Paul’s Prayer – 1:9-10a


9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way…

Paul and Timothy are in constant prayer for the Colossians even though they do not know them personally. They are linked to the church through Epaphras, the disciple of Paul who took the Gospel to Colossae and the surrounding area. Despite the distance, relational as well as geographical, Paul sees himself as pastorally responsible for the young congregation – responsible enough to pray for them often (not just once or twice as he happens to think of them, but with intentionality and regularity). In this, Paul is setting a pastoral example for ministers everywhere. Our prayers should encompass those under our direct spiritual care, as well as those who are under the care of our own disciples and friends. By example, Paul commands us to pray for those in our disciples’ flocks. By doing this, we are honoring those we have raised up in the faith.


To know God’s will is to want God’s will.
The content of Paul’s prayer for Epaphras’ church was that God would fill them with the knowledge of his will through the Spirit’s wisdom and understanding. This is a beautiful prayer, and one that is needful for all believers. (If you are a pastor, how much would it mean to you to know that the person who raised you up in the faith was praying this prayer for the people in your church?) While it is heady, (notice the words knowledge, wisdom, and understanding) it is not neglectful of the heart. To be filled with the knowledge of God’s will also means to be filled with the desire to participate in, and help bring about, God’s will. To know God’s will is to want God’s will. But the heart’s desires must be guided by the mind. Knowledge, wisdom, and understanding help to shape what we desire and will. The Spirit gives wisdom and understanding to those who seek it, and the more wisdom and understanding we are given, the more we will seek both. The Spirit’s wisdom and understanding, then, fill us with the knowledge we need to discern and enact God’s will.

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It has often been said, “God accepts you just as you are, but he loves you too much to leave you that way.” Why would God want to change us? Because we are not yet like Jesus.

The same is true of the whole world. God loves the world so much that he sent Jesus to die for our sins, but he also loves the world too much to leave it just like it is. Just as God is at work in you, making you more like Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit, so he is at work in the world, turning the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light.

The-Gospel-Grows-WebWhat God is doing in the world, he is also committed to doing in you. What God is doing in you, he is also doing throughout the whole world. This is what it means for the Gospel to grow and bear fruit. You are becoming more like Jesus, and God’s kingdom is coming on earth as it already exists in heaven. The microscopic work of God in individuals mirrors his macroscopic work in the world.

The best way to get on board with what God is doing in the world is to work with him as he forms you into the image of Jesus. The Gospel bears fruit in the world as it bears fruit in your life. The more you and I become, in the power of the Spirit, people who are honest, loving, kind, gracious, self-controlled, and joyful, the more this world will be transformed into the kingdom of God. And this is precisely what is happening all over the world. The same Spirit is at work through the same Gospel in the lives of people in every nation, transforming people into the image of Jesus and communities into pockets of God’s kingdom.

The Gospel grows. Are you growing with it?

There is life beyond death. But not life as we have it today. Not life full of trials, despair, or let downs. No loneliness or manipulation or violence. Yes, there is life beyond death, but it will be almost completely unrecognizable to us that we will struggle to even call it life. It will be life with all the bad stuff taken out and all the good stuff amplified to the point that we will hardly be able to bear it. And yet we will know it, find rest in it, and feel as though it is precisely the thing we were made for.

The funny thing about this life, though, is that it’s a person. With a name.

Jesus.

On the night before he was crucified, Jesus told his disciples, “I am the life.” Jesus is the life that we will experience in heaven. He is the one in whom we will find rest, the one to whom we will shout in ecstatic discovery, “You are what I have been waiting for!”

Heaven-Kept-Hope-WebThis is the hope that Christians have – the hope to which Paul alludes in Colossians 1:5. It is our heaven-kept hope. Sure, we catch glimpses of it, of him, in this life, like we are peering through a keyhole into a gloriously sunlit courtyard full of blooming flowers and fruit-bearing trees. But we don’t experience the full fulness of him today. We walk by faith, not sight.

Our hope is that death is not the final sound of heaven’s door being locked and bolted forever, but rather the first rush of light in the morning, bidding us to wake from our fitful dreaming and behold the glorious reality of God’s presence. Death is not the fearful enemy, but rather the welcome transition from this life of faithfulness to the eternal life of fulness in the presence of Jesus.

It is this hope that allows us to live with such fierce love and faith today. We love because of the fulness of love that awaits us, and that we taste in parts today. We live in faith now because of the power of the presence of God that we are destined to experience in heaven. Heaven-kept hope is not simply delayed infinite gratification; it is the source and strength we need to live each day on this side of death with faith in Christ Jesus and love for all God’s people.

Getting Acquainted – 1:3-8


3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel 6 that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. 7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

When Paul and Timothy pray for the Colossians, their prayers are full of thanksgiving because of the power of the faith and love the believers exhibit in Colossae. Though Paul did not plant the church in Colossae (his disciple, Epaphras did that), he still considered it one of his congregations, and assumed apostolic care for them in prayer. This is a powerful encouragement (by example) for pastors and leaders to pray, not only for those in their direct care, but also for those who may be in congregations nearby, or which are in some other way tied back to them.

The report Epaphras brought to Paul and Timothy about the church in Colossae emphasized their faith in Jesus and the love they had for all believers. Love for fellow believers is a big deal to Paul (see especially 1 Corinthians). The way that Paul constructed the phrase the love you have for all God’s people “reveals two truths about the nature of the church’s concern. First, it was sacrificial. The term agapē reminded them of the sacrificial love of Christ for them. Second, within the Christian community it was indiscriminate. The love was directed to all the saints.”[i] The love that defines Christian community is the same love Jesus displayed on the cross – both sacrificial and indiscriminate. Christians cannot love some and not others.

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grace and peace

We live in a culture that is becoming increasingly vengeful and shame-oriented. Through social media, we have self-appointed watchdogs seeking to destroy people who make seemingly racist, homophobic, or otherwise objectionable comments. Justine Sacco’s life was ruined by vengeful internet shamers after she sent a sardonic tweet before boarding a flight to Africa in 2014. This kind of shaming goes far beyond what justice demands, gleefully devastating the lives of those who are deemed to have crossed the cultural line.

Vengeance and shame are, ironically, attributes that are often ascribed to God. Yet it is we who, upon laying claim to the throne of Judgment, take on these very characteristics. It is into a chaotic, swirling environment of judgment, vengeance, and shame that Paul boldly proclaims, “grace and peace to you from God our Father.” When God opens his mouth to speak he increases neither the anxiety-inducing shame nor the fear-engendering vengeance of our world. Instead, he disarms both by speaking grace and peace.

Grace-and-Peace-WebFrom God our Father.

To you.

Comes grace.

And peace.

Because your soul doesn’t need any more hypocritical, self-righteous watchdogs spewing shaming invective. No, what your soul needs is a Father who speaks grace and peace over you. Shame and vengeance create fear and anxiety; grace and peace foster love and hope.

Yes, it’s true, God did say once, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” (Deuteronomy 32:35) And how did he repay the sins of humanity? By sending us his Son, in whose death we find full and free forgiveness of all our wrongdoing. This is grace. Here is peace. And it is for us, from God.

God is not a part of the shame and vengeance cycle; he has offered the only way out – through his son Jesus. Will you take it? And by taking it, will you live it? Become a true child of God, speaking grace and peace to souls in desperate need of it.

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