SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY
24th SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
NOVEMBER 15, 2020.
Title: “Seeking God’s Guidance”
Text: “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:9-10).
Scripture Reading: Colossians 1:9-14.
God’s guidance is available, and we ought to trust it. However, as with other ready resources from God, we need to ask, seek, and knock. To do so clarifies and confirms our openness to do God’s will. It sharpens and quickens our desires. Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
There are many good reasons why believers ought to seek God’s guidance. However, the one that claimed the apostle Paul’s attention as he evaluated the church at Colossae is sufficient reason to seek God’s guidance. Doctrinal compromise and weak Christian conduct would be the result without God’s guidance. Pagan philosophy and Jewish legalism were being mixed with Christian beliefs by some religious teachers at Colossae. The result was supposed to be a superior Christianity. Instead, it was inferior.
Our text is Paul’s prayer of concern that the church avoid doctrinal compromise by seeking God’s guidance and strengthening Christian practices. Our text features three major requests. Learn with me this morning Paul’s request in seeking God’s guidance.
The first request Paul makes in his prayer of concern is that the church “be filled with the knowledge of God’s will.” Religious knowledge and knowledge of God’s will are not necessarily the same. Much religious knowledge is not only in conflict with God’s will but can destroy God’s work in the world. We have seen that happen in some of the cults of our day. Paul’s prayer request confirms a need for a particular religious knowledge, the knowledge of God’s will. Let’s remember that such knowledge can be divided into three categories: God’s ultimate will, God’s intentional will, and God’s permissive will.
God’s ultimate will is the will of God that is irresistible, unconditional, and inevitable. Regardless of human responses, his plan will unfold. We need the knowledge that God is sovereign over the universe and that his goal will prevail. Those who do his will voluntarily will live with him eternally. Those who disobey will spend eternity separated from him. This portion of our knowledge of God’s will may be labeled his “ultimate will.”
God’s intentional will. God’s plan for our lives is determined by our choices. He grants us the right to say yes or no in the doing of his will. Not only do we choose whether we receive Christ as Savior and Lord, but we choose the degree of our development. God’s desire is that all people be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). Further, he desires for his people to be sanctified (1 Thess. 4:3). He intends that we know his will and do it. This knowledge of his will is marked “intentional will.”
God’s permissive will. We can choose to disregard God’s will or to follow it. God permits events or circumstances to occur that may serve as discipline. Also, experiences or circumstances not of our own personal making work to test our faith. This is referred to as God’s “permissive will.”
We must be filled with the knowledge of God’s will so that we can avoid doctrinal compromise and strengthen our Christian walk.
The second prayer of Paul was that the church function in the practice of God’s will “in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” The knowledge of God should always lead to “wisdom” or insight, to the perception of spiritual values and of goals that make the doing of his will primary. That knowledge also leads to “spiritual understanding,” or the ability to apply the principles we receive.
The result is that we “walk worthy of the Lord.” Our conduct is not only freed from practices of wrongdoing but is filled with the exercise of right-doing. A three year old son was proudly wearing one of his father’s World War II ribbons of honor when mealtime came. The dad noticed it and said to his son, “What act of bravery did you perform to get that?” The little boy said, I didn’t get into trouble for thirty minutes.” The smiling mother explained that she offered the ribbon as a reward if the boy would stay out of the kitchen while she worked on the new recipe. So the father hugged his son and said, “Good job!” The boy put on his best grin and replied, “ I am a good boy; I stayed out of trouble.” But staying out of trouble is not enough for those who seek and discover the knowledge of God’s will. We are to stay in the truth as the way of life.
Many of the practices of God’s will do not seem to have a chapter and verse from the Bible as a point of reference. Rather, we stay in the truth by applying biblical principles that express wisdom and spiritual understanding.
As I always point out to all of us, we will have to make some decisions in our lives that have to do with godly wisdom. Some answers to life’s situations will not be found in scripture. We have to raise questions regarding those situations. Will it bring glory to God? Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Will it enslave me? Will it defile my body?” Will it damage my influence on others? Does it create doubt about doing the will of God in my life?
Paul’s last prayer was that the church focus on fully pleasing the Lord by “being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Pleasing people is important, especially when we love them. Pleasing the Lord is important, but doing so is difficult when there is competition between pleasing people and pleasing God.
We talk about peer pressure on young people. Who can blame them for wanting to be acceptable to their associates? Adults want to be acceptable too. They are strongly tempted to make compromises of Christian principles in the presence of pressure from employers and from friends, as well as from an uncommitted spouse. Seeking God’s guidance means striving to please God regardless of the cost to business, friendship, and even family relationships. It is the only way to increase knowledge of God.
I was asked by a friend “Why do you want to go to Kansas when you could stay here and be useful in pastoral ministry as you would be there?” It was true that many of my friends would be closer. It was true that the distance for thanksgiving or Christmas would be short. But usefulness and place of service were not my biggest priorities. God’s will for me was the most important issue in my life as it is now. I believed God wanted me in Kansas.
The commitment to seek God’s guidance is as important as seeking to be saved. Has this prayer been answered in your life? The missionary apostle prayed it for a church trouble over its understanding of God’s will. We, too, need to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, function in the practice of his will, and focus on fully pleasing the Lord in doing his will. Perhaps the most important decision to be made in response to this prayer is to decide to please God above all others. To do so will make you a student wanting to know his will and a servant desiring to obey his will. God bless you all.