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Discovering God's Power for Living

Ephesians 1:18-21

James R. Davis

Where do we find the power and courage to face life's problems? Our society believes many things about receiving the courage to face life and the power needed to overcome the hurtles. We have an adage that says, "Whatever the mind of a person can conceive and believe can be achieved." We say, "You can do it." We say, "Just do it!" Another way we face life is through the "Power of Positive Thinking." Don't take me the wrong way, I don't especially appreciate negative thinkers. They will pull you down. But how far will positive thinking take us.

Others say, "You have to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps." My thinking is much too practical to understand this "bootstrap" approach. I envision grabbing on to your own bootstraps and trying to pick yourself up off the floor while standing erect, which to me seems impossible. Maybe I have the wrong mental picture of this "bootstrap" thing. If I were able to do this, I have a feeling that I would end up standing on my head.

I want you to try to imagine the captain of a ship, driven about by rough winds and desiring to drop anchor, trying to find a suitable place to do so right on board his own vessel? Such a thing seems ridiculous, but for the sake of a lesson, let's picture the skipper proceeding in that fashion. He hangs the anchor at the prow, but still the boat drives before the wind; he casts it upon the deck, but this too fails to hold it steady; at last, he puts it down into the hold but has no better success. You see an anchor resting on the storm driven craft itself will never do the job. Only as it is thrown into the deep can it be effective against wind and tide.

In facing the difficulties of life our worldly philosophies today encourage us to discover the power that lies within each of us. This is like trying to anchor a ship without throwing the anchor overboard. Our actions are as futile as one who seeks to keep the anchor aboard his ship.

If you desire change, and if you are using personal strength to get it done, you will never have enough courage and perseverance to accomplish lasting change.

God wants us to know in our hearts that we are completely dependent upon Him for everything - the air we breath, our ability to get out of bed in the morning, the continued blessing of our relationships, our material possessions and the ability to make a living, and most importantly, our salvation. Jesus said in John's Gospel, "Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5, Emphasis mine.)

The Availability of God's Power

Paul uttered a prayer for the Ephesians in chapter 1:18-21: "I pray also 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 the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come."

It is God's power that enlightens us, that gives us hope and gives an inheritance with God. God's power which is at our disposal is realized as we see ourselves in Ephesians 2:1,6. Paul says that in Christ Jesus we who were dead in sin have been resurrected from spiritual death and have been raised up with Christ and we are seated with him in heavenly realms with Christ. Now if Christ is raised up by God and is sitting in heavenly places far above all power and might, is Paul not saying that we are lifted up with Christ in those heavenly realms? What does that say concerning the power God has given us in Christ? In Christ God has also placed us above all power and dominion.

Any serious study of this passage will make one aware that the power of God is real. Paul says that there is a boundless source of power for those who believe in Christ. The kingdom of Christ as a whole has failed to understand the boundless source of power available. We err not knowing the scriptures or the power of God. We have had a form of godliness but largely denied the power of God. (2 Timothy 3:5)

The kind of power available is incomparable; there is nothing that is in comparison to it. It is the kind of power that God used in raising Jesus from the dead and seats him at his own right hand far above all other powers. Paul says again of this power in Ephesians 3:20-21: "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, for ever and ever! Amen."

In Ephesians 3:7 Paul writes, "Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power." Paul was able to serve by the effective working of God's power in his heart.

In Philippians Paul indicates that the power of God's grace continues to be effective in our lives. Philippians 1:3-7 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.  [Emphasis mine]

Paul tells us that God will continue his work in Christians until the day of Jesus Christ. That is until his Second Coming.

Eph 3:20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, (Emphasis mine)

God's power for us today is just as real as it was for those for whom Paul was praying. Too many times we come to passages such as these and begin thinking that this prayer was only for those in the first century. But Christ was exalted to God's right hand and continues to be over the powers of the present age. (Ephesians 1:21) Paul said, "I can do all through Christ who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13) Paul indicates that Christ is enabling us to do his bidding as we sit in heavenly places with him presently.

Sometimes we are afraid that if people tap into the power of God that they will begin to speak in tongues or start doing double back flips or drift away from the written Word. So we shy away from talking about God's power for those of us who believe. Which leaves us with only a form of godliness without any real power to do God's work.

While visiting Switzerland, Charles Spurgeon met two people who talked by the hour about various types of ferns. He said they knew the names well, but not once did they mention any of their characteristics, uses, or habitats. They engaged in "a medley of crackjaw titles and nothing more." Evidently they felt they were ventilating their botanical knowledge, and each kept the other engrossed "by alternate volleys of nonsense."

They were about as sensible as some professing Christians who forever talk over the technicalities of religion but have experienced nothing of its spirit and power. Said Spurgeon, "In botany, he who knows mere names but has never seen a flower is as reliable as he who can expound on the finer points of theology, but has never known the love of Christ in his heart."

The Need of God's Sustaining Power

We are totally dependent on God's power to believe. It is only by God's power that we can believe in Christ. Notice what Paul says in Ephesians chapter 3. Paul prays that we may be strengthen with power in our inner being so that Christ can dwell in our hearts through faith.

Ephesians 3:16-19
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. 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. (Emphasis mine)

According to Paul's prayer, he wants us to be strengthen with God's power, which gives us the inner strength to allow Christ to dwell in our hearts through faith. We not only need to know the precepts of God's Word, but we must have a power within our life that will enable us to practice what we have perceived with our mind. God gives us that power so that we may do more than we could ever think or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20) God is willing to walk with us and willing to give us strength to believe and practice what he requires.

How to Discover God's Sustaining Power

God's sustaining power for living is available through his Spirit. Paul prayed that we might be "strengthened with power through his Spirit." Regardless of what anyone says God's Spirit lives within each of us and it is through his indwelling Spirit that we receive strength and power. Paul said, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (1 Cor 3:16) Paul also said, "Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." (2 Cor 1:22)

God's sustaining power for living is available through God's Word. Paul prayed that the Ephesians might come to know God better. He prayed for the Ephesians enlightenment. (Ephesians 1:17-18) I do not believe that the Spirit can do much for us if we are disconnected from God's written word. Because it is only through the Word that we can test the spirit that is leading us. We have more than one spirit that wishes to thrive within each of us. John wrote, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God . . ." (1 John 4:1-2)

God's sustaining power for living is available through the prayers of the church. Paul asked the brethren to pray for him that he might have the ability to say what he needed to say. In Ephesians 6:18-20 Paul was expecting the prayers of the saints in Ephesus to help him discover God's power to do what God had called him to do. "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."

You can only wonder how much of our teaching is lost because we are not faithful in praying for each other that our minds be instructed and our hearts enlightened. It is so necessary that this truth not be held with the intellect only -- a mere academic understanding of doctrine -- but that it be gripping, vital, and compelling, and that we will see its full impact. The teaching is to instruct the mind, the prayer is to awaken and enlighten the heart, and, thus, the will is enabled to act. And if people can't act as Christians it is very likely that one of these elements is missing.

Peter was released from prison as a result of Christian's prayers.

Acts 12:5 Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.

When the apostle Peter was put into prison, a group of Christians met to pray for his release. But when they were told that Peter was knocking at their door, they didn't believe it. We are often like those first-century Christians. We pray but really don't expect much to happen.

The story is told of a man who got a permit to open the first tavern in a small town. The members of a local church were strongly opposed to the bar, so they began to pray that God would intervene. A few days before the tavern was scheduled to open, lightning hit the structure and it burned to the ground. The people of the church were surprised but pleased--until they received notice that the would-be tavern owner was suing them. He contended that their prayers were responsible for the burning of the building. They denied the charge. At the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, the judge wryly remarked, "At this point I don't know what my decision will be, but it seems that the tavern owner believes in the power of prayer and these church people don't."

Too many wonder why they need to go to church today. How about for the purpose of discovering each other's needs and praying for one another that we might receive God's enabling power to live for Christ. Others need you support and prayers. When the author of Hebrews was writing to those who had seemingly lost the strength to go in Christ he gave them this advice.

Hebrews 10:24-25
And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Believers are meant to be channels through which God's power flows first into our own inner being and then into the lives of others.

Christians need one another!!!

Jesus is telling us to pray that we may receive the power to believe. "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." (Matthew 7:7-8) Jesus says, "With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26)

Sometimes we are like the honest little boy who was praying. He was asked why he prayed, he said, " I pray for something which I want very badly, and which I am afraid I can't get it in any other way."

In James 5:13 the Word of God says, "Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms." This leaves no doubt about the power that is available to us in prayer. James says that there is power available to us when we are sick. James says in James 5:14-15: "Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: 15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him." There is power for us to overcome sin when we sin. James 5:16 says, "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."

Christians must seek time and opportunity to be in the presence of God. Believing, prevailing prayers receive powerful answers.

Paul and Silas were released were released from prison through prayer.

Acts 16:25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.

It is through prayer God gives the power to know the deep things of God. In Paul's prayer in the first chapter of Ephesians, he prays that God would give the Ephesians the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that they might know God better. He prayed that the eyes of their heart might be enlightened in order that they might know the hope of their calling. It was through prayer that Paul came to understand the power of God's grace.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

"In Pilgrim's Progress, Interpreter shows Christian a small fire burning against a wall. Although a man continuously pours water on the flame, it only burns hotter. Interpreter tells Christian that the man pouring water is the devil. Then he reveals why the fire doesn't go out. On the other side of the wall stands another man, who is secretly pouring oil on the same fire. 'This is Christ,' explains the Interpreter. 'With the oil of His grace, He continually maintains the work already begun in the heart of His people.'"


G. S. Bowes comments on the futility of all worldly power and ambition. Citing four of the world's most powerful rulers, he writes: "Alexander the Great was not satisfied, even when he had completely subdued the nations. He wept because there were no more worlds to conquer, and he died at an early age in a state of debauchery. Hannibal, who filled three bushels with the gold rings taken from the knights he had slaughtered, committed suicide by swallowing poison. Few noted his passing, and he left this earth completely unmourned. Julius Caesar, 'dyeing his garments in the blood of one million of his foes,' conquered 800 cities, only to be stabbed by his best friends at the scene of his greatest triumph. Napoleon, the feared conqueror, after being the scourge of Europe, spent his last years in banishment."

In Ephesians 6:10-11 in Paul's concluding exhortation to the Ephesians he writes: "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil."

God is calling us upward. There is a high calling for the believer. There is much the Lord commands us to do. But the commands of Christ are not burdensome. Have you ever felt that you didn't have what it takes to do what God is calling you to do? Someone said that every command of God is not a demand on you, but a demand upon God who gave the command. God will never ask you to do anything that he has not already given you the power to do. If we could only begin to live with the knowledge that in Christ we are already sufficient for everything he calls us to do.

It is a challenge to think and live biblically in this world. But it is our only chance. The old "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" approach is like trying to get enough energy out of a triple-A battery to fly a 747. To tackle fundamental personal and life pattern problems we need to plug into the only power source that can bring permanent change: God. We need His power to change, but He needs our cooperation. Without God we can't change, but He "can't" change us unless we submit our wills.


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