“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.”
Ephesians 3:20-21 NIVUK
Ephesians 3:20 is a verse that has impressed me, intrigued me, and challenged me over the years I have been a Christian pilgrim. Many times I have tried to get my mind around what Paul was saying, and what it means for me today. I keep coming back to this verse in my regular visits to this Epistle to the Ephesians. Straight away there is a temptation to look at this verse from a worldly point of view, imagining physics-defying feats of strength and courage. Although the power Paul mentioned can sometimes encroach into our physical world, such an interpretation was not what he had in mind when he wrote about God’s power. But was Paul really saying that this power, God’s power, is available and is to be applied in our own lives and the lives of the people, our family and friends and neighbours, around us? I think it does because God has one mission – the propagation of His love throughout mankind for His “glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever”. Every resource He supplies, His unlimited power, is designed with that in mind. This verse, I believe, is pivotal to Christian discipleship today.
But it doesn’t stop there because God wants His servants to think outside the box. He wants people with the faith to use the power given to us to do tremendous works to further His kingdom. People with the faith of Jackie Pullinger, about whom I was reading recently. She embarked on a ship at the age of 21 praying as it reached each port about whether God wanted her to minister and serve Him there. She ended up in Hong Kong, working amongst so many needy people. Where drug addiction was rife. And through the power of the Holy Spirit she saw lives changed. The enemy’s frontiers were pushed back. Of course, we’re not all people like Jackie but we each have our own sphere of potential ministry and service.
But there are three things about this verse that get to me. The first is that God wants me to ask Him what He wants to do through me. Paul said that of course God is able to do far more than we ask – he used the word “immeasurably” – but God still wants us to ask. That’s the way we engage with Him and His Spirit. It is our openness to Him, and desire to serve, that allows His power to be used in whatever situation He requires. It’s our willingness to say, “Yes, Lord” when He prompts us to take the next step in our service to Him. A man called Ananias was in such a place when the Holy Spirit asked him to find a guy called Paul who was praying, blinded by an encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road, and to pray for him, that his sight would be restored. That wasn’t just a light bulb moment in Ananias’s life – he was ready and prepared, open for his next God-assignment. He had already asked God to use him for the furtherance of His kingdom. We can read the full story in Acts 9.
The second thing is that God wants us to use our imaginations. So often in our churches and congregations we are bounded by walls and stained glass, by a liturgy more suitable to a Victorian era, out of touch with the real world outside the walls. We’re cut off in splendid isolation, perhaps feeling holy but nevertheless totally ineffective in dispensing His power. A god-breathed imagination will open doors and windows into the very souls of our communities and families. It is only as we use our imaginations that opportunities will start to emerge from the fog of our pre-conceived ideas and conditions. To just sit in a pew, week after week, requires no imagination at all.
The third thing is that we have all the power we need – it is right there within us. But where and how should it be used? There is an answer to this question in Acts 1:8. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”. Note that the receipt of the power is followed by an action – being witnesses of Jesus. I believe this verse is highly significant, because it contains the last recorded spoken words of Jesus before He ascended into Heaven. And this didn’t mean just talking about Him, or doing Bible studies on the parables. Or sitting in our pews listening to eloquent sermons about His birth at Christmas, or His death and resurrection at Easter. Jesus was a real action man. He didn’t spend His time in pastoring the people in His local synagogue. He was out and about using His power to invite people into His kingdom. What Jesus said in Luke 5:31-32 is interesting. “Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.””.
But back to our verse, Ephesians 3:20. God’s chosen method of reaching humanity is through pilgrims like you and me. Through willing people who dare to ask God what their next assignment is. Through open people with an active, God-breathed, imagination; who dare to think outside the box, who dare to break the mould, who dare to use their faith to leverage the power that is within them. People like Isaiah – we read about his encounter with God in the Temple in Isaiah 6:8 – “Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.””. Let us be asking and imagining pilgrims in our service for God.
Just one more thing – “to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations”. All we do is to, and for, His glory. With deeply thankful hearts for all He has done for us.