Years ago, a great European artist sought to portray his concept of Jesus Christ on canvas. Unfortunately, his good friends expressed disappointment with his production. Later, he made a second attempt and it was met with the same disapproval. After visiting galleries and examining famous paintings of Christ by other artists, he made a third attempt and was told it was not as good as the first. Disheartened with His failure, he determined to give up painting altogether, and he retreated to a country resort. During the second night, he dreamed that Jesus came to him and asked him why he was so disheartened. After he told of his grief, Jesus said to him, “didn’t you know that you cannot paint me for anyone else? You have to do it for yourself.”
We humans often fall into this trap…that is, we believe that we have to try to please other people all of the time. This is, as Solomon says, “chasing after the wind.” We will only make ourselves miserable. We cannot live to try to please others, nor can we seek to live other people’s lives for them. What is our goal? It is to glorify God and allow Him to enable us to live for Him…and in doing so, to live life to the fullest. This is my hope and prayer for all of us. I think we often get caught up living to please a parent, spouse, significant other person…and in so doing…we also may not be pleasing to the Lord. In 3:14-21, Paul challenges the Ephesians believers to consider these matters when it comes to living according to faith. There were a lot of other voices vying for their attention, just as there are for us. We need to hear what Paul has to say…and he says it wonderfully in prayer.
Paul shares and exemplifies for believers some thoughts concerning prayer, just as Jesus does in the Lord’s Prayer. He speaks of “bowing the knees”…perhaps this where we get the concept of “being on our knees” in prayer. Although, the Bible does not command any special posture for prayer, there are some examples -- Abraham and Solomon “stood”…David “sat”…and Jesus “fell on His face.” However, in praying, it is important to understand that what matters most is the posture of the heart. We must bow our hearts, wills to the Lord in humility. In his prayer, Paul addresses the Father through the Son (and as part of the usual pattern…in the Spirit vv.14, 16-17…which is also the case here). So, even though the concept of “trinity” is nowhere mentioned in the Word of God, it is evident here. This provides a glimpse of the perspective which all men in general, and Christians in particular, should have – we all share the Fatherhood of God. He is Father and we are family. All people originate from the Father as children by creation, but only we who are in Christ “through birth” are special sons and daughters. He can only be “Father” in the fullest, truest sense for those who believe in Him through the Son.
Paul proceeds to pray for strength. I believe that this is one of the most important things that we can do, as well. He prays that the Ephesian believers have spiritual strength in their inner person. This, in turn, leads to a deeper experience with Christ. And strength must run deep…it must be grounded, rooted in Christ, so that it will not grow weak, nor be easily swayed. This reminds me of a tamarack tree that we saw up at some friends’ property one time…it was 18 feet in circumference and 180 feet high. That one had some deep roots…it was solidly grounded. We will be able to comprehend God’s truths through prayer This means not only to mentally grasp, but also to apprehend the truths, to experience them and hold on to them. We can understand such truths without making them our own, and this is not a good thing. God wants us to experience His fullness, and we do so through the Holy Spirit. He fills us up spiritually when we seek Him.
Nonetheless, it is easy for us to want to use people as our measuring stick. In fact, it is often an easy excuse when we do not “measure up.” Satan can easily manipulate us and our pride when our focus is in the wrong place. All too often, instead of allowing God to enable us to be “better” for Him, we enable others in the wrong way to continue to go down wrong paths. In fact, it has become a psychological definition. Paul says elsewhere, “imitate me in as much as I imitate Christ.” The true measure is – “am I being like Christ”?
After contemplating the wholeness of his spiritual experience, Paul finishes with a powerful doxology…and it is all about the power of Christ. Some power is dormant…available but unused (like the power stored in a battery). This is not supposed to be the case with Christ. Jesus’ power is always available to all of us. We need to have hearts that are filled up with Him…filled up with His Spirit…filled with praise, wonder. In all of this, we are to give glory to God. What we do in His power today will glorify Christ forever. What we do now…how we live our lives today…will have eternal ramifications.
Rob Chaffart shares this -- what is the devil's biggest weapon? Discouragement! He tried this on Jesus Himself, 2000 years ago, using one of his closest disciples: “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, 'Never, Lord!' He said. 'This shall never happen to you!' Jesus turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.'" (Matt 16:21-23 NIV) Those who gave up quickly never were able to fathom the wonders that God would have performed through them. They could have reached the stars, driven by God Himself! “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Gal 6:9 NIV)
"Giving up" is music to the ears of the enemy. However, we serve One who is bigger and more powerful than all the possible obstacles that could face us. We serve One who is interested in “filling up.” “Giving up should never be an option in relationship to learning lessons in life when “filling up” is the blessed alternative. We can learn from the prophet Micah and stand firm, watching attentively where God invites us to join Him in His work and reach out to those who have no hope. "But me, I'm not giving up. I'm sticking around to see what God will do. I'm waiting for God to make things right. I'm counting on God to listen to me." (Micah 7:7 The Message) We have the power available to us to live life abundantly (John 10:10). But, it is up to us…it is our choice as to whether we access it or not. As Paul says, we must by “enabled” by the Father through the Spirit in order to live like the Son. Living right and powerfully for Christ is very much about position (of the heart)…about power (recognizing whose matters)…and about praise (the Lord for whom He is). As Paul exemplified, all of this…in a great way…is comprehended and apprehended through prayer. Paul reveals to the Ephesians and to us what should be the focus of our prayers. The ability to be filled to the full, to be enabled to live life abundantly is the greatest and most fulfilling thing that we can do with our lives.