is his life. The mystery is that the further Paul plunges into the grip of death the higher he rises in the power of the resurrection. I honestly think Paul go so carried away with Jesus in this letter he forgot for a minute he was in prison. That’s the mystery of Christ: death and resurrection!

That’s what I want for you and for me. So many of us are in chains at the moment, of one sort or another. We are tied up by our circumstances or tied down by our problems. We or those we love are facing intractable difficulties. Others of us have become ensnared in sin that will not let go. In fact, many of us are beyond bailing out. It’s time to move beyond Jesus sprinkles, singing songs in church, and putting a tip in the offering plate. It’s time for wholesale abandonment to Jesus—to the mystery of Christ. We must have death and resurrection—not in theory, but in fact.

Again, it makes me want to cuss for the glory of God. But I won’t! 

Let’s call Domino #4/3 The Door Opener.


Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who went to prison with Paul and, by the cross, transformed a prison into the witness of the power of the gospel. Do that in my life. Take the mess of my life and of this world and make of it a street-level sanctuary of the holy mystery of Christ, for my good and your glory. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.


  1. Did you realize Paul was in prison while he was writing Colossians? How does that impact your reading of it?
  2. Are you, or is someone you know, facing an intractable imprisoning situation? How will today’s text help you encourage yourself or the other person? How will you pray for the situation?
  3. Why is it that the hardest times produce the deepest witness of the mystery of Christ?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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Comments and Discussion

3 Responses

  1. #1) Yes, I did realize that Paul was in prison when he wrote this epistle to the church at Colossi. I had discovered this fact in preparation to lead a study on Colossians. Knowing this brought to mind other things Paul had written in regards to his being content in all external circumstances.
    #2) l, myself and other believers that I’m in fellowship with realize that in order to grow in our faith, and to be used by God to advance the kingdom of heaven, that we’ll need to make some drastic changes in our relationships with the “institutional church “. Some of us have come to the realization that in some ways the traditions that we were raised in conform to accepted cultural norms more than God’s will, as revealed in his Word. The challenge is to make the needed changes without burning bridges. As for “death and resurrection “, Jesus said: “ Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (John 12:24-26) Jesus never promised us that it would be easy.
    #3) I firmly believe that sanctification/spiritual formation happens only in the valleys of life, not on the mountain tops. Dying to the “old self” will be painful.

  2. “For which I am in chains.” Is Paul giving us both sides of the coin? Though his body is chained to a prison cell wall, his spirit and soul are chained to Christ. A complex reality in our humanness for someone to take their own advice. It’s easy to recommend a plan of thought and action when directing others. Not so much when looking in the mirror. Take forgiveness. It’s a grand idea until you, I, need to apply it to our life.
    Maybe, for Paul, being in Christ and Christ in Him was the advice he lived in daily. I didn’t mean he didn’t struggle at times, the thorn in his side, but he persevered because he knew “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
    Us believers are good to remember our identity in Christ as we are also chained to the prison wall of the world and Christ. Let us pray that the chain connecting us to Christ is stronger. As we move closer to Christ, the chain to Christ becomes shorter, stronger still. Before we know it, all the chains holding us to the world snap. Once we are in Christ, where His arms wrap around us, the attached remnants of the world’s chains fall off. Then we can say that “When the Son set me free, I am free indeed.”
    Paul didn’t “chain” himself to Christ to keep Christ near him. It was to keep him near to Christ.

  3. In all his pain, Paul didn’t cuss Colossians. Cussing comes from hostility, anger, and pride, not from surrender, brokenness, and humility. Though in prison, Paul overflowed with God’s peace, love, and grace.

    Cussing is an example of being in bondage to a chain of vulgar thought. Instead, Christians are called to walk in holiness and inner freedom.

    I’ve been in a very painful situation for a long time. It continues break and humble me and to cause me to cry out to God. I pray for a supernatural break through and for the grace to stay lovingly focused on the living Jesus in the meantime.

    If we submit to Jesus with faith, hard times will soften our heart and help us to open up to His strength in our weakness. Pain can make us daily desperate for and totally dependent on Him.

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