James Merritt - Direct Connect
Good morning, you guys, and to those watching online, those that are watching by television. One of the things that goes with the territory of being a pastor is I field a lot of tough questions from people that attend church. And I got a text out of the blue from a guy in our church that I actually spent a year mentoring, and it was filled with some of the, it was a tough question. There's some really tough questions. I just want you to listen to what he, this is what he texted me just out of the blue one morning. He said, "What about the transformation power of the cross? Why are we not seeing it? Is it only me? I just do not see the transformational power of God at work right now in people who claim to follow Him. I absolutely believe God is still at work but where and who"?
You talk about some tough questions. I sat down and I kinda wrote in the best response I had at the time but I couldn't get that text off my mind. And I thought about it for several days. and all of a sudden one day, it just hit me just like a bolt out of the blue. I believe that the power of God is often missing from most lives of most people who claim to know God and who claim to be followers of Jesus, because we don't believe God the way God deserves to be believed. We don't obey God the way God demands to be obeyed. And we don't love God the way God desires to be loved. Because if we did, the church would look radically different than it does today. And I believe the world would look at the church radically different than it does today.
If you're a guest of ours, we're in a series in the book of Ephesians we've been calling "Unbelievable". And the reason why I call it "Unbelievable" is 'cause I don't belief there's a book in the Bible that describes more what an unbelievable God that we worship and the unbelievable things that this unbelievable God wants to do in us and with us and through us. And we're in Ephesians today, chapter three, and some of you have received a lot of us, we give these little books out, those little discipleship books. If you brought yours, we're on page 28 in our little discipleship book. But in Ephesians three, there is a prayer that Paul prays. When I read that prayer, I said, "That's the solution. That is the answer to every question that my friend had texted me". 'Cause I wanna give you a kind of an advanced warning.
If we begin to pray this prayer that God gave to Paul, and we really believe when we ask for these things that God does what we ask Him to do, we would see the transforming power of God unleashed in our lives and in churches like we've never seen before. In fact, I'll tell you something about this prayer. I've read the Bible through many times, and I don't say that to brag. You would expect a pastor to say that. I should as a pastor and I get it. But I wanna tell you, there is not a more powerful prayer ever prayed in the Bible, and I would suggest to you, there's never been a more powerful prayer prayed in the history of the world than the prayer that we're going to look at this morning.
You say, "How do you know that? What makes you say that"? Well, it really begins with how Paul said he begins the prayer. Here's what Paul said. He said, "For this reason, I kneel before the Father". Now with all respect to Paul, why do I care what his posture is? Why did he go out of the way to let us know? I just want you to know when I pray this prayer, I get on my knees. And the reason why that is so unusual, you may or may not know this but 'cause you may say, "Well, I've got on my knees to pray before, what's the big deal about kneeling to pray"? Well, Paul was Jewish. You say, "Well, what does that mean"? Jews normally never kneel to pray. I don't know if you know that or not, they don't. Jews normally pray by standing. So, if you've ever been to Israel, and if you've not been to Israel, you can go on and look online and you just have a picture, we go to the Wailing Wall, the Western Wall, you'll see rabbis, you'll see Orthodox Jews. And here's how they're praying. They're not kneeling, they're standing and they're rocking.
You say, "Why do they do that"? That's the way normally Jews pray. They stand and they rock back and forth. And yet, Paul is letting us know this prayer is so transforming, it is so life changing, it is so earth-shaking that it drove me to my knees. And Paul is writing this prayer, remember this, in prison. He doesn't know, but the day he's writing this prayer will be the last day he'll live. He doesn't know if he's ever gonna see another sunrise. And yet, what's so fascinating is he's not praying for what he wants or what he needs, he's praying, not for protection or for freedom or for mercy, he's not praying what we would pray, God, get me outta here, God don't let me die. As a matter of fact, his prayer has absolutely nothing to do with what he wanted God to do for him. It had everything to do with what he wanted God to do in him and in the church.
Now, I wanna say several things I'm gonna say, and I'll just kinda wanna warn you, for some of you, it's gonna shake you up a little bit, for some of you it's gonna be convicting, for some of you is gonna be uncomfortable. You can tell a lot by how spiritually mature you are by what you pray and how you pray. Max Lucado, the author, some of you have read about after Max Lucado, he had an organization called LifeWay, teamed up, they did a survey to ask a thousand Protestants what do you pray for? Now, some of their prayers I wanna admit that I thought was encouraging, it was noble. For example, 51% of a Protestants said they prayed for their own sin. I thought, well, that's good. 46% said they prayed for their enemies. Now, they didn't say what they prayed for their enemies. They just prayed for their enemies. 44% prayed for people in natural disasters. I thought, boy, this is encouraging. But then it got to this, 20% said they prayed every day to win the lottery. 14% pray for God to avenge someone who hurt them.
Now, this was really convicting to me, 11% prayed for their favorite team to win. God, forgive me. But 11% prayed for their favorite team to win. Last night, I was praying for a team to lose. God didn't answer my prayer, Jack, but I'll keep praying. Anyway, 9%, 9% prayed to find a good parking spot. 7% prayed to not get caught speeding. Now, let's be honest. There are two problems we all have when it comes to prayer, right? Number one, we don't really know how to pray. If we did, we'd pray more, we don't know how to pray. Number two, we don't know what to pray for. And so, at times, if we're just honest, it's like we're throwing stuff up on the wall and we kinda hope it sticks. Well, I wanna show you something today about the greatest prayer you will ever pray and the prayer that always makes a direct connect with God. 'Cause we've all prayed at times.
And we really have wondered are You really listening to this? Do You really hear this? Am I praying the kind of prayer that's getting Your attention? Let me give you some great news. The prayer we're going to study today always makes a direct connect with God. You say, "How do you know"? Because the prayer that gets to God always comes from God. The prayer that gets to God always comes from God. And I wanna tell you about this prayer. And I want you to buckle your seatbelt because if you pray this prayer daily and you believe it and you live like it's true, you cannot help but live a radically transformed life. Now that said, get this thought in your mind. We don't always get what we pray for, but we always get what God wants us to pray for. We don't always get what we pray for, but we always get what God wants us to pray for. And the prayer we're going to study today, this is a one size fits everybody prayer.
This is a prayer you can pray for yourself. This is a prayer you can for your family. This is a prayer you can pray for your spouse. This is a prayer you can pray for your neighbors. This is the prayer that you can pray for anybody, anywhere, anytime, under any circumstance and you'll know you're making a direct connect with God. And I'm gonna encourage you today to write down four things. And before I do this, let me go ahead and say one other thing. When I get through today, some of you are gonna walk out of here and you're gonna say, "I'm not praying that prayer," because if you pray this prayer, you won't live the way you're living. If you pray this prayer, you won't see your money the same way again. If you pray this prayer, you won't see other people the same way again. If you pray this prayer, you won't see the word of God the same way again. If you pray this prayer, you won't see the world the same way again. If you pray this prayer, you won't see your marriage the same way again. It will radically change your life.
And Paul says there are four things we ought to pray for every single day. Number one, God, strengthened me through Your Spirit. Strengthen me through Your Spirit. Now, Paul begins his prayer in a way that we rarely, if ever, begin ours. Usually when we pray, let's just be honest, we're always asking God to do something for us, heal us, bless us, take care of us, provide for us. But here's the amazing thing. Paul doesn't ask God to do anything for us. Paul asks God to do something in us. So, here's what he starts saying. "I pray that out of His glorious riches," now here's what some preachers would say that He'll give you that Mercedes, He'll give you that beachfront condo, He'll give you that Rolex watch, He'll give you that mansion in the country. He didn't say that. "I pray out of His glorious riches, He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being".
Now, let's just all be honest, and by the way, I'm in the same boat you're in, I want you to go back and think about every prayer you've ever prayed in your life. Every single prayer you've ever prayed. I promise you, 99.9% of the time, they will always come under three requests or three categories, right? First of all, heal me. If you don't believe that, get in a group of people and do one thing, who has any prayer requests? Guess what? It's always about sick people, always. Hey, my aunt is having cancer surgery, pray she'll come through. My aunt, they discovered a spot on her lung, pray it's not cancer. My son has mono, can't play football, pray God will heal him of his mono. It's true of our staff meeting, we've talked about it, we do at staff, have prayer request, yeah. Somebody needs to be healed, heal me.
Second way, hand me. God, I need You to provide something for me. My bank account is low, I need somebody to send me money. Okay, I really want that car. I really want that house. I really want that watch. I really want that jewelry. I want this, I want that, God hand me. And then the third one is helped me. Lord, I need this job, help me to do well in this interview. Lord, I need to pass this test so I can get into medical school. Lord, help me to pass this test. Now, before I go any further, hear what I'm about to tell you. There is nothing wrong with those prayers, nothing at all. I'm not trying to discourage you from praying those prayers. That is not my point. However, we have somehow this idea that God's up there going, I wish you would asked Me to do something for you just so I can show you I can do it.
That's not what God is saying. What God is saying is how about asking Me to do something in you? I've already got the for you've taken care of, I own the cattle on a thousand hills, I own the universe. You can't bring your request I can't answer. How about asking Me to do something in you? Because Paul's first prayer is not for health, it's not for wealth, it's not what God can do for us, but what God can do in us. And he says, "Here's what I prayed. I pray that God will give you inner strength. I pray that God will give you spiritual power". And by the way, it's not coincidental that that's the very first thing he prays. He says, "The first thing I wanna pray for my church, the first thing I wanna pray for me, the first thing I want to pray for you is that God would strengthen you by His power, through His spirit in your inner man".
Why does he do that? You ready? Because unless you are daily continuously strengthened by the Holy spirit, you can't walk with God, you can't work for God, you can't witness for God, you can't even worship God the way you should except by the power of the Holy Spirit. Only the power of God can enable you to live for God. I'll give you an illustration. Suppose somebody came to you and they said to you, "I want you to begin writing plays like 'Hamlet', or like 'Romeo and Juliet.' I want you to write plays just like that". Here's what you'd say, "I'm not Shakespeare. I can't do that. Shakespeare could do that. I can't do that". And it'd be foolish for me to get up here and say, "Now, listen, I want all of you to start reading the four gospels. And I want you to read the way Jesus lived that I want you to go out and I want you to live just like Jesus lived".
You know what you'd say to me? You'd say, "I just got one problem, I'm not Jesus. I can't live like Jesus because I'm not Jesus". You're exactly right. But if somehow I could put the genius of Shakespeare in your head, or if somehow I could put the power of God in your heart, guess what? You could write just like Shakespeare and you could live just like Jesus. And the reason why God sends the Holy Spirit into us is not so that we will live the way we want to, but so we'll live the way we ought to and the way He wants us to. I talked to people all the time by becoming followers of Jesus, no more than an excuse I get from people that they'll say they're not ready. When I'll say, "Why aren't you ready"? here's what they'll always say, "I can never live up to that. I could never be good enough to live the Christian life". And I always get to say to them, "You're exactly right. You are absolutely right, you can't. Here's the good news. God's never asked you to, ever".
How many times do you get up in the morning and the first thing you say to God is this, "Would You just strengthened me in my inner man through Your power, by Your Spirit, would You just give me spiritual strength"? 'Cause this is what's so encouraging about this verse. Life is a battle. I don't know about you, my life's a battle. I'm assuming yours is too. Life is a battle. Here's the good news. You're not in the battle alone. Life's full of burdens. You got burdens, I got burdens, we all have got burdens. But you never carry them alone. I read a story the other day, I thought, boy, that's really illustrates what I'm trying to say. There was a guy that was in Iowa, and he was driving, and he ran off the road and his car got into a ditch.
Well, a farmer came by and he asked if he could help him. And the farmer said, "Well, be honest, you need a team of horses to pull that car out of that ditch. And I've only got one horse and his name is Dusty, and Dusty's old and Dusty's blind". But he said, "Let's just see what Dusty can do. Don't expect a lot, but we'll give it a shot". So, he hitches Dusty to the car, and he backs up and takes a whip. And he begins to crack that whip in the air. And he said, "Pull, Jimmy, pull"! And Dusty never moved. So, he backed up again and he cracked the whip a second time. "Pull, Sammy, pull"! Dusty just stood there. So, he backed up the third time. "Pull, Charlie, pull"! Dusty never even moved.
Then, fourth time he cracks that whip, he says, "Pull, Dusty, pull"! And with one mighty tug that old blind horse pulled that car right out of that ditch. Well, the guy was amazing. And he walked, he shook the hand, and shook the farmer's hand. And he said, "Man, thanks for helping me free my car". But he said, "I just gotta ask you a question". He said, "Dusty never moved when you kept calling him by all those different names, but then you called him Dusty and he pulls the car right out. Why didn't you just call him Dusty from the beginning"? And the farmer said, "Well, remember, Dusty's blind. And I had to call out those three names first, because if he thought he's doing that work by himself, he wouldn't even have a try".
Now, here's the point. Life is a battle, but God says you're not in it alone. You got burdens, but you don't carry them alone. That's why you need the Spirit of God in you, not to live the Christian life alone, not to pull the loads alone, not to carry the burdens alone, not to fight the battles of life alone. We have at our disposal 24/7 the strength, and the power and the might of the Holy Spirit. He says you need to pray for God to give you spiritual strength. But there's even greater reason. I'd never seen this before. I've read this passage, I don't know, hundreds of times. I had never seen this 'til I did this message. He said, "Do you know why you need to be strengthened by My Spirit in your inner man? You know why you need that"? Now, watch this. "So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith".
Now, if you know anything about Christianity, anything about the Bible, you'd go, "That's odd". By the way, that's the only place in the Bible that ever speaks of Jesus living in our heart. We tell kids all the time, "Would you like Jesus, ask Jesus in your heart"? It's the only time the Bible, the Bible talks about Jesus living in our hearts. And the reason why that's odd is you say, "Well, Paul, wait a minute, you're talking to Christians. You're talking to people that go to church. You're talking to people, I mean, that's what a Christian is. Jesus is already living in their heart. Why would you tell them you need to be strengthened by My Spirit through your inner man so that Christ will live in your heart? I thought He already did live in my heart"?
Until you do a little study, which I was able to do. There are actually two words in the Greek language for the word dwell. One word means to live in a place where you're really a stranger and a foreigner, and you really never feel at home. It'd be like you're in a job. And your job, your company says you gotta move to France or Germany or wherever for a year. And then, you gonna get to come back home. But for a year, you gotta move away from home. So, they give you a very nice furnished apartment. They give you all the amenities. It's beautiful, it's air conditioned, it's heated, nothing wrong with that, but you never feel at home. It's just not home. And you know it's not home. You just never feel comfortable there. That's not the word Paul uses. Paul uses a word that means to live in a place where you're so comfortable, it just feels like home. You just wanna settle down and you never want to leave.
Now, listen, this is what Paul is saying. The only heart where Jesus really feels at home is a heart that is strengthened and empowered and filled with the Spirit of God, because here's the difference. There's a difference, listen to me, there's a difference between Jesus being in the house of your heart and feeling at home in your heart. And the real question I wanna ask you is this, just look at the way you lived your life last week, just last week, just tell me the way you kinda went about life last week. Here's my question. The way you lived your life last week, were you so strengthened by the Spirit of God, so empowered by the Spirit of God, that Jesus felt right at home in your heart? Paul says, let's pray first of all, God, strengthen me with Your Spirit. Second thing, load me with Your love. Load me with Your love.
Now, this prayer is like a set of steps, okay? And each steps takes you deeper with God. So, here's what Paul prays. "And I pray that you being rooted and established in love may have power together with all the Lord's holy people to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge". Now, here's what Paul's saying. Would you like to know whether or not right now you're controlled by the Spirit of God? You say, "Yeah, I would," real easy, when you are controlled by the Spirit of God, you'll be consumed with the love of God. When you're controlled by the Spirit of God, you'll be consumed with the love of God. Paul says, "I want you to be rooted and established in love," and he uses two beautiful words. One is an agricultural word. One's an architectural word. The agricultural word, "I want you to be rooted in love". A root is what gives a tree strength.
So, what he says is every morning, seek the roots of your life, deep, deep down into the soil of God's love. And then he says, "I want your life established. I want it grounded in the love of God," and that word grounded refers to the foundation of a building. Now, I don't know anything about architecture, but I do know this, I've had architectures tell me this, the higher the building you wanna build anywhere, the deeper the foundation has to be, the broader the foundation has to be. And what Paul was saying was this, the deeper you go in your love for God, the higher you go for the glory of God. And I've learned in my own ministry, loving God gives you the strength to deal with difficult people, and loving God gives you the stability to weather difficult problems.
Now, here's where some of you'll get very uncomfortable, but it's just true, it's true for all of us. What you love, what you really love is more important than what you really believe. What you really love is more important than what you really believe, you know why? Because whatever captures your heart will control your feelings and your behavior. What your heart loves the most, your mind will reason out, your emotions will feel out, and your will will act out..
One of my favorite authors is a guy named Tim Keller. Some of you've heard if who Dr. Killer is, great, great preacher, great author. He said this "What makes people into what they are is the order of their loves. What they love most, more, less, and least, that is more fundamental to who you are than even the beliefs to which you mentally subscribe. Your loves show what you actually believe in, not what you say you do. People therefore change not by merely changing their thinking, but by changing what they love the most".
In other words, to put it simply, here's what he said. Our affections determine our actions. Our affections determine our actions. I'm gonna prove this to you. It took me a long time to learn it and I finally got it. I could stand up here hour after hour after hour, and I could give you every logical, every theological, every philosophical, every intellectual reason why you ought to be generous with your money, why you ought to tithe, why every one of you ought to be supporting the work of God. I've got a file cabinet full of 'em. And here's what I've learned. I preached it, and I preached it, and I preached it, and I preached it, and I've never moved the needle. Half the people who attend any church never give a dime to the church, never.
And here's what I finally realized. I will never move your needle by moving your head. The needle will only move when God moves your heart. And the real reason why many of us do not support the church financially, it has nothing to do with your finances, has nothing to do with your bank account, the cold, hard, simple truth is you just don't love God the way you say you love God. 'Cause if you loved God the way you say you love God, you could not help but give to the work of the God that you love. And so, Paul says "That's why I want you rooted and grounded in love because affection determines action". And then, Paul does something else. He says, "I want you to know, I want you to have the strength to comprehend how great God's love is. I want you to know its width, and its length, and its height and its depth. I want you to know there is no love like the love of God".
And the way he describes it, he says, "You know the love of God is so broad, it spreads over the entire world. It is so long it reaches to every person. It is so deep it sinks to the lowest sin. It is so high, it sores all the way to heaven". I read the other day with the farthest galaxy right now that we've ever discovered is 13.8 billion light years away. Think about that, 13.8 billion light years away. And then I read where the deepest depth of the world is called The Challenger Deep. It's part of a trench that is 6.85 miles deep. And I read that and I thought to myself, God's love reaches from the zero gravity of space right down to the 1,000 times atmospheric pressure of the deepest sea. You can't measure God's love by space. You can't control God's love by time. But then he goes on to say this. He says, "I want you to know how broad, and wide, and deep and long the love of God is". But then he says, "And to know this love that surpasses knowledge". What? Yeah, I want to know this love, but you can't know it. Paul, I don't get it.
Well, you see, it is one thing to believe that God loves you. And I think most of you, if I were to ask you would say, "Oh, yeah, I believe that God loves me," but it's another thing to know that God loves you. And it's another thing to know that love of God. Believe it or not, every preacher, when you kind of start get toward the end of your ministry, you look back, and I'll be the first one to tell you, and every preacher says, "I have said something dumb things in my preaching". I'm just glad you don't know some of the things I've said, okay, I really am. So, I'm just being honest with you, I'm not perfect. And I'll tell you something I used to say that's just wrong. I used to say the greatest tragedy that could ever happen to us is to find out that God doesn't love us after all. I used to say that. I said, "That's the greatest tragedy to find out God really doesn't love us at all".
And one day I finally hit me, that is so wrong, it couldn't be wronger. The greatest tragedy that could ever happen to anyone is not to discover that God doesn't love us, the greatest tragedy is to learn that God does love us and then never know that love and experience that love. That's the greatest tragedy. I grew up with a dad, I've told you before, I grew up with a dad who was just not very affectionate. My dad never told me he loved me unless I told him first, my dad never hugged me unless I hugged him first. He was a strict disciplinarian, he had a quick temper. And growing up, yeah, did I really believe and hope deep down that my dad loved me? But I have to be honest, I didn't really know that my dad loved me until I was 17 years old. And he takes me down to college in Florida. I'm gonna be eight hours away, I don't have a car. It's the first part of August. I'm not gonna be home 'til Thanksgiving. And I'd never been away from home in my life. Never been away ever.
And now I know two and a half months for the first time in my life, I'm not gonna see my mom, not gonna be seeing my dad at all. So, when it was time to say goodbye, it was time for them to leave, I actually remember like it happened yesterday, my Aunt Jewel was there and Mom was there and Dad was there. I hugged Aunt Jewel, and then I hugged Mom, and I turned around, and as I turned around to hug my dad, Dad's looking at the ground, wouldn't even look at me. And it was like, it was raining, these big teardrops were hitting the pavement. And for the first time in my life, he didn't wait for me to hug him. My dad hugged me. His shoulder was on me, he was sobbing. And the reason it was such a sweet time, the thought hit me. I said, "Ha, son of a gun, that guy loves me, that guy really does love me".
And listen, when you see, for the first time, I felt that love, I knew that love, I experienced that love. And when you come to the cross of Christ and the Christ on the cross, that's when you really know the love of God. But he says, "But you can't know that love". So, what does he mean? Here's what he meant, listen. We can truly know the love of God, but we will never totally know the love of God. When we get to heaven, we still won't totally know the love of God. I'll give you kind of a message that I came up with, if you're parent, you know this, your children hopefully know that you love them and you'd do everything you can every day to show your kids you love them. God bless you and so did I, but you know what? Your child will never know how much you love them until what? They have their own child.
When my two boys had their first child, one the first things they said to me, "Dad, now I know how much you love me, Mom, now I know how much you love me". Listen, here's what Paul is saying. No, you can never totally know the love of God, but you can truly know the love of God. And you may doubt the wisdom of God, you may doubt the works of God, you may doubt the ways of God, don't you ever doubt the love of God. So, Lord, strengthened me with Your Spirit. Lord, load me with Your love. And then thirdly, fill me with Your fullness. Fill me with Your fullness. When God strengthens you with His Spirit and loads you with His love, you know what He does? He fills you with what? Himself, so Paul says this, "That you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God".
Now, you've seen this in your own life. Have you ever had somebody get so upset with you, or have you ever gotten so upset with somebody that you said, "You're just full of it,"? Don't look at me like you're holy, you've all had that happen to you, and so have I. She's told me that more than once. I've been married to her 43 years, you know what? That's not a compliment. That's not a positive thing. And they're making a true observation because here's the cold, hard truth about all of us right now. We're all full of something. Everybody in this room is full of something. Over 400 years ago, someone somewhere coined the phrase we still use today to describe the vast majority of people that live in the world today. Somewhere, somehow, somebody met a person that was so conceited, so egotistical, so self centered, they said, "You know what? You're just full of yourself".
And here's the truth of the matter. We all know people who are full of themselves. As a matter of fact, here's the bad news. If you are full of yourself, you're the only person that doesn't know you're full of yourself. Everybody else knows it, but you don't know it. All you know is you get up every morning, look in the mirror and seeing how great thou art. That's all you know, 'cause you're just full of yourself. And all you care about is yourself. And you don't love anyone more than you love yourself. Now, here's the truth that Paul's getting at, you ready? Right now this is true of me, it's true of you, it's true of everyone listening to me right now. This is absolutely true right now. You are either full of yourself or you're full of God. You can't be half full of you and half full of God. God doesn't share space with anybody.
So, you're either full of yourself or you're full of God. And that's why I one of the things I say we ought to pray every day is God, empty me of me and fill me with You, You must increase, I must decrease. And I wanna be so full of God, I really do, I wanna be so full of God that people see in me the love of God. They hear from me the voice of God. They feel from me the power of God, Pipin Ferreras is what's called a free diver, fascinating story. Free divers dive under the water with no air tank. He goes into the water, into the ocean with three things, flippers, a wetsuit and one breath of air. This blew my mind when I read it. He set the Guinness World Book of Records. He once descended in the ocean down to 531 feet. His round trip lasted three minutes and 12 seconds. He loaded his lungs with 8.2 liters of air, twice the capacity of a normal human being. When he did that, no free diver had ever gone farther.
As a matter of fact, no World War II submarine had ever gone deeper than this man went with one breath of air. When he came up out of that water, he didn't say I broke the record. He didn't say look at me. He didn't say am I not something? You know what he said? I want to go deeper. Man, I read that and I thought, you know what? When God strengthens you with His love, His Spirit, and God loads you with His love, you want to go deeper. I found this out as a believer, the more you get of God, the more you want of God, the more you get of God, the more you want of God. And honestly, so what does that really mean? I don't know all that it means. I just know one thing, every day of my life, I wanna be filled with the fullness of God. And how different would our church be today if every one of us who claim to know God would live our life in such a way that people would see God and hear God and feel God when they just get around us?
So Paul said try praying this, Lord, today, would You strengthen me with Your spirit? Lord, today, would You load me with Your love? Lord, today, would You fill me with Your fullness? And then, here's the last thing and we're done. Lord, persuade me of Your power. Persuade me of Your power. Now, how Paul closes this prayer, now listen, what Paul's about to say now will determine whether or not your prayer life changes. It will determine whether or not your life changes. It will determine whether or not you even bother to take time to pray. See, too often, and now listen, this is me, we focus on our problems and not God's power. And when you think about what to pray or how to pray or when to pray, think about Who you're praying to. So, here's how Paul ends this. "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, forever and ever, amen".
Now, listen carefully, if I were to ask you this question, what do you really believe about God? Let's just, what do you really believe about God? You do your best, you have old flowery language, and you try to say all the right politically, theologically, correct things. Let's just cut to the chase. Nothing reveals what you really believe about God more than your prayers. Nothing reveals what you really believe about God more than your prayers. So Paul says, "Now let me show you how to end your prayer. I've told you how to get into it. Let me tell you how to get out of it". He says, "We begin by praying to God for us, but we always end by giving praise to God from us". And here's what he says. He said, "Remember Who you're praying to. You are praying to a God. You not only can't ask God for more than He can do, you can't even think of anything that God can't do that falls within his character".
Listen, Walt Disney at his peak could not imagine a God like this. Walt Disney at his peak could not imagine of anything that God can't do. You can't think of anything greater than what God can do. Now, let me just stop, I know what some of you are thinking is, oh, wait a minute, time out. I prayed payers that God didn't answer. So, don't sit there and give me the, I prayed prayers that God didn't answer. Well, let me correct you. First of all, number one, God answers every prayer. God answers every prayer, okay? But if your prayer was not answered, it was not because your prayer exceeded God's power. It's because God's plan exceeded your prayer. You're praying to a God who has no limits, no handcuffs, no shackles, no boundaries of what He knows, where He is, and what He can do.
So, here's the question. Simple, simple, I'm asking it from me, I'm asking of you. Do you really believe God can do anything? Do you really believe God can do anything? See, the true test of what you believe about God, listen to me, the true test of what you believe about God is not what you say, it's how you pray. That tells me all I need to know about what you really believe about God. So, here's a convicting question. I want you to imagine you're praying, somebody walks in on you while you're praying. You don't know they walk in, but somebody walks in on you. And so, they just watch you and they listen to your praying.
Here's the question. If I were to catch you praying, if I were to catch what you were praying and how you were praying it, would I walk away and would I say this about you? That person really believes in a God who can do anything. 'Cause I really believe this. I believe there are times we come to God with a prayer and God's looking at us like, "Is that all you got? Is that it"? Do you ever pray the kind of prayer that only could come true if God showed up? And do you realize how powerful this prayer is and how powerful it could be in your life?
See, I know what some of you, listen, when you come into this church, I know it, I get it, and you should, 'cause every time any pastor gets up to preach, here's what a lot of you are asking, and I would be asking the same thing, that's well, and that's good, and that sounds real nice, but how does that help me hack it tomorrow morning? Tell me how that helps me pay my bills. Tell me how that helps me make it in a difficult marriage. Tell me how that helps me make it through rebellious children.
Well, I wanna challenge you to do something. This is the application part. I'm gonna ask you beginning in the morning, I'm gonna give you one last day of vacation, in the morning, I'm gonna ask you to begin every day before you even get out of bed, pray those four things. Don't even get out of bed. Lord, before I get out of my bed, strengthen me with Your Spirit. Load me with Your love. Fill me with Your fullness. Persuade me of Your power. And you watch how God changes your circumstances. You watch how God changes you. You watch how God changes the people around you.
Now, let me just stop. There's an old saying, don't pray to God for something, you might get it. You can't pray this prayer and not support the church financially. You can't do that. You can't pray this prayer and not have a one that you're praying for to be saved. You can't pray this prayer and never say a word week after week about Jesus to anybody. You can't pray this prayer and hold a grudge against that person that left you holding the bag. You can't pray this prayer and keep looking at the pornography under your bed. You can't do it. That's why this prayer is so powerful. That's why this prayer is so transformational. That's why this prayer is so life changing.
I've been doing it ever since I worked on this sermon, I never get out of bed, it's the first thing I prayed this morning. Theresa doesn't know it, 'cause she's laying there asleep. And I'm always praying before I get out of my bed and I prayed it, and I'm telling you, it has radically changed my life. When I say, "You know what? Lord, not only do I believe You're doing it, I'm gonna live like it's true. I'm going to live, I'm going to live a life that's strengthened with Your Spirit. I'm gonna live a life that's loaded with Your love. I'm gonna a life that is filled with Your fullness. And I am persuaded of Your power".
So, let me wrap it up, I'm closing this. My friend, Rick Warren, who I love with all of my heart, one of the greatest men I've ever met, Rick Warren made a great observation. And the morning I read I thought it's one of the greatest, most profound thoughts I've ever seen in my life, ever read in my life. He said, "You know, there are a lotta things in life we didn't get to choose". How many of you, just out of curiosity, were born in this state? You were born in the state of Georgia, okay? How many of you asked to be born in this state? No, you didn't, just grace of God, you were born here, right? We didn't ask where to be born. We didn't choose where to be born. We didn't choose when to be born. We didn't choose to whom we were born to. We didn't choose our looks. We didn't choose our abilities.
God didn't give us a choice. God didn't ask our opinion. God in His sovereignty chose all those things for us. But then Rick Warren said, "But there's one thing that God said, 'I'm gonna leave this up to you. I'm hands off. You make the call, your choice, your call. Do what you will.'" He says, "There's one thing we get to choose every single day of our life". Here's what it is. "It's how much you choose to believe God". That's up to you.
How much do you choose to believe God, here's what I'm saying to you, my wonderful church family, let's believe in a God who can do more than we ask or think, let's believe in a God and live like we believe in that God. And every day when we walk out of our house, whether it's to go to school or go to work or go to play, let's walk out of our house, strengthened by His Spirit, loaded with His love, filled with His fullness, persuaded of His power. And then, you watch what God will do in you, and with you, and through you, and for you and by you. Not just you, but in the lives that you touch.