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Jul 16, 2017

Knowing, Doing & Being God's Will

Knowing, Doing & Being God

Passage: Colossians 1:9-14

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Colossians

Keywords: prayer, results, will of god, wisdom

Summary:

This passage deals with praying for God's will, how to discern it and what the fruits of doing God's will is in any Christ-follower's life.

Detail:

Knowing, Doing & Being God’s Will

Colossians 1:9-14

June 16, 2017

 

COMMUNION:  We’re going to start our study of God’s Word today from the back end of the paragraph we’re looking at today in Colossians 1:12-14.  It gives us 5 benefits that God gifts to all His children.  They are “freebees” just for being His kids.  And they have a whole lot to do with our experience of the Lord’s Supper today. 

  1. He qualified us to share in everything we will “inherit” in Christ. (vs. 12) Ever wished you’d been born into a rich family and would inherit a boatload of money?  Money often ruins people, especially those who haven’t worked for it.  But “inheriting” all God is and has never ruined anyone. 
  2. He rescued us from Satan’s dominion of darkness (vs. 13). What kind of darkness has God rescued you from? Even though I became a child of God at 8 years of age, I know I’ve been rescued from some horrible bondage/addictions/ temptations/weaknesses.  (Depression, drivenness, suicide, lust, bitterness, worry, rage, personal ambition, controlling others, etc.)
  3. He brought us into His eternal kingdom of the light of Christ (vs. 13). What kind of “light” has God turned on in your life?  (Happiness, joy, gratitude, purpose, meaning, peace, love, blessing, etc.)
  4. He redeemed us/bought us out of sin and judgment (vs. 14). By substituting a greater servant [Christ] for a lesser, deeply flawed rebel [us], He purchased us with His own blood/life (Rev. 5:9).  Ever known what it is like to be so in debt that you will never be free?  Ever known prison?  Hopelessness because you messed up SO badly?  Jesus’ life and death was God’s “payment” for YOU!  How should that make us feel taking communion?  (God is passing us a copy of that enormous ‘check’ that was cashed to purchase us.)
  5. He forgave us all our sins (vs. 14). Think of 5 personal sins that you are glad you will not have to have to answer for when you stand before God. 

Morning Greeting: 

  • Name 1 issue in your life in which you’re not sure just what the will of God is and would like to have Him reveal it to you.
  • Name 1 issue in which you are certain of God’s will and you are enjoying doing it.
  • Think of 1 issue in your life in which you know God’s will but are having a struggle actually doing it consistently.

When I was in my teens and 20s, discerning God’s will in some pretty big areas of life seemed to often fill my prayer life.

  • What college should I go to?
  • What subject should I major in?
  • What career should I train for?
  • What woman should I date…and eventually marry?
  • What job/ministry opportunity should I take?
  • What country should we serve in?
  • How many children should we have?
  • How should we raise them?
  • What neighborhood/house should we live in?
  • What lifestyle should we adopt?
  • How should I lead a church?

The older I get, the easier it seems in some ways to discern God’s will for my life. That is, hopefully, because I know God’s Word better and therefore His will better.  It may also be because I know myself better and am able to weed out what looked like possible options earlier.  It is also probably because life options and choices are diminishing right along with my diminishing strength and increasing age! 

But I never have ceased to need to discern God’s will in any given day so that I can live it well to the glory of God. 

The Bible actually has a lot to say about discerning God’s will.  And today’s passage is one of those texts where God is pretty explicit about what His will is AND, even more so, what the fruits or results of doing God’s will will actually look like.

But to start us off today making sure that we each are thinking seriously about just how to apply God’s truth to our own lives, I’d like each of us to write down 2 issues in life in which you would like to know and do God’s will. 

1.) _________________________________________________

2.) _________________________________________________

PRAY

So let’s READ this paragraph in Colossians 1:9-14.

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 being 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.

            Do you ever feel like Paul’s writings are sometimes a little difficult to understand?  Well, you’re in good company.  Even the great Apostle Peter felt the same way and said so in 2nd Peter 3:16.  He wrote, “[Paul] writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters [the return of Christ].  His letters contain some things that are hard to understand….”  No kidding!!! 

            Not only are most of the truths Paul deals with as big as god himself; the grammar he uses is pretty long and drawn out.  Take this paragraph for example.  Just how many periods are there in these 5 verses?  (None in the Greek since they didn’t use punctuation…but most Greek scholars put just 1.  Depending on your English version, it may be just 1 or at most 2 or 3.)

For people who live in a culture of sound-bites and nanosecond attention spans, this can be a little hard to dissect.  But let me assure you that it really isn’t all that hard if you break it apart. 

Part 1:  What KIND of prayer is Paul praying here?  He just finished telling us about his prayers of thanksgiving for this church and its people.  But now he is switching to a different kind of praying:  requests or intercession; asking something of God.  So the nature of his prayer is a petition. 

APP:  I’ve actually met some people who think you shouldn’t ask God for anything.  Since He knows what we need all the time, they just figure God will give you what you need without asking.  That isn’t biblical nor spiritual.  If you want to have a genuine, personal and even intimate relationship with someone, you’ve got to share with them what you are thinking and feeling and what you are hoping they will do in response to that.  So don’t hesitate to talk with God about what you want Him to do in your life and others. 

Most of us are probably on the other end of the spectrum, however.  We’re like the little kid who just keeps muttering “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” as fast as he can just to get something they want right NOW!  Those folks need to learn to begin their praying with lots of praise and thanksgiving first.

I’ve been in lots of prayer gatherings where the leader’s instruction was pretty clear that they just wanted us to spend time being grateful in God’s presence.  But it would often not even take 60 seconds before someone was asking or petitioning God for something rather than just being grateful for who God is and what He had done. 

Balanced conversation with God is always in order.  That should include grateful thanks as well as sincere asking. 

Next let’s go to the CONTENT of the request: “… asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will….” 

Look at the 2 items I asked you to write down a few moments ago.  If God showed up today and told you exactly what His will was for those items, how much would it change your life?  Depending on HOW BIG that item is, it could change your life majorly.  And, depending on WHAT God’s answer was, it could also change your life majorly.

EX:  If you are asking God, “Where should I live for the next 5 years?” and He answers, “Afghanistan,” that could change your life significantly. J  If, on the other hand, he answered, “Right where you are, it may require a lot less change but still more growth on your part…depending on how well you like where you are living right now.  J

TRUTH:  Knowing God’s will just may make life a lot more difficult!  So be careful what you ask. 

            James 1:5 has something very important to tell us about asking for wisdom. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who give generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”  So far so good.  “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt…”  And James goes on to explain that if you waver in your commitment to doing God’s will when he reveals it, don’t expect God to give you the answer.  There are times when God’s wisdom won’t be what you really want to hear.  I’m not saying that God just likes to mess with us and ask us to do things we hate doing or aren’t naturally drawn to.  But sometimes His wisdom runs counter to our wishes. 

APP:  So take a look at those two items you wrote down that you’d like to know God’s will, His wisdom, about.  Are you ready to embrace an answer that might not be on your radar?  Something that may be more difficult than you anticipate? 

            On the other hand, here are a couple of things I believe I’ve learned through the years about God’s will:

1.)  God gives us a lot more freedom to choose than we are comfortable with.  Put another way, God can and will work through a multitude of choice-options, all of which may be “in His will.”  For example, live in city “X” or live in city “Y”, God will work with either choice and put us around the people and into the experiences He wants us to have that He knows we will need to grow in ways he wants us to grow. 

2.)  God constructs each of us with certain personalities, certain longings, certain desires and even wishes that He intends for us to listen to and use to help guide us into specific decisions or avenues that are well-suited for who we were made to be. 

EX:  For example, you are probably sitting next to someone who has very different drives and desires from you.  They may want to build a better mousetrap.  You, you don’t want to even talk about mice.  They may really enjoy working alone.  You may wish the chairs were closer today! 

            The challenge comes, of course, in knowing when our personal preference are something God has given us to help us with decision making and when our flesh or old nature is using a personal desire to keep us from doing something greater God may be asking us to do. 

            So HOW do you know the difference?  That is where we need to be “filled with the knowledge of God’s will.”  That is where we need the God of all wisdom to share with us His wisdom …even when He may not choose to share the REASON/WHY of what he is asking of us.

ILL:  My mother in her later years.  She lived to be 94.  She buried her husband of 67 years and literally almost all of her friends of 94 years.  She was alone much of those last few years. 

She would sometimes say, “I don’t know why God still has me here on earth.”  And she longed to be in heaven with Christ and my wonderful father.  But God’s will was for her to live to 94.  So she submitted to that and continued to grow in the grace of our Lord until the day she died. 

In fact, I think we as her children saw more change in her character—more peace, more patience, more love, kindness and gentleness—than we had ever seen in any period of her life.  She wasn’t speaking to lots of women and leading many of them to Christ like she had for years before.  She wasn’t teaching Bible studies or discipling women like she had for years.  But she was growing in the “knowledge of God’s will.”

And I think she was doing probably some of the most important work of her life—praying for her children and grandchildren every day, modeling how to grow old gracefully and how to handle loneliness and suffering.  We all need models and God gave me and my siblings and our families a great one in those last difficult years of her life. 

APP:  So, you want to know how to pray for yourself and for others?  Pray that you and they will be “filled with the knowledge of [God’s] will. 

Next Paul tells us the MEANS by which we know God’s will: “…in all spiritual wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives….”

How many different kinds of “wisdom” are there in this world?  More than there are people.  Our world is filled with worldly wisdom for just about any topic you can imagine.  What’s its wisdom when it comes to…

  • Money?
  • Sex?
  • Education?
  • Family?
  • Marriage?
  • Human nature?

Obviously, all wisdom is not created equally.  This is why every one of us desperately needs God to reveal His wisdom and our hearts to embrace His wisdom. 

            So let me ask you, what are the chief ways God’s wisdom is revealed to us today? 

1.)  His Word, the Bible, correctly interpreted and applied.

2.)  …and APPLIED to our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

3.) Wise/wiser people God has put in our lives.

EX:  If you are a toddler, WHO has got put in your life to speak (spank?) wisdom into your life?  [Parents and close relatives.]

Teens?  [Parents, relatives, mentors, teachers, coaches…maybe a few very rare peers.]

Adults?  [Godly friends, wise sages, people who know and love you well, pastors, counselors, spouses, children, etc.]

Most of us fail, not for lack of God revealing His wisdom, but for failure on our part to either really ask and wait for God to share His wisdom with us (via any of the means above) OR our unwillingness to actually embrace God’s already-revealed wisdom in His Word. 

So, let’s STOP for a moment and open this up for QUESTIONS.  If you’ve got a question about discerning God’s will, chances are, so do a dozen other people here today.  So let’s share a little wisdom here today for a few minutes and then we can all ask the Holy Spirit to give us good discernment as to whether or not what I or someone else shares is actually godly wisdom. 

The middle section of this passage isn’t so much a treatment about HOW to discover God’s will or WHAT it is.  It’s a statement about the RESULTS of being a person filled with God’s wisdom.  It’s really about the FRUIT of real wisdom.  And Paul give us 4 characteristics of a life that is “worthy of the Lord” and seeks to please Him in everything, (vs. 10).  For those of you who love grammar, those 4 characteristics are indicated by the presence of 4 present participles (compound verb forms).  In this case, they all end with –ing, (bearing, growing, being, & giving). 

            So WHAT is going to be the result, the evidence in our lives when we are truly “filled with God’s wisdom”?  That’s what vss. 10-12 are all about.

1.)  “…bearing fruit in every good work…”

What does it mean to have a life that “bears fruit” spiritually in “every [kind of] good work”? 

ILL:  Marianne Rodriguez—She passed away late last week.  I’ve been hearing different stories from different people all week long about what a blessing she was to them.  Yesterday at Changing Lives people shared how they had been blessed by her.  She was a modern-day Dorcas.  [See Acts 9:36ff-- 36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. 37 About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. 38 Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples 

heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!”

39 Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.]

Q:  How many of you were impacted by her “good works”? 

What were those “good works?”

            Aren’t “every kind of good works” simply those things we do in the Spirit that Jesus would want to do in this world?  It might be things like…

  • …working a steady job or 2 or 3 jobs (as Marianne did) to make enough money to pay the bills and have something to bless others with.
  • … cooking a meal and taking it to feed people at the Mosaic Community Bike Shop (like Coleen does).
  • …leading a weekly Bible study at a senior center up the street (like Alfred has done every week for several years).
  • …praying with someone who is discouraged.
  • …listening to someone who is lonely.
  • …taking someone shopping (for some that is a labor of love while for others it may be a cake-walk).
  • …sharing the Gospel of Christ with a neighbor over coffee or a meal.
  • …cleaning the basement so YFC can bring kids in and lead them to Jesus.

Asking WWJD is a legitimate question to ask in every human encounter with people we have.  What we DO with life speaks about how much Jesus actually has of our life.  Living in Christ is also DOING in Christ. 

#2)  The next present participle gives us another one of the arenas of our life that must be shaped by the life of Christ:  (vs. 10)

“…increasing in the knowledge of God….”  In order to DO the right things in life and do them the right way, we must KNOW both in our minds as well as our hearts WHAT God’s will for life is.  The Greek word here is a word that also means a relational “knowledge”—to know something or someone experientially. 

            So how do we “increase in our knowledge of God?” 

  • Knowing His will (through all the ways we talked about, primarily His word, but also taking in solid Bible teaching, Bible studies and good books).
  • Knowing the leading of the Holy Spirit.
  • Listening to the wisdom and counsel of godly people.
  • Walking with God through life’s joys and sorrows, blessings and breakings.
  • Practicing spiritual disciplines of prayer, rest, serving, giving, memorizing & meditating on the Word, fasting from things, from noise, from people, worship of God, submission to people, etc.

CHALLENGE:  Just read the Bible 5 minutes/day!

APP:  So what are you doing on a regular basis to grow in your understanding of and experience with God?  What are you doing to “renew your mind” in God’s truth?  What are you practicing regularly that helps you connect with God experientially? 

PAUSE & PRAY asking God to speak to you about one thing He would like you to do this week that will help you “increase in your knowledge of God.” 

#3.)  11 being strengthened [empowered] with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy;

            There is a little play on words going on here in the original Greek.  “Being empowered with all power….”  (Gk: dunamoumenoi  en pase dunamei). 

Q:        What is the measure of this power and empowering God is talking about here? 

A:        God himself!  His own “glorious might.”  Think billions of nuclear suns like ours.  Think billions of galaxies across the massive span of the universe.  Think the power of an earthquake… or Mount St. Helens…or a raging river…then multiply by trillions…and we’re still not in the ballpark of God’s “glorious might.” 

Q:        And what is the purpose or need for all this power?  Not so you can go out and do a bunch of miracles.  Not so you can go out and build a big ministry or personal kingdom based on healings.  Not so you can go out and even save our nation. 

            Paul says, “for all endurance and patience with joy….” 

  • Do we need endurance when we’ve been healed miraculously? No
  • Do we need patience when we’re getting everything we want when we want it?

We need endurance and patience when things aren’t working out like we want them to. 

We need it when life is hard and painful. 

We need that amazing power of God when the money is short or non-existent, when the kids are sick or the boss is horrible. 

We need endurance and patience when there seems to be no way out or through or over things. 

And if it is God’s endurance, we need it with joy!  That takes maybe more power than God expends sustaining a million suns! J  Only God can give joy when your body is wasting away, when people are picking on you, or when what you’ve been praying for delays for decades. 

            Our God is a patient, persevering and joy-filled God.  So if we’re getting to know Him in this life, some of that is going to rub off on us. 

ILL:  Amy Carmichael—single missionary who ministered for years in India. She grew up in England, the daughter of a wealthy flour mill owner…until his business encountered trouble and her father worried himself into the grave.  She continue to attend a well-to-do church.  But God grew in her a compassion for the poor.  She eventually moved to a very poor part of town and worked with people called “Shawlies” because they didn’t have enough money to buy hats and instead used their shawls to cover their heads in winter.  She suffered from illness that required her to take days in bed.   

Eventually she heard God’s call to move to India and moved there in 1895, never to return to England.  She spent the next 56 years in India until her death in 1951. 

This woman who believed God wanted her to stay single and childless ended up establishing homes for hundreds girls who had been sex-trafficked into Hindu temples.  She risked her life confronting men, a culture and a political environment that didn’t want to even acknowledge this practice was going on. 

            Amy had a bad fall in 1931 (age 64), which restricted her movement. She stayed in her room, often bedridden, writing and studying. She often quoted Julian of Norwich when she wrote of suffering and patience. Many of her over 40 books have stories of Dohnavur children, interspersed with scripture, verses, and photographs of the children or nature. She never directly asked for funding, but the mission continued to be supported through donations.

            It takes the power of God at work in a person’s life to do that.  And God still wants to keep doing that today!

APP:  What do you need to endure with patience and joy in your life right now?  How about changing your prayers about that?

Also, WHO do you know in God’s family who needs your prayers to endure something with patience and joy? 

            [PRAY for them right now.]

#4.)  12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 

So were back to where we started with Communion this morning.

God’s will for us is not only patient perseverance with joy; its’ grateful thanksgiving to our Heavenly Father for what he has done in rescuing us from sin and showering us with his gifts in eternity. 

STORY:  Years ago, Northwestern University in Chicago had a lifesaving team that assisted passengers on Lake Michigan boats.  On September 8, 1860, the steamship Lady Elgin with some 400 passengers, was accidentally rammed by a schooner in the middle of the night in gale-force winds on Lake Michigan.  For hours in the raging storm, survivors clung to whatever pieces of debris they could find. 

When morning came, those who were still alive tried to reach the nearby shore.  Most who did were either dashed against the rocky shoreline and killed or pulled under and drowned by the severe undertow.  287 people lost their lives that day in Lake Michigan.  It was the worst maritime disaster in history on the lake.

But near Northwestern University’s campus, a ministerial student named Edward Spencer enlisted the help of some classmates at 7:00 a.m. that morning when people began realizing what had happend.  He had a rope tied to himself and held at the other end by his friends.  Repeatedly he would launch himself into the gale-force waves, swim out to a victim, and be pulled ashore.  For 6 hours he continued his rescue effort, saving 17 people.  Bloodied and bruised by the rocks and waves, he finally collapsed early in the afternoon and was taken to his dorm room at the University.  When he awoke in Evanston the next day, his first words to his brother, Will, were, "Will, did I do my full duty -- did I do my best?"  Later a hymn called Have I Done My Best For Jesus was penned from his words. 

As a result of his sacrifice, he was left an invalid for the rest of his life, unable to continue his preparation for the ministry as a Methodist pastor.  He and his wife moved to a fruit farm near Burbank, CA where he eked out a living. 

Near the end of his 83-year old life, when asked what some of his most vivid memories were of that experience, he lowered his white head, thought for a moment, and then said, “The fact that not one of those 17 returned to thank me.”  Yet his love for people had cost him a lifetime of suffering.  [Quoted by R. Kent Hughes in his commentary on Colossians, p. 27.  See also the Chicago Tribune, Sept. 4, 1960, pp. 9-11.]

            There is something very ugly and un-Christ-like about ingratitude.  Gratitude must be cultivated.  That’s why it’s a sign of a person who has come to understand that knowing and doing God’s will actually changes a person’s character.  Gratitude isn’t something you just “do.”  Being grateful and thankful is something you actually become in Christ.  Ungrateful people are ungodly people. 

 

This text clearly demonstrates that living in Christ encompasses all 3 arenas of genuine life in Christ:  KNOWING the life of Christ, DOING what Jesus does, and BEING what Christ is to God and other.

            And this is what we should be PRAYING for each other and any brother or sister God brings to mind anytime.

STORY:  Back in the late 1920s, a young missionary named Raymond Edman staggered in to a medical clinic from an Ecuadorian jungle where he worked with the Quichua Indians.  He was desperately ill. “He’ll be dead by morning,” predicted the doctor. So Edman’s wife dyed her wedding dress black, so it would be ready for the funeral.  (The tropics require immediate burials for obvious reasons.) 

            Thousands of miles away in Boston, Edman’s friend, Dr. Joseph Evans, interrupted a prayer meeting, saying, “I feel we must pray for Ray Edman in Ecuador.”  The group prayed earnestly until finally Evans called out, “Praise the Lord!  The victory is won!” 

            The rest is history.  Raymond Edman recovered, but his wife’s dress did not!  Edman went on to return to the U.S., get his doctorate in International Relations and become a Professor as well as the 4th President of Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL. 

            God moves us to pray for people, especially His people, who need our prayers not only for physical protection and healing but more frequently for spiritual growth, transformation and spiritual understanding and wisdom.  Let’s make this kind of praying a regular part of our prayers for each other. 

  • Parents, pray this for your children, no matter what their age.
  • Saints, let’s pray this for each other.
  • Brothers and sisters, let’s make praying a central part of what we DO as a church. Prayer is not easy.  It’s not flashy.  It’s not particularly entertaining.  But it is the way God has chosen to grow His people and transform His church.  So come join prayer on Wed. nights…or Thursday mornings.  Let’s become a church that perseveres in prayer for the knowledge and wisdom from God that we need.