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Knowing God

What did you accomplish this week? Did you manage to check off a few things on your to-do list? I know I did! My wife & I moved into new house this week – and we are completely exhausted – but that’s one huge check mark on this past week’s to do list for us. Of course because of our move, we’ve also also created hundreds of new items to add to future to-do lists. We have boxes to unpack, a basement to finish, a kitchen to renovate, a fence to build, sheds to repair, etc…

It’s seems there’s never an end to the to-do list, is there? No matter how much you accomplish one week – there is always more to do next week. And so with an endless list of things to do, we’ve really got to prioritize. You can’t do everything that needs to be done – so you’ve got to start by doing the most important things first.

For example, on Friday when we moved in, the most important thing on that day was to get the boxes inside the house. I didn’t spend my time trimming my new hedges or mowing the lawn. That was not what was important that day. The rain and snow were coming – the most important thing was to get everything inside.

I’d be pretty foolish to spend my time trimming the hedges while the trucks sat there full of boxes waiting to come inside.

But I think sometimes we do that with our to-do lists in life. We often neglect the most important things. We do lots of stuff – but not always the most important stuff.

So maybe the question shouldn’t be “What did you accomplish this week?” – but rather – “Did you accomplish the most important things this week?”

One of the questions that nearly everyone asks at some point in their life is – what’s the meaning of life? For those of us who believe in God and who believe that God created each of us for a purpose, we ask a similar, but more personal question – What is God’s purpose for my life? Why did He create me? What does He want me to accomplish while I’m on this earth?

And if we intend to accomplish whatever it is that God has created us to accomplish – we had better know what his purpose is for our life. And that means specifically, we need to know God’s to-do list for us each day. We need to know what’s most important to God.

When I look back at my week – and I think about all the things that I did, all the things I accomplished, all the endeavours that I invested my time and my energy into – I have to wonder: How much of that was what God wanted me to do? And how much of that was just stuff that I did? Sure, I accomplished a lot, but did I neglect the most important stuff?

If I were to stand before God today and give account of what I did this week – would God say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You did exactly what I created you to do.”

I’m not sure He would. That’s a tough question. Am I doing what God created me to do? Do I spend my days following His will – or am just doing stuff?

Can we even know? Can anyone say with certainty that “this” is what God wants me to do today? Can we even know God’s will for our life or do we just have to give it our best guess?

Well, we’re going to continue looking at Colossians this morning to explore those questions and maybe even find some answers. Or perhaps we’ll just find some more questions – but either way, we’ll see what we can discover together. 

Last week we began looking at the book of Colossians. You’ll remember that this book is actually a letter written by Paul to the church in Colosse – and it’s purpose is to give the church some clear teaching on who Christ is, what He has done, and how we are to live because of that. It’s Paul’s Christianity in a nutshell. We only got through the first six verses last Sunday, so today I want to pick it up at verse 7 and we’ll read through to verse 14.

You learned about the Good News from Epaphras, our beloved co-worker. He is Christ’s faithful servant, and he is helping us on your behalf. 8 He has told us about the love for others that the Holy Spirit has given you.

We briefly talked about this last week – how it was Epaphras and not Paul who started this church in Colosse. It seems that Epaphras was now back with Paul and had given him a report about this new church. Some of the report was very good – it seemed the church was doing really great at loving others. Paul mentions that here in verse 8 and we also heard that last week back in verse 4. So Paul was certainly pleased about that. Then Paul goes on to tell them how he has been praying for them – and this is what I want us to look at specifically today.

9 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. 10 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.

11 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, 12 always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. 13 For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14 who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.

Colossians 1:7-14

Wow! What a prayer! Do we pray for people like that? We sure should! A lot of times our prayers for others are pretty superficial, aren’t they? We pray for health, for safety in travelling, for God’s provision – and these are all good things! Don’t get me wrong – I’d love to have you pray for those things for me. But how often, when we pray for others, do we ask God to give them complete knowledge of this will with spiritual wisdom and understanding? Isn’t that maybe a little more important than just not hitting the ditch on the way to Edmonton?

And again, of course God cares about the smallest details of our lives and we should pray for those things – but let’s also pray about the things that have eternal significance – the stuff that really matters in life! I think Paul got it right when he prayed for the church in Colosse.

Look at the very first thing Paul prays for… in verse 9.

We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will.

One of the questions we asked this morning was “Can we know God’s will?” Paul seems to think that we can! And not even just a little bit of God’s will. Paul prays for the complete knowledge of God’s will.

Can you imagine having the complete knowledge of God’s will for your life? I don’t mean that God would tell you your entire life’s story so that you know every detail of your future – but rather that you would know God’s will for you in every moment of every day.

Is that actually possible? Can you have the completely knowledge of God’s will? Can you know what God wants you to do every moment of every day? Well, I think Jesus did.

Now you might say “Of course He did – Jesus was God. Of course he knew God’s will.”

Yes, Jesus was God, don’t forget that Jesus was also at the same time a man. And I don’t think that his knowledge of God’s will came from His being divine. I believe Jesus’ knowledge of His Father’s will came from his relationship with his Father. Jesus was in such constant and close communication with His Father that He knew His Father’s will in every moment of every day.

How many times do we read in Gospels about Jesus going off by himself to pray – to spend time talking with his Father? Jesus did that all the time.

Luke 5:16 tells us “But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” Not just once in a while – but often!

Luke 6:12 says “Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night.”

When’s the last time I prayed to God all night? If Jesus, the Son of God, needed to spend that kind of time and frequency in prayer with His Father, how much more important is it for us!?

Jesus was always spending time with His Father – and I think that’s how He knew God’s will for him in every moment of every day.

We have the same opportunity to have that complete knowledge of God’s will. That’s why Paul prays for the church in Colosse that way.

We even have a certain advantage: Not only can we learn of God’s will through constant prayer and fellowship with God – but we also have God’s Word.

God has already told us much of his will in His Word – the Bible. He has laid it out for us in black and white. For example, He has told us that He wants us to love our neighbors – we don’t have to wonder if that’s something God wants us to do. Loving our neighbor is certainly part of God’s will for your life. He’s told us to honour our parents. To obey the authorities. To take care of widows and orphans. To serve one another in love. I mean, God has given us an entire book that literally spells out God’s will for us.

If you want to know God’s will for your life – pick up this book! Read it. Spend time talking about it with God in prayer. Knowing God’s will for your life shouldn’t be difficult, but it does take effort.

And you know, many of us, especially those who have been Christians for a long time – probably do know much of God’s will for us. But our problem is that we just don’t want to follow God’s will.

I was reading a book last week and I came across this quote that was talking about the life of Jesus. The quote was: “Here is a man, sinless, because he has lovingly allowed the Father’s will full scope in his life.”  Read that again and just try to let that thought sink in.

Because of the time he continually spent with his Father, Jesus knew God’s will and yielded to it completely. He gave it full reign in his life. Remember, “Not my will – but yours be done.” And in doing that, He remained sinless throughout his entire life.

And maybe that’s a key difference between Jesus and us. I think many times we know God’s will – we know what God wants us to do in a certain situation – but we just don’t choose to yield to his will.

That’s were the second part of Paul’s prayer comes in: Look again at verse 9.

We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Colossians 1:9

Not only does Paul pray for the knowledge of God’s will – but he also prays for spiritual wisdom and understanding. Now what exactly does that have to do with yielding to God’s will?

When I was a kid I attended a Christian school and part of my curriculum were these ‘wisdom’ booklets. I was taught that the definition of wisdom is not just knowing what is right, but also doing what was right. Wisdom is knowing and doing what is right. That’s not the dictionary definition of wisdom – but I think it’s accurate. We aren’t wise just to know what is right – we are wise when we do what is right.

We need spiritual wisdom to go with the knowledge of God’s will. We need to know God’s will and we need wisdom to act on it!

Imagine if you knew someone who had studied economics. In fact, they went to the very best school of economics. They learned from some of the most successful business leaders in the world and they graduated at the top of their class. Imagine that they knew all about investing and profits and how to make your money multiply. Imagine that they knew all that, but never acted on it. They never put that knowledge to use with their own money. In fact, contrary to what they learned, they lived pay cheque to pay cheque – living in debt their whole life. That person might have knowledge, but they certainly don’t have wisdom.

All too often we do the same thing. We know what God wants us to do, but we choose not to do it. We have knowledge – but not wisdom.

We tell a little white lie to get out of a jam – we know that’s not God’s will, but we do it anyway.

We fill our minds with junk from tv or movies or the internet – we know that’s not God’s will for us, but we do it anyway.

We hold bitterness in our hearts towards that person that hurt us – we know that’s not God’s will for us, but we do it anyway.

That’s not wisdom – that’s foolishness.

We can study the Bible until we’re blue in the face – we can memorize entire chapters – we can know the Bible inside and out – but if we don’t do what it says, that’s all useless. We can be Bible smart – but still live like a fool.

And I wonder how often that’s the case when we feel stuck – not knowing God’s will? How often do we pray and ask God to reveal his will for us? “God, just tell me what to do in this situation? What college should I go to? Should I take this job opportunity? Should I move my family to another place? God, what’s your will for my life?”

How can we expect God to reveal more of His will to us when we’re already blatantly ignoring the parts of God’s will that He has already told us in His Word?

Not only do we need to know God’s will, we need to yield ourselves fully to it. We need that spiritual wisdom and understanding that Paul prays for.

But here’s the cool part – here’s what happens when we know God’s will and have the wisdom to yield ourselves to it: verse 10.

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. Colossians 1:10

Isn’t that what you want your life to look like? Don’t you want to have a life that always honors and pleases the Lord?! Don’t you want your life to produce every kind of good fruit!? Don’t you want to grow in in your relationship with God, getting to know Him better and better?!

I sure do! I imagine most of you do too! And we get that kind of a life by knowing and doing God’s will.

That’s really the bottom line of Christianity. This is what God wants for us more than anything.

When Jesus was asked, “What’s the greatest commandment of all time?” Do you remember how He answered?

Matthew 22:37 says “Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.”

Learning to love God is our #1 priority in life. Of all the things on our to-do list, this one is the most important! So how do we do that?

Well, imagine if this command had said “You must love your wife or husband will all your heart, all you soul, and all you mind. This is the greatest commandment.”

How would you do that? If God had said that your #1 priority in life was to love your spouse with all your heart, soul, and mind – wouldn’t you do all that you could to honor your spouse? Wouldn’t you think of ways to please your spouse? Wouldn’t you make it your goal to get to know your spouse more and more every day?

Actually it becomes a bit of a wonderful vicious cycle. The more you know your spouse, the more you’ll be able to please them. You’ll know what they like, you’ll know what they need, you’ll know what makes them happy. And as you do all those things that please them – that honor them – your relationship grows and you get to know them even more and more – which means you can please and honour them more and more and the cycle continues all over again. It’s a wonderful thing!

That’s exactly what Paul is saying here about our relationship with God. Let’s put verses 9 & 10 all together now.

We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 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.

In other words, as we know and follow God’s will, our lives will honor and please Him. As we do that, we grow to know God even more. Which means we can know and follow his will even more – which means we can please and honour Him more and more… and the cycle continues all over again…

The result is that we end up loving God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind because we know Him – we know His will – we know how much He loves us and how much we wants the best for us. We find that as we follow God’s will, that our lives begin to produce fruit –  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Knowing God and living according to His will just brings that stuff out!  And as we live like that, we find that everything we do honors and pleases God. Which is exactly what it means to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.

This is our #1 priority in life. Jesus said this is the most important thing we can do. If we miss this, we miss everything. You can check off 1,001 different things on your to-do list each week, but if you miss this one, you’ve accomplished nothing!

I was reading a passage in Matthew 7 earlier this week. And it really convicted me about what’s really important in my life. Let me show you.

21 “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. 22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’  Matthew 7:21-23

And those verses just penetrated my heart. I asked at the beginning of the message “What did you accomplish this week?” Well, this verse made me think – what if all the things I accomplished this week – were really pointless? What if I missed the one most important thing?

How many times as a pastor, am I so busy doing things for God – planting a church, preaching sermons, doing all kinds of good things – that I miss out accomplishing priority #1?

Am I so busy doing things for God (doing things in His name like the guys in this verse) – that I forget to take the time and make the effort just to get to know God? To know his will? To love Him with all my heart, soul, and mind?

It’s not those who prophesy in his name or cast out demons in his name or perform miracles in his name that enter the kingdom of heaven. It’s those who actually do the will of our heavenly Father. It’s those who know him.

What a tragedy it would be for any of us to live a life doing all kinds of good things – only to have God say to us “Get away from me – I never knew you.”

I want to encourage all of you this morning (myself included) – get to know God.

There are so many things that we can spend our time doing. Many good things. Many important things. But in all that, don’t miss the most important thing.

At the end of your life, it really doesn’t matter if the house got cleaned or if you got an ‘A’ on that paper or even if the mortgage got paid off. What matters is if you knew God. If you did His will. If you loved Him with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind.

Maybe this week, you need to re-prioritize your to-do list. Maybe you need to put “Spend time alone with God” right up at the top of your list. Maybe you need to write that on your calendar. Maybe you need to set an alarm on your phone. Do whatever it takes, but don’t miss it!

And remember, getting to know God doesn’t just mean sitting and reading your Bible for 15 minutes each day. There are so many ways to connect with God and let Him speak to you.

  • Some people really connect with God as they take a walk in nature – just talking with God in the quietness of the day.
  • Some people find that journaling really helps – maybe writing out your prayers to God or the thoughts you have as you read his Word.
  • For some, listening to Biblically sound teaching on the radio or a podcast really helps them get to know God deeper.
  • Others love to connect with God in music – listen to Christian radio or just singing or playing an instrument.
  • Some people get to know God through reading the writings of other Christian authors that help explain the Bible.

You know – there are all kinds of ways and methods to get to know God. I encourage you to find a few ways that work really well for you and put those things on the top of your priority list each day.

Don’t miss out on getting to know God.

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