Mystery of Christ in Colossians: Knowing the Will of God

When I was a young child, my mom would sit me next to her on our couch and "read" to me from our family Bible.  You know the one:  leather, thick, heavy with gold-gilded edges and red and black print. I knew this was an important book, because it had pages that recorded births, baptisms, marriages, and deaths of family members.  But more than that, I knew it was important because of the full-page, glossy, color "holy pictures."  I remember how Mommy would tell me "God's stories" from God's book using those beautiful pictures.

It was during those times, that I fell in love with God and Jesus and heaven and spiritual things...and something else...the Will of God!  My mom would constantly say that the most important thing in life was to do the Will of God.  So this became my my mantra, at a very early age -- to do the Will of God!

What a mysterious thing, the Will of God!  MY journey (and at times, search) took me through obeying the rules of my church (as God's will), to several years in a convent (believing it was the best thing to do for love of God), to searching the Scriptures to see what GOD (not man) said, to exchanging one to do list for another until finally the burden was so hard and heavy, I gave up!  Really!

And you know what?  That's when I discovered the True Will of God...Christ Jesus my Lord -- WHO He is and WHAT He has done!  Oh, I already knew Him...but I needed to KNOW Him truly!  And in knowing HIM truly, I came to realize that HE is the Will of God!

If you've been following along with us in the letter to the Colossians, you've discovered the heart of Paul's prayer in the first chapter.  His main request is that the believers would be filled with (be controlled by and absorbed with) a true, deep, accurate knowledge of God's Will:

We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives... Col 1:9 NIV

This Will of God is a much bigger thing than what we think.  We usually assume it refers to what we do today or tomorrow, who we marry, where we go on vacation, what car we should buy, etc.  Now these all may be affected by our knowing the Will of God.

But primarily the Will of God has to do with His good pleasure in His Son Jesus Christ and the Father's Plan carried out in and through HIM!  That's good news, because it's all about HIM!  I reap the benefits, but I'm I also empowered (through His indwelling) to make my choices according to this HUGE, AWESOME WILL of GOD!  What a privilege to be part of something bigger than myself!

OK, you say...chapter and verse, please!  The cool thing is that Paul wrote another letter to a church not far from Colossae.  In fact, he wrote it at the same time and sent it by the same messenger.  So we would naturally assume Paul would have the same thing in mind when he wrote to the church in Ephesus,

With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment —to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. Ephesians 1:8-10 NIV

That's it!  His pleasure and purpose in Christ!  Did you notice as you read and looked for the references to prayer in Colossians, that Paul wasn't the only one who prayed this way.  Paul says of Epaphras, the young pastor of the Colossian church,

He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. Col 4:12 NIV

Why did Paul and Epaphras pray for the believers to really "get it" about God's Will in Christ?  Paul prays on... that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with 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. Col 1:10-12 NIV

Paul knew that getting it about Christ is the only paradigm that can produce a God-pleasing, fruitful Christian walkNo Christian "to do list" can produce this!  It's a work of illumination/revelation by the Spirit of God.  Thus Paul's prayer!

And so, dear friends, when we pray for ourselves or for someone we love, why not start out with the heart of all prayer?  Our deepest need is to be filled with (and so controlled by) a true, heart knowledge of God's Will in the Person and Work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This absorption, this getting it about Christ will then have an explosive and expulsive effect*-- changing our thinking, our attitudes, our affections, our choices, and thus our behavior.  And it will result in a life worthy of and pleasing to the Lord!


A challenge for those who want to go deeper:

Read this sermon by Thomas Chalmers (19th century):  The Expulsive Power of a New Affection This is really long, and it's not for the faint of heart.  But it's right on target!

Here's a short synopsis:

The best way of casting out an impure affection is to admit a pure one; and by the love of what is good, to expel the love of what is evil. We know of no other way by which to keep the love of the world out of our heart, than to keep in our hearts the love of God - and no other way by which to keep our hearts in the love of God, than building ourselves up on our most holy faith. Dr Ray Pritchard