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Spiritual strength! – Ephesians 3:14-21

Spiritual strength! – Ephesians 3:14-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 12, 2017

The spiritual strength that God provides gives the believer the tenacity to stay the course. Wanting to mature in her spiritual life one woman started what she called a Thanks-Living jar. Each evening she wrote on a small slip of paper one thing she thanked God for and dropped it in the jar. Some days she had many praises; other days she struggled to find one. At the end of the year she emptied her jar and read the slips. She discovered how God had given her simple things like a sunset or an evening stroll; or how he had provided momentary grace to handle a difficult situation.

What is it that gives the believer the strength to go into hardships, frustrations, and at great personal sacrifice to foreign fields to share the good news? How can they spend years serving far away from their home country, neighborhoods, and families to serve the calling of Christ? How can the average believer stand fast in their faith where they work or within the hostile environment of family and friends? Here in Ephesians Paul gives us the answer: Spiritual strength.

READ: Ephesians 3:14-21
We can forget as believers that God provides for us in ways we often do not realize. Here Paul related that we do not have just one source of spiritual strength but rather…

I. We have several sources of spiritual strength! (Vv. 14-17a)

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

1. It was for the mystery of the gospel message that Paul did what he did. His ministry to the gentiles compelled him to preach the good news. And so he writes the Ephesians that it is “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” Paul’s kneeling in prayer is one of several postures for praying (standing, kneeling, and lying prostrate) found in the Bible. However, notice his first comment is directed toward God the Father the first personality of the Trinity. The connotation here is not that God is our Father as some cults view him but rather God is the creator of all things. The Hebrews understood this and often referred to God as their “Father” the beginning of everything! But then Paul continued with the second personage of the Trinity and related that he prayed “that out of (God’s) glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being”. Remember Paul had equated that this spiritual power was “like the working of his mighty strength” as when Jesus was resurrected and ascended! (Vv. 1:19-20) And all believers “were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance”! (Vv. 1:13-14) Finally Paul tells us why the Spirit does this by directing us to the third person of the Trinity, Jesus “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith”! He prays to the Father who is the Creator that he would strengthen with the Holy Spirit’s power in them so that they would have a stronger faith! Wow! Paul shares with his readers and us that we have three sources of spiritual strength!

EXAMPLE: It is aggravating to hear about athletes who think they are so awesome that they are all a team needs to win. They do not listen to their coaches or teammates and fail to understand that it takes a team to win a team sport. Each coach and player is part of the whole plan to win. In the spiritual realm we can never forget that we have several sources of spiritual strength!

I am not totally sold on 3D movies. I find that often when they make a movie 3D it is because it is a lousy movie otherwise. I do not always need a multidimensional experience, except where my faith is concerned. Paul teaches us that…

II. Our spiritual strength is truly multidimensional! (Vv. 17b-19)

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

1. Paul continued his thought by writing what some of his chief concerns for them as new believers was: “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love”. This is kind of a reference to the Psalmist who declared that the person whose delight is in the Lord “is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.” (Psalm 1:3 NIV) Or like the “wise man” Jesus referred to who “built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24, 25 NIV) The believer’s faith is to be established, firmly plant in the love of God as expressed in Jesus! We are to be rooted and to continually be planted in him! Why? Paul says that it is so we “may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ”! Someone once wrote that “The more a Christian knows about Christ, the more amazed he is at Christ’s love for him.” In our day far too many think that this is a feeling or an emotional response and they desperately try to gain access to it over and over like spiritual drug addicts by doing good deeds, spiritual hype, showmanship worship, or continual self-abasement. However Paul makes it plain that it is a relational thing that we are “to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that (we) may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Jesus taught that “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23 NIV) Faith is more than an emotional experience; it is the deep rooted relationship one has as they walk with God in Jesus! It is wider, longer, higher and deeper than we can imagine and surpasses all the knowledge of the world! Our spiritual strength is truly multidimensional!

EXAMPLE: David McCasland writes about our spiritual strength by asking, “What are the five best toys of all time?” He continues by writing that “Jonathan H. Liu suggested the following: A stick, a box, string, a cardboard tube, and dirt” from a GeekDad column at wired.com. All are readily available, adaptable, and suitable for all ages. They are cheap and are powered by our imagination and no batteries are required. Imagination gives us the ability to use common things and make them something else. We are multidimensional in our play. After asking God to strengthen them with his power through the Spirit Paul prayed that they would be able to grasp and experience the full dimension of the love of Christ. Our spiritual strength is truly multidimensional!

Just when a person thinks they have God nailed or trapped in a box, they discover that he is far more than one could ever conceive. We can become so jaded in our walk with God that we fail to see it as it truly is and therefore fail to understand its potential in our lives. Paul reminds us that…

III. Our spiritual strength is inconceivable! (Vv. 20-21)

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, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.

1. Paul closes his personal prayer for the Ephesians with a final teaching concerning Jesus. He tells them that his desire is that God would “do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine”. Now we can imagine a lot of things but Paul is following up the idea that our relationship with Jesus is wider, longer, higher, and deeper than we can imagine! And so we can ask for more than we realize when we walk with him because we will understand more about our relationship with him! Notice Paul qualifies this prayer with the words “according to his power that is at work within us”! This mighty power is the same as that which resurrected Jesus! It is the same power that gives the believer eternal life! It is the same power that bought us back from the pit of eternal damnation! It is the power of God at work within us! So Paul expresses his praise by stating “to him (God) be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever!” Only God through Jesus could get all races, tribes, countries, and nationalities to work together in his body the church. Paul would also write the Roman church, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:36 NIV) The Apostle John would write that the saints in heaven would sing about Jesus, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” How wonderful to know that our spiritual strength is inconceivable!

EXAMPLE: God is not commonplace. Far too many have relegated God into a position of being just like any other deity that mankind could dream up. Nothing could be further from the truth. God did not “evolve” from a plethora or pantheon of gods until mankind was far along enough in their mythos to finally make him into their image and monotheistic. Nor do we discover the same god in Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity. While there can exist comparable concepts and even similar stories, it does not mean they all come from the same source. That would be like saying Mien Kampf and Tom Sawyer are from the same author since they both deal with personal struggle and racism! Paul relates that we should never forget that like God our spiritual strength is inconceivable!

Conclusion:

We have several sources of spiritual strength! Our spiritual strength is truly multidimensional! Our spiritual strength is inconceivable!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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How to live confidently! – James 5:1, 4-11, 13-20

How to live confidently! – James 5:1, 4-11, 13-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 3, 2013 AM

In my early 30’s, I questioned what my future held. I was newly married, working at a good job, but I could not see the finish line. I wanted desperately to be “out there in the real world,” working in pastoral ministry. I observed people my age who were established in ministry. Soon, a ministry opportunity arose that was the beginning of a future I could not have imagined—one better than I could have drawn up. I wish I could say I never again lost confidence about the future, but I can’t. Yet in my journey, I have learned valuable lessons. God works on His timetable and I can trust Him.

Disappointments make adults less confident about their lives. Some lose confidence and concentrate on the worst that could happen. They always wonder when the next shoe will drop! Other adults worry about the future. Limited incomes, aging, health-care, terrorism threats, the economy, and other concerns erode their confidence about the future. Some adults have lost confidence in prayer. God desires us to live confidently and James teaches us how.

READ: James 5:1, 4-11, 13-20

James declares that wicked people will lose their wealth; in fact, it will ultimately testify against them! God already knows about people’s evil and will judge them. As a result, they will suffer for their acts of ungodliness. However, we can live confidently because we know…

I. The wicked will be punished! (5:1, 4-6)

1. James had referred to ways some rich people treat believers—oppressing them, dragging them into court, and speaking evil of their Lord’s name (2:6-7). James now addresses non-Christian rich people directly. Evidently, these rich folk were unbelievers who took advantage of the destitute believers. Weep and wail describes loud mourning—howling in terror—and bursting into tears. Misery means “calamity” or “distress.” James declared a time was coming when the unscrupulous rich would face the consequences of their actions. Their wealth would decay. Moths would eat holes in their hoarded clothes, and their silver and gold would rust (vv. 2-3)! Then, James outlined three charges against them! First, they had hired workers to reap their fields and had withheld their pay. The failure to pay was cruel and fraudulent. Poor Jewish day laborers expected to be paid at the end of each day as the law required. They depended on it for their families’ survival. James stated that the withheld pay cried out against them and now, “The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.” God takes note of rich people’s ruthless treatment of the poor. He can—and will—address the wrong. The heartless landowners had deprived the day laborers of their subsistence, but the wealthy “lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence.” They had “fattened (themselves) in the day of slaughter. James compared the self-indulgent rich with animals that went on feeding securely, unaware of the looming day of slaughter. They had lived a soft (delicate) life and engaged in extravagant wastefulness; solely for their own pleasure. James then leveled a third charge against wealthy unbelievers, “You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.” He may have referred to their having control of the courts so the poor had no recourse and thus were deprived of justice. Their exploiting the poor amounted to murder. In Jewish tradition, people could murder others by depriving them of their living. The poor had no power to gain a fair hearing in the courts. We can live confidently because we know the wicked will be punished!

EXAMPLE: We can be confident about our future because God will punish the wicked. We are not to rejoice at the prospect of their judgment; we should be concerned that they repent and turn to Christ. Yet we can take comfort in the truth that God is fair and just, and we can leave reward and punishment to Him. We can live confidently because we know the wicked will be punished!

James turned again to Christians. He called for believers to be patient as they await Jesus’ return and to endure on the basis of God’s nature. We can live confidently because we know…

II. Our future is secure! (5:7-11)

1. James encouraged his brothers to be patient “until the Lord’s coming.” Rather than to seek revenge for wrongs, we are to live in anticipation of Jesus’ return. An illustration from farming presses James’s point. The farmer plows his field and sows his seed. “See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” Believers are to follow the farmer’s example of perseverance. In light of Christ’s imminent return, we are to strengthen our hearts. We are to persevere in faith and renew our courage and commitment. Believers are not to “grumble against each other… or you will be judged.” Christians must remember that, “The Judge is standing at the door!” James wanted believers to stop grumbling against one another so they would not be judged! With the Judge so near, how can believers continue to grumble against and find fault with one another? Christians will face the same judgment as the wicked. Instead, believers will be judged on the basis of their relationship with Christ, and the wicked will be judged on the basis of their lack of a relationship with Him. James pointed believers to the prophets as a group for an outstanding example of suffering and patience. “Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered.” The prophets were worthy examples of steadfastness. James reminds us, “You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.” Job is a great example of perseverance. He was not patient in our usual meaning of the word; he “had it out” with God, but he remained steadfast in his faith. God restoring Job demonstrates His compassionate and merciful nature. James writes, “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” We can live confidently because we know our future is secure!

EXAMPLE: We can patiently await and be confident about the future because God is in charge of it. We are to persevere in our faithfulness to Christ, no matter what difficulties we encounter. We have the opportunity to follow outstanding examples of endurance and in the process to become models for others. We can live confidently because we know our future is secure!

James echoed Jesus’ teaching about speaking truthfully without using oaths (Matthew 5:33-37). Instead of cursing God or others about our circumstances, we should pray. James points us to God’s past consistency in answering prayers. On that basis, we can be assured of our prayers’ clout! We can live confidently because we know…

III. Our prayers are powerful! (5:13-20)

1. James then asked three questions that expected a “yes” answer. First, are any believers in trouble? He is referring to experiencing hardships. That person should keep on praying for God’s help. Second, is anyone happy (in good spirits)? That person should sing praises—literally, “sing psalms.” Singing to God is a fitting way to thank Him for blessings. James’s third question concerns believers who are sick. An ill person may lack the strength to pray, so the individual was to call for the elders of the church. Elders may have been older, respected Christians, or they could have been leaders with pastoral functions. The elders’ role probably mirrors a similar role found in the Jewish community, and James’s advice reflects a familiar practice in that community. The elders first were to anoint the sick person with olive oil in the name of the Lord. The word anoint means more than using olive oil in a ceremonial gesture; it means “to rub” in the medicinal sense. Thus, their prayer is to be combined with the best medical treatment available. The phrase in the name of the Lord emphasizes dependence on God. On the surface, this verse seems to offer an absolute guarantee that this would always result in healing. However, we must consider an underlying condition. The phrase the prayer of faith refers to petitioning God in total confidence. James meant that it is God alone who “will cure” or “will restore to health” the one who was sick. “The Lord will raise him up.” James’ comment, “If he has sinned, he will be forgiven”, does not indicate all sickness is a result of sins. Rather, it points out that where sin is present, God’s forgiveness is available. James writes, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” The intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful. A righteous person has a close relationship with God and demonstrates faith through obedience. The idea is that God hears and makes effective the prayers of His faithful people. Thus, His people are to pray. As an example of a righteous man’s powerful, effective prayers, James pointed to the prophet Elijah. James’s point was that Elijah was human as we all are; yet because of his right relationship with God, his prayers were effective in God’s causing and then ending drought. James urged believers to develop and maintain a vibrant relationship with God out of which they could pray effectively. In fact, Christians are to be engaged in the ministry of restoration as they endured trials and an ongoing struggle against sin. “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” We can live confidently because we know our prayers are powerful!

EXAMPLE: Intercessory prayer is essential as an expression of Christian concern and of faith in God’s care and power. Intercessors’ presence with the sick person gives assurance of the church’s fellowship and provides a personal touch that can strengthen the individual’s faith. Yet seeking the best medical treatment is always valid and crucial. We can be confident about our prayers because God always answers them, often in exactly the way we ask. Even when He seems to be silent, we can be confident that He has not forgotten our petitions and is working on our behalf. We can live confidently because we know our prayers are powerful!

Conclusion:
1. We can live confidently because we know the wicked will be punished!
2. We can live confidently because we know our future is secure!
3. We can live confidently because we know our prayers are powerful!

This article is copyrighted © 2013 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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