9 For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
PRAYER FOR THE NEW COMMUNITY
So often in life we are not sure what we should pray. Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1 provides a helpful insight. Having begun with thanksgiving for the Colossian church, he goes on to pray for it. Interestingly, given his comments about growth (1:6-8) it is surprising that he does not pray for more converts. Rather, he petitions God first for growth in the Colossians’ spiritual maturity.
When we think about it, growth in spiritual maturity is the New Testament pattern. When Jesus concluded his public ministry we find twelve disciples and about one hundred or so others. Jesus invested himself not in quantity, but in quality. It is easy to focus on numbers. But that was not Paul’s dream, nor his prayer. He understood Jesus’ Commission: ‘Go and make disciples’ (Matthew 28:18). Paul wanted to see people growing in the caliber and integrity of their faith and lifestyle.
Two growth components: In 1:9 Paul prays for growth in biblical thinking—so, he prays for knowledge, wisdom, understanding. In 1:10 he prays for growth in Christian lifestyle – living a life …; pleasing…; bearing fruit… Notice the link between thinking and lifestyle. He prays for growth in their minds in order that they might see growth in behavior. These elements are essential if a church wants to see spiritual renewal and growth.
Knowledge of God’s will… When the Bible speaks of knowing God’s will, it is talking about our need to know God, loving him because he first loved us, and finding our joy in him. The more we come to understand the privilege of what it means to have been created in his image and now to be restored in that image, the more we will long to live in love and loyalty to our God. Psalm 143:10 says: Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. Let your good spirit lead me on a level path.
These words help us understand Paul’s point. The psalm writer doesn’t say, Lord, teach me your will…, but rather, teach me to do your will… He knows God’s will, but needs to be taught to do it.
This is why Paul asks that the Colossians may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,… This is how God fills us with the knowledge of his will.
How different this is from the way we often think about the will of God. For most of us, the will of God has more to do 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 the issues of our understanding of him, how we live, how we relate. Paul knows that knowledge and understanding of God don’t come naturally. Some think that what we need is faith. But that is not what Paul is saying. He prays that our minds might be enlightened so that we may live more worthily of God.
FOUR MARKS OF CHRISTIAN GROWTH
Bearing fruit in every good work: God’s people are saved by faith alone, but, as James puts it, faith without works is dead. By their fruits you will know them, Jesus said of his true followers. If there is no discernable difference between our lives and the lives of those around us, we need to ask what kind of Christians we are.
Growing in the knowledge of God: God’s people are growing organisms – they’re not robots that have come off the end of the Christian assembly line. An important element of that growth is growth in the knowledge of God. Paul is praying that the Colossians will be filled with the knowledge of God, so that they might have the ability to discern God’s mind in the diversity and complexity of life’s issues. With the passing of the years all of us have new and greater responsibilities. How will we know how to make decisions and judgments if we don’t increase in our understanding of the mind of God?
Strengthened to display great endurance and patience: Paul speaks here of the kind of mentality that tackles the tough issues of life and the stamina that perseveres. He knows too well that it’s one thing to start, but another to finish.
Joyfully giving thanks to the Father: Thanksgiving pleases God. Not to thank him is to fail to understand the magnitude of his love expressed through Jesus Christ for, as Paul puts it, God has transferred us from the dominion of darkness to the kingdom of his beloved Son. We have been brought under the rule of a greater king, a loving king, a king who is committed to our eternal good. Our only true response is one of joy and gratitude. It’s one of the reasons we want to sing!
Paul’s prayer is a rich prayer. As with all relationships, a process is involved. Understanding flows out into a new way of living – a change that is aided by the Holy Spirit of God. But, as with all relationships, the changes take time.
You may want to consider:
- the link between thinking and lifestyle;
- the implication that we need to see life God’s way if we are to live God’s way;
- the compelling power and significance of Paul’s words that God rescues and transfers his people into the kingdom of his beloved Son.
Let me encourage you to pray:
© John G. Mason, Reason for Hope – 40 Days of Bible Readings and Reflections – 2016. All Rights Reserved.