By Dr. Jerry Rankin
“We have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” Colossians 1:9
Who has not at some time prayed to know God’s will. Perhaps it was as a student seeking divine direction for a vocational choice or someone struggling with a sense of call to missions or ministry. Throughout life we pray for a knowledge of God’s will as we make decisions or have to choose between two courses of action. Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1:9-12 was that his readers would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will.
This was an unceasing prayer which implied we need to be spiritually sensitive to God’s will at all times, not just in moments of decision-making. But if we are to know God’s will, it is necessary to have spiritual wisdom and understanding. The things of God are not determined by worldly values; one doesn’t simply make a list of the pro and con to discern preferred actions. We can be filled with the knowledge of God’s will only when we are submissive to God’s Spirit, allowing Him to give us understanding of the spiritual implications of His will.
There are reasons God wants us, not to just discern His will from time to time, but to be filled with the knowledge of His will. It is so that we will “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” (verse 10). That is talking about a constant lifestyle of “pleasing Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” When counseling someone who wants to know God’s will for their life, I often say that I can tell them. Incredulously they ask what it is. My reply, “God’s will is that you live a holy life consecrated to Him, His will is that you witness to others and always do good deeds.” That is not the answer they are usually looking for, but after all, is that not God’s will?
Another reason Paul prayed that they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will was so that they would be “strengthened with all power according to His glorious might” (verse 11). It is interesting the way Paul describes this power. It is not manifested in miracles or signs and wonders but in “attaining of all steadfastness and patience.” Wouldn’t you agree that we need God’s power in order to be patient and steadfast; that doesn’t come easily in the hectic pace of modern life with all its demands and trials.
And finally, there is a result or evidence of being filled with the knowledge of God’s will. “Joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (verse 12). When we have spiritual discernment to understand God’s will, we realize God’s will is far greater than our petty day-by-day decisions. We are recipients of His grace which has qualified us to be included in that eternal inheritance with all believers. Knowing His will produces a joy and thankful heart that glorifies God for what He has done and for all He has made available to us.
So as Paul prayed for believers at Colossae, we, too, are not just to know but to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will that we might live worthy of Him, be strengthened with His power and give thanks for all that He has provided for us.
Dr. Jerry Rankin served as president of the International Mission Board from June 1993 to July 2010 and blogs at The Rankin File.