Could you use some encouragement?
A friend, a mentor, a leader to come alongside you and speak words of Truth over you to strengthen you? Words to expand your faith? Words to soothe the jagged edges of a painful situation? Words to infuse hope where hope is fleeting? Words to remind you of who you are in Christ? Words to confirm your place and purpose in His Church? Words to remind you of the power of the Spirit residing in you?
Oh, I sure could!
Somedays, self-doubt overwhelms me, smothering my passion and fire. Discouragement continually stalks me, seeking to steal my purpose and drive. And other days, the daily-grid lusts for my ambition as it chews me up and spits me out.
- I get a call from a friend to say she’s praying for me.
- A text from a prayer partner to offer that word of encouragement.
- A message from a fellow writer/author to provide support and a timely
- A call from a “daughter” (mentee) to tell me she loves me.
- A like, comment, or share from a subscriber to let me know how God used the words I wrote or spoke to boost, enhance, or fortify his or her faith.
Their encouraging words are like a sunbeam splitting the clouds chasing away the darkness. The oppression. The discouragement. The self-doubt. They illuminate what I know to be true, but lost sight of in the againness of life. Their words have to power to expose what the Enemy sought to obscure—God’s Everlasting Truth. And when I think of the adversities many of these precious people are facing, their words are more profound, sweeter even.
This is the premise of Paul’s letter to his beloved church in Ephesus.
He started this church on his way back to Jerusalem at the tail-end of his second missionary journey, and it was the first place he stopped on his third journey. In fact, he spent three years there discipling, teaching, and preaching until the Spirit had him move on to Macedonia (Acts 19 1-22). And it was there that he later sent Timothy, his spiritual son, to serve as their leader. To say he was close to these people, these Gentiles, these Ephesians would be an understatement.
Here’s the kicker, when Paul wrote this letter of encouragement, he was a prisoner in Rome!
Unlike many of his other letters, which confronted problems in the church such as rampant willful sin and heretical teaching, Paul wrote this letter to encourage. His goal was two-fold.
- To fortify and grow the individual believer’s Christian
- To make the purpose, mission, and nature of the Church, The Body of Christ, clear.
Beloved, if you need encouragement, this letter is for you.
Don’t believe me?
Look at Paul’s greeting. “I am writing to God’s holy people in Ephesus, who are faithful followers of Christ Jesus.” (1:1b, NLT, emphasis mine)
Now let’s make it personal.
I am writing to __(your name)__ God’s holy and precious child who is a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:2-8)
Through the next few chapters, Paul reminds us where we were and who we were before Christ
- God’s enemy
- Slaves of Satan
- Dead in our sin
- Followers of the way of the world, our evil thoughts, and selfish desires
- Subjected to God’s anger
as He celebrates who we are and what we have in Christ
- Wanted by God, chosen
- Without fault in God’s eyes, forgiven, free
- Adopted into God’s family, identified as His Child
- Co-heirs with Christ with an eternal inheritance
- Showered with kindness, wisdom, and understanding
- Gifted, indwelt, and empowered with/by His Holy Spirit
- Made alive in Christ
- United in Christ as ONE BODY
Like any great teacher, he masterfully builds these truths one-on-top-of-the-other until 3:20 explodes off the page:
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
Every. Single. Time.
Because what God has in store for you, for me, for His Church, is more than we could ever conjure up on our own. There are many things I ask God for and many things I want to ask for but am afraid to. See, I have a great imagination. I have big dreams and deep seeded desires. There are things I can see for myself, my family, and my ministry that are so big and vast, I wonder if they’re ever going to become my reality.
But my little brain is finite. It has limits. Boundaries. Things I can’t even begin to fathom.
What if my big, vast dreams are not big enough for what God has in store?
What’s keeping His plans for me back?
What’s limiting God’s work in me?
John MacArthur offers a viable answer, “When the Holy Spirit has empowered us, Christ has indwelt us, love has mastered us, and God has filled us with His own fullness, then He is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think. Until those conditions are met, God’s working in us is limited.”
Let that rest on you for a minute.
What he’s saying is, God’s excessive abundance for me, for you, is limited by our choices.
When we don’t fully surrender to Christ; when we don’t allow His love to master us; when we haven’t invited the Spirit to take over; when we don’t allow God to fill us with His fullness, we sacrifice the pleasure and joy of audacious living. Of abundant living. I’m not talking about possessions or wealth here. I’m talking about our day-to-day interactions with people, growing in our faith and relationship with Jesus, pursuing the ministries God gives us, and using our talents to further God’s Kingdom here on earth. I’m talking about the fullness of Spirit-filled living!
We have the opportunity to live for Jesus in such a way that exceeds the normal standards. Don’t miss it! When we’re filled with God’s own fullness, He is able to use us in ways our finite brains would never dare to imagine!
That is so hard to wrap my head around. But His word says it! His word is True, unchanging. Therefore, I believe it.
Christine Caine wrote in her last newsletter: “Start to pray bold, audacious prayers. I’ve made it a habit to pray that God would continually surprise me and expand my realm of understanding to see His plan.” This has become my new daily practice. I invite you to join me in pouring out your sin and asking for forgiveness, surrendering to Christ, asking the spirit to fill you, and then whispering—Surprise Me, God!
Beloved, allow Jesus to indwell you. The Spirit to empower. And God the Father to fill you with His fullness. Surrender to His love. Allow Him to use you. To further His Kingdome here on earth.
And as we explore this letter of encouragement from the beginning over the next several weeks, I pray Ephesians 3:20 will resonate in your heart, soul, and mind. I pray it will be a wellspring of strength and encouragement as you learn more about who you are in Christ and identify the things that keep you from full surrender. I pray by the end of our investigation, you will experience the abundance of God.
If you have yet to invite Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, I pray you will open yourself up to Him so you too can experience the audacious living He offers. The freedom. The healing. If you have questions as to how to do this: comment, email, message me.
Thursday’s Facebook Live at 12:00 CST
I am going to continue this discussion and talk about how we intentionally or unintentionally try to keep God in a box because of our finite knowledge, when in fact He has so much more for us.
If you missed last week’s FB Live “How DO you support a writer anyway?” you can watch it here.