Massive Benefits in Knowing God's Will
Paul Dean Dr. Paul J. Dean's Weblog
- 2005 Apr 06
We live in a culture of theological confusion and self-centered pleasure-seeking that causes persons to be prone to making decisions based solely upon their feelings or desires. Because many Christians are not grounded in sound doctrine, they find themselves dishonoring Christ in their feelings, thoughts, actions, and decision-making without even realizing it. The question is, "can we know God's will for our lives?" Yesterday, we answerd that question in the affirmative and discussed how it is that we know God's will. Today, the simple question is: "if we know God's will, what will be the results or should we say, benefits?"
The second general dynamic we want to affirm is that knowing God's will produces a number of results. Paul speaks to this issue in Col. 1:10. There is a purpose to be fulfilled in knowing God's will. He says, "that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God." Note here that the purpose of being filled with the knowledge of God’s will is at least four-fold. He adds more in v. 11. For now, let us explore the four-fold purpose outlined here.
First, being "filled with the knowledge of [God's] will" enables the Christian to "walk worthy of the Lord." This dynamic refers to one who receives praise from God because he/she reflects God's character in his/her life. This person lives a life that is worthy of being called Christian. The believer who walks in rebellion is not reflecting God's character and is not worthy of the name Christian in that sense and in that moment. The one who reflects Christ is worthy of the name Christian.
Second, being "filled with the knowledge of [God's] will" enables the Christian to "fully [please God]." God is pleased or satisfied with His child as His glory is reflected. The reason for this dynamic is tow-fold. In the first place, God delights in His children as He has set His love upon them and sees them in Christ. He cannot delight in them apart from Christ as they have no righteousness apart from Him. Secondly, God ultimately delights in His Son. Christ is the Son of His Love (1:13) and God has purposed that Christ would be glorified by all things.
In an ultimate sense, God delights in Himself because He alone is God and worthy of worship. Thus, a mere human being, in and of himself, cannot please God (Rom. 8:8). To say then that the Christian can please God is to say that God is pleased in His Son as He is glorified in the life of the Christian. Moreover, there is a sense in which God is pleased with the Christian as He sees the Christian in Christ. God is pleased with us only by way of our connection to and our union with Christ. Again, practically speaking, as we walk in God's will, God is pleased with us because the glory of Christ (His power, character, grace, etc.) is on display in our lives.
Third, being "filled with the knowledge of [God's] will" enables the Christian to "[be] fruitful in every good work." While the Christian has responsibility to grow in grace and reflect God's glory, he can only do so as the Spirit works in his life. At the same time, this work of God's grace in the Christian's life is accomplished through means (worship, word, prayer, etc.).
This two-fold dynamic is expressed elsewhere by Paul when he says to the Philippians, "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure (Phil. 2:12-13)." Paul tells them to work out their salvation. That dynamic is their responsibility. Yet, they can only do such because God works in them the desire and the ability to do His good pleasure.
Thus, in the Colossians text, Paul has subtly put these two dynamics together again. He wants the Colossians to be "filled with the knowledge of [God's] will." If one is filled with such, he will work out his salvation. As one works out his salvation, as one is filled with the knowledge of God's will, the Spirit of God bears fruit in his life. Thus, Paul prays for God to fill the Colossians with "the knowledge of His will." If He doesn't do so, then they won't get it. Thus, we have come full circle. As God works in the life of the believer to will and to do His good pleasure, that is, as He puts His desire in him and fills him with the knowledge of His will (His good pleasure), he works out his salvation and the Spirit bears fruit in his life for God's glory and God is pleased as He sees His Son reflected.
Further, as the Spirit produces fruit in our lives (love, joy, peace, etc.), He also produces the fruit of righteousness and good works. It is the knowledge of God's will by which the Spirit produces good works in our lives. Moreover, He Himself produces every good work in our lives. We produce none of them on our own.
Additionally, when Paul says that we will be "fruitful in every good work," not only does He mean that the Spirit produces all of our good works, but he means that the Spirit produces all of the good works that God has ordained for us. Paul says, ". . . we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, to do good works, which He prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10)."
Fourth, being "filled with the knowledge of [God's] will" enables the Christian to "[increase] in the knowledge of God." As the believer saturates his mind with God's word, he gains understanding and wisdom. He then applies that understanding and wisdom to his life and grows in grace. As noted, God is working in all of these things. (Paul even says such in v. 11 here, "according to His glorious power"). As God works and these things come about, the believer grows in His relationship to God. He/she grows closer to God. To "[increase] in the knowledge of God" is more than increasing in one's knowledge about God. It is to increase in knowledge of God which refers to knowing Him more and more which results in a closer and more intimate fellowship with Him. What a blessing for the Christian! What a prayer from the apostle!
In v. 11, Paul continues to speak about the results of being "filled with the knowledge of [God's] will." He speaks of a further four-fold result here. Paul says that they will be, "strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy."
Fifth, being "filled with the knowledge of [God's] will" enables the Christian to be "strengthened with all might." Paul here refers to spiritual strength inculcated into the life of the believer. This strength refers to an ability to bear up under the load of trials that will inevitably come the Christian's way. It refers to an ability to face persecution or heartache. It refers to an ability to eschew temptation and avoid sin. It refers to an ability to discern and ward off the wiles of Satan. To be strengthened refers to an ability to stand in Christ regardless of one's circumstances.
The believer is "strengthened with all might." The "might" to which Paul refers is God's might. It is the Spirit of God who works this strength into the life of the believer. Thus, Paul says that this "[strengthening] with all might" is "according to His glorious power." As in Phil. 2:13, Paul here affirms that it is God who works in the believer the desire and ability to do His good pleasure, regardless of circumstances. Satan's power is operative in the life of the unbeliever (Eph. 2:1-3). But, God's power is at work in the life of the believer.
Note that Paul refers to God's power as glorious. It is glorious because it is supernatural, it is righteous, it is effective, and it causes one to reflect God's glory. As the believer is strengthened to stand, God's power and character are on display. Moreover, the Christian will be moved to worship God in such a case and thereby give glory to God by way of praise and thanksgiving.
Sixth, knowing God's revealed will produces a patience in the midst of trial. Paul's concern that the believer be strengthened for trials is confirmed by what he says next. This strengthening is "for all patience and longsuffering with joy." The Christian needs "patience and longsuffering with joy" all of the time, but, more importantly, when the trial is upon him. Note further, that as the strengthening is the result of being "filled with the knowledge of [God's] will," and "patience and longsuffering with joy" are the results of this strengthening, then "patience and longsuffering with joy" are the indirect results of being "filled with the knowledge of [God's] will."
The concept of "patience" here refers to an ability to bear up under a heavy load. James uses the same word when he exhorts the believer to "...count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience (Jas. 1:2-3)." The testing of our faith produces an ability to bear up under the load of trials that come our way. What Paul is saying to the Colossians is that if we know God's will, we will be strengthened by God to endure our trials in a way that glorifies Him. We will know His will for us in the midst of the trial, namely, to respond biblically and glorify Him.
Don't miss the fact that joy is a prime target in living in accord with God's will. James says that we are to "count it all joy when various trials fall upon us knowing that the testing of our faith produce patience" and Paul says that our patience comes with joy.
Seventh, knowing God's revealed will produces a rest in the midst of persecution. The concept of "longsuffering" differs from that of "patience." "Longsuffering" refers to an ability to bear long term persecution without retaliation. Persecution is always a threat for the Christian. Some Christians may live relatively free from this dynamic, but most experience such on a regular basis. Christians must always remember that vengeance belongs to the Lord and that we glorify God by submitting patiently to whatever He brings our way by His goodness, grace, and providence. We glorify Him by reflecting Christ even to our persecutors. If a Christian wants to know God's will in the midst of persecution, it is to glorify God by not retaliating. Paul says to the Romans, "Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom.12:19-21)."
Eighth, knowing God's revealed will produces a joy in the midst of all. As Christians are "strengthened with all might according to His glorious power for patience and longsuffering," they are strengthened for such "with joy." How can a Christian have joy in the midst of trial or persecution? He/she can only have such if he/she is strengthened by God's power. At the same time, the believer is strengthened by God's power as he is "filled with the knowledge of His will." The results of knowing God's will ultimately come from God. He works in us according to His glorious power. His power is supernatural. It comes from Him and not from us. It is effectual. That is, it works and is not imaginary. It is righteous producing in us a righteous walk before Him. In the end, His glorious power at work in us is God-reflecting. We are to live our lives to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. That reality is knowing God's will in a practical way.
One can see the massive importance of knowing God's revealed will and why Paul prays for such a thing. Christians should pray for one another in this way on a constant basis. As one has joy in the midst of difficulty, God is glorified. It does not make sense, from the world's perspective, to have joy in the midst of trials. It is that very dynamic that puts God's power and character on display.
Note further that much is made of the difference between joy and happiness. In one sense, the believer may not be happy that a trial has come upon him. Yet, in another sense, he can be happy if he knows beyond any shadow of a doubt that God means it for his good. Some would call that dynamic joy and not happiness. Joy refers to that assurance that God is in control working for our good despite our painful circumstances. While that distinction is certainly true, we would also add that the concept of joy necessarily entails happiness. Thus, the Christian should be able to find happy moments in the midst of a painful situation if his/her focus is upon Christ. He may not be happy about the trial, but, he can be happy in the midst of the trial as He looks to Christ.
Jesus Himself said as much: "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matt. 5:10-12)." Jesus said that in the midst of persecution we should rejoice and be exceedingly glad. It is God's will that we rejoice and not complain. If we complain, we prove that we are not "filled with the knowledge of [God's] will." If we are filled with such, then we will rejoice. We can only rejoice as God works in us that joy. This dynamic explains why Paul prays to God without ceasing that God would work such into the lives of the Colossians. May we pray the same for one another.
[Scroll Down for Part One]