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Our Path To Personal Power
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The theme of the Ephesian letter is adequacy through relationship. Put plainly, Paul is talking about power. The word explodes like early-morning firecrackers on the Fourth of July. Power—power—power. Here the verses crackle as Paul's pen strikes the parchment in the dreary prison cell. All around are the sounds of earthly power, the clanking of armor, the sound of hobnailed boots hitting the cobblestone streets, the ear-piercing blast of trumpets, the shouting, and the tumult. But Paul's not mentioning these. He never does. He's in tune with a heavenly power that outlasts, out-performs, outdoes, and outranges all earthly power. Hear his words to the church at Ephesus.

“Making mention of you in my prayers … that the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (1:18–23).

Now this power is localized.

For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. 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, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen ( Ephesians 3:14–21).

What wistfulness these verses bring! We dream but can't do. When "all's said and done", there's more “said”, than done. We plan, but our plans are neatly Xeroxed for our committee reports. We study, but we don't perceive. We polish the gun, but we don't "pull the trigger".

One poetic interpretation of this says that we have all the knowledge we can use; what we lack is the will to use it. We intend to do things, but never get to do them. God needs to bless us with action.

The parable of power is a common one. When we lived in Indiana, we had as neighbors, a delightful family. The father was a doctor and was able to provide all kinds of toys for his three sons. At Christmas time, my wife Berny asked Twila what she could get for her boys that they didn't already have. “Give them batteries.” “Batteries?”

“Yes, batteries. All the toys they got last Christmas aren't running—they need batteries. Ah, there's the need. Our minds are full of plans and aspirations, both for ourselves and our churches. But they need power!

The native hue or resolution is “sicklied o'er by the yellow cast of thought.” Mired in meditation. Fatigued by failure. Stressed out by the tension between our divine imperatives and our human imperfections, tired of trying and trying not to be tired, we become pitiful mourners at our own funerals. Like morticians putting pink light bulbs above the casket to give a lifelike glow to the corpse, we juggle church statistics to prove that we are doing as well as can be expected.

To our weariness comes God's promise of power: power that can't only raise dead plans, but dead people; power that can make the world's strongest governments look like a childish fantasy; power that can melt down the glaciers of icy doubt and tumble the towers of Babel.

Where is the power? How do we get it? If there's still power in the blood, how do we get a transfusion?

Paul knew. He based his ministry on it. “My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration and in power” (1 Cor. 2:4).

A friend of mine who's struggled to pastor with apparently meager results asked:
“How could God have called me to preach without telling me how to do it?”
Have you asked that question?

Paul has the answer. He says that God is able to do “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (3:20). Ah, there it is! We can't do it with the power we read about, nor the power we envy in someone else's pulpit or practice. It must be the power within us!

Who knows how great that is? A recent book about the human mind tells us that the brain is so complex that if we could build a computer to do what it can do, it would have to be housed in a building one hundred stories high and as big as the state of Texas. That's huge. It's incomprehensible. But, then, Paul said the love of God was like that. There's no limits to how far it can go, but there's a limit as to where it must start—it must start within us.

When Ted Bundy, the confessed murderer of at least twenty people, was executed, we saw his picture in all the papers and the television screens. He didn't look so bad. He was, in fact, handsome. You wondered how the possibility for so much evil could lurk in the heart of such an ordinary person.

But it was there. “There's "a side of me" you don't know,” he said. And there's a side of us that we don't know … a hidden potential for amazing good!

The power is within!

In Indiana, my friend Eldon Williams drove me past a large, brick school building. For many years it housed a public school, then Liberty Christian School. Finally, it was bought by a couple as a food service factory. Treva (Gressman) May and her husband had expanded their family catering service and it needed more room. But just as they moved in, the Indiana winter struck. Icy blasts and blizzard. Fuel bills skyrocketed. The cost of gas for heat ranged between twelve-and eighteen hundred dollars a month—an agonizing amount for a small business. Painfully they paid the bills that first winter and hoped that spring would come.

Finally someone suggested that there had been rumors of natural gas in that part of town. A well was drilled—not deep, but deep enough to strike a vein of natural gas. And now they have heat in the winter, cooling in the summer, and cooking fuel all year. It's theirs, absolutely free. They were sitting on top of the answer to their problems. No wonder Paul cries out that the eyes of our understanding need to be opened so that we can see what is the extent of the inheritance.

We linger too long on our lament. Whatever has been true of the past, it's possible to move into our future with a sense of adequacy—no, more than this—with adequacy itself. Even more—abundant, exceedingly abundant—above all that we ask or think. The answer is at once simple and complex. It's simple because it's pointed, but it's complex because it involves all of us.

There is no way we can find the power we need without all of us being involved in the process.

Didn't Paul say we “may be able to comprehend with all the saints?” There's much more to be said about God's power: how it can come, what it will do, and how it may be used. But if we're not willing to take the first step to get it, then everything else is simply useless conversation.