Paul opens his letter as he always does - by introducing himself and the people to whom he is speaking. This is the typical way letters in this day would have begun. Paul then follows up this brief introduction with a short prayer, before he gets into the meat of his letter.
You may be tempted to skim through these early paragraphs and jump into the “meat” of the letter. This temptation is understandable, but I would encourage you to slow down and process everything Paul is trying to say in these early verses. Even his introductions contain a lot of depth that we can learn from!
Paul describes the gospel using a metaphor we see throughout the New Testament: a fruit tree. The seed of the gospel was planted in Colossae by Epaphras (v.7). From there, it took root and began to grow, spreading throughout the community. Paul prays that this tree would grow (v.10), become strong and mighty (v.11) and that it will bear fruit (v.10) just as it has throughout the world (v.6).
The big takeaway from this is that the sign of a healthy faith - in a church or a person - is that it bears fruit. Jesus in Matthew 7 uses the same analogy, “A good tree bears good fruit, a bad tree bears bad fruit… Every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire.” (Matt. 7:17-19, NLT) Jesus’ teaching is clear: faith - REAL, living, breathing, growing faith - produces results.
In the life of a growing Christian, you expect to see fruit in the way that they behave. They should become more kind and joyful. They should be less concerned about worldly things and more concerned with the things of God. As they mature, Christians become more patient, less prone to selfish fits of anger and demonstrate better self-discipline.
But above all, the clear sign of real faith - the sure evidence that there is a “good tree bearing good fruit” - is love. A true follower of Christ should overflow with love toward their friends, their neighbors and even their enemies. Jesus says that love is the way that people will be able to tell Jesus disciples from everyone else (John 13:35). It is THE mark of a true believer.
How is your faith growing? Is the fruit beginning to come in? Or have you started to become stunted and malnourished - not getting enough of the Son? I encourage you to pray Paul’s prayer for the Colossians over your life and over those that you love - that you will grow strong and true, and that your fruit would be plentiful and good.