Sermon for Sunday July 14th, 2019, the Fourth Sunday after Trinity

 

The Lessons: Psalm 82; Amos 7:7-17; Colossians 1:1-14; Luke 10:25-37

The Text: Colossians 1:9-11

The Topic: A Prayer for the Spiritual Growth of Christians

INTRODUCTION

Steve Sample gives this account of a conversation with a colleague:

In the spring of 1970, when I was twenty-nine, I learned I had won a fellowship from the American Council on Education, which would allow me to serve an administrative internship with Purdue University President Fred Hovde for the 1970 – 71 academic year. I was elated by the opportunity. Despite having only recently been awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor of electrical engineering at Purdue, I was already leaning toward a career in administration. . . .

Soon after the award was announced, I happened to bump into a colleague, Vern Newhouse, who was a highly respected senior member of the electrical engineering faculty. “So, Sample,” Newhouse said to me, “I see you’ve won some sort of administrative fellowship in the president’s office.”

“Yes, that’s true,” I said.

“And you’ll be learning how to become an administrator?”

“I suppose so.”

“And then you’ll probably want to be president of a university somewhere down the road?”

“Well, I don’t know. I guess I’ve thought about it now and then,” I said, somewhat disingenuously.

He smiled and said, “Personally, I’ve never had any ambition whatsoever to be an administrator. I am totally inept at managing things. . . . But I’ve been a careful observer of ambitious men all my life. And here, for what it’s worth, is what I’ve learned: many men want to be president, but very few want to do president.” And with that he wished me well and walked away.

— Steve Sample, The Contrarian’s Guide
to Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 2002) [1]

Today, in considering the necessity of knowing God’s will so as to do it, we take a closer look at St. Paul’s prayer for the Colossians, as we find it in our Second Lesson/Epistle. The good virtues that St. Paul had heard the Colossians practiced led him to pray without ceasing that they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding (Col. 1:9c). The purpose of this is that they may live worthily of the Lord so as to please him fully and bear fruit in every good deed, as they grow in the knowledge of God and are strengthened by God’s power and grace to the fullest extent of patience and endurance (Col. 1:10-11). This will also be accompanied by their joy and thanksgiving to the Lord for the share He has given them among the saints, as well as for their deliverance from the power of darkness and for the forgiveness of their sins (Col. 1:12-14).

A PRAYER FOR GODLY LIVING: COLOSSIANS 1:9-11

St. Paul’s prayer for the Colossian Christians is not a prayer that they will be filled with a theoretical knowledge of God’s will leading them to occupy a certain place in the divine order or hierarchy of beings, as Gnostics would later seek. It is not the status of having the knowledge of God which is in view here, but having the knowledge of God’s will in order to live a life that fully pleases God. It is thus a very practical knowledge, spiritual understanding and wisdom, which guide a Christian in his daily life.

In this day and age, it is precisely the knowledge of God’s will in full wisdom and spiritual understanding (Col. 1:9) that are necessary and helpful in setting the priorities for our lives. Young people have all kinds of goals for their careers and their lives, and at any stage of life, people may have different things they want to do or places where they want to go. Yet Christians must always ask themselves, “What is God’s perfect will for my life? How shall I live so as to please God as best I can?” The prayer that Christians be filled with the knowledge of God’s will and be given full wisdom and understanding is a very important and practical one. It is really a prayer also for all believers to come to a deep communion with God in the Lord Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, so that God may share with them his perfect will for their lives, that they may know it and follow it devotedly.

The purpose of such knowledge of God’s will is shown in Col. 1:10-12, in which the Christian way of life is highlighted, a way of life which is worthy of the Lord, and pleases him in every way, as we bear the fruit of good deeds and grow in the knowledge of God, while being strengthened with all might by God’s power for all endurance and patience. All this is in keeping with the words of Thomas à Kempis:

The more you know and the better you understand, the more severely will you be judged, unless your life is also the more holy.

 

– p.3, A. Croft & H.F. Bolton (Translators): Thomas à Kempis: The Imitation of Christ. Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company, 1962.

This is an insight that is easily forgotten or disregarded. All knowledge of the Bible, Christian doctrine, and the Christian faith, must direct our actions and behavior.

THE RESULTS OF KNOWING GOD’S WILL

The results of being filled with the full knowledge of the will of God for our lives are as follows:

1. We live lives that are worthy of the Lord and pleasing to him;

2. We bear the fruit of good deeds which God has called us to do;

3. Our knowledge of God increases;

4. God strengthens us by his might and power to endure trials of our faith and be patient;

5. This all leads us to rejoice in God and to give thanks to God that he has given us with all God’s saints an eternal inheritance.

CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION

Since we are given this assurance of the effects of knowing and doing God’s will, let us eagerly deepen our communion with God, and endeavor to find out his perfect will for our lives, so that we may do his will and grow in every virtue that His Holy Spirit desires to produce in our lives!



[1] p. 527, Craig Brian Larson & Phyllis Ten Elshof (General Editors): 1001 Illustrations that Connect. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, Christianity Today International, 2008.

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