Living God’s Will

9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:9-14)

Last week we began looking at how Paul prays for those he loves in the church at Colossae. I’m sure each of us had many opportunities to pray for one another this last week! And in some cases, you or I may have been at a loss as to how to pray. This is the beauty of the Word of God. God even teaches us how to pray for one another! Remember in this prayer, remember all of the things that Paul says he prays for his friends.

He prays constantly
He prays that they be filled with the knowledge of God’s will
He prays that they have all spiritual wisdom and understanding
He prays that they may live a life worthy of the Lord
He prays that they will live in a way that is pleasing to God
He prays that they will bear fruit through their good works
He prays that their strength will be from God
He prays that they will have endurance, patience, and joy
He thanks God for their inheritance
He recalls their past lostness and their now glorious place in God’s kingdom
He’s thankful for their redemption and the forgiveness of sin

We noted that this is how we can pray for each other. What a tremendous blessing to know our friends may be praying this way for us!

As we move today to verse 10, I want to mention a flow that we see from verse 9 to verse 10. Verse 9 is much about the mind. It is about how we think. Verse 9 can happen in us as we sit alone in a room, as we study the Bible privately, as we go to a Bible study class, a women’s prayer group, a men’s luncheon. The action in verse 9 is much about study and meditation, waiting on God, focusing on Him and His Word. This morning here at church, I hope that verse 9 is richly at work in us, that is that we are being, even today, filled with the knowledge of the will of God, that today our minds are being filled to overflowing with truth from God’s Word. That is where we get our understanding of His will. And beyond that, again from verse 9, that spiritual wisdom and understanding are accompanying that knowledge. And what that means is that as we are filled with the knowledge of His will, we are also gaining wisdom and understanding about what to do with that knowledge of His will.

Do you see the progression? I am amazed by how many don’t feel like the Bible has any relevance in their lives, or how we may say things like, “Well, that doesn’t apply to me.” We may say that about something we have read in the Bible, like the story of the unforgiving servant, the servant who refused to grant forgiveness. We may read that and say, “I don’t have that problem, that’s not not really anything I need to understand or do.” 

I remember preaching through 1 Corinthians 13 on love, the various aspects of love. And at times I would feel like I was getting really beaten up. I mean some real conviction studying through those aspects of love and realizing how incapable I was to live them out. And in that study I would come to one, look ahead to the next aspect and think, “Oh, good, at least that one won’t be too relevant to my life.” I did that at least twice. That is what I thought. And both times as I began studying them I quickly realized, “Oh, wow! This is hard, this is where I am seriously lacking in love.” That is sort of the point about love: we are lacking and we desperately need Christ to work in us to love in any spiritual way. But my point is they were all relevant to me, they all provided points of conviction and drove me, and still do, to long for wisdom and understanding that allows me to live them out in this life that God has given me.

So knowledge alone is lacking, we need wisdom and understanding to lead us to rightly apply God’s Word. Paul prays that they, the Colossians, will have wisdom and understanding.

But there is more. Yes, we need to even progress from here. What we have learned and what we have understood regarding application, it must be lived. At some point these things must, for us as Christians, move from our minds to our walk. And that is what Paul gets to next in verse 10.

9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:9-10)

Some people are those who think and think and think, but they never do. You may be that kind of person, or at least you may know someone like that. Others may do and do, but they really don’t think much. Those that think and don’t do, they don’t get much done, and that can be unproductive, and may get them into trouble. Always thinking and never doing. For those it is like, “Come on, just do something!” Those that do and do and do, and don’t think first, or at least do not apply wisdom to what they do, they too can get into trouble. It is like, “Why did you do that? What were you thinking?” And the response, “I wasn’t thinking.” The solution is to do, but to do informed by God’s Word and His desires for you.

so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:10)

When Paul says “so as to,” he is saying that there is a result or should be a result of being filled with the knowledge of God and having wisdom and understanding. What should happen, what should we do? Three things…

1. Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him
2. Bear fruit in every good work
3. Increase in the knowledge of God

You could summarize these three as walk, work, and increase.

Part of the value of knowing God’s will is that it enables appropriate conduct. I don’t know about you, but I get weary of hearing people say things like, “They are a Christian? They aren’t any different than the rest of the world.” Are we to be different? Should our knowledge of God mixed with wisdom make our walk different? Should the lost world look at us and scratch their heads, so to speak, and think, “Wow, that is different. They are different”? Much of Christianity today seems to be an effort of saying to the world, “We are not different.” But God says through Paul that our walk should be in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him.

Let me ask: can a non-Christian walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him? The answer is no. The only way that is possible, to any degree, is if we are controlled by Him, indwelt by His Spirit, filled with God. This is only possible for a Christian, which means, yes, our walk should look different.

The metaphor “to walk” as Paul uses it here is not typical Greek, but has Jewish origins, and it’s seen all over the Old Testament. For instance, when Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came to visit Moses and instructed him regarding how he counseled the people, he said…

and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. (Exodus 18:20)

And we see elsewhere…

Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered,
but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall. (Proverbs 18:20)

15 He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly,
who despises the gain of oppressions,
who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe,
who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed
and shuts his eyes from looking on evil,
16 he will dwell on the heights;
his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; (Isaiah 33:15-16)

And there are New Testament examples…

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel (Philippians 1:27)

1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, (Ephesians 4:1-2)

God is concerned with how we walk. This was true in ancient days, in New Testament times, and is still true today. How we live matters, not just what we know.

When we talk of a walk that is pleasing to God, it is important, I think, that we don’t confuse that with trying to earn God’s favor or earn His love. God has loved us, marked us as His adopted children by an act of His will. We were not lovely to God before salvation, and we cannot do anything to strengthen His love toward us now. While we were sinners Christ died for us. What is lovable to God about a sinner? He did love us, but not because we were lovely. He loved us simply because He chose to.

We do not walk in a way pleasing to Him to gain His favor, but to express our love to Him. Our lives become, should become, lives overwhelmed by His love, driving us to a desire to do all that we can to comply with His will, that is live obediently to Him. But to do this we must, again, not just know but also walk in His way.

What might this mean practically? Well, how about loving our neighbors and regarding them as more important than ourselves? How about doing that the next time we enter into a business agreement? Like taking the time to make sure that the other party is taken care of and that they benefit more than we do? That is kind of crazy in our day, in our culture. That is the point, that would show that we are different, we live or walk differently than the world does. How about even doing that when it requires that we suffer? 

What about even looking for opportunities to be different in the name of Christ, to live differently? Not just taking them as they come, but actually looking for opportunities. Like returning a good word when treated badly, taking on more work at the office to relieve someone else, or when someone’s foolish decisions inconvenience us, what about in that case bearing with another person, empathizing with them, knowing that we too have made plenty of foolish decisions.

God can do this in us, God wants us to walk in these ways, to walk as Christians worthy of the Lord, focused on Him, doing what is pleasing to Him in our conduct. Not just knowing the right thing, but radically doing it, living it.

The second thing Paul mentions is that we are to bear fruit in every good work. Here again is an emphasis on doing, on work or good works. Did you know that you, if you are a Christian, that God has good works for you to do? It is not like good works are an optional activity for Christians. It is not as if good works are reserved for a few super spiritual people. We know that from Ephesians 2:10.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

That verse tells us that God created us in Christ Jesus for what? For good works, and these good works were prepared by God so that we should walk in them or do them in life. This is so consistent with the whole counsel of God. Think of it like this…

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

Paul is communicating with a confession. His confession is that the life he is living is really Christ in Him. Christ is behind his works. And that must be true because God’s commands to us in the Bible, it is not possible that we live them out in our strength. We must have Christ in us to live them out. So if we live them out it shows at least two things. First it shows that we belong to Christ, and second it shows others, outside the faith, that we are not of this world. We are of a different world, a different kingdom, we belong to God. If our lives are not showing that, then we have missed the mark of what Christianity is to be.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20)

Paul is saying there that we are to represent Christ to the world. How do we do that except to live His way, to do what is pleasing to Him? And if we do, if we are living as ambassadors, then it says God is making his appeal through us. Do you know what that means? It means that in some way God is using you, using me to communicate in this dark world by how we are living and what we are saying.

I did not grow up in a church environment where Christian living was emphasized. I grew up in a church environment that emphasized becoming a Christian and then telling others how to become a Christian, but not really how to live as one. But it is in the living for Christ where we enjoy Christ and experience peace. I am so thankful for how Christ leads us to live for Him, and how we gain peace and joy as we do.

Tammy and I, just last week, really struggled through a decision. We could do what our flesh desired or we could choose a radical approach that was living out His Word. We chose the latter, not without temptation, not without personal struggle, but in the end, in this case, we chose to do what we knew was pleasing to God. We were not at peace leading up to the decision, in fact I was very anxious, but once the decision was made and we acted on it, we had a peace that really surpassed our understanding.

Those who instruct on how to preach say not to use positive examples about yourself in the pulpit. And maybe it sounds like I just did, because in this case we did the right thing, but that testimony is one in which God overruled our hearts and worked in us to act in a way pleasing to Him. It is about God’s faithfulness in our walk, even when we may be tempted otherwise.

I am thankful that God in His grace overrules my own desires for a greater purpose, which is His glory.

Paul ends verse 10 with an interesting point when he says, “and increasing in the knowledge of God.” I say interesting because remember in verse 9 he was praying that they be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, and now he is saying a result of being filled with the knowledge of God with wisdom and understanding is “increasing in the knowledge of God.” I think he is saying here that the knowledge of God leads to more knowledge of God. To know God is to then know more of God. It is ever increasing.

This second mention of knowledge is perhaps a more intimate one. The first was knowing His will, this second one is more about knowing Him. Knowing His will is certainly indicative of knowing Him in some ways, but simply knowing Him carries with it such joy. This is a statement of relationship, to move into greater relationship with Him!

One of the greatest joys of heaven will be an even deeper understanding of our perfect, holy, and loving God. But even now we can grow to know Him more.

And so that is where we are, this is what God is showing us, this is really good stuff for us! Thinking, knowing, understanding leads us to walking a new way, a way pleasing to Him, being fruitful in our good works, and also gaining even greater knowledge of Him!

The point is not to just sit on what we know from God’s Word, but to go out and practice it. I would encourage you to never enter into a conversation, a business deal, an activity of any sort without simply asking, “What is pleasing to God in this situation? What will it look like to do a good work in this situation? What has God asked me to do here?”

Those questions may sound simple, yet so often to consider God’s way in a matter is also to throw off a lifetime of habits and learned behaviors and even fleshly desires. But by God’s will and His strength, we can step aside and see Him work faithfully in us. I pray that will be our desire!

9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:9-10)