‘Wisdom is proved right by all her children.’ These words of Jesus are beautifully turned into prayer by St Paul in verses 10-12 of this marvellous passage, which we return to today. Yesterday we looked at how Paul encouraged us to pray for spiritual wisdom and understanding as the first priority of his prayers for fellow Christians like us. How we need it!
But this kind of wisdom has good outcomes, and it is these outcomes that Paul now prays for us, too. In summary, spiritual wisdom enables us to ‘live a life worthy of the Lord and [to] please him in every way’ (v10). What a good aim in life to have – but thankfully Paul doesn’t stop there, he puts flesh on the bones of the idea. This kind of worthy life manifests itself in several ways:
We bear fruit in every good work. I like the emphasis that it’s not just good work – it is fruitful work. So many of the practical choices we make as followers of Jesus are to do God stuff and not just good stuff. It’s a good habit to develop, to ask God to discern the ‘God’ things from the good things. Don’t get me wrong, good things are still good things. But life is finite and time is short, there are usually several good things we can do at any point in time. What a blessing to have confidence that the particular good thing we aim to do is also the ‘God thing’ – the thing which God will most use for his glory.
We grow in the knowledge of God – which is pretty self-explanatory, except to say that knowledge in this sense is always practical, life-orientated, and not just academic. We are to know God like we know how to bake a cake or drive a car – we could write down the recipe if we wished, but best of all we can actually do it!
We have great endurance. As we’ve observed before, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. Following Jesus is a long old journey. Simply keeping going, faithfully and consistently, is a very underrated quality. When asked about his qualification for becoming a missionary, William Carey – the father of overseas missions – simply said: ‘I can plod’. God loves plodders!
We give joyful thanks – so often we come back to this thought: retaining a spirit of gratitude in our lives. Counting our blessings. It is easy to get stuck in a negative mindset – I do quite often. But gratitude is so powerful: it not only gives glory to God, it lifts our spirits, and inspires us to keep following our Lord wholeheartedly.
So… God stuff, not just good stuff; continuing to learn; plodding faithfully, whatever life throws at you; staying grateful – this is the worthy life. And I love the fact that it’s, well, normal. It’s not for the super-spiritual, it’s the sort of list all of us can look at and say – ‘well, I can manage at least two of those, and on a good day I can manage three or even all four.’ And that’s how it’s meant to be. Following Jesus isn’t easy – but it is for people like us! And God has all ‘glorious might’ (v11) to enable it to happen. How good is that?