HUNGER FOR GOD 9d Jun 10-The Prayer
The Prayer of Spiritual Passion
June 30, 2002
For many of us, the hour or two we spend in church is all the spiritual food we eat, and we don’t eat again until next week at this time, or even two weeks from this time. In other words, we spend all week fasting from God and then try to eat it all on Sunday. And ultimately, the reason that once a week or less satisfies us, is because we have spent all week not eating, so this day is about all we can take.
So it is my family, if you want to get more of God, then your capacity has to be expanded. The problem is, however, too many of us are satisfied right where we are. And once you become satisfied, once you don’t want to grow anymore, develop anymore, or go deeper anymore, it doesn’t take much to satisfy you.
You see God will never give you more than your spiritual system is able to assimilate. So why are some Christians full of God, while others nibble? Differing capacities. And our text today goes right to the heart of that issue.
EPHESIANS 3 – Now everyone knows verse 20 – V 20 But let me tell you something, whenever you come across a passage that everyone knows, and everyone is quoting all this time, that is a signal that you should NOT start with that verse. Because it’s easy to get hyped up on a great verse and miss the true content that surrounds it. That is the case with verse 20. So let me set forth a theme and then I will expound on that verse. The theme is simply this: Spiritual capacity is dependent on spiritual intimacy and it is spiritual capacity that will determine spiritual power.
So if you don’t have a lot of God’s power, it’s because you don’t have a lot of God’s capacity, and if you don’t have a lot of God’s capacity that means you’re not experiencing a lot of God’s intimacy. In other words, the weak, defeated, believer has a capacity problem, which means he has an intimacy problem. You see, you can’t fix a power problem by going power hunting, even though there are people who try; who go from one power experience to another; from one power service to another; one power convention to another – looking for their next power fix. But they quietly run dry because the only way to increase power is to increase capacity, and the only way to increase capacity is to increase intimacy.
So Paul begins by saying: V 14
Paul says, “I bow my knee” – that is an act of humility before the Father. Paul does this because first of all he wants to pray on behalf of the church in Ephesus for increased spiritual capacity. We know this because he says in verse 16 – V16
Paul says, “I’m praying for all of you saints, that is for all you believers, that you will experience all the wealth involved in your great salvation, because I don’t want you to miss any of it!”
Now why does Paul have to pray for this? Because the fact is, just because you’re saved, doesn’t mean you experience saving power. You see Paul understands that it is possible to be a spiritual millionaire and yet live like a pauper. Paul understands that it is possible to have every spiritual blessing in heavenly places and yet wake up defeated everyday.
Paul prays because he understands that prayer is like the key to your house or the access card at work, prayer gains you access to the Father, Who is really the One who expands the capacity. So, Paul says in verse 15, “I am praying to the Father from whom every family gets its name.”
Now why does Paul say that? Because it is critical for us to understand, once more, our position in Christ. As believers, and only believers, we carry our Father’s last name: that is, as Paul writes; V 15. Now why is that important? It’s important because as someone who carries the Father’s last name, it means you have access to whatever belongs to the Father. You see, there are no 2nd class kids in the Kingdom. In other words, there is no one better than anyone else, no one whom the Father loves more than anyone else. God loves each of us eternally.
In my office there is a phone line that my wife and children can call, when I’m here alone working on my sermon and the office is closed, and they know I’ll answer it. In other words, that line says, “When you need me, you can get me.” And the same is true for the believer’s access to God, it’s equally available to all.
Now, not all use it… while, others use it all the time…but for those who don’t, it’s not that access has been denied, they all have the number. Every believer has been given the number, so if you don’t use the number don’t blame God if your capacity is limited.
#2 Paul prays that they might experience more of God: V 16
Paul says, the “riches of God’s Glory”—ie: the wealth of what it means to be a son or daughter of the King—that you will be strengthened in your inner being. Now this is very important because what Paul is letting us know is, this expanding capacity comes from the inside out, or as Paul put it; through the Spirit working in your inner being.
I did an extended fast of 20 days prior to Easter a couple of years ago. Now, knowing that breaking the fast would be a problem if I waited until Easter, I thought I’d be ok if I started breaking it on Saturday – wrong-o! My inner man could not handle it. So when the Easter feast came, I could not participate. Oh there were plenty of delightful dishes from which to partake, but my inner man was not capable of receiving them. In other words, my capacity had been diminished. Paul says, if you want more capacity it has to happen in the inner man. IOWs, the increased capacity will come as in God’s presence; I bow my knee before the Father, causing in the inner man an expanded capacity to experience more of God.
That’s why our worship on Monday, is just as important as our worship on Sunday. And here’s why – our worship on Sunday, is collective worship, in other words, it’s shared worship and indeed the Bible commands us to worship in a shared way. But Romans 12:1 says, “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God which is your spiritual service of worship.” And so your ultimate worship occurs when you worship and it’s just God and you. So if you skip Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc., and just show up for a weekly buffet meal, then don’t be surprised if it doesn’t last very long, or that you drift or dose off while you are, why – because there’s no expanded capacity.
That’s why your own spiritual / devotional worship is so critical. The strong people of faith among us vs the weak people of faith is attributable entire to the amount of spiritual food that is consumed on a regular basis. The strong eat all the time, they’re hungry all the time, where as the weak rarely eat at all. And folk who are hungry all the time are going to find food… do I have a witness? Folk who are hungry all the time are going to find food and they’re going to get ticked off when they can’t find it. In fact, a husband will go off on his wife because there is nothing in the pantry to nibble on when he goes out there to snack. So if you’re not looking for food, it’s because you’re not hungry. That’s why Paul says, “I want you to be filled in your inner being in order to expand your capacity.
Let me illustrate what I mean. Popcorn pops because every kernel of popcorn has moisture in it. When you put your popcorn in the microwave, what it’s doing is heating up the moisture inside each of the corn kernels. Eventually, the moisture that is being heated becomes steam and begins to press against the wall of the kernel. When the steam expands to a certain level, the kernel literally explodes and “walla” – you’ve got popped corn. So the reason the popcorn pops is because what’s on the inside overpowers what’s on the outside. And in fact once it does pop, you discover, that there was more on the inside then there was on the outside. It was just being held hostage by a hard-shell. And the same is true for us. You and I are being held hostage by a hard-shell, the hard-shell known as the flesh, that is the body controlled by sin.
So Paul says, “I bow my knee before the Father.” That is, I live in His presence, and as I live in His presence, my capacity for Him expands. So how do I expand my capacity? Verses 17-19 tell us. V17a – That word dwell means “to live in the midst of,” or “to be at home with.”
Now that’s an interesting phrase “to be at home with.” When guests come over to our homes, we often say, “Make yourself at home.” Now you don’t mean that, and you know it. What we really mean is, “I’m going to take you to this room… and as long as you stay in this room… make yourself at home.” In other words, don’t just go meandering all over my house. IOWs, we limit where we want people to go. Why—because we’ve got rooms that we threw everything into, to hide what the room they’re in, looked like before they got there. So we don’t want people to make themselves, like, totally at home.
But Paul says, if you want expanded capacity, Jesus Christ has to be free to visit every room. “But,” you say, “Some of my room are not so hot, I don’t want Him looking in there.” That is precisely why it is so vital that Jesus has access to every room in our life.
Paul says that Jesus wants total access to you – that’s intimate. Jesus wants to dwell in your heart through faith – so that through our trusting in Him, He can identify what needs changing or fixing in every room of our lives. Why does Jesus want to do that – Because sin blocks capacity.
In fact, the spiritual person is not the person who sees no wrong in their life, the spiritual person is the person who is so close to God, that God is free to reveal the problem so that something can be done about it. Paul says further in verse 17, “being rooted and grounded in love” because it is relational not merely academic. VV 17b – 19a. In other words, he says “to know what cannot be known,” that is, that the love of Christ—Christ’s love for you and the love He wants you to have for Him—is beyond comprehension. In other words, you can’t comprehend how much Christ loves you, unless you get close enough to know that love. And why does He desire this? – V 19b
Paul says, “I’m praying for more capacity which is predicated on intimacy, that you might experience the capacity.” You know, the lower your heart rate is while you are resting the healthier you are. People who are athletic, have lower resting heart rates. Why – because they have so strengthened the chambers in their heart, that their heart doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood to the rest of the body. So if you’re just sitting there listening to me, and your heart rate is a 100… you need a doctor. If you’re just sitting there it’s working too hard. It’s not supposed to be a 100 unless you’re working, or you’re on a treadmill. And so Paul tells us the closer you get to God, the more at rest you are, because God expands the capacity.
So if you’re short on power, it’s because you’re short on capacity, and if your short on capacity is because you’re short on intimacy. And the only way to have intimacy is to get connected to God on a regular basis.
Now we can talk about verse 20, the verse that pulls it all together: V20a
The first thing we discover in this verse is that God’s power is personal. “Now to Him,” not to “it.” Our God is personal. Our God possesses, intellect, sensibility, emotions, and will. Those are the ingredients of personhood. God doesn’t want to be a “thing” in your life, God doesn’t want to be an “it” in your life, and God doesn’t want to be the “force” in your life. God wants to be the Person in your life. Everybody wants God’s power, but not everybody wants God’s person: our verse says, “now to Him.” So #1 God’s power is personal.
#2 God’s power is potent. V 20 a-b God is Able. God does not have an ability problem. Jesus said, “Nothing is impossible with God.” Now granted, God’s power is subject to His will, but God does not have an ability problem. Now, I did a little study on those things God is able to do using the word “Able.”
In Matthew 9, the blind man saw Jesus, and he asked Jesus, “Are You able to heal me?” Jesus said, “I am able.” So God is able to heal.
Hebrews 7:25 – says, “He is able to save to the uttermost” In other words, He is able to take the most decrepit, the most wicked… in fact we were watching the History Channel recently when they did a focus segment on Nazi Germany. Now, you don’t get much more evil than Adolph Hitler… and interestingly a book written NOT by a Christian or even a religious editor, but instead, a secular historian, came out recently that demonstrates the profound involvement of Hitler in the occult, in fact that’s the title; Hitler and the Occult.” He was steeped in it.
But as evil as he was, and he was grotesquely evil – 6 million Jews exterminated – as evil as he was…and this is not going to be a very popular statement…but as evil as he was, if Adolph Hitler had gotten on his knees and pleaded for forgiveness and said, “I am a desperate sinner whose only hope is in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and so I now desperately cling to the Cross where I place my life in His hands alone, for my eternal destiny.” God’s Grace is so great that even a man like Adolph Hitler could have been saved.
Now I know that’s hard, and I’m certainly not saying he did, but Hebrews 7:25 says God will save to the uttermost, to the most decrepit person, because He is able.
2 Corinthians 9:8 says, “God is able to supply all grace to His children in every situation, so that they have more than enough to face any situation that comes up in life.” He says, God is able to supply to you from His throne, grace—in other words God is able to give you what you need to keep you going. Paul says, “He is able.”
As Nebucanezer threw Shadrack, Meshack, and Nebednigo into the fiery furnace he asked, “Who will save you?” and they responded, “Our God is able.”
After Cyrus had thrown Daniel into the lions’ den, he called out to him, “Daniel was your God able to save you?” And Daniel called, “My God was able.”
In Jude 24 it says, “Now unto Him who is able to keep you from falling, and preserve you faultless on high, to Him be glory, honor, and dominion.”
Our God does not have a power problem. Many of us are living in our own strength and wonder why we can’t deal with our problems, wonder why we’re always under the circumstances, rather than on top of them. God’ s power is potent.
#3 God’s power is unprecedented.
God is not only able; God’s power is V20c. Theologians call these the addition of superlatives. Paul doesn’t want to just say, “God is Able.” In fact, most of the things we attribute to God are explainable. But it is when God starts doing the unexplainable, IOWs when God does stuff you hadn’t even thought of yet, that you will know your capacity has expanded. Finally,
#4 God’s Power is Prejudicial
It says: V20d. If nothing is happening on the inside, don’t look for much on the outside. The verse says, “according to the power working in you.” And remember, the power doesn’t work within you until your capacity has expanded, and capacity doesn’t expand until your intimacy grows. In other words, again, it’s got to be a work on the inside.
I love Daniel 11:32 – “The people who know their God will display strength, and pull off exploits.” In other words, the people who know their God will pull off stuff that goes beyond the ordinary, until it becomes down right extraordinary. It’s not that they are supermen or superwoman, it’s that God has the freedom on the inside to display His glory and power on the outside.
That’s why verse 21 says, “To Him be glory in the church.” Because to give God glory is to highlight Him, it is to make a big deal about Him. So when God is ready to break through - sophistication just doesn’t matter. When God is about to break through, a sermon and a song just isn’t enough. You just won’t be satisfied until you see God. In other words, as long as you’re satisfied with the preacher, you’re not there yet as long as you’re satisfied with the music, you’re not there yet. As long as you’re satisfied with the building, you’re not there yet; as long as you’re satisfied with the programs not there yet. Because the person who is intimate and has expanding capacity is not satisfied, until God shows up: To God be the glory in the church.
In my office there is only one outlet, but around my desk there are six things that need to be plugged in, so on the floor is a power strip, and because of that power strip, I have taken a two outlet capacity and turned it into a seven outlet capacity, and so without re-doing any of the wiring my electrical capacity increased seven fold.
Now, I know you got all kinds of stuff in your life: you got your job and you need some power there. You can got your family and you need some power there; you got your finances and you need some power there, You got your health and need some power there; and; you say, “How am I going to deal with this, I don’t have enough power?! Well, God has provided a strip, and He has said, if you will become intimate with Me, I will add additional outlets and expand your capacity and when I expand your capacity, My power will address everything you can plug into it. VV 20-21a
And so we end this series where we began, with the question: “How hungry are you?” “But pastor, I haven’t eaten in so long.” Remember, I mentioned the extended fast I was on? At the end of that fast I could only eat a few bites… but I kept working at it, and working at it, and it wasn’t too long before I got back to my natural self.
So getting up tomorrow morning may be tough because you’re not used to going into God’s presence first thing, but you keep doing it because I promise, I promise as you do you’ll feel the expansion occur and suddenly you’ll experience the power at work.