Have you figured out the latest Bible code yet? Did you read any of the top selling Jesus-redefining novels? Rediscovered the “lost gospels” in your quest for truth and spiritual guidance? Heard the newest ideas from Scholars of who Jesus really was, the Bible notwithstanding?
Maybe your search for spiritual insight included reading your horoscope, consulting the stars, a Reader, Tarot cards or crystals. It seems we all want to know God’s will, the inside scoop from Above. Sadly, we will go – no, run – down any path that seems to offer answers; especially quick ones or new, secret ones.
If you are you anxious to know God’s will, His plan for you; have I got a prayer for you! One to not only personally pray, but to speak on behalf of others. Two for one! This God-honoring prayer was penned to some other folks also tempted to find new, esoteric wisdom from God – the young church in Colossea.
When the Apostle Paul heard from Epaphras that a church was birthed in Colossea and that they were the prey of false teachers, he started praying for them (Colossians 1:6-12; 4:12, 13; Philemon 1:23). Written from jail (4:10), Colossian’s meaty teachings and serious warnings reveal a people tempted to turn to heresy – serious doctrinal errors about Jesus.
Itching for hidden knowledge (see 2:1-10), Paul prays for them to truly know God’s will so that they will walk in it. This potent prayer hits home for us who are also tempted to seek life-guiding wisdom from ungodly sources. Jesus’ divine nature and mission are also often misrepresented in popular culture and by false teachers in the church. With this background and in light of these issues, read Paul’s prayer from Colossians 1:9-12 a few times:
“We have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light” (NASB).
Here is my summary: “We are praying that His will you would fully know so that in His ways you will fully go - worthy of and pleasing Him. And it will show, to Him and others, as He causes fruit in you to grow: in your doing, knowing, enduring & thanking of the Father.”
This prayer has two primary requests, seen in its main verbs. (Its four participles ain’t bad stuff either.) The plea he makes for these new, vulnerable Christians is that they would know God’s will and walk in it.
“Knowing God’s will” is a topic that sells books, packs classes and keeps pew people awake – at least a bit longer than usual. This letter’s emphasis reminds us that knowing who Jesus truly is and what He has done is far more important than God revealing a career or mate choice. To marry well and work in a satisfying field is little consolation if one does not know and grow to know Jesus.
To be filled with knowledge of God’s will is to know God. His character reveals His will just as His will reveals His character. We are to seek to have a distinct perception, a clear knowledge of God and His heart. We are to pine to know His inclinations, resolves and sovereign pleasure. Not according to worldly or – heaven forbid – demonic devices. But with a godly, spiritual wisdom and with discernment (Col. 2:8; Philippians 3:8-10).
Beyond yielding bragging rights at Bible Studies, this knowing of God is to be fruitful. Note the prayer’s second main thrust. It is a “so that” action item: so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects (vs. 10).
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote that "knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do." Other than sounding a bit like Yoda, he echoes James 1:22, which says: “Do not merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourself, do what it says.” Remember the Wise Man of Matthew 7:24-29? Knowing without doing ain’t true knowing.
The four following participles – hang with me – spell out what that walk should look like: bearing fruit in every good work, increasing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with all power, and joyously giving thanks to the Father. Yet, before you run to examine those, don’t miss the need to marry Biblical data to discernment, info with spiritual insight. That is true maturity (Hebrews 5:11-14).
If you know any part of God’s will, you are to live it out in a life that is worthy of the Lord, pleasing Him in all respects (Ephesians 4:1-6; 5:1, 2, 8). Having a life that pleases Him in every dimension is a life-long pursuit (Philippians 3:8-12). Since we are not there yet, let us press on to know, to do, to be! Do not settle for a data-driven discipleship. Know God’s Word & heart (Psalms 1; 19; 119).
To pray to know God’s will presupposes a heart ready to obey, not just one shopping for options to pick between. We do not ask for His best offer that we may compare it with other choices. We come ready to obey, knowing that will help us see His will even better (Romans. 12:1, 2; John 7:17).
Edward Bedore concurred: “The knowledge of Christ's love for us should cause us to love Him in such a way that it is demonstrated in our attitude, conduct & commitment to serve God. Spiritual maturity is marked by spiritual knowledge being put into action.” Here, here!
Allow me to recommend three books: J.I. Packer’s Knowing God, AW Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy, and AW Pink’s The Attributes of God.