For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, 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, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father – Colossians 1:9-12a (NASB)

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had people tell me that they were searching for peace and happiness. Lots of people have either come to or left our church searching for joy. It almost seems as if the search for self-fulfillment is a national obsession.

We are all well aware that materialism is not the answer. Americans have more than almost any other country in the world and yet our rate of depression and suicide is not substantially different than that of countries with less.

We know that “mainstream” Christianity is not the answer because the rate of divorce and marital unfaithfulness does not seem to be affected by one’s denominational affiliation. I qualify the term Christianity because the majority of people who attend Christian churches are not necessarily Christians.

Thinking that everyone in a church building is a Christian would be like thinking everyone in a football stadium is an athlete. The vast majority are simply fans. They like the game, talk a lot about it, and alternately cheer or berate those who are actually practicing it. They loudly tell everyone around how they would do it differently and better. Meanwhile they sit around a lot, drink, eat, make a lot of noise and go home fatter than they arrived.

George Fox, the founder of the Quakers, referred to these people as “notionists”[1]. Their heads are filled with notions, but they don’t actually possess the real thing.

The apostle Paul was acquainted with “notional Christians.” He was amazed at how quickly they could get sidetracked[2]. He was disappointed with their lack of understanding and their low standards of morality[3].

So, he prayed an interesting prayer for them. He wanted for them to have joy, peace, and happiness. But instead of praying directly for that, he prayed that they would have knowledge of the will of God.

Apparently, knowledge of the will of God, backed with understanding and wisdom, will lead to obedient walking in a manner that is worthy of the Lord. Knowledge, discernment, understanding and wisdom are demonstrated in right living.

Only when we seek to please God, bearing fruit in every good work, will we increase in the knowledge of God. This sets up a self-feeding and ever improving cycle. When that happens, we will discover we have (as a side effect) strength, power, steadfastness and patience…which brings us to our goal – joy. Seek first the kingdom of God…[4]

[1] George Fox’s Journal, section 74-75

[2] Galatians 1:6

[3] 1 Corinthians 5:1-2

[4] Matthew 6:33