It is so easy to fall into a rut. I know when I’m not “living in the present”, I do things by rote instead of with intention and engaging my heart. In the same Scripture we looked at yesterday, Paul further prays that the eyes of hearts be enlightened to the riches of our inheritance and God’s great power. “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Eph 1:18-19)
Paul knew the sense of impoverishment in the spirit of the Ephesians. He knew that these Christians tended to grow dull and flabby in their experience. They had begun with a vast comprehension of the greatness of God and the glory of life, and they had been set free from the habits which had held them in bondage and had limited their experience. But now, without realizing it, they were gradually drifting into a narrowness of experience. They were becoming limited and provincial. A sort of living rigor mortis was setting in. They were becoming established. (That means inflexible and rigid!) This condition afflicts many Christians.
There is a tendency to retire and to back away from life and not to get involved in the real issues. And many churches and members are gradually falling into a rut which is extremely unappealing and unattractive to others around, but they seem to be only dimly aware of it. This can happen to any of us. But Paul is aware of this condition among these Ephesian Christians, and so he prays that they may know “…what are the riches of his[God’s] glorious inheritance in the saints.” (Ephesians 1:18c RSV)
Notice how he puts that. He is not asking that they understand that God is their inheritance. It is true that God is our resource. He is our strength; we draw upon him. We belong to him, and He to us. And that is the great resource of the Christian life. But what Paul is emphasizing here is that we belong to God. We are His property. He has an inheritance in us. It is His delight to use us. And if we make ourselves available to be used, then enrichment and fulfillment beyond our wildest dreams await us. But if we are afraid to let God use us, we will narrow down into this living rut of experience, and we will find that the Christian life is gradually turning drab and dreary and dull and gray.
So what is needed is an understanding of the adventure which awaits anyone who makes himself available to God. This is Paul’s appeal in Romans 12: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1) Give Him your life — day by day, not just in one crisis moment of dedication but in every situation. Say “Lord, do you want to use me in this situation? Okay, here I am. I’m available. I see this need right in front of me. Help me, Lord, not to pass by on the other side. Give me the grace to be available now. Lord, have you given me gifts? Is there equipment in my spirit that you want to use? Well, here it is, Lord; I’m available for you to use to meet this need.” And then move out, venture out, plunge in, risk a little bit! As you do, you will discover that this brings enrichment of life, that your life gradually becomes delightful in its adventure, broad in its understanding, rich in its varied experience.
Many of us are just waiting for God to tell us to do something. But the New Testament never instructs you to do that. Its message is: “God is with you; therefore reach out, risk something, venture, move out, plunge in, try something new that you’ve never done before and trust God to see you through it.” The result will be fantastic enrichment of life.
If we will let God have His inheritance in our lives, if we will present our bodies to Him and say, “Lord, here I am, available to you.” There is one final element in Paul’s request here — that you may know “…what is the immeasurable greatness of His power in us who believe,” (Ephesians 1:19a RSV)
The apostle knows that these Ephesian Christians, like Christians everywhere, are oftentimes immobilized by the grip of fear. He knows their insecurity. He knows that they are afraid of their neighbors, afraid of failure, afraid of persecution and ridicule. There is a deep sense of inadequacy and of impotence in their lives. They don’t think they can do anything. They know how entrenched the forces of evil around them are and it seems hopeless to try to challenge any of the social situations of the day. They know what tremendous, relentless pressures the world can bring to bear upon those who seek to relieve some of these situations, and they are afraid. Does any of this sound familiar?
The answer to fear is power. The minute we feel a sense of adequate power, we lose fear, because power overcomes fear. Love overcomes fear. These forces are mighty, powerful forces. And so Paul prays that Christians will get their eyes open, in a practical way, to the power available to them — “that you may know … what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us [not up in heaven somewhere — in us] who believe.” If we feel our struggles are just too much, that we just can’t make it, it is because we have lost sight of the One who is giving us power. Paul develops this at some length here because it is so important to us. He wants us to see that this power was first demonstrated in the resurrection of Jesus: “…according to the working of His great might which He accomplished in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and made Him sit at His right hand in the heavenly places,” (Ephesians 1:19b-20 RSV)
It is resurrection power. That means that it is different; it is not like any other power. It isn’t the power of a strong personality, nor of an educated mind. It isn’t the power of a good family background, nor of money, nor numbers, nor leadership ability. It is the power that raised Christ from the dead, that is able to bring life out of death. What does that mean in practical terms? It means that this power takes no notice at all of obstacles, just as Jesus rose from the dead, paying no attention to the stone, to the decrees of Caesar, to the fulminations of the Jewish priests, nor to the guard in front of the tomb. Resurrection power doesn’t pay any attention to obstacles. It just surges on ahead, leaves the problems up to God, and goes on. It means that resurrection power requires no outside support. It doesn’t rely upon someone else, nor upon something else. It doesn’t need a vote of confidence. It doesn’t require any kind of undergirding expressions of support from anybody. It can operate alone, completely alone, if necessary.
And it means that it makes no noise or display. It doesn’t try to arrest attention by some publicity stunt. It just works quietly and, without any noise, effects its transformation, brings life out of death. And further, you will notice that the apostle declares that it is supreme in the universe: “…far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come;” (Ephesians 1:21 RSV) It is far above, greater than any other force, stronger than anything which can be launched against you. So believe these words! This is what the apostle is praying for — that you will really grasp this thought, understand that this is exactly what God means. God says, ‘No, resurrection power is the kind that works best when you feel weak.’ (2 Corinthians 12:9)
In Ephesians 1:19-21 it says that Christ is seated at God’s right hand in the heavenly places [i.e., in the seat of power in the universe], far above, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion. If God is at work in me, and if He has that kind of power, then nobody else’s power even approaches His. No demonic force, no lustful urge, can be greater than the power of Jesus Christ. When we understand this in a heart-level, we are able simply to rest in the Lord.
You notice that Paul stresses the fact that the name of Jesus is greater than any name that is named. Of any name that can be named the name of Jesus is greater, not only in time but in eternity as well, not only in this age but in the age to come. Never will there be a greater name than the name of Jesus. What encouragement that gives!
The last thing that Paul tells us of this power is that it is all made visible in the church: “…and He has put all things under His feet and has made Him the head over all things for the church, which is His body, the fullness [the manifestation, the visible expression] of Him who fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:22-23 RSV) The only place this kind of power is ever going to be manifest is in you and me, in the midst of our pressures and problems — power to be patient (that takes power, doesn’t it?), power to love, when someone is irritating the socks off of you, but you must love him nevertheless (that takes power!), power to be joyful in the midst of distressing circumstances, power to be thankful, etc. That is what Paul talking about — power to live as God intended men to live.
Our Heavenly Father, we ask that this mighty prayer of this great apostle will become true of us -- that the eyes of our hearts will be enlightened, that these words will not be merely empty words, not mere phrases that we repeat because they are in the New Testament, but that they will come alive in our experience and we too will discover how encouraging it is that our failures are working for us "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory," that even in the times when we are distressed and we don't handle the situation rightly, if we will turn back to you then that situation will work out to our advantage. Lord, we thank you for this encouragement that if we will venture even a little bit, our lives are going to be enriched thereby. And we are grateful that above all, and undergirding everything else, is this amazing power that is within us, that is quietly able to bring life out of death, hope out of hopelessness, joy out of sorrow, and beauty out of ashes. Lord, we ask that we will understand this and live by it and act on it, so that the world around will begin to see it in us. We ask in Jesus' name, Amen.
Source: Hope, Riches and Power