Is the glass half empty or half full? For the last few weeks we have looked at the fact that we have every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Therefore, we know that the cup isn’t half anything. The cup is full, full to overflowing, yet how often we feel as if it is half empty. What is it like in your relationship with God? Do you feel spiritually full? Is your heart rejoicing over the wonder of what God has done for us? I have to confess that I certainly don’t feel full all the time. Sure there are moments when I am encouraged, but there are also moments when I have doubts and moments when I am discouraged and even times when I feel like giving up. Often our spiritual life is shallow. We are self centered, we do not grasp the eternal importance of what God is doing in the world and we do not give ourselves fully to God’s work. If God is real, then surely the realization of all our spiritual blessings in Christ can be more of a reality in our lives.
There is a scene in Charles Dickens’, Oliver Twist, in which the orphan boy is sent by the rest of the hungry orphans to ask for more food. He approaches the person in charge and asks, “Please, sir, I want some more.” Is that our spiritual hunger? Do we desire a greater understanding, a greater experience of the many spiritual blessings which are ours in Christ?
Ephesians 1:15-23 speaks to that desire for more and raises the desire, not to a strategy, but to a prayer. This passage is another long sentence without a period and is in essence a prayer. My desire is that we will experience the full cup of blessing that God has for us. My prayer for all of us is that we will be deeply and completely impacted by the wonder and glory of the gospel.
Those whom Paul is talking to are people who have experienced Jesus. They have a reputation of being people who have faith in Jesus. They trust the truth about Jesus and they live by that trust as is demonstrated by their love for all the saints.
As soon as Paul knew that they were believers, he started praying for them regularly. As his brothers and sisters, he cared about them and their spiritual life. The prayer has two sides. On the one side, he prays a prayer of thanksgiving. He rejoices that God has been at work in them and that they have responded to that work.
The other side is that he also makes a request. You know how we sometimes tell people, “I am thinking of you?” Paul says something similar when he says, “I remember you in my prayers.” He recognizes that God has begun a good work in them and that they have responded to that work. He prays that they will grow in their faith. Do we give thanks and pray like that for each other?
Let us take a careful look not only at the content of his prayer, but also at the way in which he prays. It tells us a lot about his attitude to God and how God works. It encourages and teaches us how we ought to pray.
As he begins his prayer he addresses God with the words, “...the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory…” His address of God is much larger than, "Dear God. In making the address of his prayer in this way, he is acknowledging a number of things about God. He recognizes that He is God who has created the world and is the sovereign of it. By mentioning Jesus, he recognizes the importance of the relationship between Father and Son and implies all that God has accomplished through Jesus. The further mention of God as “the Father of glory” reminds us that God is glorious. He is significant and impressive and filled with wonder. This address demonstrates his confidence in the ability and love of God to answer his prayer.
It is also important to notice that he prays. He does not chastise the Ephesians that they are not spiritual enough. He doesn’t even give them a strategy for becoming more spiritual. He prays that God will work in their lives. And so should we pray for each other. Sometimes we need to be encouraged and sometimes we need to be challenged, but always we need to realize that God is very interested in our spiritual growth and maturity and has promised to work in us. Instead of becoming impatient with ourselves or others, we need to look to God and pray for each other.
The phrase “give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation” also speaks not to the content of his prayer, but to the way in which the prayer will be answered. He prays that they will have wisdom and revelation. These two words tell us that the spiritual growth which he desires for them will come from God but also involves their participation.
On the one hand, he prays that they will have wisdom. Wisdom will help us understand the best way to live and will help us know the path of righteousness. Wisdom is doing things well. Although wisdom is God given, it has an element of our participation. Proverbs encourages us to seek wisdom. We participate in wisdom by seeking it and desiring to follow the path of wisdom.
On the other hand, he also prays that they will have revelation. Revelation involves no participation from us, but is entirely a matter of what God reveals. There are some spiritual truths which cannot be discovered in any way other than that God makes them known.
Some things we can learn by study and discernment, some things only God can reveal. Paul prays that God will allow them to experience both.
Paul’s prayer is that the spirit of wisdom and revelation which God provides will lead them to know God.
To know about someone is one thing, but to know someone is a much deeper, much closer relationship. The word “know” is used in the Bible occasionally to speak of the intimacy of the sexual relationship. Paul’s prayer is that they will come to know God in a very close and intimate way. He prays that they will experience Him in such a way that they are comfortable with God and understand His ways and His plans. We can know many things, but if we are to grow deeper in faith we must know God, not merely with intellectual perception, but in a close relationship.
You have probably heard the phrase “there is more to it than meets the eye.” Some things are obvious to our physical eyes, but sometimes it takes more than our physical eyes to perceive a situation. If we see someone crying, our eyes see the tears, but our heart perceives that something is wrong. It is our heart that cares enough to enter into the situation and provide comfort.
Paul's prayer is that they will have this deeper seeing when he speaks about having “the eyes of your heart enlightened.”
Paul’s prayer then is that these believers, who know God and have entered into a relationship with Him and are walking in love, will grow deeper in their relationship with God. It is a prayer for more. A prayer for a deeper intimacy with God and a greater understanding of what He has done, what He does and who He is. It is a prayer for a heart that is fully and meaningfully engaged with God and walking with Him in a deep trust.
Paul goes on to speak about the specific content of his prayer. There are three things which he wants them to know and experience. They are things which, if we know them with the eyes of our heart, will bring us into a deeper relationship with God.
Sometimes we lose hope. For people who live with chronic illness there are times when the relentless presence of pain causes them to lose hope. It is agonizing to go day after day knowing that the tomorrow will be just as difficult and painful as today.
Sometimes our jobs become so difficult that we don’t enjoy them, but we are trapped because we don’t know what else to do or where else to earn our living. People lose hope when they don’t see a way out of a dead end job.
Whatever the situation of desperation may be, life can get to the place where it seems hopeless and there is nowhere to turn. Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians, a prayer we can also pray, is that we will be able to see, with the eyes of our heart, that there is no hopeless situation.
Recently I spoke with someone who sometimes struggles with hopelessness and I encouraged them to hang on to hope. Later I thought about what I had said and I realized that it wasn’t very good advice. If we hold on to hope when there is no reason for that hope, what do we really have to hold on to? Later I called them and apologized for my poor choice of words and encouraged them that they should hang on to Jesus.
When we understand that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing, we know that we have entered into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ that puts us in a place where we never have to lose hope. God has called us to hope and it is a hope that never fails. We hope, not because of some vague notion of hope, but because of the one in whom we hope. That is the hope to which we have been called and if we have the eyes of our heart enlightened, we will know deeply and firmly the hope to which we have been called.
The second thing which he prays for is that they will know “what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints. How do we understand this? The Good News translation says, “…how rich are the wonderful blessings he promises his people…” This is a wonderful truth and we need to grasp the depth and the amazing blessing of what God has given us and promised us. The theme of verses 3-14 has been to let us know all the blessings we have in Christ. Not only are we rich now, but we also have an inheritance. What will we inherit? We will inherit eternal life! We will be in God’s presence! We will have no more sorrow and no more tears! We will live in heaven, the best of all situations. It is worth having the eyes of our heart enlightened in order that we can know and understand fully how great these blessings are from God.
But as we read this text in NRSV or NIV it seems to say something different. We read, “…the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” Notice that the wording is a little different. It does not say, “…our inheritance” but rather “his inheritance.” If Paul intended to communicate that God has richly blessed us why didn’t he say “our inheritance?” Yet he deliberately refers to God’s inheritance! What is it we are to understand by this wording?
I believe that it is telling us that God inherits us. The Bible tells us that God is preparing a church without spot or wrinkle for Himself. God is working at the development of a bride who will be glorious and will glorify Him. This text tells us that we are God's inheritance!
Jim owns a beautiful cottage on a lake and invites his friends Bob and Jill to live in that cottage. Bob and Jill enjoy living there and are careful with Jim's property, but they always have the awareness that it is not theirs. If Jim told them, “you can live there for now and when I die, it will be yours, you will inherit it,” how would their thinking change? Would they not treat the property in a completely different way? I can imagine that they would care for it even more carefully and they might even invest in making it better. They will make sure that nothing gets run down because they have a vested interest in the property. If we understand with the eyes of our heart that we are God’s inheritance, we will understand just how much God cares for those who are His, for His church. We will understand God's great interest in our total welfare, especially our spiritual welfare. We are His inheritance and He wants to make it the best inheritance possible. What a blessing to know just how much we are valued by God.
The last part of the prayer refers to the “immeasurable greatness of His power.” The word “immeasurable” comes from a Greek word from which we get our word “hyperbole.” The power of God is painted large and beyond what we can imagine or understand. That great power of God is described in these verses in a way that should cause us to stand in awe of God.
God’s power was demonstrated when he raised Jesus from the dead. That is awesome power. Even though we have known about the resurrection for about 2000 years, we still sometimes don’t believe that it actually happened. It is so far removed from our human experience that we find it hard to grasp that someone would actually rise from the dead. But God did raise Jesus from the dead!
The great power of God was also demonstrated when he seated Jesus in a position of authority over the entire universe. When he was on the cross, those standing by mocked him by saying that he saved others, but couldn’t save himself. Pilate pointed out that he had power over Jesus. The powerlessness of Jesus was shown at the cross, but after the resurrection the truth presented itself as we understand that Jesus ascended to sit in authority over the entire universe. Paul has written this in such a way that we are to understand the wonder of this power. He is over “all rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named.” There is no one who has a position of power above Jesus. Not the president of the United States, nor the General Secretary of the United Nations nor even the evil ruler of this world have the power and authority that Jesus has.
The great power of God is declared when Paul indicates that this great power is not only active in the present time but in all time. He is ruler “not only in this age but also in the age to come.”
The great power of God is demonstrated with the illustration that all things have been put under His feet. That is a symbol of submission and there is nothing in all creation that is not subject to Christ. Tom Neufeld says, “The list of powers is intended to be so comprehensive as to leave no potency, no center of power, no force, great or small, seen or unseen, present or future (in this age or the next), beyond the rule of Christ (cf. Rom. 8:38–39).
Knowing and understanding these things with the eyes of our heart is a wonderful thing. It tells us that the holy, just and compassionate God of the universe has taken His rightful place on the throne and is ruling now and moving all things toward His desired end. There is no need for fear or doubt about how things will end. We know that God will win and has already won in Jesus.
Wow! The superior position, power, authority and glory of Jesus are amazing! But the wonder of this passage is not only that Jesus has such power, but that that power is “for us!” Please take note of verse 19 which says “…that you may know…what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe.” Then this concept that God’s ultimate power is for us is reinforced, in verse 22, when it says that God “has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church.”
What the eyes of our heart need to grasp is that God has placed the church in the most significant position over all world politics, all world powers and all events of history. The Message says, “The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.” The little church which is dismissed as irrelevant and persecuted and not taken seriously by many is the organism that will stand in the end of time when everything else is destroyed. The church is the only institution that will still exist when earth has been judged. Furthermore, that church presently has at its disposal all the power that God has placed in the hands of Jesus. We as God’s people are the most important people on earth and will exist for eternity and have at our disposal the power by which God raised Jesus from the dead. Why do we doubt? Why do we give ourselves to the kingdom that will fade away? Why do we spend more time investing in the kingdom that will disappear than on the kingdom that will last for all eternity?
As we contemplate this question we need to remember that this passage is not a challenge, but a prayer. As we see with the eyes of our heart what is really going on in the universe, we will be motivated from within to make the changes that will fall in line with what God is up to. May the eyes of our heart be enlightened!
The woman who poured ointment on Jesus’ feet got it. The eyes of her heart had been enlightened. She understood how much grace she had received and thus understood the hope to which she had been called. In response she loved extravagantly.
Until we get it, our loving will be normal, careful or perhaps even stingy. If I had $1000 in my pocket and someone asked for $20, I would have no trouble being generous. If I had $20 in my pocket and someone asked for $20, there would have to be a good reason for me to give it to them because I would be thinking that I will probably need that $20.
Sometimes we live our Christian life as if we have $20 in our pocket. The purpose of this prayer is that we will have the eyes of our heart enlightened so that we will realize that proverbially we have far more than $1000 in our pocket. It is as we understand the riches of His blessings poured out on us that we will be moved to generously and extravagantly love Jesus.
This morning, as we conclude, I would like to invite you to take a moment for silent prayer for two or three people who are sitting around you. Pray this prayer that the eyes of their heart will be enlightened so that they will know the hope to which they have been called, the glorious riches of His inheritance in the saints and the immeasurable greatness of His power for us who believe.
Let us pray.