Acknowledging the Ultimate Source of Everything

“Joyously giving thanks to the Father” (Col. 1:11-12).

Joyous thanksgiving acknowledges God as the giver of every good gift.

The inseparable link between joy and thanksgiving was a common theme for Paul. In Philippians 4:4-6 he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! . . . Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” He told the Thessalonians to “rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:16- 18).

As often as Paul expressed thanks and encouraged others to express theirs, he was careful never to attribute to men the thanks due to God alone. For example in Romans 1:8 he says, “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.” He thanked God, not the Roman believers, because he knew that faith is a gift from God.

That doesn’t mean you can’t thank others for the kindnesses they show, but in doing so you must understand that they are instruments of God’s grace.

Thanking Him shows humility and acknowledges His rightful place as the Sovereign Lord and the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). Those who reject His lordship and refuse to give Him thanks incur His wrath (Rom. 1:21).

Only those who love Christ can truly give thanks because He is the channel through which thanks is expressed to the Father. As Paul says in Colossians 3:17, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Hebrews 13:15 adds, “Through [Christ] then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.”

As one who is privileged to know the God of all grace, be generous in your praise and thanksgiving today. See everything as a gift from His hand for your joy and edification.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Recite Psalm 136 as a prayer of praise to God.

For Further Study

  • From Psalm 136 list the things that prompted the psalmist’s thanksgiving. How can that psalm serve as a model for your own praise?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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Attaining Spiritual Stability

“Strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience” (Col. 1:11).

God always empowers you to do what He commands you to do.

An alarming number of Christians seem to lack spiritual stability. Many are “carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14). Others lack moral purity. Many are driven by their emotions rather than sound thinking. Increasingly, therapists and psychologists are replacing pastors and biblical teachers as the heroes of the faith. While we still proclaim a sovereign, all- powerful God, our conduct often belies our creed.

Despite our inconsistences, the power for spiritual stability is ours in Christ as we allow the knowledge of His will to control our lives. Paul describes the working of that power in Colossians 1:11. There the Greek words translated “strengthened” and “power” speak of inherent power that gives one the ability to do something.

The phrase “according to” indicates that the power for spiritual stability is proportional to God’s abundant supply—and it is inexhaustible! The literal Greek says you are being “empowered with all power according to the might of His glory.” That thought is akin to Philippians 2:12-13, where Paul says that the power for working out your salvation comes from God, who is at work in you to will and to work for His good pleasure.

In Colossians 1:11 the result of God’s enabling is “the attaining of all steadfastness and patience.” “Steadfastness” speaks of endurance regarding people; “patience” speaks of endurance regarding things or circumstances. When you are steadfast and patient, you are spiritually stable. Your responses are biblical, thoughtful, and calculated; not worldly, emotional, or uncontrolled. You bear up under trials because you understand God’s purposes and trust His promises.

Paul said, “Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might” (Eph. 6:10). That is possible when you trust God and rely on the infinite power that is yours in Christ.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Perhaps you know someone who is struggling with spiritual instability. Pray for him or her and ask God to use you as a source of encouragement.

For Further Study

Psalm 18 is a psalm of victory that David wrote after God delivered him from Saul. Read it, then answer these questions:

  • What characteristics of God did David mention?
  • How might those characteristics apply to situations you are facing?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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Enjoying a Bountiful Harvest

“Bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10).

Your fruitfulness is directly related to your knowledge of divine truth.

Every farmer who enjoys a plentiful harvest does so only after diligent effort on his part. He must cultivate the soil, plant the seed, then nurture it to maturity. Each step is thoughtful, disciplined, and orderly.

Similarly, bearing spiritual fruit is not an unthinking or haphazard process. It requires us to be diligent in pursuing the knowledge of God’s will, which is revealed in His Word. That is Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1:9, which he reiterates in verse 10.

The phrase “increasing in the knowledge of God” (v. 10) can be translated, “increasing by the knowledge of God.” Both renderings are acceptable. The first emphasizes the need to grow; the second emphasizes the role that knowledge plays in your spiritual growth.

As your knowledge of God’s Word increases, the Holy Spirit renews your mind and transforms your thinking. As you gaze into the glory of the Lord as revealed in Scripture, you “are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18). You have “put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (Col. 3:10).

One of Satan’s ploys to retard spiritual productivity is getting Christians preoccupied with humanistic philosophy and other bankrupt substitutes for God’s truth. That’s why he planted false teachers at Colosse to teach that knowing God’s will is inadequate for true spirituality. Paul refuted that claim by affirming that Christ is the fullness of deity in bodily form (Col. 2:9). In Him are “hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). He is all you need!

Scripture commands you to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18). Is that characteristic of your life? Are you looking forward to a bountiful spiritual harvest?

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the privilege of knowing His will and studying His Word.
  • Prayerfully guard your mind from sinful influences. Saturate it with God’s truth.

For Further Study

  • Read the following passages, noting the effects of God’s Word: Psalms 119:9, 105; Acts 20:32; Romans 10:17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 2:14.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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Living in a Worthy Manner

“So that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects” (Col. 1:10).

Your manner of life should be consistent with Christ’s.

In Colossians 1:9 Paul speaks of being controlled by the knowledge of God’s will. In verse 10 he speaks of walking in a manner worthy of the Lord. There is a direct cause-and-effect relationship between those verses. When you are controlled by the knowledge of God’s will, you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.

The Greek word translated “walk” means “to order one’s behavior.” It’s a common New Testament metaphor for one’s lifestyle. Paul made a similar plea to the Thessalonians: “Walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2:12).

The thought of being worthy of the Lord might raise some eyebrows because we usually relate worthiness to merit or something deserved. But that isn’t Paul’s point at all. The Greek word translated “worthy” in Colossians 1:10 speaks of something that weighs as much or carries the same value as something else. He isn’t saying we deserve Christ, but that our conduct should be consistent with His.

That is Peter’s point in 1 Peter 2:21: “You have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.” John said, “The one who says he abides in [Christ] ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6). He added in 2 John 6, “Walk according to His commandments.” That’s how you demonstrate your love for Christ (John 14:15) and please Him in every respect.

As a word of encouragement, a worthy walk is not a walk of sinless perfection. That won’t happen until you are fully glorified. But each day you are growing in godliness as a result of the Spirit’s transforming work in you (2 Cor. 3:18). Be faithful to that process. Set your affections on Christ, look to His Word, and rejoice in the privilege of becoming more like Him today.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the power and guidance of His Spirit in your life.
  • Be diligent to confess your sin when you stray from a worthy walk.

For Further Study

  • Read Ephesians 4:1-3 and Philippians 1:27-30.
  • What specific attitudes are involved in a worthy walk?
  • Does a worthy walk eliminate the possibility of suffering or persecution? Explain.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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Understanding God’s Will

“We have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Col. 1:9).

Godly living results from being controlled by the principles of God’s Word.

Paul’s prayer for the Philippians (Phil. 1:9-11) is closely paralleled by his prayer for the Colossians (Col. 1:9-12). Both epistles were written from the same Roman prison at about the same time in Paul’s life. Both prayers focus on godly living, but each approaches it from a slightly different perspective.

The Philippians were gracious people who needed to exercise greater knowledge and discernment in their love. The Colossians also were gracious but their devotion to Christ was being challenged by heretics who taught that Christ is insufficient for salvation and godly living. True spirituality, the false teachers said, is found in Christ plus human philosophy, religious legalism, mysticism, or asceticism. Paul encouraged the Colossian believers and refuted the false teachers by showing the utter sufficiency of Christ.

At the outset of his prayer Paul stressed the importance of being controlled by the knowledge of God’s will (which is revealed in His Word). That’s the meaning of the Greek word translated “filled” in verse 9. “Knowledge” translates a word that speaks of a deep, penetrating knowledge that results in behavioral change. “Spiritual wisdom and understanding” refers to knowledge that cannot be known through human reasoning or philosophy. It is imparted by the Holy Spirit Himself.

In effect Paul was saying, “I pray that you will be continually controlled by the life-transforming knowledge of God’s will, which the Holy Spirit imparts as you prayerfully study and meditate on God’s Word.”

Scripture supplies the principles you need to live a godly life. The Spirit gives you the power to do so. Many false teachers will try to divert you from the simplicity of devotion to Christ by offering you philosophy, psychology, and a myriad of other hopeless alternatives. Don’t be victimized. In Christ you have everything you need!

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for His all-sufficient Son and for the resources that are yours in Him.
  • Ask for wisdom to apply those resources to every situation you face today.

For Further Study

  • Read Colossians 1:15—2:23.
  • What was Christ’s role in creation?
  • What was Paul’s goal as a minister?
  • What warnings and commands did Paul give?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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Realizing Our Ultimate Priority

“To the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1:11).

To glorify God is to reflect His character in your words and deeds.

Paul’s prayer in Philippians 1:9-11 closes with a reminder that love, excellence, integrity, and righteousness bring glory and praise to God.

God’s glory is a recurring theme in Paul’s writings, and rightly so because that is the Christian’s highest priority. But what is God’s glory and what does it mean to bring Him glory? After all, He is infinitely glorious in nature, so we can’t add anything to Him. His glory is never diminished, so it doesn’t have to be replenished or bolstered.

In Exodus 33:18-19 Moses says to God, “‘I pray Thee, show me Thy glory!’ And [God] said, ‘I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.'” In effect God was telling Moses that His glory is the composite of His attributes.

That suggests we can glorify God by placing His attributes on display in our lives. When others see godly characteristics like love, mercy, patience, and kindness in you, they have a better picture of what God is like. That honors Him. That’s why it’s so important to guard your attitudes and actions. Paul admonished Timothy to be exemplary in his speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity (1 Tim. 4:12). That should be true of every believer!

Another way to glorify God is to praise Him. David said, “Ascribe to the Lord, O sons of the mighty, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name; worship the Lord in holy array. . . . In His temple everything says, ‘Glory!'” (Ps. 29:1- 2, 9).

You cannot add to God’s glory, but you can proclaim it in your words and deeds. What picture of God do others see in you? Does your life bring glory to Him?

Suggestions for Prayer

  • In 1 Chronicles 16:8-36 David instructs Asaph and Asaph’s relatives on how to glorify God. Using that passage as a model, spend time in prayer glorifying God.

For Further Study

  • Reread 1 Chronicles 16:8-36, noting any specific instructions that apply to you.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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Cultivating the Fruit of Righteousness

“Having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:11).

Bearing spiritual fruit is the acid test of a true believer.

After facing life-threatening situations, people often say, “I saw my entire life flash before my eyes.” That’s the picture we get in Philippians 1:11.

“The fruit of righteousness” refers to what is produced in you as you operate in love, pursue excellence, and maintain your integrity. It includes every attitude and action consistent with God’s standard of what is right.

“Having been filled” speaks of something that happened in the past with continuing results. At your salvation the seed of righteousness was planted within you. It bears righteous fruit throughout your lifetime. On the day of Christ that fruit will confirm your salvation.

Fruitfulness has always been the acid test of true salvation. Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8:31). When John the Baptist admonished his followers to “bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8), he was speaking of good deeds (vv. 10-14). Paul said we are God’s workmanship, “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10) John said that all who profess Christ should live as He lived (cf. 1 John 2:6).

Bearing spiritual fruit is not something you can achieve on your own. It “comes through Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:11). Jesus Himself said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).

You were redeemed to glorify God through righteous deeds. Make that your priority today.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Psalm 71 is a psalm of praise to God for His righteousness and faithful provisions. Read it and meditate on its truths. Then praise God for His righteousness toward you.
  • Ask for opportunities to demonstrate righteousness to others today.

For Further Study

  • Read Proverbs 11:1-9, 15:8-9, and 21:2-3, noting the characteristics and benefits of righteousness.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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