By Ted Gibbons
I was reading in Colossians today and stopped to reflect on this phrase from chapter 2 verse 10: “And ye are complete in him…” The phrase “if only” may be compelling evidence of a lack of faith. So often we look at the world and our part of it and long for things that we do not have. If only I had a larger home or apartment. If only I had a car that needed fewer repairs. If only my church calling were more meaningful or my children more obedient or my hairline less invisible. If only I had enough money to fix the roof or buy a TV or pay off my debts or move to the country.
All of those longings seem to be rooted in a sense of our own incompleteness. But Colossians tells us that Christ is the cure for all of our empty dreams. It can be for us as Paul prayed it would be for the people of Laodecia: Our hearts can “be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ” (Colossians 2:2).
After years of hoping and longing, I finally got the car of my dreams-a Pontiac Grand Am. It is not the color I wanted, and it is not as new as I had hoped, but I got it and it has been delightful. But it is not very significant when compared with the “riches of the full assurance of understanding” of the “mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ.” No matter how many meaningful things seem to be missing from my life, I am complete in Christ. I have everything I really need.
At the reunion last week of my siblings in Salt Lake, we watched a DVD about the gospel and its impact in Africa. The people who have embraced the Church there have so little. Compared to my blessings they are destitute of nearly everything. And yet they are “complete in him.” Adam wrote home from El Salvador not long after he began to serve there to tell us that we have a bigger home than the president of that country. But in another letter he told us about how receptive the people were to his message. Those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, who are “rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith” (Colossians 2:7) are complete, lacking nothing, because in Christ “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).
Paul warned us about the quest for stuff, for property and possessions and pennies. He knew that we live in a world where the message-the incessant and all but inescapable message-is that we need more things and better things ad newer things. Paul explains the reason for his warnings: “And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words” (Colossians 2:4) or advertisements during the Olympics.
He also says: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
Jeremiah 23 offers us the promise of the Lord to those who are gathered unto him. He says, “And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD (3 – 4).
His shepherds will feed us. We will be free from fear, and we will not lack for anything. We will be complete in him.
Ralph Waldo Emmerson wrote An Ode for William H. Channing. This a one verse from that poem:
The neat-herd serves the neat,
The merchant serves the purse,
The eater serves his meat;
Tis the day of the chattel,
Web to weave, and corn to grind,
Things are in the saddle,
And ride mankind.
I hope that our lives will not be driven by a need for more stuff. I hope that we will not be beguiled by philosophies and vain deceits and traditions to spend our lives in the pursuit of things that don’t matter very much. I hope that our sense of incompleteness will not paralyze our sense of plenty. We are complete in him. Mortality is not about accumulation but about escaping into exaltation. We march from grace to grace (D&C 93:20) until we are prepared to receive a fullness of joy. “And ye shall sit down in the kingdom of my Father; yea, your joy shall be full, even as the Father hath given me fulness of joy; and ye shall be even as I am, and I am even as the Father; and the Father and I are one . . .” (3 Nephi 28:10). That fullness cannot come from things unable to pass through the veil. No car is fast enough to break out of the grave into light. No house is large enough to contain all the happiness and hope in heaven. No bank account has enough numbers before the decimal point to purchase the completeness we receive from Christ.
Now, lest I be misunderstood, let me say that it is a wonderful thing to have nice things and to live in peace and plenty, as long as we do not cling to those things with more energy than we expend in clinging to the Savior.