“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,10 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. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:9-14
As I think and pray through my life and ministry I have been challenged and encouraged over the last couple of weeks by Paul’s opening to Colossians. It seems to me a good reflection of pastoral leadership. Let’s walk through it quickly.
From the moment Paul heard that those in Colossae had faith in Jesus as their savior, he has been praying for them. That their knowledge and spiritual wisdom would increase. The goal of this increase is in turn, living in a way pleasing to our Lord, bearing fruit and more increase in knowledge of the Holy.
As a pastor this is where I am tempted to camp. The walking in a manner worthy bit. Sure I will pray for you, that your knowledge will increase, but what I really desire to do is tell you how to live, how to bear fruit. I can approach Paul’s words as permission to show you the best way to live right now and give you the “tools” or strategies to achieve success. Do you see that? I can look at a text and make it all about you. All about figuring out what it means to increase and walk worthy. Sadly, I would probably burden you and lay guilt on you for not upping your game to match this call. Maybe you read scripture the same way. But we are wrong when we do that.
First of all, it is Paul’s prayer, not his command to the church. He is letting the church in on his prayer life and how he is petitioning God on their behalf. But then he reveals the location of their strength and worthiness. “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”
Wow. Wow. Wow. So Paul is saying, rather clearly I think, that it is God who strengthens for endurance. The Father has qualified you to share in the inheritance. It is not your boot-strapping ability and fruit. It is not your worthiness. These are given to you by God in Jesus. We were once in the darkness but have been redeemed by Jesus. Everything changes.
And now, it is God who makes us worthy, who makes us pleasing, who generates the fruit in our lives. It is the increasing knowledge of him and growth in the spiritual wisdom to get this grace he uses to accomplish all this.
My prayers for those I pastor must follow this. ‘God give them the knowledge of you and the finished work of Christ that they might live out their worthiness, their union with Jesus, their freedom.’
Friends, be free. You have been transferred to the kingdom of the Son of God. It is finished. Now, may he empower us to run the race with endurance. Strengthened by him alone.
Let’s change the way we pray. Let’s ask for this empowerment and knowledge of God. Then let’s live in our freedom. Made worthy and redeemed. This sure sounds like good news to me, and I hope it does to you too.