I came across the following passage from Colossians in my devotions the other day, and re-read it a number of times:
So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.
Colossians 1:9-10 NLT
Can you imagine what it would be like to have complete knowledge of God’s will? As His followers, we don’t necessarily always know the “why” of His will. In fact, I suspect that our finite minds are not big enough to fully process all of the details that God sees in His plan. Still, to know exactly what God wants each of us to do next would be pretty amazing, especially for those of us who are searching for specific direction.
Now, I’m not sure if Paul (and those with him) were praying that the Colossian Christians would know exactly what decisions to make about everything, or just the general will of God as stated in Scripture. Regardless, I think that having clarity about how God wants us to live our lives is a key step in living out that abundant life that Jesus offers (John 10:10). When combined with “spiritual wisdom and understanding”, it seems that followers of Jesus can be prepared to take on any situation, and be ready to do the right thing in every circumstance.
And what is the outcome? When the knowledge of God’s will is combined with actually doing God’s will (which I suspect is implied in the verses above), then we honor Him with our decisions. This isn’t merely the respect of obedience, though. We do show honor for God’s authority when we obey Him, but we also show love for Jesus when we follow His instructions (John 14:15). We also demonstrate our trust in a loving God when we do what He says we should do, having faith that His promises are true, even if our sinful nature suggests shortcuts or sinful alternatives, or when the short-term effects of doing the right thing don’t seem to benefit us.
In addition to honoring and pleasing God, though, two more great things happen when we learn (and do) more about His will. One is that we produce results. I suspect that the “fruit” here includes the fruit of the spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23, in contrast with the bad fruit that is produced by false teachers (see Matthew 7:15-20). Jesus also talked about the fruit that we produce – good or bad – in Luke 6:43-45.
The final benefit described in these verses is growing as we learn about God. Pastors remind us that “healthy things grow”, and business leaders remind us that “leaders are learners”. When it comes to knowing more about God (which is a great privilege, to be sure), deciding that we have “learned enough” isn’t just a sign of stagnation; it is stopping short of success. It would be like a young student deciding that counting from 1 to 8 was enough, and claiming that there was no need to learn any more numbers than that! With God, there is always more to learn (a process that I believe will continue for eternity), but each lesson brings us closer to our loving creator.
When reading these verses, I was inspired to pray the same thing (like Paul, here) for those on my prayer list. There are many great things that we can ask God for, on behalf of friends, family, neighbors, and leaders (and even persecutors – see Matthew 5:43-48). However, to sincerely pray that they would know God’s will, wisdom, and understanding – along with all of the blessings that this can produce – is an act of love.
And, when we have prayed that others would know God’s truth, let’s not stop there. As Jesus commanded His disciples in Matthew 28:20, let’s teach others to obey His commands, too.
May you be blessed today with knowing God’s will, receiving His wisdom, and growing in your understanding of Him.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.