“For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Col. 1:9).
GOD’S WILL FOR TODAY
Now beloved, we must have this clearly in mind as we study this passage in the first chapter of the Colossian letter. Every true spiritual believer will heartily desire to know, and do, the will of God. It is my earnest prayer that you may indeed “be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.”
Sad to say, however, the vast majority of believers reading this passage in Colossians One think only in terms of God’s will for their lives in their particular circumstances.
For example, a young Christian asks: “What is God’s will for my life? Should I go into the ministry or become a missionary? And if a missionary, should I go to China, Africa or India? Or would God have me stay in business and help to finance His work?” But while the young man is so concerned about God’s will for the details of his life, he is woefully ignorant of GOD’S WILL, i.e., what it is God wants done. The emphasis is put upon himself, rather than upon God and His great plan for the present dispensation.
So, I beg of you my dear friend, don’t misunderstand this passage, when Paul prays for the Colossians, and he certainly would pray for us, “that [we] might be filled with the knowledge of [God’s] will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.”
Colossians 1:9 does not refer to God’s will then in a given situation, but to His long hidden purpose and program as revealed in the Pauline Epistles. He rightly holds us responsible to learn what this is:
“Having made known unto us THE MYSTERY OF HIS WILL, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself” (Eph. 1:9).
“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
“Redeeming [buying up] the time, because the days are evil.
“WHEREFORE BE YE NOT UNWISE, BUT UNDERSTANDING WHAT THE WILL OF THE LORD IS” (Eph. 5:15-17).
Sadly, the majority of God’s people seem to think that His will should accommodate itself to their fluctuating experiences. When they are in the depths of despair and do not know where to turn, they cry to the Lord to show them His will. When on the mountaintop, maybe called upon to choose between two attractive alternatives, they ask the Lord again to show them His will. And if you draw a line to illustrate it, part of it would be way down and then the graph would go way up, of course. But all the while they neglect to inquire about His objective, or to learn how they may fit into His plan and purpose. This purpose is clearly defined for us in the Epistles of Paul. It runs straight as an arrow and we should conform ourselves to it.
Now God is interested—I don’t want you to misunderstand me—He is very interested in whatever concerns us. And He would have us look to Him for guidance in every detail of our lives. But let us put the emphasis where it belongs. If a man is ignorant of the will and purpose of God, what good is it to inquire whether he should enter the ministry or go to Africa or China? He will do as much harm as good wherever he goes. On the other hand, one who does have an intelligent understanding of the will of God and has been gripped by it will have little danger of remaining unused in the Lord’s service.
If we would be in the center of God’s will, then, we must come to a knowledge and an appreciation of the great secret revealed through Paul for us today. This alone can give us a true sense of our place in God’s program, broadening and balancing our spiritual experience.
Let us then labor fervently in prayer, as Epaphras did for the saints at Colosse, that we might “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Col. 4:12).
Now in seeking to determine God’s will in the particular circumstances of life, the truly spiritual believer will take little heed to the very things that others think are so decisive. He will never depend on “getting the mind of God through prayer”; hoping for “inner promptings”—as one writer put it, “Not a voice, but an impression.” Nor will he go to the “promise box” and flip his Bible open at random to learn God’s will. If for no other reason, simply because he limits God to the particular promises in the box.
No, no, such an one will look for guidance in answer to prayer, to be sure, but he’ll do this by prayerfully using his God-given faculties in the light of the written Word, “rightly divided.”
Beloved, God has given us hands to work with, hearts to love with, and minds to think with, and He expects us to use them all to His glory. Hence, in any given situation we should use the common sense that He’s given us in the light of His Word.
Naturally, this affects our wills, too, and our prayer lives, but here again a knowledge of the Mystery broadens us and establishes us, as we lose our wills in His.
We no longer confuse “this present evil age” with the kingdom which our Lord proclaimed and in connection with which He said: “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Matt. 21:22). Under the present circumstances it is a good thing that we do not receive “whatsoever” we ask, even in faith, for we read in Romans 8:26 that “we know not what we should pray for as we ought.” The same passage, however, goes on to tell us what we do know:
“And we know that all things work [Lit. “are being worked”] together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
When we exercise the deepest, most implicit faith in God, we will not insist that He grant our desires, but will place ourselves unreservedly in His care and keeping, fully assured that he will work all out for our good. Thus the apostle exhorts us:
“Be careful [anxious] for nothing: but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil. 4:6).
“And….” And what? “And you will receive what you ask for?” No! Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, whatever the circumstances, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God,
“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7).
It may be necessary for your own good that He withhold what you have asked for, but sustained by a sense of His love and grace you will not crack or go to pieces, for having talked to Him about it and left it with him, His peace—the peace that passes human understanding—will keep, or garrison, your heart and mind through Christ Jesus.
There is something more blessed, then, than merely getting what we ask for in prayer. It is spoken of again by the Apostle Paul, in Ephesians 3:20,21.
“Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
“Unto Him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.”
GOD’S WILL FOR YOU
Now this holds good even with regard to calls to special service for Christ; whether to the pastorate, the mission field, or any other branch of the work. The truly spiritual child of God will not look for, or depend upon, some overwhelming emotional experience as an indication that God has called him to the ministry.
Much less will he expect what so many have called a Macedonian vision, for he will have learned that Paul’s call to Macedonia in Acts 16:9-10 is the last such call recorded in Scripture, and that it belongs with the signs of a past dispensation.
First, all believers are called to make known what Paul calls “the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the Mystery” (Rom. 16:25). The written Word of God, together with the appalling need all about us, constitutes an urgent call to this ministry.
Now, all are not meant to minister in the same capacity. Some may accomplish much more for Christ in business than they could as pastors or missionaries. So here the particular qualifications of the individual and the particular ministry to which he is best suited are involved.
There is no room for superstition in such matters, beloved. These matters are too important. It is rather for each individual to ask God for light from the Word and for wisdom to consider the need, the circumstances, and his own talents objectively, praying for an open door to that field of service where he can accomplish most for his Lord.
The infinite importance of understanding God’s will can be better appreciated if we consider that we are now living in the tense moments between man’s declaration of war on God, and God’s counter-declaration of war on man, so that there is no time to lose in winning men to Christ. True, man made his declaration of war long ago, but still these moments are just added one after another. God has given us no promise that He won’t close the day of grace at any time.
So the apostle “begs” the unsaved “not to receive the grace of God in vain.” He says, “Behold, now is the accepted time, behold, now is the day of salvation” (II Cor. 6:1,2).
In the light of this, how we should pray for ourselves and for our fellow believers “that [we] may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Col. 4:12).
I hope this has helped you to understand what the apostle means when he says,
“[I] do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of [God’s] will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Col. 1:9).
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