‘Valentine’s Day’. All of us like to think that we can find a way to experience life to the full. In the minds of many, a special relationship celebrated or affirmed on Valentine’s Day is important, if not essential. Well, so the retail world marketing wants us to think!
The quest for life in its fullness is not new. In the first century Roman world people often looked for solutions in spiritual experiences. Such ideas began to take root within the life of the early churches, the church in Colossae for example. While there doesn’t seem to be a specific group of false-teachers there, Paul the Apostle clearly saw the need to challenge a false understanding of fullness that went beyond the central truth of God’s mercy that they had embraced (Colossians 1:6).
Cultural influences. From comments Paul makes through his Letter, we learn that the Colossian Christians wanted a knowledge and experience of God that went beyond God’s gospel. In fact, evidence points to the influences of early forms of Gnosticism – the ‘inside’ knowledge of the deep mysteries of God acquired by a select group. In the Colossian church there was also the influence of a Jewish mysticism, known as the Merkabah mysticism. This offered to carry its adherents, because of their strict observance of the law, as if in a chariot into the very presence of God.
In contrast to this, Paul prays that the Colossian Christians may be filled with the knowledge of his (God’s) will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that they might live lives worthy of the Lord.
One of the surprising things here is that Paul prays first and foremost for their growth in spiritual maturity. At the end of Jesus’ ministry we find twelve disciples (and one of them a traitor) and about one hundred others. Churches may be filled with thousands, but there may only be one true disciple.
Paul prays that the Colossians will grow in their thinking— so, knowledge, wisdom, understanding (1:9). He also prays for growth in lifestyle: living a life …; pleasing …; bearing fruit … (1:10). He prays for maturing of Christian minds so that there might be maturity in behavior.
Paul prays that his readers will be filled with a knowledge of God’s will that comes through an ever-increasing understanding of God who has revealed himself through the Bible.
Usually we think that the will of God has to do primarily with what work we do, whom we marry and where we live. Yes, God is concerned about these matters – but not nearly as much as with our understanding of him, what we are like, how we live, and how we relate with one another.
Paul is saying that spirituality is a process that involves growth, and the key to that growth is not faith, but understanding. Church-goers are sometimes accused of having no brains. Paul disagrees. He is saying, by implication, that when we go to church, whenever we pray, we should not leave our brains behind. Rather, use them. We need to understand the mind and character of God better so that we might live lives more worthy of him.
Paul knows that we can’t do this simply by our own efforts, so he prays: May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,… (1:11). God is committed to empowering our wills to live out what we learn.
Which brings us the outcomes Paul is praying for: That you may bear fruit in every good work.
If there is no discernable difference between our lives and the lives of those around us, we need to ask ourselves what kind of Christians we are. We are to grow in our knowledge of God, so that we can discern God’s mind in the complexities of life.
Further, Paul prays that we may be strengthened to display great endurance and patience… He prays that God’s people will have the capacity to survive stressful times with joy, overcome insult with composure, and most of all, know that God can be trusted to be working out his all-wise and all-good purposes even in the toughest times.
He also prays that God’s people will joyfully give thanks to the Father… God has transferred us from the dominion of darkness to the kingdom of his beloved Son. We have been brought under the rule of the greatest and kindest of all kings, a king who is committed to our good – now and for eternity. Our only true response must be one of joy and gratitude.
Yet, so often reading the Scriptures and prayer falls out of our life – until a crisis occurs.
Today is Ash Wednesday the first day of the season of Lent. You may want to commit to a daily pattern between now and Easter of reading one of the Gospels and making time to pray.
As we get to know God and his mind, so our lives are changed and we will increasingly bear the fruit of knowing and living life to the full.
© John G. Mason – www.anglicanconnection.com