Saturday, January 18, 2014

Know God's will? More than that—to be filled with that knowledge

I've been thinking about one of my favorite prayers, from Colossians 1:
[W]e have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way…
Sometimes I think I'd like to know what God wants me to do. But to tell the truth it's not mainly so that I may live a life worthy of him. No, it's so that I can stay out of trouble and have nice experiences. Is it God's will that I attend this or that college, study this or that subject, live in this or that city, marry this or that person (or not), etc.?

When I've asked questions like that in the past (and the present too, to be honest), most of the time it's not mainly about pleasing him; it's about pleasing me. "What kind of life will I have if I choose X vs. Y?" is my real thought. Perhaps that's why the Apostle Paul gives us a few important points beyond just knowing God's will:

  • asking God to fill you…
    This isn't something I can necessarily figure out on my own; I need outside help
  • …asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will…
    Not just that we might know what God wants, but to be filled with the knowledge of that will. What does it mean to be filled with knowledge of something? When the lovely Carol agreed to marry me, I was filled with the knowledge that she loved me and that we would be embarking on a new adventure together; there was room for little else in my head.
  • …through all spiritual wisdom and understanding
    What is spiritual wisdom? I'm not sure, but it reminded me of James 3, which talks about earthly "wisdom":
    But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocricy. (James 3:14-17)
  • And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way…
    Which is the point: it's not primarily that I can have the "wrinkle-free life" (to borrow a phrase from Patrick Morley), though God loves to give us good gifts; it's primarily so that I can live worthy of him and please him in every way.

    Now if things always went my way, if I never had any problems, if I never had to go to work… what kind of person would I become? Would I live worthy of the Lord and please him in every way? Maybe some people would, but I almost certainly wouldn't; I would likely not develop patience and compassion and generosity, but would probably be even more self-absorbed and impatient than I already am.

The prayer is for us (for me) to have a new way of living, or a new way of being human. Because what I need most is not more money, or fewer problems; what I need most is to be delivered from selfishness and greed and folly. And that's why I need to be filled with the knowledge of his will, rather than being filled with my own preoccupations and jealousies and petty ambitions.

A new way of being human, in other words.

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