This is a re-post from Life Under the Blue Sky, a blog you should visit often. It is part of a longer series of blog posts that will cover the entire letter to the Colossian church. This post deals with prayer and I thought it would work well at the Prayer Journal. I hope to begin updating the prayer journal again with prayer thoughts for your journey. Thanks for stopping by.-jerry
Day 9, Colossians 1:10: A Life that Pleases God!
“And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.”
“Christian living is that which, through the knowledge of God, is constantly bearing fruit and increasing in good deeds. Here, the emphasis is on the essential link between right beliefs and righteous conduct. In the end, false teaching is known by its fruits, or rather lack of them, for observation does not discover a clear link between claims to possess gnosis and actual goodness: whereas an awareness of God’s gracious acts towards us should lead to many gracious acts from us towards others.”—RC Lucas, Colossians, 39
Prayers have a point. We are not merely whispering into the wind and hoping that our prayers land somewhere or near someone. Nor, for that matter, was the apostle content to pray prayers that were the mindless ramblings and incoherent mutterings of someone who has no knowledge of the true God. Everything Paul did was to an end; prayer was no different.
I take the two phrases, ‘live a life worthy of the Lord’ and ‘please him in every way’ to be parallel ways of saying the same thing. I might also say this: How does one please the Lord? How does one live a life worthy of the Lord? Then he goes on: Bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God. Let me take each one at a time.
First, live a life worthy of the Lord. I don’t think this is terribly complicated, but I think we make it terribly complicated. We seem to forget, for some reason, that we are not being asked to do something we have not been empowered to do. In other words: We can live a life worthy of the Lord! We are expected to continue living, but now the manner in which we are living is different. It used to not matter if we lived a life that was worthy of the Lord; we used to have no power to do so. But now things are different: Now we should because we can. We don’t quit living once we find ourselves in Christ. There’s a lot living to be done and those in Christ must do so in a way that is worthy of the Lord. I’ll leave it at that. ‘Worthy’ is a loaded word. Doing something now that was once simply beyond our imagination, capability or desire still strikes fear in many. Nevertheless, as we shall see, the longer we walk with the Lord, the more we know Him, the more we will understand what ‘worthy’ means.
Second, we are to please him in every way. Pleasing. Not only are we living, but we are to be pleasing him also. Here is what Jesus said concerning this: “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me” (John 5:30). Jesus’ ambition, his goal, was to please the Father who sent Him. I think what this means is that Jesus would never do any such thing that might notplease the Father. This means he was perfectly fair, just, and reasonable. It meant that it pleased the Father for Jesus to die; Jesus died. It meant that Jesus did not seek to go about satisfying his own ambition or desire, but only that of God. It means that Jesus was the first to ‘take up his cross and deny himself.’ Well, I won’t argue with you if you say that it is not always easy to ‘please God in every way.’ On the contrary, we wage war against the flesh because there are pockets of resistance. We still, even after we find ourselves in Christ, want to please ourselves. So he expects us, too, to reflect God’s character too in all that we do. It means the often difficult and terrible work of self-denial. It means that disturbing work of not pleasing the self. It means the complicated work of learning when it is appropriate to do so.
Third, we are to be bearing fruit. The New and Old Testaments are filled with this idea that a good tree will bear good fruit and a bad tree bad fruit. It is also consistent that fruit will be born in some way, and that by our fruit we will be identifiable. The Fruit we bear is a strong indication of our identity and to whom we belong. Jesus expressed it this way in Matthew 7:
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”
I wonder if Paul is making this statement, ‘bearing fruit in every good work’ because it is possible that some Christians might just get lazy and forget that we are called to living, that once we have been raised up from the grave, we are not to find ourselves slumbering therein any longer. If false prophets then are recognized by their fruit, how much more will the Christian be recognized by hers?
Finally, and here is where everything comes together, Paul writes that we are to be growing in the knowledge of God. This growing seems to be the catalyst by which all of our living, pleasing and bearing get their start and get their energy to continue on day after day. Growing in the knowledge of God. Here’s what else Paul wrote about this:
33Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
34″Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
35″Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay him?”
36For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.
What better way to live our lives? Living, pleasing, bearing and growing. It sounds like quite a remarkable manifesto for living the Resurrection life, doesn’t it? As we grow in our knowledge of God, won’t our living a life worthy of him become much less complicated? As we grow in our knowledge of God, won’t our pleasing him in every way become far more important? As we grow in our knowledge of Him, won’t our bearing of fruit become far more productive? Yet also, as we do these things—living, pleasing, and bearing—won’t these things lead us to a greater understanding of God?
And these are the things that Paul never stops praying about for the Colossian Christians. It sort of puts a new perspective on the nature of prayer and on what our priorities ought to be during prayer. These things give meaning to our prayer that is far greater than the mere stringing together of words that some prayers are. Here’s what he prayed:
“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”
Does this, in any way, resemble our prayers? Is this, in any way, the content of our own conversations with the Lord? Perhaps if we find ourselves struggling with living a worthy live, pleasing the Lord, bearing fruit, and growing in knowledge of God—perhaps, it has something to do with the content of our prayers, the intent of our prayers, and the purpose of our prayers. Perhaps the apostle ought to be our guide in these matters.
Soli Deo Gloria!