智慧悟性的祷告 The Prayer for KnowledgeSermon passage: (Colossians 1:9-14) Spoken on: August 8, 2021
More sermons from this speaker 更多该讲员的讲道: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: Colossians
Date: 8th Aug 2021
Title: The Prayer for Knowledge
Preacher: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee
Today’s sermon is about Paul’s petitionary prayer to God for the Colossian Church. Paul said that this was a prayer that he prayed right at the beginning when they accepted Christ, and the same prayer that he continued praying when they were expressing faith, hope and love, and bearing fruits. Even at the point of writing the letter, he had not stopped praying this prayer. What is this prayer that is so important that he continuously prayed for them? It is a prayer to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will. Here’s the funny part: such a prayer for knowledge is something almost never requested for in my years of ministry. Church members have asked me for prayers of all kinds, healings, safe journeys, evangelism for their loved ones, and so on, but based on my memory, I have never heard “Can you pray for me? I wish to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will.”
Why is this so? If I were to be cheeky, I would say that it is because we have done such a wonderful job in Jubilee that everyone is filled already, so there’s no need to pray for more. But that’s not true. Paul’s point was precisely that this is a lifelong continuous prayer. We should always be increasingly filled with the knowledge of God’s will. It is never enough. I think the true reason for the lack of such prayer requests in Jubilee is that we do not fully appreciate the value of such knowledge. Perhaps, we think that we already know enough about God’s will. Perhaps, we don’t see how more knowledge of God’s will would make a difference in our lives. So in the sermon today, let’s reflect deeply on this mentality, what it would mean for us if we know more about God’s will, and the difference that would make.
The first difference is that with more knowledge, our lives will be worthy and pleasing to God in every way. The key phrase here is “in every way”. This is a prayer against compartmentalization. Compartmentalization means that you separate your life into a spiritual and religious compartment, and a secular and personal compartment. Some Christians think that as long as I am a good Christian in church, that means that I am a good Christian to God. I come for service, worship with devotion, do my daily scripture readings, attend cell groups, serve in the ministries, and do my tithings, that’s the perfect Christian right? That’s compartmentalization. Being a Christian means Christlikeness should be seen in every aspect of your life, whether it is at home, at work or in school, how you treat your friends and family, and your involvement in the world. Being a Christian means that you are a Christian worker, a Christian parent, a Christian neighbour and even a Christian Singaporean.
Now, is this knowledge a secret knowledge or a special formula? No. So we are not praying for God to enlighten you with special instructions on how to solve your family issues, or your problems at work. This knowledge is also not about rules and regulations, otherwise we are no different from the Jews and their laws. In short, this is a question about “Who are you?” As John the Baptist said in John 3:30, Jesus must increase, I must decrease. Jesus must become greater, I must become less. Who are you? This knowledge of God’s will is not special instructions or information, it is not laws and rules and regulations; this knowledge is none other than Jesus Christ himself, revealed to us as a person and a life, the Word became flesh and dwelled amongst us (John 1:14). And since this knowledge is a person and a life, the knowledge is really about maturity. Who are you? Are you still yourself, or are you growing and maturing to become like Jesus Christ? And this is why Paul used the words “bearing fruit of the Spirit and growing”; it is about a growth process. And the thing with maturity is that it takes time and reflection, it takes experiences, and it takes a deliberate effort in mentality and will to transform positively. I think about what it means for me to be a Christian co-worker, a Christian husband, a Christian parent, a Christian son and brother, and I must admit that I am still so immature in Christlikeness in so many areas. Who am I? Am I still the old Wong Siow Hwee, or am I decreasing, and becoming more like Jesus Christ my Lord day by day? This is the essence of the prayer for knowledge. I need to grow in love, I need to develop the Christ in me, and I need to pray for this knowledge more and more each day. The day I am no longer compartmentalized is the day when I practice what I preach in every aspect of my life, pleasing to God “in every way.”
The second difference is that with more knowledge, we have great endurance and patience. And Paul described this as a form of power and might that came from God himself. It was a source of strength that allowed him to overcome difficulties and hardship, as we know the Christian journey is a marathon, not a sprint. For my first point, I asked “Who are you?” Are you becoming more and more like Christ? For my second question, I ask “How are you?” But what I am really probing is: What is left in your tank? Are you running dry? This was a question asked of Joseph Schooling after his disappointments at the Tokyo Olympics. Did he have the endurance to continue his sporting ambitions? A journalist wrote that: National Service will inevitably come calling, but Schooling hopes it will not be before next year’s Asian Games. “(Being called up to serve NS) would be tough for sure,” he says “because I got so much more left in the tank.”  Schooling felt that he could still go on despite his recent Olympic disappointments. I think it is a similar question all Christians have to ask themselves about their faith journey. How are you? How’s the situation in your tank?
A person with true power remains calm and steadfast even in times of crisis and conflict. There’s no better example than Paul himself. Just as he wrote to the Philippians while still in prison, Philippians “4: 11 for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Was Paul joking? Being stuck in prison, wasn’t he utterly reliant on the help of the Philippians and the Colossians? That might be true for his daily needs. But Paul also realized that “12 I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” What’s the secret? What was in his tank? From our passage, we know it was the knowledge of Jesus. Jesus alone made Paul contented. Jesus alone was enough for Paul to be “giving thanks to the Father” (v.12). Because if you really know Jesus, then you have a tank that never runs dry. He is the bread of life. He is the living water. Paul witnessed the truth of Jesus on his road to Damascus, and it is like a business with a winning product. No matter the circumstances, even in Covid, you know you will survive in the long run. Contentment and thanksgiving come from a true appreciation of God’s grace. Without that you are often frustrated in your faith journey. Why are bad things happening to me even though I am a Christian? Why aren’t more people helping me in church in my ministry? We desire better circumstances, and more resources in our life and ministries, and that’s very human. But when is God’s grace ever sufficient for you? When you realize that Jesus is enough, that’s when you can give thanks, even in prison. That is the true strength and power to persevere all the way with joy.
I asked “Who are you?” and “How are you?”, but for Paul, the ultimate question was “Where are you?” And Paul reminded the Colossian Church that they were “in the kingdom of light. 13 For (God) has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” The third difference is that with more knowledge, we have purpose. It is no coincidence that Paul used the transformation from darkness to light to describe where we are as the holy people of God. This transformation of living in the light is God’s first divine act in his Creation. In short, we are living as the new creation of God. 1 John 1: 5 God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
Last week, Rev Tiong Ann spoke  on the new normal mentality, and I think it is very relevant to the question of where we are. It is often the case that we are living in the light with a mentality of darkness. We see this commonly in war veterans: though they are back in their home country, their minds are still traumatized by their experiences in the war zone. Similarly, even if I were to tell you that you are now free and forgiven in Jesus Christ, your mind may still be trapped in the mentality of battling between laws and sin.
So I wish to end my sermon by reflecting on the mentality of a person living as the redeemed. In my first 2 points, I stated that you need to grow, and you need to persevere. In my final point, you need to be free for God. For growth and perseverance to be possible, you need to be unburdened from your old self. Let go of your bitterness and grudges. Let go of your pain and self-doubt. Many of the words used by Paul such as inheritance and rescue are similar to the Exodus declared by God to Moses (see Exodus 6:6-8). The fact is that you are already in the Promised Land. Do you still want to live in fear and insecurity as if your deliverance from slavery and the journey in the wilderness have never ended? No, you want to enjoy the citizenship of this new kingdom.
I honestly believe this is the turning point for many who are on fire for evangelism, such as those involved in 幸福小组. They finally let go of all the complaints and grumblings they had about the difficulties of life and church, and they decided to live life according to God’s blessings. Stop dwelling on who had wronged you, or the unfair situation you are in, and start thinking about where you can show the love of God. You are in the kingdom of light. So don’t build a cave for your heart. Instead you should be a reflector that shines the light to every aspect of your life. People who are mean are also those who need the most love. You can at least start with forgiveness. Then you pray for them. Then you love them with care and concern. They might respond with suspicion, because they don’t understand what grace is. But you know grace, and God’s power will allow you to give grace beyond measure to people like that. And one day you will find this person entering into the kingdom as well. That’s the knowledge of God’s will that I’ll pray for you.
Bilingual Service Video Link: https://youtu.be/Rr7lLL6HXBw