Week Two! Last Monday we kicked off our new series on the letter to the Colossians – we read the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Church in Colossae, and thought about what it means to be called faithful brothers and sisters. You can read the first blog post in this series here.
Today, we’re moving onto a passage that begins with one of my very favourite verses in the whole Bible:
“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you” Colossians 1:9
I had a bit of a God-nudge, when I re-read this verse a few weeks ago. I was reminded of some of the people that I have had the privilege to meet, through this ministry: the hours that I have spent in coffee shops, hearing stories and asking questions and thinking together. I was reminded of the great privilege that I get, as a leader: to pray for the people that I meet in this way. I get to hear so many testimonies, and chat to so many great people – and my job with the I Am Project is to get alongside you, and build you up in your faith (whether that’s in person, or online!). And so this is what really strikes me, when I get to hear your stories and the insights that you have: I see the faith that you have, and the love you have for God’s people, and the hope that we share. I see the difference that the Gospel has made in your lives, and I see the bigger picture of what God is doing; my heart is so thankful that God brings me together with people in those moments.
If you are a leader of people, in any capacity (chances are, you are, in some way!), you share this responsibility – our job is to pray for them! What a joy! We get to see what God is doing in people, to share the faith and hope that they have, and to pray for them.
Then, Paul outlines the prayer that he has for the Church in Colossae:
“We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and pleasing to Him in every way: bearing good fruit in every work, growing in knowledge of God, being strengthened in all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience and, giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light” Colossians 1:9-12
There is so much packed into every sentence in Colossians – someone could write a sermon on any tiny part of these verses. But let’s pick it apart a little bit – this is the prayer that Paul had for the Church:
That God would fill you with the knowledge of His will:
This word, in the Greek, is epignosin – it’s a recognition and an experiential knowledge of a person – knowledge that comes from first-hand experience of them. It’s the kind of knowledge that you can only get through spending time with someone (like you know your best friend): you can’t think your way into understanding someone like this. It’s the knowledge that we gain through relationship – Paul was praying that the Spirit would give the believers an understanding of who God was, in the time that they spent seeking Him.
So that you might live a life worthy of the Lord, and pleasing to Him in every way:
This is the result of an understanding of who God is: we can only be drawn closer to Him. It’s what obedience really means – obedience to God isn’t about following rules so that we might be pleasing to Him – it’s about living in relationship with our best friend, doing things with and for Him, knowing that we are pleasing to Him. This is the kind of life that Paul is praying for, for the believers in Colossae – and it’s the kind of life that I would love to see for you.
Here’s the thing about an obedient life: We can’t stir ourselves up to be more obedient, and more pleasing to God. In 1 Thessalonians 1:3, Paul says this: “We remember before out God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” – in other words: work, labour and endurance come from faith, hope and love. If we grow in faith, hope and love, it will affect our entire life, and this is why Paul is praying for the believers to have a greater knowledge of who He is.
And this is the fruit of a life that is worthy to the Lord:
We bear good fruit in every work, we grow in the knowledge of God, and we are strengthened in all power, so that we can have great endurance and patience. This is the hope that Paul has for the believers – and it is a life that is so, so accessible to us, too.
Colossians 1 is an encouragement: Paul has heard of the faith and love that the believers have, which has come from an experiential knowledge of God: and this is spreading throughout the world. So, he continues to pray for them, that this chain of events might continue to take effect in their lives.