Spiritual encouragement Spiritual growth

Growing in Christlikeness: A lesson from Paul’s prayer for the Colossians

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

When Paul wrote his letter to the Colossians, he most likely had never yet been to the town of Colossae. This is surmised from statements in his letter; such as, “since the day we heard about you” (1:9), and that many in Colossae had never met him personally (cf. 2:1).

Still, while Paul hadn’t yet been to Colossae, he had a connection to the Colossians through his friend Epaphras. For, it was Epaphras who first took the gospel to the people of Colossae (cf. 1:7-8). And, Epaphras was converted to Christ after hearing Paul preach in Ephesus.

Paul had a heart for the people of Colossae. For years, he had faithfully been praying for the Colossians’ spiritual growth and well-being. And, in his prayers, he wrote of spiritual truths which are equally applicable to today’s Christians.

Paul encouraged the Colossians:

“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.” (Colossians 1:9)

Paul’s example serves to remind us that believers aren’t to think of themselves as isolated to a local church membership. Christ’s Church is a collective body of believers across the earth. We are all members of the body in Christ and, as such, ought to be in frequent prayer for Christian congregations in other communities and nations.

Just as Paul prayed for the spiritual protection and growth of people in a town he had never been to, and for people he had never met; we ought to be pray for Christians across the globe. Christian brothers and sisters everywhere need our prayers.

It’s easy to become negligent in praying for those with whom we have little or no interaction. But it is essential. Prayer is impactful, and God’s reach and power are boundless.

Paul knew that. He trusted God to hear his prayers and act in the lives of those in church of Colossae. Further, as Paul prayed for the Colossians, his prayers had depth and intention. Paul mentions specific things he had been praying for them.

“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, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.” (Colossians 1:10-12)

How encouraging it must’ve been for the Colossians to read that Paul and his companions had been praying for their spiritual fortitude and growth. Not only that, Paul’s letter gave them, and us, an overview and reminder of how a Christian should be living for Christ and growing in Christlikeness.

Those spiritual areas for which Paul prayed for the Colossians are powerful aspects needed in every Christian’s personal walk. Read what Paul said, and consider how instrumental these things are to a Christian’s spiritual growth and wellbeing.

Believers are to live a life that is worthy to the Lord and pleasing to Him.

At the point of salvation, we are fully in Christ. But, we are to continually and intentionally seek to grow in Christ. We are instructed to, “take hold of the eternal life to which you were called” (1 Tim. 6:12). We are called to live as servants of Christ, following and yielding to Him obediently as productive workers in His calling.

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Eph. 4:1). “In view of God’s mercy . . . offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship (Romans 12:1). These verses speak about a making a purposeful, determined effort of submitting to Christ’s Lordship, growing in Christlikeness, and serving Him.

Studying Paul’s prayer, he qualifies some of the spiritual aspects and actions that are essential for a Christian to live a life that is productive and pleasing to the Lord.

Believers are intended to bear fruit for God’s kingdom.

To “bear fruit” means we are to serve the Lord in areas that build up His Church. This entails reaching the world with the gospel and using our talents and gifts for the betterment of the body of Christ.

Jesus said, “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4 italics added). As children of God and co-heirs with Christ, we are called to serve the Father through the empowerment of Jesus. For we are God’s fellow workers” (1 Cor. 3:9).

The Lord doesn’t intend for any of his children to be ineffective, but to serve in places and at times that He has prepared for us. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10).

“So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God” (Romans 7:4). God gives every believer a spiritual gift(s) to build up His kingdom. We have different types of spiritual gifts, but each gift is purposed for His glory. So, we must be obedient in using the spiritual gift(s) that He has bestowed on us.

Believers are to grow in their knowledge of God.

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Two prominent ways for growing in our knowledge of God are by studying His Word and spending time with Him in prayer. The Word of God teaches us correctly about whom He is—and whom we are in Him. Prayer is not solely speaking to God but allowing Him to speak to us; to lead us, comfort us, and prove himself to us. As we spend time seeking God, the Spirit of God who searches the mind of the heavenly Father, teaches us more about His will and direction for us individually.

Another important area where we grow in our knowledge of God is through spending time in fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ. Believers have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit inside them. So, as we spend meaningful time with other believers who have God’s Spirit in them, the Holy Spirit uses others to teach and show us more about the character and love of God. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Prov 27:17).

Believers are to be strengthened with all power according to God’s might.

This point has more applications than I could possibly touch on in a short post. Nothing is impossible for God. God’s might is infinite and He wants to strengthen us in more ways than we can fathom. 

Still, to mention one aspect where God wants to strengthen us, is in development of our spiritual gift(s). A spiritual gift isn’t a natural talent, but a supernaturally empowered strength bestowed in us by the Holy Spirit, and purposed for His work.

Spiritual gifts need to be recognized, utilized, and sharpened in their application. In that, the Holy Spirit isn’t necessarily developing our spiritual gift so much as He is in developing us to better use our spiritual gift.

Endurance and patience are essential to a believer’s spiritual growth.

Endurance and patience are crucial to spiritual discipline and growth. Endurance builds fortitude, foresight, and faith.

“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? (Heb. 12:7). We tend to associate the word discipline with punishment. But, more so, the word discipline means to instruct and train for purposes of development.

By enduring hardships as discipline, God uses hurts and hardships to grow us more into Christlikeness.

Patience, too, is another godly character. It is fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Patience builds our faith and increases our dependence on God, for faith requires waiting on God’s perfect plan and for His perfect timing.

Further, we are to patiently wait for the Lord’s return, knowing that God’s patience is purposed for the salvation of men (cf. 2 Peter 3:15). So, “be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near” (James 5:7-8).

Believers are to live with joy and thanksgiving in their heart.

Paul reminds us that, in all these things, our obedience to Christ isn’t to be done out of dutiful actions. Rather, our service to the Lord ought to stem from a heart of overflowing gratitude. The degree of joy and thanksgiving that we express are actually heart monitors. Joy and thanksgiving come from a heart that is filled with the love of Christ, and compassion for people.

In gratitude, devotion, obedience, we should live out our lives so others see Christ’s love through us. As our attitude and actions show Christ’s love and exalt Christ, we live in a manner that becomes pleasing to our glorious and gracious Savior.

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