Facts and Feet
Study #3 Colossians 1:9-12
by Bob Burridge ©2021
We’ve all had to get directions to know how to get to some place. Sometimes its just a short drive to a friend’s house, or to a restaurant to meet somebody. Or it might be a cross country drive to visit family, or to see the sights. There are things we need to do to make sure we get where we want to go.
The first thing you need to do is to know where you’re going. In the “Old Days” I’ve gone into the Tripple-A to have a Trip-Tic map made. The first question they ask is, “What’s your destination?” It’s the first thing you tell the driver when you get in a cab. It’s the first thing you do when you pull up Google, or try to get the GPS.
The next thing is to have the right directions to get there. There’s the old story about the tourist who asked directions at a country gas station. The attendant said, “You can’t miss it. You go down this road a good piece, then turn left about 2 miles before you come to where the old water tower used to be.”
It’s so easy now that we have the internet. You go to Google or a map application and type in where you want to go and where you start from. In seconds it gives you a map with optional routes, driving times, and distances to each turn.
But even the best directions are worthless if you don’t follow them. If you turn left when you should go right, or if you take the wrong exit from the Interstate, you won’t end up where you planned to go until you backtrack and get on the route again.
When Paul wrote to the Colossian church,
he knew where they should be going.
To get there, they had to know the right path and stay on it. Paul had just explained in verses 3-8 what moved him to thank God in prayer for them. He had heard of their faith in Jesus Christ, and their love toward the other believers. Their anchor was the hope treasured up for them in the heavens by God’s covenant promise. They showed their trust in the gospel by the fruit their lives were producing. But Paul kept the goal and the map handy: They needed to be progressing on.
1st They needed have to have the right destination set clearly before them. There are a lot of false beliefs about God presenting themselves every day. It’s like the times we follow the GPS directions and end up in an empty field. There’s a lot of wrong information out there about God and what he’s told us too. We need to know the true God as he reveals himself in his word. The Colossians needed to keep their Bibles open and prayerfully study it, and learn what it says.
2nd They needed to have the right directions to get to that right place. The ways most think will get us where we ought to be are not always good advice. Good intentions aren’t enough. The gospel presents a very specific map to follow. And it’s often not the popular one.
3rd They needed faithfully to follow the directions God gave them. A person might know what God says, and how his word tells them to live, but it’s easy to get off the right path. Some detours seem very enticing. If you go down the wrong road, you just get farther from the right goal.
So Paul shows the specifics of what he prayed for concerning the Colossians. We need the right facts. And we need to direct our feet to walk according to them.
Paul regularly remembered to pray
for these believers he had heard about.
Colossians 1:9. And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
Paul obviously expected that prayer would effectively help the Colossians grow spiritually. His confidence wasn’t in his own efforts or his own abilities, or even in there’s. It was in the promise of God who pledged to care for his children when they walk in his ways.
First Paul makes the destination very clear: He wanted them to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will with spiritual wisdom and understanding.
God has made known what is right and good. We call that his revealed will. It’s written and preserved for us in the words of the Bible. Paul wanted them to be filled with that knowledge. They weren’t to expect personal visions, or trust in their instincts or feelings. Their walk must be bounded by what God has revealed in His word. Without a sound Bible knowledge, we can’t know what pleases God, and we can’t progress along without offending the God who made us.
But there must also be spiritual wisdom and understanding. A changed heart was necessary. If God didn’t apply the work of the Savior to their hearts, they were still seeing everything through prejudiced eyes and with fallen hearts.
Next, he wanted them to know the true way to reach that destination. There are 4 parts listed here, that make up the path they needed to follow. These are the qualities that must be seen in us too, if we are on the right road. But they aren’t just a list of things to do or turns to make. They are more indicators so that we can know when we are going in the right direction.
He goes right on to describe the way …
Colossians 1:10a, ” so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, …”
The verse begins with the words, “so …” What follows in the next verses depends on what we know about what pleases God.
Paul lists the 4 ways our knowledge of God’s will should be seen in their lives. These are the qualities Paul wanted to see in them … the things for which he prayed. That right way is marked out by these indicators …
First, we ought to be producing evidence of spiritual life in us.
Verse 10 goes on to say, ” bearing fruit in every good work… “
When a tree doesn’t produces leaves or fruit for several seasons, we dig it out and get rid of it. Something is wrong deep inside it.
The Bible uses that symbol of bearing fruit to help us judge our walk. If we are truly alive in Christ we will know it by what we produce. Jesus said in Matthew 7:20-21, “Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
In Luke 6:43-45 he used that same illustration, “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
The work of the Spirit in our lives produces evidence the Bible calls fruit of the Spirit. In Galatians 5:22-23 Paul lists those characteristics: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
In the Beatitudes Jesus gave another list of the evidences of being on the right path. We are pleasing God when we demonstrate: poverty in spirit, sorrow over sin, gentleness, hungering for righteousness, mercy, heart-purity, peacemaking, endurance through persecution. (Matthew 5)
There are many lists like that in the Bible. They differ only in the details.
A God-centered life is seen in godly characteristics that come from a regenerated heart. If we see them in our life, we are encouraged that we are on the right course. It means that our hearts have been changed and we’re heading toward the right goal. Only when the gospel has taken hold of us can we truly please God.
If they’re missing, we should take spiritual inventory of our lives. The basic first step along the right path is quite simple. That’s the good news, the “gospel” as its called.
It’s that we trust in God’s provision and promise alone for our spiritual life. God’s grace comes by his undeserved love alone, not by our own merits as if we’re better than others. If we do good or show these spiritual fruits, it’s because of God’s grace. It’s not the cause of God’s grace.
So, as it was with Paul, we are driven to humble, thankful and joyous trust in God’s grace alone. The greatest evidence that our hearts are changed is that we give God the glory for all good, through Jesus Christ. Our Savior took upon himself what we deserve, and gives life and restoration to the undeserving. Then he moves us along toward great blessings by his unfailing hand.
The second evidence: is that we are growing in our knowledge of God.
Verse 10 continues saying … “.. and increasing in the knowledge of God.”
Notice the cycle. We begin with being filled with the knowledge of God’s will. (verse 9). As we grow we increase in the knowledge of God (verse 10).
Knowledge yields knowledge — not every knowledge. Being a consistent Christian won’t make you good at spelling and math. But it means learning more about what makes a difference: knowledge of God.
Dr. Hendriksen said about this verse, “the more God’s children know him, the more they will also love him; and the more they love him, the more they will also wish to obey him in thought, word and deed.” This growing knowledge drives us back to his word to learn more and more about him.
It’s something like following a map on a trip. As you follow the map to get to where you want to be, you learn more about the way. The next time you might not even have to look at the directions, because you learn what the way looks like. Similarly, as we practice living by God’s principles, they become familiar to us. They become the culture of our children who are trained by our example. They become our habits and we learn how to improve them.
The false-teachers in Colossae had a dualistic view of reality. They separated the spiritual part of life from the material part. Knowledge of God was thought to be purely mystical and attained by special insights. They claimed to have secret knowledge that couldn’t be tested by anything in our world. The idea that God spoke in a Bible that actually spoke about real truth was foreign to them.
Paul directly attacked that way of thinking. The Christian can know the openly revealed truths of God. They inform us, set us free from superstition, and produce real godliness in us.
The 3rd evidence that we are on the right path: is becoming strong in steadfastness and patience.
11. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,
Our strength to stay on track comes from the power of God Literally, the original Greek text says, “empowered in all power …” Dr. Hendriksen translates Philppians 4:3 as, “I can do all things in him who infuses strength into me.” God gives us our abilities, our motives and even our opportunities.
He strengthens us to become steadfast — He causes us to endure. In Christ we have the ability to bear up under difficulties. When persecution comes, hardships, temptations, or trials, God’s grace carries us through.When the easy way appeals to us we stand strong, unyielding. Never silencing our testimony for Christ, nor compromising God’s moral principles. God makes the saints “persevere” to the end by persevering with them. He doesn’t give up on us, even though we make mistakes and sin along the way. An evidence that we are his, is that we are faithful to the one we call our Lord.
God strengthens us to become patient. He teaches us to be longsuffering. We learn to resist the desire for immediate satisfaction in the easiest ways. Our self-serving fallen nature is weak and impatient. It wants its own way – regardless of the difficulty or inconvenience it means to others. It only looks to its own earthly wants and desires. It will not wait for God to deal with it in his time, or for God’s process to work. It seldom is able to see itself as part of a larger whole, a divine plan. If we truly believe God’s word and promises, then we must learn to be patient.
The fourth evidence: is the emerging of Joyful thankfulness. The last word of verse 11 seems to go best with verse 12.
12. giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
Knowing God, his gospel, and his care for us, we offer joyful thanksgiving. When in situations that require endurance and patience, how can there be joy and thanksgiving for the Christian? He knows that it’s God himself who has qualified him to be an heir in God’s family. Through the Savior he is able “to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” literally it says that he “enables us to share” in this way. That is, God makes us worthy in Christ by grace, to have a portion of glory.
The false teachers in Colossae promoted fear that the pagan supernatural beings could disqualify believers from life with God (2:16, 3:17, 4:2). The New Geneva Bible notes on this passage, “no power in the universe can question the credentials of those who are in Christ”
We need to have the true God-given
facts and direct our feet by them.
With our eyes fixed firmly toward what God says pleases him, knowing his revealed will, we follow the map he gives us, cultivating the Spirit’s fruit in our lives, humbly confessing when we get off the path, and using all the means he gives us to direct our feet back to the right way. We rest in his power to make us steadfast in truth and patient in adversity. We remember then to thank our Heavenly Father with joy, for every victory and blessing.
We know that walking in God’s ways is best for us. But its contrary to our fallen nature, and the influences and examples around us. Therefore we need to study the Scriptures to learn God’s will. And we need to pray to walk according to it, enjoying its benefits.
Every little step our feet take is crucial. We face great dangers as we move around in this dangerous world! There are false teachings that confuse us, temptations that lure us into dangerous places, and carefully disguised enemies of our soul who are anxious to see us hurt, and Christ’s glory dishonored.
We can’t afford to be unaware of God’s revealed will and what pleases him. We need to keep our attention on the job and watch where our feet take us. One misstep or detour can get us far off the road toward rich blessing and peace.
It’s good that we have a family of believers to come to our rescue when we fall. When we see another struggling where he shouldn’t be do we help? or do we criticize? Do we pray that the fruit of redemption would grow in each of our friends and family?
Are we as concerned about these matters as we are for our material and emotional needs? Do we pray for these evidences of spiritual life as often, as diligently? Do we really want these good ways to replace what we are now? Do we work hard to know what God has revealed in his word? to know what pleases him? Do we call upon him to strengthen us in steadfastness and patience, as much as we ask for comfort when we are sick? or for financial increase? Do we humbly and joyfully thank God every time we see his blessings and hand at work?
These are what our Lord died to procure for us and to produce in us. Its part of our inheritance in Christ. Lay hold of this promise and seek it above every other goal in life.
Note: Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.