Paul wrote his letter to the church in Colossae during his first Roman imprisonment sometime in the early AD 60s. Epaphras had shared the Gospel there and helped form the church; a church made up mostly of Gentiles but also with a number of Jewish members. Certain heretical teachings had begun to influence the Colossian church, which Epaphras reported to Paul. This became the basis for Paul to write his letter, which is essentially written as a theological antidote to those errant influences.
Colossians contains one of the Bible’s fullest expressions of the supremacy and deity of Jesus Christ. It is a short letter, only 4 chapters in its entirety, so it is easy to read it through even when time is short. Paul addresses a number of theological topics in his effort to counter the heresy the church was facing, which included Jewish legalism and early forms of Gnosticism. And while the entirety of the letter is extremely useful and edifying to us today, what stands out to me in particular is Paul’s prayer for spiritual growth. This is found in verses 1:9 thru 1:14. Let’s take a closer look:
“So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.
We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.” (Colossians 1:9-1:14)
We happen to be studying Colossians in my Tuesday night “Kingdom Warriors” men’s Bible study, and as we worked through Paul’s prayer for spiritual growth, some of the specific things Paul mentions really struck me. For example, in verse 9, Paul prays for “complete knowledge”. The Greek word used for knowledge (epignōsis) refers to more than just a passing knowledge, but rather asserts a deep and thorough understanding of the will of God that is fully revealed in the Word of God. Paul adds to this “spiritual wisdom and understanding” and the combination shows Paul’s desire for the church (at Colossae and our present church) to have discernment, understanding, and knowledge rooted in the Word of God and applied in our daily lives.
Paul’s prayer continues to cover three main areas stemming from our knowledge and understanding: 1) that we would produce good fruit, 2) that we would have patience and endurance, and 3) that we would be filled with joy and gratitude. The “good fruit” Paul refers to is, of course, Kingdom-based attributes such as leading people to Christ, giving praise to God, generosity, and Godly living that bears witness to whom we serve. As a Christian, I have learned that my personal goals are more satisfying and productive when they revolve around living out my faith. My number one goal is to experience the fruit of the Spirit (i.e.: Galatians 5:22-23) – “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
I would be certain most of you have experienced trials in your lives. It is part of human existence to face adversity and an inevitability that we will encounter difficult people and circumstances. None of us get through this life unscathed. To have patience and endurance through trials is a skill I have yet to completely master, even though faith is one of my Spiritual gifts. The Greek word for patience (makrothymia) is often rendered as “longsuffering”. So the verse speaks of enduring difficult circumstances and challenging people with a certain, steadfast attitude. It is very easy for me to personalize Paul’s prayer and seek these aspects of spiritual growth in my own life simply because it is an area of personal weakness. The need to grow in patience and steadfastness in the face of adversity is certainly ever-present for me.
The third main area of Paul’s prayer involves joy. Joy is also one of the Spiritual fruits mentioned in Galatians. The Christian has every cause to be joyful and to be thankful. Paul recounts the primary reasons in his prayer: God has enabled us to share in his inheritance, we live in his light having been rescued from darkness and transferred into the Kingdom of the Son, and our freedom and forgiveness has been purchased through the blood of Jesus. Indeed, as we increase in our knowledge and understanding, we will experience joyful living in ever increasing measures. And who does not want that?
If you have not yet made the decision to pursue relationship with the Creator of the universe, why not make today the day so you can experience joyful living to its fullest? God desires that all will be saved (1 Timothy 2:4) and that includes you! Romans 10:9-11 says: “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.’” Start your journey with Jesus today!
If you’d like more information on a relationship with Jesus, here are two resources that can help:
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