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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Praying for Spiritual Wisdom and Understanding
Text:Colossians 1:9-10 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Prayer
 
Preached:01/25/2015
Added:2015-02-07
Updated:2015-02-07
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Pastor Ted Gray
01/25/15 – a.m.
 
Praying for Spiritual Wisdom and Understanding”
Colossians 1:9-10
 
Paul and Timothy set an excellent example for all of us in our prayer life. Having learned of the Colossians’ faith in Christ, their love for the saints, and the certainty of their hope (v. 3-5) Paul and Timothy prayed for them.
 
Reflecting back on how the gospel had taken root in their lives by the Holy Spirit’s power Paul writes in Verse 9, For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you.
 
Immediate and Continual Prayer
 
It is worth noting that Paul and Timothy began to pray as soon as they heard about the Colossians. Unless we begin to pray as soon as we hear about the need for prayer we may well forget to pray for that need.
 
Has this ever happened to you?  Someone tells you about a situation in their life that is certainly in need of prayer and so you say to them, “I will be praying for you.” But then, as the day unfolds, in the busy activities of your life, you forget to pray for that person.
 
That has happened to me and so I have tried to make it a practice to pray immediately for those situations that I am made aware of at the moment I learn of them. That is also the example modeled for us in these verses. Paul writes, since the day we heard about you we have not ceased to pray for you.
 
Another way that Paul and Timothy set a good example for us in prayer is that the prayer they prayed for the Colossian church was a continual prayer; they did not stop praying for them. Here again in our prayer lives sometimes we are consistent in praying for specific things for a period of time, but then our zeal for prayer seems to fade and we no longer continue in prayer the way Paul and Timothy did.
 
By contrast Jesus told several parables about the importance of being persistent in prayer. One of them is found in Luke 18 where Jesus describes how an unjust judge refused to rule for justice in the rights of a widow. She continually brought her case before the unjust judge.  Jesus said, “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’”
 
His point was that if persistence by the widow brought about an unjust judge’s blessing, how much more will our persistence in prayer be answered by our loving, almighty heavenly Father!  That is the reason why Jesus spoke that parable. As Luke 18:1 says, Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.
 
Praying for Spiritual Wisdom and Understanding
 
Perhaps one reason why we are not more persistent in our prayers is that we do not focus on the spiritual welfare of those for whom we pray as we ought to. Yet that is a constant prayer need, a prayer need that we should never cease pleading, for others and ourselves.    
 
It is good and well to pray for healing when someone is sick, or for employment when someone needs work, or for the other material needs of life, but because we tend to focus on those things in prayer we often lose our persistence. As those prayers are answered we no longer need to pray for them. Instead they should become perpetual items of praise in our prayers, although they usually don’t. We are to be persistent, not only in asking for spiritual blessings, but also persistent in praising God through our prayers. 
 
We read where praying for the spiritual growth of the Colossians was the main focus of Paul and Timothy’s prayer. It is a third way that they set an excellent example for us. They set an example as they focused in prayer on the Colossians’ spiritual welfare. In verse 9 Paul writes: 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.
 
In the context of this letter we understand that the apostle was writing to the Colossians because of the false teaching that they were receiving from some of their leaders. Some of the Colossian teachers were telling the believers that they needed more knowledge and wisdom than they had learned from Epaphras.
 
Epaphras is the one who brought the gospel to Colossae. We read where the Colossians understood God’s grace in all its truth (v. 6),  just as (they) learned it from Epaphras (v. 7). But the false teachers were saying, “No, you need more wisdom and more knowledge beside that which is in the gospel which Epaphras told you about. You need a greater experience than you received in the gospel. You need something more.” Some of their teaching involved Jewish legalism with Old Testament ceremonial law. Other teachers taught that they should be worshiping angels. And still others were teaching Gnosticism which was based on a whole separate category of so-called “knowledge.”
 
In his prayer, Paul was asking the Lord to fill the Colossians with the knowledge of His will. Where do we learn the knowledge of God’s will?  It is in the Bible, in the gospel which reveals Christ to us. 
 
Paul and Timothy’s prayer is certainly applicable to us today, because so often people are encouraged to look beyond the Bible for further knowledge and wisdom, supposedly from God, but coming from outside sources.
 
As an example, almost all the cults have additional books of knowledge, whether the book of Mormon or the teachings of The Watchtower or the writings of Mary Baker Eddy who founded the Christian Scientists. We also have the additional so called wisdom of the Koran and other writings which many would put on the same level as the Bible. And closer to home, in many churches which confess to be Bible believing, there is still a temptation to go outside of the Word of God to be filled the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 
 
As an example, one of the most popular devotional books today, entitled Jesus Calling, is written by Sarah Young, who describes in the introduction how Jesus spoke to her and told her what to write. Although she says her writing isn’t inspired, she describes how the Lord expressly told her what to write. Because of that it is written in the first person as though Jesus is directly speaking, and that is the reason for the title, Jesus Calling. 
 
In a similar way, one of the most popular writers for women’s Bible studies is Beth Moore who also frequently describes how God speaks directly to her. Admittedly, Sarah Young and Beth Moore are not teaching us to worship angels, or to observe ceremonial laws, or to understand gnostic teachings, yet their teaching enters a very dangerous area. The way to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding is to study and immerse yourself in God’s Word. 
 
What does it mean to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will?  It means, in a nutshell, that we confess our sin and trust in Jesus alone for our salvation. With that knowledge as a starting point we began to grow in our understanding of how we should live as we are transformed by the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work within us. 
 
An example of being filled with the knowledge of God’s will is found in Acts 22:14 where the Apostle describes how on the road to Damascus he heard the voice of Jesus saying, “The God of our fathers has chosen you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from His mouth. You will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.” 
 
On the road to Damascus, Paul came to understand God will for his life in a unique and powerful way. We come to salvation today as we hear God’s call through the power of the Holy Spirit applying the truths of God’s Word to our lives, both in the conviction of the law and the promises of the gospel.
 
But being filled with a knowledge of God’s will doesn’t stop with our confession of sin and faith in Christ; it doesn’t stop with our conversion. Rather being filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding means that we seek God’s will in every area of our life. Consider Romans 12:2, Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will. 
 
Knowledge of God’s will is never just a series of facts that we store up in our minds; rather knowledge is to permeate our heart giving us spiritual wisdom. Wisdom is the practical application of knowledge, and with the practical application of knowledge we have an understanding of how we are to live as Christians. We see that in verse 10. It begins by saying, And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord. (NIV).
 
Walking In a Worthy Manner
 
Doctrine and practice always go hand-in-hand in the life of the believer. The apostle had prayed that the Colossians would have the biblical knowledge of God’s will, and that ties in directly to the way they would live. The same is true for us. We study God’s Word not just so that we have a knowledge of it in our head, but so that we have it in our heart in such a way that it affects how we live our life.
 
The apostle wanted to get that across to the Colossian church, and it is a theme that comes up in many of his letters. For instance in Philippians 3:16 he writes, Only let us live up to what we have already attained.  That is another way of saying, “Let us live a life worthy of our calling as Christians, worthy of the Lord.” Earlier in his letter to the Philippians he also stressed the importance of living a life worthy of our calling. Philippians 1:27 says, Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.
 
Writing to the Ephesian church, the apostle begins the fourth chapter by saying, I therefore...  urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called...  And writing to the Thessalonians he urged them to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His kingdom and glory (1 Thessalonians 2:12b).
 
The emphasis of living a life worthy of the Lord – in common terminology, “walking the walk as well as talking the talk” – is so essential for us today as well. As we pray to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will we must do so understanding that a knowledge of His will in our mind must lead to a life worthy of the gospel. Our knowledge of God must effect the way we live each day as we not only “talk the talk, but walk the walk” of a faithful Christian.
 
The apostle Paul’s instruction to young Timothy, found in 1 Timothy 4:16, is so applicable in every era of time, including today. He writes, Watch your life and doctrine closely. They go hand in hand, even though unfortunately we often stumble as we seek to walk worthy of our calling as Christians.
 
Fully Pleasing to God
 
Nevertheless, the goal of the believer – the goal of someone who is filled with the knowledge of God’s will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding – will be to please God by the way they live their life. That too is part of the prayer which Paul and Timothy continually prayed for the Colossian church. Verse 10, And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way. How do we live a life that is fully pleasing to God? Two specific ways are given in the last part of verse 10. We are bear fruit in every good work and increase in the knowledge of God.
 
Bearing fruit is the mark of a true believer. Bearing fruit in every good work separates the true believer from the one who simply professes to believe. Bearing fruit covers the entire scope of the Christian’s life. In everything we do, in all that we say, in the goals and aspirations we have and in the opportunities put before us we are to live out our faith in a way that pleases God. In that process, we bear fruit.
 
Bearing fruit includes seeking to exhibit, in our actions from the heart, the fruit of the Holy Spirit described in Galatians 5:22 and 23 as love, joy, peace, long-suffering (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In short, bearing fruit encompasses the entire life of the true believer. As such, it pleases God when we have a wholehearted commitment to Him that shows itself in bearing fruit in every good deed, showing by the way we live that we are believers in Christ doing the good deeds before ordained for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).
 
The only way that we can bear fruit is to believe in Jesus. In John 15:4-5, Jesus says, “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. I am the Vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.”
 
Later, in the same chapter, Jesus teaches that the reason why He has chosen us is to bear fruit. John 15:16, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.”
 
Jesus clearly taught that we know those who belong to Him by their fruits, that is, by the actions of their lives. Matthew 7:16-17, “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.…”
 
The description of bearing fruit in the pages of the Bible should call each one of us to examine our own lives. Jesus said, “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”  We must ask ourselves, “Are we truly, by God’s grace through faith in Jesus, “in the Vine”? Do we belong to Christ?  And if not, do we know the promise that Jesus gives in John 6:37?  In that verse Jesus assures us, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”
 
Growing In Knowledge
 
In addition to bearing fruit, we please God as we grow in our knowledge of Him. Living as Christians means that we never reach a spiritual plateau. Rather we always climb upward in seeking to know more about the gracious God who has redeemed us at the cost of His Son, and now lives in us by His Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence.
 
We do that in the public worship of God on Sunday, but also throughout the week. That is the main reason we have Bible studies. Joy Guild, Tuesday Bible Study, Coffee Break, Men’s Breakfast, catechism and Sunday School, GEMS and Cadets, all these are put before us to give us opportunity, no matter what age we are, to grow in our knowledge of God.
 
In addition, family and personal devotions give us the spiritual food that we need for spiritual growth.  God’s Word is described as food.  We are nourished and grow in the knowledge of God to the degree that we spend time in His Word. Always make time to spend in God’s Word, reading it, praying over it and studying it, so that you grow in your knowledge of the One who has redeemed you by the precious blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.
 
Following and Being an Example
 
In these verses, as we read about the continual prayer that Paul and Timothy prayed for the Colossian church, we are reminded of what an example they are for us. Paul lived his life in such a way that he would be an example to others. For instance in 1 Corinthians 11:1 he writes, Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. Likewise, he wrote in Philippians 3:17, Join with others in following my example... And take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.
 
The example which Paul set, both in prayer and in living out a life worthy of the gospel, is an example for each one of us to follow.  By doing so we also become examples for others that they too may, by God’s grace and enabling Spirit, 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. Amen.
 
 
 
 
- bulletin outline -
 
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, 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. – Colossians 1:9-10 (ESV)
 
“Praying for Spiritual Wisdom and Understanding”
Colossians 1:9-10
 
I. Having heard of the Colossians’ faith in Christ, love for the saints, and the certainty of their hope (3-5), Paul and Timothy prayed for them (9a).  Their prayer was:
    1) Offered as soon as they heard about the Colossians (9a)
 
 
 
    2) A continual prayer; they did not stop praying for them (9b)
 
 
 
    3) Focused on the Colossians’ spiritual welfare:
         a) That they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding (9c,d,e)
 
 
 
         b) That they would live a life worthy of the Lord (10a)
 
 
 
         c) That they would be fully pleasing to God (10b) by:
              (1) Bearing fruit in every good work (10c)
 
 
 
              (2) Growing in the knowledge of God (10d)
 
 
 
II. Application: Paul sets an example for us in how to pray for each other and how to live a life pleasing to God (1 Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 3:17)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
01/25/2015 – a.m.
 
 
 



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 01/2, Rev. Ted Gray

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