So far we’ve talked about both the readers and writer of this letter to the church at Colossae to kick off The Colossians Project, and now we’re on to the content of the book itself. So let’s open those Bibles to Colossians 1, verse 1:
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God…
Paul actually begins five of his thirteen letters with essentially these same words (1 and 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, 2 Timothy as well as this one). It’s both an introduction and a resumé all in one half-sentence.
The word for “will” here in the Greek is thelema (pronounced “THEL-ay-mah,” not “Thelema and Louise”) and it means desire, pleasure, will; what one has determined shall be done. It is the word behind the mysterious concept of “God’s will,” and Paul uses it here to stamp approval on his life and ministry.
We Christians talk about “finding God’s will” like we’re hunting for Easter eggs. I remember straining to look for it so hard in my 20s I think I burst a blood vessel. Maybe I’ll find it today under a rock! In a newspaper! Through biplane skywriting!
What I’ve learned a few years later is that God’s will is not a noun that stands apart from me — something I have to dig for like buried treasure.
God’s will is an unfailing verb — an unstoppable force already at work in my life.
For clarity, it helps me to drop the ‘s and just say this: God will.
God will accomplish His desire and pleasure. God will do what He has determined shall be done. God does not say I will and wonder whether what follows will happen. He is working out what He wills in all things in all ways.
If you are pursuing God and resisting sin, you are in God’s will right now, whether you find yourself working when you wanted to be at home with the kids, or at home with a bunch of kids when you wanted to be working, or in a Roman prison when you’d rather be visiting the churches in person. The Lord who searches the world to support hearts who are yielded to him is not waiting to get to your name on down the list.
But here’s the catch (and probably the reason you’re still searching, as I was):
God’s will does not look like you think it will.
It never looks like you think it will.
It is quite ordinary in the places you thought it would be thrilling, and far too thrilling in the places you wished it were ordinary. Just ask Paul, who thought he was going to spend these last 30 years trolling Christians and avoiding Gentiles like the plague.
And that’s because it’s God’s will and not your own, and God’s will always requires what’s best for you: God. Fill your heart up with your own plans, and there will be no need for trust — no need to call on His name.
And so Paul starts off his letter with no doubt; though he writes from prison, these are the plans God has for him, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God. He is saying three things:
1. He has authority to speak and act in this place. The Colossians had never met him; this calling gives him the power to instruct them on God’s behalf.
2. He has the peace that comes with God’s will. Paul is an apostle of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles because God wanted it that way. He is confident in God’s plans and God’s provision.
3. He has courage to be bold. Paul was commissioned with the authority of the King. Whatever happens next, the God of the universe has his back.
So today, I say I am
Kelly, Mike’s wife by the will of God.
Kelly, my children’s mother by the will of God.
Kelly, writing a ridiculously long study of Colossians by the will of God.
Kelly, a lousy housekeeper by the will of God.
For along with the all the “yes” that comes with God’s plan for you, there is also a lot of “no.” As in, no, I am not doing a lot of things as well as other people by the will of God, and that’s okay. God will do what He desires with me.
If your heart’s desire is to pursue God, He is not hiding from you. Look in the mirror and say it out loud:
I am here by the will of God.
The Lord of Hosts is with you. May that give you authority to act on His behalf and peace and courage to face your days.