Spiritual Wisdom

By Mark D. Roberts

May 5, 2024

The Gift of Wisdom

Scripture — Colossians 1:9-10 (NRSV)

For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.


In his letter to the Christians in Colossae, the Apostle Paul prays that they would be “filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” As we seek to live fruitfully and in a way that honors God, we need spiritual wisdom, wisdom that comes from the Spirit of God.

Today’s devotion is part of the series The Gift of Wisdom.


In the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Christians in Colossae, he refers to their faith, love, and hope (Colossians 1:4-5). He mentions that the Colossians learned about God’s grace from Epaphras, a colleague of Paul (1:7). Paul is writing to the Colossians after hearing from Epaphras how these new converts are doing, encouraged by their “love in the Spirit” (1:8).

In response to the report from Epaphras, Paul has been praying consistently for the believers in Colossae, “asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (1:9). In today’s Life for Leaders devotion, I want to begin to reflect with you on this notion of “spiritual wisdom.” I will stick with this theme for several more days.

In the Greek of this passage, the adjective “spiritual” applies to both wisdom and understanding. Though wisdom may be more practical and understanding more conceptual, they are necessarily connected in the life of the Christian. Wisdom is based on understanding. Understanding should lead to wisdom. Both wisdom and understanding ought to be spiritual, that is, inspired by the Spirit of God. (Stay tuned for more details.)

From Colossians 1:9-10 we learn several other things about wisdom. First, this passage shows that spiritual wisdom is closely connected to “the knowledge of God’s will” (1:9). In a previous devotion I proposed a working definition of “wisdom” as “the capacity or ability to discern what’s right in life.” The Apostle Paul might amend this definition by saying that wisdom is the capacity or ability to discern God’s will in any given situation. This reflects the considerable overlap between “what’s right” and “God’s will,” especially in matters of moral behavior.

Second, having spiritual wisdom isn’t only a matter of discerning what’s right. Godly wisdom will necessarily lead to godly activity. Paul prays for the Colossians to be filled with spiritual wisdom “so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God” (1:10). Living by spiritual wisdom enables us to “lead lives worthy of the Lord,” lives that are therefore “pleasing” to God. The Spirit equips us to discern what is right so that we might do what is right for God’s purposes and glory.

Moreover, exercising spiritual wisdom enables us to “bear fruit in every good work” (1:10). Again, true wisdom motivates us to do what is right. Such activity pleases God, to be sure, and it also leads to fruitfulness. Remember what Jesus said about this in John 15:8 “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” One of the main ways we please God is by producing much good fruit in our lives. We can do this in various life settings, including our daily work, families, friendships, churches, neighborhoods, community involvement, and citizenship. We produce good fruit when we serve others, seek justice, and use our gifts for the flourishing of others.

Third, Colossians 1:9-10 shows that wisdom is something for which we can and should pray, following the example of Paul in his prayer for the Colossians. We pray for wisdom because it isn’t only something that comes from personal experience and thoughtful reflection. Wisdom is also a gift from God, something I have emphasized before in this series on The Gift of Wisdom. We can ask the Lord to grant wisdom to us and others, including our family members, colleagues, fellow congregants, neighbors, local officials, and even the leaders of our country.

We live in a time of history when human beings are in desperate need of wisdom. (Actually, though, I’m not sure there was ever a time when humans weren’t in such desperate need.) The challenges we face in all aspects of life are daunting. The costs of making poor decisions can be devastating. The possibilities for bearing good fruit that honors God are still plentiful. If we’re going to do this in our lives, we need spiritual wisdom. Thus, the example of Paul in Colossians encourages us to pray faithfully, earnestly, consistently, perhaps even “without ceasing” for the gift of wisdom.


When you hear the phrase “spiritual wisdom,” what comes to mind?

What might be distinctive about “spiritual wisdom” in comparison to “effective wisdom” or “the wisdom of experience”?


Set aside some time today to ask God for wisdom. Be specific about the contexts in which you need spiritual wisdom. Be open to the gifts God will give you.


Gracious God, thank you for the example of Paul in Colossians. Thank you for his prayer for the Colossians to be given spiritual wisdom.

Today I echo this prayer. First, I ask that you would give me spiritual wisdom for the challenges I face each day.

Second, I pray for my colleagues at work, including my partners and those I supervise and/or those who supervise me. O Lord, grant us your wisdom so that we might bear fruit that pleases you.

I pray for my church and its leaders. O Lord, give us wisdom!
I pray for the leaders of the government on all levels, from the city to the nation. O Lord, give them spiritual wisdom! Amen.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: God Worked in Creation, Making Humans Workers in His Image (Colossians 1:1–14).

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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