Is my life worthy of God?
Every self-affirming tendency inside of me is quick to mute the question, but it unavoidably forces itself back to my attention as I read through the New Testament, especially in places like Ephesians 4:1; Philippians 1:27; Colossians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 4:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:5, 11; and Revelation 3:4.
“Walk worthy” would seem to make an appropriate slogan over the Christian life. So is my life worthy of the King? What does that mean? How do I know?
I’m not left to my distorted speculations, thanks to Colossians 1:9–14.
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him. (Colossians 1:9–10)
What follows next are four phrases that flesh it out — four tests for living out the will of our King.
Test 1: Are my hands bearing godly fruit?
“ . . . bearing fruit in every good work . . . ” (Colossians 1:10)
When it comes to knowing and following God’s will, we tend to overthink the who and the where and the how, rather than the what of God’s will. Following God’s will is a call for kingdom fruit, in every good work.
In every good work to which we are called, that is. Indeed, “it is a spiritual thing to discern which good works, of the ten thousand possible, are among the ‘every good work’ that belong to my life” (Piper).
It would be crushing to believe that God has called us to carry the weight of every need we can see with our eyes, especially in the digital age. We may not be called to do every work, but we are called to fruitfulness in all our work. As we discern for ourselves what those works are and should be, we get busy doing them with a kingdom aim.
In other words, if our hands are bearing no kingdom fruit for the King, we must repent of how our lives have veered away from his will, and pray for redirection.
Test 2: Is my mind growing in the knowledge of God?
“ . . . and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:10)
Our King is so royal and majestic, and his heart so full of revelation to us, we must keep ourselves open to his word. This is especially true of his beautiful Son, the regal King, Jesus Christ. We want to know more and more about him — more about his life, his works, his words.
Nothing runs more contrary to the will of the King than for his majesty to be ignored because our minds have grown lazy and our hearts have settled for the phantom of a king made in our own imagination — a king with all the same preferences and attitudes that we have. This is treasonous. To render God, the great I AM, into our own image, is nothing less than forgetting God altogether (Psalm 50:21–22).
The Living God is so unlike us that we must have revelation from him, humility in us, and illumination from the Spirit, in order to see his particular beauty in the pages of Scripture. But if we are not increasing in our knowledge of the mysterious works of God, he calls us now to repent, and to pray, that he will reveal himself to us in his word — as he truly is, and not as we assume he is.
Test 3: Is my life resilient and patient?
“May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience.” (Colossians 1:11)
Children of the King should not be easily enraged online. We don’t jump to quick conclusions. We read with charity, we listen with care, and we do it all with an inner muscle manifested as outward patience. “Patience is the evidence of an inner strength,” says Piper. “Impatient people are weak.”
That painful connection is drawn from this text. The King wills that our inner strength is manifested in outward patience. Patient people are strong, for the purpose of honoring and magnifying the King.
But of course God-centered patience demands strength on the inside, not easy circumstances on the outside. To endure patiently means to not be caught by surprise when life hurts. Our King is sovereign, but that sovereignty over us does not exempt us from pain.
The King’s call for endurance is behind pastor Matt Chandler’s one-word label for the so-called prosperity gospel: Garbage. Chandler, a survivor of brain cancer, makes the point from this text. “People get angry when you say God was part of my cancer, because they’ve been taught that God’s purpose in the universe is to make much of us, to make much of me, to make much of you — that there is no hurt or struggle for us. But the Bible says, ‘May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience.’”
Living worthy of the King calls for endurance, because life will not go as we plan it, but it will always unfold as the King has planned it. So we can be patient.
If the struggles and pains of life have made you impatient, and if you find your spiritual zeal fading, you are not living in the King’s will. In this condition, he calls us to repent of the ways our lives have turned away from his will. He calls us to pray for newfound patience and endurance.
Test 4: Is my heart full of joyful gratitude?
“ . . . with joy, giving thanks to the Father . . . ” (Colossians 1:11–12)
On one hand, ingratitude to God reveals a soul-rotting idolatry (Romans 1:21; Ephesians 5:3–5).
On the other hand, a genuine heartfelt joy in Christ, and gratitude to the Father, is a barometer of our soul-health. It exposes our relationship to the King in an intimate way.
Tim Keller explains how. “If you are indifferent to somebody, then their happiness is at the expense of your happiness. But if you are in love with somebody, their happiness is your happiness.”
- Indifference to the King leads to a heartless compliance to obligation.
- Admiration of the King leads to generous actions aimed at a shared joy.
That’s how it works. And nothing changes the nature of our obedience more than a fundamental change in our relationship to the King, in finding him glorious and beautiful. But if our hearts lack joyful gratitude to the King, even in the midst of our calling to live worthy of him, our hearts have veered away from treasuring him. We must pray for redirection.
God’s Future Grace of Glory
At this point, having laid out four tests for whether or not we are following the will of the King, Paul breaks into glorious God-centered theology to undergird all these weighty callings on our lives.
The King to whom we express thanks and from whom we find joy is the one:
“ . . . who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” (Colossians 1:12)
Qualified. There it is. We are not living worthy lives in order to qualify for God’s kingdom. We have been declared worthy in Christ — worthy of an inheritance of light. We are already qualified. Now we are called to live up to it. This is how biblical ethics work.
In Christ we are qualified for an inheritance of light. This is Promised Land language, but the emphasis here is on brilliance, not geography.
God is light (1 John 1:5). He is the Father of lights (James 1:17). The Son is the light of God’s glory (Matthew 4:16; Luke 2:32; John 1:4; 3:19; 8:12; 1 John 2:8–11). To live in the presence of the King — to dwell in the presence of Christ — means “night will be no more,” and the sun will be no more, because we “will need no light of lamp or sun,” for the Lord God will be our light (Revelation 22:5).
This is the ultimate will of God, the will above all the other wills: that we would enjoy forever the glaring radiance of God’s presence. This is the inheritance of light. But to get it, we must be qualified — we must be made worthy by him — and this is the gracious gift of the King to us in the death and resurrection of Christ.
God’s Grace to the Rescue
In contrast to this dazzling future of glory, God is calling us out of a life of darkness and sin — and he calls us out of our laziness, ignorance, impatience, and moodiness. But there’s one more step to the process, as Paul fills in our backstory of deliverance:
“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13–14)
If the King’s ultimate will is for us to be in his presence, then he must deliver us, and that is what he has done.
Deliverance and redemption are key terms from the Exodus (see Exodus 6:6). As between walls of water pushed back to the sides of a dry path laid out ahead, the King has supernaturally transferred us out of the kingdom of darkness, and has transferred us, delivered us, exodus-ed us, into the kingdom of Christ. Here we have been redeemed in the blood of Christ.
Delivered. Redeemed. Transferred.
These past tense monuments of mercy remind us that we have been caught up into a redemptive narrative shaped by the past grace of exodus and the future grace of glory. As children of the King, we are together “undergoing an exodus like Israel’s out of Egypt but on an escalated scale, beginning spiritually in this age and consummated with physical resurrection” (Beale).
This backstory shapes our lives because the only way we can pattern our own life and thoughts and behaviors according to the will of the King is to see and appreciate what the King has done for us in the past and what he intends to do for us in the future.
For every other detail of the Christian life to find its place in our lives, it must be set into this eternal narrative.
The King of Light, the Children of Light
To be delivered into the sovereign storyline of the King is amazing grace, and adoption into a royal family comes with an unspeakably high calling. To be a child of the King is to belong to “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession,” so that we would “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). We are “children of God” who “shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15). We are all “children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness” (1 Thessalonians 5:5). “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8).
We have been delivered from darkness, for a blazing glory to come. And in between this past grace and future grace we walk as children of the King, as light in the darkness of this world.
This is what it means to walk in a way worthy of the King. “By worthiness the apostle does not mean meritoriousness, but the decorum which befits a Christian” (Flavel). Or, as J.I. Packer puts it, “it is no part of justifying faith to lose sight of the fact that God, the King, wants his royal children to live lives worthy of their paternity and position.” To be justified by the King — and then welcomed into his family in adoption — must change our lives.
So what does it ultimately mean to live worthy of the King?
Jesus calls us to live in the dignity of royalty — children of the light — so the King’s defeated enemies and his insurrectionists will see in us the supreme and undeniable worth of the King. The dignity of our behaviors, our attitudes, our words, and our works all speak to the worth of the King. And that is, in the end, the whole point of our calling to live for King Jesus.