A couple of weeks ago, while on vacation, I sensed God wanted me to begin a series called Spiritual Understanding. In Colossians 1:9-10 Paul prayed that we would be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. That we would have a walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. Spiritual understanding today is vital for our health and well-being. 1 John 5:19-20 says, “We know that we are of God (It’s important to know where you stand in relationship to God.), and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” I John 4:3 talks about how the spirit of the antichrist is now already in the world. Without spiritual understanding, we won’t be able to distinguish what’s antichrist and what’s for Christ. Only through a relationship with Jesus and the study of His word (the Bible) will we be able to understand what’s true and what’s really going on in our lives.
Hebrews 5:13-14 tells us that everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the world of righteousness (the Bible) for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are full of knowledge (mature); that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. The word senses encompasses not only sight, smell, taste and touch, but also our emotions and feelings. So the metric of a maturing Christian is going to be one who is managing not only physical senses but also spiritual senses. It is essential that we don’t remain as babes and just on milk. The word milk speaks of comfort and encouragement. We must begin to grow into the solid food of the word of God to be able to discern the good from the evil. Last week a family came by the house and it was the mother’s birthday. When they were leaving they backed out into the street with their car windows open. Donita and I were standing on the sidewalk and I yelled to Amanda, “Happy Birthday Amanda!” Their two year old son, Isaiah, was in the back in his car seat and yelled back to me, “Happy Birthday Pastor Papaw!” You see, it wasn’t my birthday, it was his mom’s, but he couldn’t make the distinction and was not able to discern what was really going on. He is still a child on milk.
Paul also prayed, in Philippians 1:9-10, that our love would abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that we may approve the things that are excellent and that we may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ. He prayed the love of God (agape) would abound. When God’s love is abounding, our discernment will not be critical, jaded and judgmental toward others, it will be full of grace (God gives grace to the humble). When you pray God gives you grace toward others (James 4:6-7). Paul is praying that our discernment about our circumstances, situations and trials we face, would approve (pass the test) the things that are excellent. That we would be sincere, without offense, till the day of Christ. Paul wants us to approve the things that are excellent. What Paul is talking about here is that we would have an excellent spirit in how we respond when we face difficulties, troubles and adversity, and trials no matter how difficult they become. That we would not take offense from our circumstances or people who hurt us, but that we would remain in the love of God. Paul could pray this because he had true joy, even after being put in prison for nothing more than preaching the gospel. Paul had compassion and empathy for the people who put him in prison and mistreated him. In Philippians 1:12 he said, “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.” The word furtherance means pioneer advance. Paul was saying that right in the middle of the dire straight and difficult circumstances that he had never faced before, he was pioneering the advancement of God’s kingdom because he had joy and continued to pray for all those involved. The whole book of Philippians is based on the theme of joy. The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. When we approve the things that are excellent, it’s only going to be by the power of the Holy Spirit.
In Proverbs 17:27 it says, “He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.” When we have understanding we will pray for our enemies and those who persecute us. In Matthew, Jesus tells us to do this because it helps us in our understanding, and we will be of a calm spirit. In Hebrew the word calm is Qar, which means excellent. It also means to chill. So when we have understanding we have an excellent spirit and can chill in the most difficult circumstances because our main objective is to pioneer the advancement of God’s kingdom. In Daniel 6:3 it says that Daniel distinguished (discerned) himself above the satraps and governors because an excellent spirit was in him. Daniel 6:10 says, “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem (peace), he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.” In verse 11 it says Daniel was found making supplications before his God. They ended up throwing Daniel into the lion’s den because he was caught praying to his God. The lions were not able to touch Daniel because he had an excellent spirit and prayed for all those involved by giving thanks with supplications to his God.
We see this in Philippians 4:6-7. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” The word guard means to protect from all enemy invasion. Paul had an excellent spirit. In 2 Timothy 4:16-18 he said, “At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom.”
I believe prayer is the missing ingredient of our understanding, because if we will pray for our enemies and those who persecute us with real empathy and genuine compassion, an excellent spirit will bring understanding to our trials, tribulations and troubles, and we will be able to pioneer the advancement of God’s kingdom in our lives and others on earth as it is in heaven.
Proverbs 2:11-12 says, “Discretion will preserve you; understanding will keep you, to deliver you from the way of evil…” Lord increase our understanding!
The writer is the senior pastor at Russell Road Church, Sidney.