Jack Graham - Empowered
So, we're calling this series MUCH MORE, because God wants to do so much more in my life and in yours. He is not finished with us yet". He who began the good work in you will perfect it, perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ". So, we are still homeward bound. We're moving onward and upward with our lives. And just as a brief recap from our message last time "Beyond Blessed": we spoke of those blessings that are poured out by God. Paul the Apostle is praising God in one long sentence, 202 words, longest sentence in the Bible, he keeps pouring out this praise to God. He scans from eternity past to eternity future, and all in between. Our salvation, that we are chosen in Christ by God the Father; we are redeemed in Christ, ransomed, set free, forgiven by the blood of Christ; the Holy Spirit has now sealed us, secured us, the pledge and the promise of eternal life within us.
All this and so much, much more! This great praise, this anthem, this symphony of praise that we find right here in the first 14 verses of Ephesians, chapter 1. And from praise, and I can just imagine the Apostle Paul in his prison cell. He's up, he's down, he's breathing out these praises to God, raising hallelujahs to God. But then he gets on his knees and he begins to pray. Because what comes next is a powerful prison prayer. There are actually two prayers by Paul given to us in Ephesians. There are the prayers in the New Testament that are recorded that Paul prayed, gave, and God preserved them by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but one half of the letter of Ephesians is really about prayer. Either these prayers themselves or teaching on prayer and how we pray, especially warfare kind of praying.
So much of what we have in Christ, these great resources, these great riches that we've been talking about, the blessing, all of this is accessed when we pray. So, if the first message was about enrichment, our riches in Christ, this message is about empowerment; how we are empowered and how we, because of the wisdom and the revelation of God, not only are we empowered but we are enlightened. This light, the light of God enlightens us and the power of God enables us, and all of this accessed by prayer.
So, let's read this prayer, and when we read this prayer, remember, we are on holy ground because this is prayer. Even though he's in a dark, terrible prison cell, he turns it into a sanctuary, a place of worship, a place of prayer. "For this reason". What reason? Because of the resources that we have in Christ; all the blessed beyond resources. "Because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints". And let me just say that therein is the Christian life: faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and love for all the saints. Not just saints that we like, but all of the saints: Baptist kind of saints, Pentecostal kind of saints, Catholic kind of saints, real saints.
And remember, I said last week if you are a believer, you are a saint. That means, set apart. All the saints! So, we're going to march in with all the saints. And he said, verse 16: "I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers". When you tell somebody you’re going to pray for them, remember to do it. That’s what Paul did. He said, "Remembering, I do it always. I don’t cease". You ought to pray your way through the day. Pray without ceasing, the Apostle said at another occasion. But here’s the prayer: "that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him".
Note those words, "in the knowledge of him", because this unlocks the passage. "Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all".
Bottom line: Jesus is Lord! And Jesus is all; Christ is all! He is all sufficient! All your everything, Jesus is everything in life! And when we pray, as Paul taught us to pray, Jesus taught us to pray, gave us the model prayer and Paul, along with other New Testament writers, teach us how to pray, because prayer is essential to our spiritual health and vitality. Prayer is the slender nerve, someone said, that moves the omnipotence of God. Prayer has been called life's limitless reach because when we pray, we connect with the presence and the power of God. We know the wisdom of God and experience the power of God in our lives.
Now I have prayed at some level since I was a child. I'm grateful for a family that taught me before I could even remember, how to pray. And so, I learned to pray as a child. And prayer is so simple that even a child can pray. Some of the sweetest prayers you'll ever hear are the prayers of children. And so, I've been praying a long time. But about 10 years ago, God took my prayer life to a deeper devotion to Him. And it was at that season in my life. In 2009 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I’m grateful for God’s healing and thank God for that. But that was a tough year. And in the experience of that cancer I experienced the strength, the promises, the power of God in prayer like no other time in life. It was tipping point, and it was a deepening of my devotion to God in prayer. And I’ve never been the same. My prayer life is not the same. And I pray going forward it will continue to grow and develop because ultimately prayer is a declaration of dependence upon God.
And listen to this: prayer ultimately is triggered with adversity. So often our prayers are not out of the experience of prosperity, though they should be, but most likely the deepening of our walk with God, our worship with God, our prayer life has deepened in times of trouble and testing and trials; adversity, not prosperity, because we come to the end of ourselves! And so, there are times when only the Holy Spirit can pray for us and with us. And thank God we have, according to Romans 8, the Holy Spirit as our prayer partner. We have the Scriptures by our side to teach us how to pray. And by the way, one of the most effective ways you can pray is to pray the Scriptures, pray the Psalms, pray the prayers of Paul.
As we're looking at this one today, just pray the scriptures themselves. Pray the promises of God. Pray God's Word back to Him. It's a powerful way to pray. So when you don't have the words, let David help you pray, let Paul help you pray. And yet, pray, learn to pray. The disciples came to Jesus and of all the things Jesus did, they saw the miracles, they heard the words, but when they approached Jesus, they said, "Lord, teach us to pray". Because ultimately our life before God is made in our life of prayer. The rest is just a lot of religious talk and jargon sometimes. But I learned how to pray at a different level in my life through pain. And Paul was in pain. Paul was in prison. He was suffering, it was real. And yet, his praying deepens his life and his devotion. Prayer is most often driven by necessity.
I don't want to dissect this prayer really. I looked at it in every way; I turned it every angle I could turn it this week, but ultimately it seemed to be that God was saying, "Let what I've written stand alone. Let the prayer speak for itself". So, I would encourage you to read it and re-read it throughout the week. But there is a key phrase in this prayer that we need to understand regarding this empowerment and regarding this enlightenment that comes. For verse 17 speaks of "the revelation in the knowledge of Him". And verse 18: "that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you".
The idea of enlightenment is knowing God at the deepest level possible and the pursuit, the passion of our lives to be to pursue the knowledge of God; that is, knowing who God is. Because when we discover who God is, we discover who we are in Him. When we discover God, who God is, we discover ourselves and what God has made us to be. And there's this clear connection in knowing God and prayer, because in prayer He opens the eyes of our heart; He shows us through the Scriptures the revelation of Himself. And a failure in prayer really is a failure to know God. And many Christians are swimming in the shallow end of the pool when it comes to knowing God.
There's so much more. It's wonderful to know that you are saved, that you have entered into the family of God. Fantastic! Glorious! You're on your way to heaven! But that's just the beginning of what God wants you to know about Him and who He is and how we're to live our lives and experience. If there's one thing I want you to know in this series and in Ephesians is there's so much more that God wants for you! More of His love, more of His mercy, more of His grace! It's all accessible, it's all available. He's blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. It's ours for the asking but it's accessed by prayer.
When we pray, we are knowing and growing in the grace of God Himself. And when you know Him, listen to this, when you know Him, you will love Him. And when you love Him, you will trust Him. If you know who God is and you know that you love Him, then you can trust Him, and to trust Him is to believe Him that He wants the very best for you in your life, in your family, in your friends. Knowing God. Again, for some of us it's still the kiddie pool. I'm praying that we all take a deeper dive into the greatness and the glory and the goodness and the grandeur of our God! To know Jesus! This was the Apostle Paul's prayer, here and elsewhere.
In Philippians he's adding things up and he's saying, "I know I haven't arrived". The greatest Christian who ever lived and yet he's saying, "I know I'm not there yet, 'but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, pressing on to the goal of the prize to the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.'" And verse 10 of Philippians 3 says, "That I may know Him", know Him better, know Him more, know Him progressively, till one day we know Him perfectly when we stand in His presence forever and ever. To know God more intimately. This is intimacy with the Almighty. And why would you want to live your life in self-dependence when you can know the power of God? It's true that without Him we can be nothing, but with Him everything and anything is possible! Amen?
God "is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think". So, don't fail to possess your possessions when you pray and ask God to move powerfully in your life. Someone described it as a bus driver whose bus is in a rut and he gets out and he's alone and he's trying to push that bus out of the rut. The guy's trying to do it all by himself when Clark Kent is on board! You got Superman in the house! So why are we trying to do all these things in our own strength, in our own power?
You say, "Well, I'm weak; I'm in pain. It's hard to persevere". When we're weak, the scripture says, that's when He's strong in our behalf. When we've come to the end of ourselves, when we don't have the word, when we don't think we can take another step, when it's dark, He enlightens the soul and He opens our eyes to spiritual realities and riches beyond what we could have possibly dreamed or done for ourselves. This is the power and the presence of God. There're two kinds of prayer: one is personal and those are good. Praying for our personal needs, praying for our family.
And by the way, this is a wonderful prayer, this prayer of Paul's in Ephesians 1 to pray for your children, especially if you have prodigal children. How do you pray for a prodigal child? Pray that God would open the eyes of their heart, that they would see spiritual reality. Pray that the power of God would move in their hearts and lives. Great pray to pray for anyone because that's the second level; that's the graduate level of praying which is intercession. It's good to pray for ourselves. Jesus taught us good to pray for daily bread, daily needs, but ultimately prayer takes us beyond ourselves and our own families and to others. We pray for others. And that's what Paul is doing here. He's praying, knowing that God will answer.
Daniel 11, verse 32: "The people who know their God will be strong and do exploits". Strong and powerful in the Lord! And so, Paul said, "That I may know Him", because here he is again, I repeat, defined, when I know who He is, it defines who I am in Christ. He longs for you to know Him. You're invited into His presence. Can you imagine that? You have an audience with the King of kings and Lord of lords, to experience Him and know Him intimately, personally, deeper devoted to Him. David Jeremiah, my friend, says this, "I have found that prayer is the most wonderful gift in God’s bag of blessings". Love that! Open the gift; open your eyes and see what God wants to show you. Prayer accesses God’s provision, all the blessing, and also His abundance. Our sufficiency in Christ. Don’t live beneath your privileges. Many of us in the voyage of life are living beneath the blessings and the promises and the privileges that God has given us.
You say, how do we access all this abundance in Christ? Jesus told us very simply in Matthew 7: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you". Ask, seek, knock. Have you ever noticed the little acrostic in there, A-S-K? Ask, seek, knock. And these are imperative, that is, "do it"! And also, the participle which is active, in other words, keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking. Keep doing it. Persevering in prayer. But it's a simple thing, asking and receiving. He says ask; He did not say beg! God's children don't have to beg for bread or blessings. He said ask; don't beg because all this bounty is already yours in Christ. Just ask for it.
Andrew Murray said this: "Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance but laying hold of His highest willingness to bless us". And when you read this prayer, we see all these blessing from wisdom and revelation and abundance and mercy, and yes, there is power. So, look at it again in verse 19. We talked about the riches of His glory, and he says, verse 19, now don't miss this, "And what is the immeasurable greatness of his power towards us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead, seated him at the right hand in the heavenly places, far above... authority".
Do you see what he's saying here? When we're talking about God's power in your life, this is not some little Mickey Mouse power here! This is the same power that raised Jesus from the death! Jesus died on the cross. He was dead, buried for our sins! But on the third day, this is the Gospel, He came out of the grave! The power! The stone was rolled away and in the power of the resurrection Jesus is alive! And there's more. Forty days later after appearances on the earth, He ascends to the Father's house, He ascends to the throne of God!
So, when Paul's talking about this power, he's ransacking his vocabulary to describe it. He uses 4 different words here to describe power. You can see them in the text. We don't have time to explain them all. He talks about energy power, he talks about dynamo-power, he talks about mighty power, he talks about immeasurable power, power, power, power! It's as if Paul's out of words to try to describe how great this power is! And then he says, Oh, it's the power that brought Jesus out of the grave, and the power that elevated Him into the very presence of the throne of God. And he's says, now get this, that power is your power because one of these days when Christ comes again, we're going to rise with Him, we're going to break the chains of death, shatter the chains of the tomb and come out of the grave! We will be raised with Him; we will reign with Him forever and ever!
Folks, we've got resurrection, elevation power in Jesus Christ! And not only then and there, but here and now, because the Holy Spirit lives within us and the risen Christ is alive in us! So, yes, there's power to break the chains of addiction; yes, there's power to overcome temptation in your life; yes, there's strength for suffering in your life; yes, there is God's grace for healing and hope in your life; yes,there is power in your life! There's power to witness.
Why does God give us this power? "That you shall be My witnesses after the Holy Spirit has come upon you"! God gives us the power to witness, to speak with power and conviction of the Gospel of Christ! He gives us power to serve Him and to do it well! And it says, therefore, everything, every enemy, every demon, even angelic powers, there's nothing above Him! Everything is under His feet.
I've said many times, "Anything that's over your head is under His feet". He walks on the water in the middle of your storm to show you that what's over your head is under His feet. He reigns and He rules because every circumstance of your life, and guess what? Later on in Ephesians it says that we are raised with Him to the throne of God. So all these circumstances, all this stuff going on around us, I know it’s hard sometimes and I know the winds are scary and frightful at times, but just remember, we’re risen with Christ, we’re ascended with Christ.