It happens quite often that when I am studying God’s Word, I notice something for the first time, even if it is a section of Scripture I have read hundreds of times before! This is what happened today as I was reading Ephesians Chapter 3. I was basking in the great truths of being part of the one Body of Christ, heirs together with Israel and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus, and that God’s intent was that now through the church His manifold wisdom would be made known to rulers and authorities in heavenly realms! Also according to God’s eternal purpose we can all approach God with freedom and confidence because of what God accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. Then verse 13 jumped off the page at me! “I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my suffering for you, which is your glory.” I thought “How could they be discouraged after hearing such powerful, awesome revelation about what they now have in Christ?!” Then the thought hit me: “Am I ever discouraged?” I decided to look up the word translated “discouraged” and it is in fact more than just feeling like giving up; it is to actually lose your courage, to become a coward. Next question: “Are you ever afraid to stand up for the Truth?”
Step back and think about what must have been going through the minds of some of the believers in Ephesus. The man who brought them the message of salvation, who revealed to them that they too are now God’s chosen people, had not only been persecuted but imprisoned for delivering this message. They knew also that their lives were at stake (see Acts 19:28 and following). As I was thinking about this and about writing this article, God spoke to my heart that some of you reading this live in places where you can be persecuted for your Christian beliefs. Then there are some of you who fear rejection or ridicule from family, friends, co-workers, and others. To all of us, God is saying not to lose courage. You are part of His eternal purpose! Through you His manifold wisdom is to be made known to rulers and authorities in heavenly realms. You can shatter the evil plans of Satan and his forces (Eph. 6:10-20). You can also bring to pass God’s good and perfect will (Rom. 12:2).
There is an awesome cure for cowardice! It’s what our Father wants us to have and it is revealed in Paul’s prayer:
(16) I pray that out of His glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being,
(17) so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,
(18) may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,
(19) and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of the all fullness of God.
This section of Scripture starts off with asking to be strengthened with power through God’s Spirit in our inner being. Why? So that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith! Dwell means to be at home, to take up residence. The idea here is that if Christ Jesus is dwelling in your heart then it is his home. Let him decorate! He’ll help you get rid of the junk and fill it with good. He also has house rules, i.e. love others, forgive, and don’t lie. That is why spiritual strength, the first part of the prayer, is so necessary!
When Jesus is at home in our hearts we can then experience the ultimate gift and source for courage, his love! We get to know a lot about the people we live with. Jesus wants us to know him and especially know his love for us. The word “know” is obviously not just referring to intellectual knowledge since it actually surpasses knowledge! (So you can stop trying to figure out how he can love you!) He does want you to experience, feel, his love. He wants you to notice how he cares for you. To grasp the width, length, height and depth of his love would mean you get it!
Ephesians 5:25 tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. What are some acts of love husbands do? Protect, encourage, help, and very often sacrifice. I recently heard a husband say while selecting tile for their bathroom “I prefer what makes my wife happy.” Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was the ultimate act of love and he did it so we could not just be happy but holy, radiant, free, at peace, and have eternal life! Further in the chapter it says that he feeds (nourishes) and cares for us. To know his love we need to notice and appreciate how he nourishes and cares for us. When someone does something out of love, if we take a moment to appreciate it we can’t help but feel the love. Sometimes we just need to slow down and enjoy Jesus’ acts of love for us. If you are wondering what they are, ask God. He wants you to know!
When we understand Jesus’ love for us we can “be filled to the measure of the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19). The Amplified Bible does a great job communicating this:
Ephesians 3:19 (AMP)
… that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]!
God wants us to be so aware of His Presence and it’s through knowing the love of Christ. In John 15:9 Jesus says: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” Jesus exemplified God’s love and wants us to know and rely on that love so we can love others with it.
I John 4:15 and 16
(15) If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.
(16) And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him.
When we know this divine love, we can live in love courageously because “…perfect love drives out fear” (Eph. 4:18).
We all have a mighty calling on our lives. It’s through us that people can come to know Jesus Christ and experience the fullness of God. It’s through us that God’s manifold wisdom will be seen. And it’s through knowing Christ’s love that we can live out our calling courageously in love. So pray. Ask for strength so that Christ can be at home in your heart and that you would know Christ’s love and experience God’s Divine Presence. Ephesians 3:20 and 21 remind us how God answers our prayers!
Ephesians 3:20 and 21
(20) Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,
(21) to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.