For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.
When I go down to the very bedrock of my soul, I find two desires that are for me the most compelling. 1) I want to see God's beauty and power and grace. It's why I love to be around either people who know Him well (because they look like Him!), or else people who WANT to know Him, for I have learned that when He eventually shows up in their lives, it is truly amazing. 2) I long to know that I please Him. Quite simply, I love Him, and that's how love expresses itself.
In Colossians 1, Paul provides a very helpful description of how these two deepest desires can be realized. First, he tell the Colossians he is praying. This process of finding and pleasing God is definitely supernatural, requiring His input at every step. But it is also natural. The only way we are ever "filled with knowledge" of any sort is to direct our eyes and minds toward that which we wish to know.
What kind of knowledge should we be seeking? Very specifically Paul tells us it's the knowledge of His will. "All wisdom and spiritual understanding" point not to some academic head knowledge, but rather a knowledge of HIS will that is to be received by OUR wills. The center point of our lives is this present moment in which we become aware of what God wants, and we make our choice either to comply with His desires or to resist them.
To the extent that we DO conform our wills to His, however, four wonderful things happen. First, we "walk worthy of the Lord." In other words, we represent Him well. We are pure. We are kind and compassionate. We are honest and uncompromising and fearless. We do those things Jesus would do if He had chosen to be incarnated in our bodies (which, in a very real sense, He HAS).
The second result is that we please Him! Fully! As incomprehensible as it sometimes seems, God is pleased by our faith-filled obedience. We don't have to initiate some creative display of our affection, some new offering that will surprise Him with its stunning beauty or its clever ingenuity. We simply have to obey--fully--and He is fully pleased.
Third, this deliberate conforming of our wills to His is exactly the picture Jesus describes in John 15. When we as branches are firmly attached to the vine of Christ, the very life-sap of God flows in our veins as well. What happens then? Fruit happens! Our good works bring transforming and eternal benefits to those people He has brought into our life.
And number four, as I am choosing to fully please God, my second desire is also fulfilled. I "increase in the knowledge of God." I get to see Him in the very fruits that are being produced. I learn more and more about His sacrificial love, His healing strength, His sovereign wisdom, and the wonderful purposes He has for His people.
Paul goes on to describe what is in fact his own experience of knowing God. He has discovered what it is like to be "strengthened with all power according to His glorious might." As amazing as this power is, however, it isn't applied in the way one would normally expect. We might think that God would send Paul out as a mighty warrior, conquering others with his sword--or at least with his brilliant thoughts and convicting words.
Instead, Paul tells us this power enables him to live with "all patience and longsuffering." In another letter he writes, "For I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:11-13). God offers us ALL POWER--strength on the astonishing level of HIS glorious might--so we might be able to follow in patient obedience no matter where He leads.
For those of us who are willing to walk in the steps of Paul, and indeed of Christ Himself, that obedience will almost certainly lead us to many kinds of dying. But in those very dyings, we will find that which we most desire: a view of God Himself, and the knowledge that we please Him. And through this process, we like Paul will experience overflowing joy and gratitude, as we join him in becoming "partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light."