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In the series Above All, Pastor Philip De Courcy highlights the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ as presented in Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Christ is above all powers and all things. To go beyond Christ is to leave Christianity behind. In Above All, Pastor Philip reminds us that the Lord Jesus Christ is creation’s only source, man’s only Savior, and God’s only Son, and He must be understood accurately.
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Turn to Colossians Chapter 1. We’re returning this morning to take another look at Paul’s prayer for the Colossians. And we’re returning to it this morning with this purpose that we might learn how better to pray for one another. Paul offers us a filling station in this prayer, where we can come and find fuel for our own prayer lives.
And so I think it’s with great eagerness we return to Colossians 1:9. Listen to Paul as he prays, “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”
What a great passage here in God’s word. We pray for the help of the Holy Spirit to preach it, receive it, assimilate it, and obey it by God’s grace this week. In April 2001, the chief of security for the Palestinian authority was in a cavalcade, when he find himself ambushed by the IDF is really defense forces. He realized that the situation was dire, and so he took his cell phone and he called Yasser Arafat. Told him of his predicament. As the story goes, Yasser Arafat called the US ambassador to the Middle East. In turn, the US ambassador called the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, who without hesitation get on the floor, and he called Ariel Sharon, who wasted no time in calling the IDF and telling them to cease firing at the chief of security for the Palestinian Authority. Quite a story, isn’t it?
Can you imagine the chief of security’s relief? His thankfulness that he had a connection in a high place and that his connection in a high place had another connection in a higher place and it made all the difference. But I want to remind you as God’s precious people this morning, that you and I have a connection in the highest place. Through Jesus Christ, we can come to God, the Lord of the universe, the creator of all things and the sustainer of all things. We can come to Him at any time of the day, in any situation. And through Jesus Christ, we can ask for God’s help and aid and support. That’s the privilege we have. That’s the power and the privilege of prayer.
And we can use our connections in high places for ourselves. That’s what we call petition, when we come to God and ask of Him something for Him, ourself. But we can also use our connections in high places for the benefit of others. That’s called intercession. When we come to God, not on our own behalf, but on the behalf of others. Someone has described intercession as standing in someone else’s shoes and representing them before God and prayer. And that’s what Paul is doing here in Colossians 1:9. Paul’s got connections in high places, and he’s using those connections for the benefit of the Colossians. And we started to look at Paul’s prayer the last time we were together. I’m not going to rehearse what we said, but we started to look at this prayer and we saw Paul praying for their spiritual enlargement.
This is the general intention of Paul as he prays here. Epaphras had brought good news from Colossae, which was a city in Asia Minor, modern Turkey today. A city nestling in the Lycus Valley, part of a triangle of cities, hierapolis, Laodicea, Colossae. Epaphras brings news to Paul, who’s a prisoner in Rome, and he tells them that the gospel has taken root in the city of Colossae. And it’s growing. And Paul is thrilled at the news that there are Christians in Colossae, who are evidencing their faith in Jesus Christ and their love for all the sins. And they’re living a life of eternal significance in the hope that comes through knowing Jesus Christ. Paul has got good news, but he won’t settle for good news. He wants better news. And so, he prays for an escalation and an enlargement and an expansion of their faith and their love and their hope.
And he begins to intercede for them. And that’s where we are this morning. We looked at Paul’s prayer for their spiritual enlargement last time. We saw its reach and we saw its regularity. The striking thing about Paul’s prayer for them was that he had never met them. He was praying for Christians he had never met. And we were challenged to be globally minded, to be world class Christians, and pray for believers we perhaps today have never met and this side of heaven will never meet. But we want to pray for God’s blessing upon the work, perhaps in Argentina or France or Ghana, wherever God has his servants and wherever this church has connections through missions. We saw its regularity. Paul tells them that he was constantly praying for them. He was constantly turning his thoughts into prayers. That’s always a great thing to do. You know, when God lays somebody on your heart, when you have a thought about their situation, their predicament, their plight, turn the thought into a prayer.
It’s a great way to live. It’ll also keep your prayer life very healthy and active. So now we move from the general to the specific, because now I want us to see that Paul not only prays for their spiritual enlargement, Paul now particularly prays for their spiritual enlightenment. Look at verse 9, “For this reason we also, since the day we heard of it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask…” What are you asking for, Paul? What are you praying for, Paul? Look at it. “That you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” Moving from the general to the particular, Paul prays in this prayer for their spiritual enlightenment. Although their lives had been marked by faith and love and hope, Paul prays that these three virtues will be governed by another spiritual reality; knowledge, insight, enlightenment. These Christians loved each other.
And to listen to many Christians, you would think that’s enough. That’s all that a Christian needs to do; to love. Paul says loving each other’s not enough. Your love, your faith, and your hope has got to be governed and fed and informed by knowledge and wisdom and spiritual understanding. Paul prays that they will have an informed faith. Paul prays that they will have a prudent love. Paul prays that they will have a theologically grounded hope. This apostle puts no premium on ignorance. Ignorance among God’s people is a dangerous thing. It works against spiritual health and spiritual growth. In fact, Hosea 4:6 tells us that for lack of knowledge, God’s people, Israel, were destroyed. Now when Paul talks about knowledge here, when Paul prays about wisdom and spiritual understanding, he’s praying for something very akin to the Hebrew concept of wisdom.
If you remember back to our study in the book of Proverbs, we saw that the primary Old Testament word for wisdom was the word chokhmah, which actually meant skill. It described craftsman. And the word was used to speak of an aptitude for skillful, successful living. This is not theoretical knowledge. This is moral knowledge. This is spiritual insight that is sourced in God, provided to us through the Holy Spirit and grinded in God’s word. And when we have grasped it, it changes our living and the way we act. That’s why Paul quickly goes on here in verse 10, to talk about the fact that if their knowledge and wisdom and spiritual understanding increases, it will issue right into a life that’s marked by a worthy walk that fully pleases God.
And so when Paul prays for enlightenment here, and for knowledge here, he’s praying for a perspective on life that comes from God. Like Paul uses three words to describe generally the same idea, although he piles one word upon another the word knowledge here, gnosis in the Greek. Gnosis, actually, is a word that carries the idea of the accumulation of facts and bites of information. What Paul talks about here is the acquisition of truth. When he speaks of wisdom, he uses another Greek word Sophia, which is a step forward. He not only prays that they might acquire truth, but that they might apprehend it, comprehend it, understand it.
The word Sophia speaks of the ability and the skill to arrange one’s understanding in a working order, so that what you know is not just a jumble of facts and figures, something unusable. Paul is praying that the Holy Spirit will give them spiritual insight and instruction from God’s word, that they will acquire it mentally, that they will process it in their mind and heart, and come to see how it is to be applied in life. Which brings us to the third word, understanding, which is qualified by the term spiritual. This is understanding that comes from God’s spirit. The word understanding speaks of the application of truth. This word speaks of the best application of those principles that one has gathered and come to understand.
That’s what Paul is praying for. He’s praying for practical insight that has a moral basis. That’s provided by the Holy Spirit. That’s governed by the word of God and that issues out into a life worthy and all pleasing to God. You see, a person can comprehend the fact that the word grace is mentioned over 100 times in the New Testament, yet know nothing of the receiving grace of God as an experience. You see, there’s a difference between a cold fact and a warm truth. And Paul’s praying that they might indeed grasp God’s truth, and that it might affect their living. And when he speaks of this knowledge and this wisdom and this understanding, he’s speaking of a knowledge and an insight on living that comes from the Holy Spirit. And that’s based upon the word of God.
Look at what he prays for here. He prays that they would be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. When Paul speaks of God’s will, Paul is speaking of the moral will of God, revealed in the written word of God. When Paul speaks of the will of God, he’s speaking about what God has mandated for his creation. Turn with me for a moment to 2 Timothy 3:16. Here’s what we read, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Paul’s praying here that through spiritual knowledge, through theological insight, these Colossians will grasp more fully what God wants them to do. And their lives will be marked by all kinds of good works. And that comes about by a ministry of the Holy Spirit, when the word of God is studied by us and applied in our lives by us. The word of God equips us on the every good work. Its wisdom and its knowledge and its understanding helps us to live according to God’s will in a way that is fully pleasing to him. So Paul here prays for their spiritual enlightenment. Paul desires that this church at Colossae be a place of spiritual learning and discipleship.
You know what Paul fears? I wondered do we. Paul fears the big hearted yet small minded Christian. The big hearted yet small minded Christian, Paul wants these Christians to be fully informed and spiritually instructed through a comprehensive knowledge of God’s word, because he understands that spiritual intelligence is the key to a fruitful Christian life. He understands that a deeper knowledge of the truth of Jesus Christ is the greatest protection against heresy. Folks, you and I need to understand the priority of you and I increasing in the knowledge of God, which is Paul’s prayer for them, not only in verse 9 but in verse 10. I hope you don’t think that you have arrived spiritually speaking. I hope you have a hunger to know God more today. In Fact, to know God more today than you’ve known him before. This was Paul’s hunger.
He writes to the Philippians 10 years after visiting that city. And he says in Philippians 3:10, “That I might know Him.” Paul has a passion to know the Lord Jesus Christ. You can go down to Barnes & Noble’s or some bookshop here, and you’ll find the book with the catchy title. It’s called All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. And unfortunately, I think that the title of that book reflects the attitudes of some Christians when it comes go growing in knowledge in the Christian faith. They think that they’ve learned all they need to know. They picked it up in Sunday school or through some intensive Bible course. And neither coasting. That’s a dangerous place to be.
You and I must always be growing in our knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. We always must be praying for an increase of the knowledge of God. This is Paul’s prayer for the Colossians. And the priority of this prayer is best understood against the backdrop of what was going on at Colossae. You see, this Church was being troubled by false teachers who were saying that the knowledge and the spiritual understanding that these Christians hard through Jesus Christ was a start, but it wasn’t enough. And so they encouraged the Christians to listen their grip on the Lord Jesus Christ. And they offer a special higher knowledge that’s fine beyond Christ. And Paul sees this threat, and he addresses this mischief. And he redresses this mischief when he prays that they may increase in the knowledge of His will. That they may be filled with all wisdom and spiritual understanding.
In fact, Paul is rather crafty here, rather artful. The words that he uses here are words that the Gnostics like to use. There was some early form of Gnosticism that was troubling the Colossians. And Paul uses one of their favorite words, filled. You see, they were saying to the Colossians, “Look, you need to come to us. Jesus Christ was a start, but you need to move beyond Him. And through our rights and rituals, our passwords and our initiation ceremonies, you can move into a fuller knowledge of spiritual life.” And Paul says, “I’m praying that you’ll be filled.” He uses their word. I’m praying that you will know a fullness. In fact, the word he uses here for knowledge in verse 9 is a word that actually describes the Gnostics. It’s the Greek word, gnosis, knowledge.
The Gnostics we those who pretended that they had a higher, more special knowledge than anyone else. In fact, he uses an intense form of it here, epignosis, which is the word knowledge with a prefix that intensifies it. He says, “I’m praying that you will know a full knowledge, a deep knowledge and a wide knowledge.” And he wants them to know that knowledge is find in Jesus Christ. He wants them to understand that they don’t need to be intimidated by the Gnostics. He wants them to know that they are already filled and that they can be filled with all spiritual knowledge and understanding. Look at what he says in Chapter 2:2, “That your hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
Paul is saying to them, look, in Christ, you can find all wisdom and knowledge. He says in verse 9 of that same chapter, “For in Him, that is Christ dwells all the fullness.” There’s that Gnostic word again, plero. “In Christ is all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and you are complete in Him.” Same word, plero. You’re filled in him. You have a fullness in him. And so Paul was telling them, look, you are full and I’m praying that you will be full. And you don’t need to step outside of or go beyond Jesus Christ. In Him is treasured all that you need. By the way, you might ask the question, pastor, how can they have a fullness and yet, Paul’s praying for a fullness? Well, that tension is resolved in the distinction between our standing and our steer.
Let me kind of illustrate this. Imagine the son of Bill Gates decides to go to Stanford University. That’s quite an expensive school, but considering the wealth of his father, there is in a sense that his education is already being paid for. It’s paid. It’s paid. His father can pay it all. And so, in a sense, the son of Bill Gates could say, my education’s paid for. But in another sense, it hasn’t been paid for. It will be paid for in semester terms. And that’s what Paul is saying. Look, in Jesus Christ, we have all knowledge. In union with Him, we have all that we need. Knowledge is already full, but in experiences, we read the scriptures and submit to the instruction of the Holy Spirit. We will increasingly be full of that fullness. Paul not only prayers for their spiritual enlightenment. Paul prayers now for their spiritual employment.
Paul’s understanding of wisdom and knowledge, as we’ve just said is rather Jewish. For the Jew, to know something was to understand it and to undertake it. A person did not know something unless they did it. And so it’s not surprising. And having prayed for knowledge and wisdom and spiritual understanding, Paul anticipates that this will work itself out. That the result of that will be a walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. Paul having prayed for their enlightenment, now he prays for their employment. All this knowledge is to begin so that they may better understand and undertake God’s will. He prays for two things here under this thought of employment. He prays that their life would be pleasing and that their life would be productive.
The goal of the Christian life is to bring pleasure to God. But what does that mean? Well, the nine here, which is translated fully pleasing, is a word that’s used in classical Greek to refer to a cringing subservient attitude, which one would have if one sought to please a patron. It’s something akin to the modern yes man. Now, we don’t like the connotation of a yes man. That’s kind of a weasel that just kind of does what is expected of him. But Paul takes this word that has a bad connotation and he puts it to good use. Not motivated by fear or self-preservation, that Christian is God’s yes man. In the light of God’s goodness and glory, the Christian seeks to please God in everything that he does. The Christian seeks to walk worthy of the Lord. The word worthy, there is a picture where it conveys the idea of balancing a beam or balancing skills. In other words, that it speaks of measuring up to a standard. And for the believer, that standard is the character and calling of the Lord Jesus Christ.
So the life that fully pleases God is a life that is a worthy life, a life that measures up to the character and calling of Jesus Christ. It really, in terms of a bottom line, is a life that brings no shame and no blame to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. But that’s a great prayer to pray. Paul prayed for them. We need to pray for each other. We need to pray that God will bring a spiritual understanding of his will to our lives through his word. As we study it, the Holy Spirit will help us to see what God wants us to do in life and then supply the par for us to do it. So that when whatever we do or say, it pleases God. It doesn’t bring shame or blame him to his name.
Sometime ago, I heard James Kennedy tell the story of a young soldier who was hauled before Alexander the Great for dereliction of duty in the face of the enemy. The great soldier himself for a time looked upon this young man with some sympathy. Perhaps it was something he saw in the young soldier’s face. Perhaps it was the knowledge of the horrors of war, which he had experienced himself. And he knew full well, how the heat of battle can melt any man’s courage. But that moment or two of sympathy soon changed when the young man’s name was read out. The young man’s name was Alexander. And in an interruption of emotion, Alexander the Great stood up and looking at the young man. He said, “Young man, either change your name or change your conduct.” The great statesman and soldier would not have his name associated with cowardice.
And that’s Paul’s prayer for those that have taken the name of Jesus Christ to themselves. That they will not shame that name by their conduct. And so he prays that they will have a pleasing life, and he prays that they will have a productive life. You see, a life lives with such a controlling purpose will be productive one. Doing God’s will involves doing God’s work. And so Paul goes on to pray that they may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing him, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God. Man, this is a broad prayer, isn’t it? This is a profound prayer.
Now, while we are not saved by our good works, we are saved unto good works. Paul teaches that in Ephesians 2:8. Here’s what he says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before that we should walk in them.” Paul is saying that salvation begins with a work of God for us. Through what Jesus Christ did in the cross, we can be reconciled to God. And as we put our faith in Jesus Christ, He reunites us with God. And so salvation is a work of grace that God does for us. But once we’re united to Jesus Christ and God’s grace has become operational in our life, God begins a work in us.
The work that he has done for us issues into a work that He does in us. And while good works does not secure salvation, good works is the result of God’s life in our life. And Paul expects that to be true. Paul understands, as the reformers said, that we are saved by faith alone, but saving faith is never alone. You see, the Colossians had once expressed their hostility to God in evil deeds. Look at Colossians 1:21. Speaking of their life before life in Jesus Christ, he said, “You, who were once alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled.”
Now that they’re in a relationship with God, they’re not an amnity with God through wicked works. They’re reconciled to God through the work of Jesus Christ, and His work produces a work of grace in them, which produces good works. And Paul prays for an increase of that. You and I need to pray that the work that God has begun in us, he will complete. That our lives will bear fruit. That as we abide in Christ and His word abides in us, that our lives will become fruitful, marked by spiritual growth. That we will pray as God with the fruit of our lips. That we will serve God with the fruit of our finances. Paul not only prays for their spiritual enlargement, enlightenment, employment, Paul prays for their spiritual enjoyment. This is a wonderful thought. Look at verse 10. He goes on to pray that they would be strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and long suffering with joy.
It is a high calling that Paul has set before them, right? He’s just called them to walk worthy of the Lord, to be fully pleasing onto him, and to be fruitful onto every good work. That’s a high calling. That’s a lot of stuff. And so we shouldn’t be surprised as this prayer unfolds, that Paul, in this third part of his prayer for them, requests that they might know God’s power. That will enable them to live a life fully pleasing to God. Paul prays that they would be strengthened with all might, according to God’s glorious power. You see, none of this desired or asked for spiritual increase is possible unless God gives strength for it. Right? You see, these good works that Paul’s praying for are not meritorious because these are good works that God produces in us by His grace. These are good works that the Holy Spirit produces in us through His power.
And that’s what Paul prays. He prays that God would give them what they need so that they may do what God asks. And we need to constantly pray that. Augustine got it right, didn’t he, when he said, “Lord, demand what you will, but supply what you demand.” I want you to think about that statement, “Lord, demand what you will, but supply what you demand.” Lord, if you asked me to do something, then give me the ability to do it because I can’t do it in my own strength. Jesus taught us that, didn’t He, when He encouraged us to abide in Him and let His word abide in us? Because without him, we can what? Do nothing. And so here’s Paul praying that they would live out the will of God, that their lives would be marked by spiritual endeavor, godly character. But he understands that that is sourced in God.
In fact, this verb here or the participle strengthen is in the present tense. That means Paul is praying that God would constantly, continually strengthen them. This is so good. And I know, I believe it’s a word for this congregation in my own heart. This participle carries the idea of God’s continuous action in their lives. And Paul is alerting us to something that we need to grasp. The believer needs to grasp it, and the unbeliever needs to grasp it. I have met people have said to me, “You know what? I would become a Christian, but I don’t think I could live that life.” And I wouldn’t want to be a hypocrite. My friend, you can’t live that life. I understand that, but God’s not going to leave you alone to live that life. Come to Jesus Christ this morning and He will supply you the grace to live a God honoring life.
He will strengthen you with all might, according to His power. And that’s a message even believers need the grasp. That the Christian life doesn’t begin with God pushing us. And then we do the rest ourselves. It’s never like that. That’s why we must be constantly praying, constantly studying, constantly yielding our life under the authority of God’s word and the work of the Holy Spirit. See, I think some Christians get the idea. Remember when you were a kid, you got to the park for the first time and your mom or dad sat you on the swing? And you said, “Mom or dad, give me a push.” And so they did. They pushed you. And then you learn by flopping and swinging legs that you could build a momentum up on that swing and keep yourself going for a while. And I think Christians have that idea, and unbelievers have that idea about the Christian life.
We sit on the swing and God pushes us. And then he leaves us to kind of do it ourselves. So nothing is further from the truth. God gives us the Holy Spirit. He indwells us and He constantly supplies power to those that ask and are yielded to Him. Two things here. Look at the extent of this power. This is marvelous. Look at the extent of this power, strengthened with all might. Paul is literally saying strengthened with all strength, and he doesn’t finish there. He goes on to say, “According to his glorious power, we can be strengthened up to the level of God’s glorious might.” Did you notice what level of strength is of made available to us? It’s strength according to God’s power, glorious, mighty, awesome power, and it’s made fully available to us. That’s a powerful thought. That really makes me uncomfortable.
When I realize at times how I lie down and roll over in the face of temptation and when my world caves in and I’m under a pile of ruble high, quickly, I give up the ghost. And yet, Paul is saying that we can pray for each other, as he prays for the Colossians, that God would give us power, not just any kind of power, power according to His glorious might. Wow. Listen to these words from Derek Tidball. “His might is the might of a sovereign creator who brought the world into being out of nothing, of a miraculous savior who brought his oppressed people out of Egypt, of a majestic daddy who showed himself in thunder and lightning at Sinai, of a triumphant life giver who brought Jesus Christ back from the dead through the resurrection.” This is the kind of power we’re talking about; the power that split the Red Sea, the power that brought Jesus Christ back from the dead, the power that flung the stars into space. It’s available to us this morning, brothers. My sister, it’s available to you.
I’ve never quite understood why Detroit provide us cars that are capable of speeds in access of 100 miles an hour, in a world where we’re limited to drive below 70. Now I’m thankful they go that fast once in a while, because I’ve had to use it that way, or I’m tempted to use it that way. Probably. More accurately. Here’s the deal as I thought about that, we have more power than we need in our automobiles, more horses than we can ever harness, right? And the same can be said for the Christian. The same can be said for the Christian. The Christian has power available through God that outstrips his capacity to use it. That’s a powerful thought. God makes His power available to us at such a measure and such a level that will always outstrip our capacity to use it, which brings me finally to the expression of this power. That you would be strength with all might, according to his glorious power.
I want to tell you, for me, this was a letdown until I understood this text. Four. Well, why does God give us this power that outstrips our capacity to use it? More power than will ever need? Well, maybe he gives us that power so we can write the powers of darkness. Maybe he gives us that power so that we can get involved in a string of miraculous experiences. Maybe God supplies us such might so that we can take a quantum leap and world evangelism. I mean, that’s the kind of thing I’m waiting for Paul to talk about. God’s going to give you this strength, you folks in Colossae, and here’s what you’re going to do with it. You’re going to live patiently with all man. And you’re going to endure all kinds of circumstances. That’s what Paul is praying for. That God will give them power so that they might live patiently and persistently for God’s glory, despite challenging circumstances or aggravating people.
There’s not a lot of difference between these two words, but if there’s any difference, the first word here, patient speaks of patience with regards to circumstances, and the second word long suffering speaks of patience with regards to people. And God is making all of His might available to us so that we can live patiently and persistently under difficult circumstances and in the company of aggravating people. Now, when I think of God’s power, I think of something big. And so I kind of akin to that one. Wow. That’s a bit of a letdown. That’s an awful waste of such great power. Until I thought for a few moments and realized, you know what, it is a big deal to live under difficult circumstances. It is a big deal to live and love certain people. Just think about that as we close. It takes God’s strength to be content in all circumstances, and to do it with joy.
Some of us would rather be somewhere else than where we are right now. We don’t like how the deck is stacked, and you need God’s power to live in a context you don’t like. When you’re up against the odds, when things are not how you have wished or prayed, it takes great patience to live under such circumstances. Patience that needs power, according to God’s mighty power. Listen to these words from a writer, the word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full. And the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us. Impatient people are always expecting the real thing to happen somewhere else, and therefore they want to go else where the moment is empty. But patient people stay where they are.
By God’s grace, my friend, listen to me. My wounded brother and my struggling sisters, stay where you are. And God can give you the power to overcome under the circumstances. And I tell you, it’s a big deal to live with some people. Some people are not very lovable. Some people try our patience. Some people return our good with evil. Some people need our service and we have to serve them selflessly day in and day out. Perhaps, someone that’s high spine or someone that’s sick and God has called you to minister to them. I tell you, it takes a miracle to do it over a lifetime, not to walk out of that marriage, not to lose your joy and become better, and think life is passing you by. I tell you, that’s a mighty thing to live under such circumstances with such people. And Paul says that by God’s grace, power is made available. That’s wonderful, isn’t it?
When we lived in California, in Santa Clarita Valley, we noticed that on many occasions we drove by this one guy. I called him the road runner because he was always out running and pounding the pavement of the city. We would see him often on a Sunday morning sometimes in the way to church, or during the week there he would be. And every so often, we’d just be driving. Man, I go, “There he is. He’s at it again. He’s still running.” In the summer, august this year, we took Angela out to Master’s college and I was asked to preach at my old church at Placerita Baptist. As we were driving Angela down to the campus of Master’s college, believe it or not, there he was four years later. We’d been gone four years and the guy was still running. I couldn’t believe it.
And to top it all, God gave me a great surprise. The morning I preached at Placerita Baptist, lo and behold, he was in the service. I got to meet the guy for the first time. He’s a believer and his name is Jerry. And I said to him, “Jerry, you are a great encouragement to me because every time I think of Hebrews 12:1, run the race with endurance, I think of you.” Run the race with endurance. This guy is always running. Four years later, there he is still at it. I tell you, friend, endurance is a mighty thing. Persistence is a good thing. And under certain circumstances, faced with certain people, you will need strength according to His glorious power. Paul went on to pray for their spiritual enjoyment. Look what he says, “Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”
Paul reminds us that one ought not to pray without giving thanks. I can, one, ask God to give us something more when we haven’t already thanked him for what he has given, and top of the list is salvation through Jesus Christ. And so as you and I go before God in petition and intercession, we ought also to go before Him with a great sense of gratefulness and gratitude for all that He is to us and all that He has done for us. And that’s what Paul is all about here in verse 12 through 14. I think in fact, there’s a connection between the end of verse 11 and the beginning of verse 12. He ends verse 11 with the thought of joy. By God’s strength, they can endure and overcome in difficult circumstances, facing difficult people.
And that thought is not forgotten as it kind of transitions into this idea of giving thanks to God for our great redemption in the Lord Jesus Christ. And it seems to me, there is a connection. It seems to me that the Christian ought to remain joyful despite difficult circumstances, because as a child of God, they belong to the kingdom of God’s dear Son. The Christian can remain joyful despite difficult people, for the child of God knows a father’s love. And Paul seems to be reminding them that in Christ, they have a settled position before God. They have been qualified. They have been redeemed. They have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. And although their circumstances may change and they may face the hatred of people or the rejection of others, they are accepted. They’re standing before God is unalterable.
There are certain fixed realities in their life that ought to cause them great joy. In fact, I think Paul is saying here, as he prays for their spiritual enjoyment, that they may be possessed of a sense of the present reality of salvation and what they have in the Lord Jesus Christ; forgiveness, justification, acceptance before God, the very hope of heaven, and the perfect existence in the life to come. And that reality ought to overwhelm and overshadow every other reality that’s present in their lives, if I might illustrate it this way. Have you ever noticed maybe in watching a survivor’s story? Maybe the survivor’s being interviewed in Larry King Live, or it’s just one of those TLC programs that document how people escaped death. Have you ever noticed that people like that, people who have been rescued and given their life back, tend not to sweat the small stuff or not to complain?
They’ve gained the perspective in their near miss, that puts things in their proper place and attaches to things their appropriate price tag. As I’ve watched those interviews, the thing that comes across is that those kind of people are just thankful to be alive. There’s a glow about them. And I think that’s at the heart of what Paul is trying to get across here in verses 12 through 14. He wants these saints who are enduring difficult circumstances, facing difficult people, and therefore they need to pray for God’s enduring strength. But these people can have a glow about them because they’re just glad to be saved. Just glad to be alive. Just glad to know that the condemnation of God has lifted through Jesus Christ. And these kind of Christians are just thankful despite the circumstances, because they know that nothing shall separate them from the love of God. They are in the kingdom of His dear Son. They are redeemed. Their sins have been forgiven through His blood.
We need to pray that for each other, that we will have a deep and abiding sense of gratitude towards God’s grace. That regardless of our circumstances, our losses or our gains, our greatest gain was when Jesus Christ made us His child. And when we lost our sin when it was swallowed up in his death, burial and resurrection. Just this week, I was reading about a lady from New York who explained how the Holy Spirit captured her heart for God under the ministry of George Whitefield in the past generation. Here’s what she said. “Mr. Whitefield was so cheerful that attempted me to become a Christian.” Paul’s praying that for the Colossians. He’s praying that they will be so joyful that they will tempt others to trust the Lord Jesus Christ.