David Leyshon was a pastor for fourteen years. He loved being a pastor, but he is no longer in the ministry. He did not step down from ministry because...
of a moral failure,
a bad church split,
he did not chose a different vocation,
he did not get burned out,
he did not retire.
He stepped down from being a pastor because he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and was no longer able to fulfill his ministry at the church where he had been serving.
I would imagine that Mr. Leyshon struggled to cope with the fact that his sickness was taking something from him that he not only loved to do, but that he had been called to do by God.
After he stepped down from ministry he wrote a book entitled, ‘Sickness, Suffering and Scripture’. Through all of this Mr. Leyshon had learned something that brought him great encouragement. This is what he says, “According to God’s Word a man’s strength is not to be measured by anything he possesses in himself – whether muscle-power, will-power, or financial clout. Rather, because power belongs to the LORD, human strength is dependent on the extent to which a man leans upon God. ‘I can do all things through him who strengthens me’ (Philippians 4:13). For in the areas that matter – the things that count for eternity – be a man ever so intelligent, imposing, qualified or gifted, he can do nothing if he is not energized by God in Christ. (John 15:5).”
Our text this morning is a doxology that Paul prays. In it Paul prays that God would be glorified because of the power that He provides to those who are in Christ.
Paul has spent the last three chapters talking about the gospel and it’s profound effects upon believers.
Now, as we come to the end of chapter three, Paul is about to transition in this letter from teaching the truths concerning the gospel, to discussing the change of life that every Christian ought to walk in. This sanctification that we experience is something that we rely upon the power of God to accomplish. (Galatians 2:20)
In Ephesians 3:20-21 Paul says, “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
Overview of the preceding passage...
In Ephesians 3 we were reminded that Paul was a minister, who like David Leyshon, was suffering in ministry. We saw this in Ephesians 3:13 when Paul said, “So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.”
Paul suffered as a prisoner because he was a faithful preacher of the gospel. Many in Paul’s day may have come to believe that Paul’s ministry had been sidelined, or that it had come to a complete stop, or that it had been severely hindered. Therefore, some believers were being tempted to loose heart.
Yet, even from prison Paul carried out the stewardship that he has been given by God. He spoke of this in Ephesians 3:1-3, “For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles – assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation as I have written briefly.”
In Ephesians 3:4-6 Paul describes that this stewardship pertained to the mystery of Christ, which was hidden but has now been revealed to the apostles and the prophets by the Spirit.
What is this mystery? Paul tells us in Ephesians 3:6 by saying, “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”
Then in Ephesians 3:7-10 Paul reminds the Ephesians that he has been made a minister by the grace of God through the working of God’s power. He says, “Of this gospel, I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of His power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might be made known to the rulers and authorities in heavenly places.”
Finally, in Ephesians 3:14-19 Paul bows in prayer. In verses 14-15 we see the invocation, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and earth is named...”
In Ephesians 3:16 we have the main request of this prayer, “...that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being...”
Ephesians 3:17-19 gives the results of such a prayer, “...so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with the fullness of God.” (Galatians 2:20)
Now we come to Paul’s Doxology In Ephesians 3:20-21
“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
We can make three general observations about this prayer as we begin.
First, Paul’s prayer focuses on God.
In Ephesians 3:15 Paul prays to the Father from whom every family in heaven and earth is named.
In Ephesians 3:16 Paul speaks of the riches of God’s glory and the strengthening of the believer by the working of the Spirit of God.
In Ephesians 3:20 Paul praises the God who is Omnipotent and Omniscient and who is able to answer prayer.
In Ephesians 3:21 Paul prays to the God who is worthy of glory throughout all generations, forever and ever. He is the Eternal God whose Kingdom will have no end. (Luke 1:33)
Secondly, Paul’s prayer does not end until after he gives praise to the God who is able to answer his petition.
He does not wait to praise the Lord until after his requests have been answered. He does not reserve his praise until some other moment.
Before Paul ends this prayer he praises God who is able to answer his prayer.
Thirdly, we see that Paul desired above all other things that God would be glorified. Therefore, Paul prays in verse 21, “...to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.”
Psalm 50:15 “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” Our prayers are not primarily done so that we get what we want. Our prayers are prayed so that God will be glorified.
As a result of these three things,
Paul’s prayer is God focused
Paul praising God before ending the prayer
Paul desires to see God glorified
Paul can come to the end of this prayer and say ‘Amen’. Amen means, ‘Let it be so’ or ‘This is true’. Because Paul has focused his faith upon the God who is Omniscient and Omnipotent, he is confident that this prayer has been heard and that God will respond to it. He does not say,
There is something very refreshing about seeing these things in Paul’s prayer. Paul keeps his focus upon the Lord. He is not distracted by the impossibility of the request that he is making.
The psalmist does this in Psalm 130:5-6, “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His Word I hope; my soul waits for the LORD more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.”
Sometimes when we pray to God it is easy to be like Peter who saw the wind and the waves, and began to sink into the turbulent sea. But Paul keeps his eyes upon the LORD.
As Paul begins this doxology he prays to the God who is able to answer our greatest request. He prays to the God who is omnipotent. He is able to accomplish things. He is able to get things done. He is able to finish what He intends to do. (Philippians 1:6 – And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.)
Consider the following verses:
2 Corinthians 9:8 says that He able to make all grace abound to you.
In 2 Timothy 1:12 Paul says, “I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.”
Hebrews 2:18 says that Christ is able to to help those who are being tempted.
Hebrews 7:25 says that He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him.
Romans 4:14 says that God is able to make his servants stand.
Romans 16:25 says that He is able to strengthen his people.
Jude 1:24 says, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy...”
Notice that Paul says, “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think”.
In other words, God is not only able to do it, but He is willing to do it. He is willing to respond to our prayers and to do what we ask. (Matthew 7:7-8, Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and the one who knocks it will be opened.)
H.B. Charles says, “There is no burden that God cannot lift; no door that God cannot open; no enemy that God cannot defeat; no need that God cannot meet; no problem that God cannot solve; no sickness that God cannot heal; and no sin that God cannot forgive.”
We may not always know what to ask for when we come to Him in prayer. There are burdens, anxieties and concerns that we do not know how to address.
God is omniscient and knows our hearts. He hears what we ask for and He knows what we are thinking. Matthew 6:8 says, “...your Heavenly Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”
The other night, I sat in my office at 1:30 in the morning too anxious to pray and too tired to speak out loud. Paul says that God is able to do more than we can ask or think.
Paul also reminds us that we do not have to wait a long time for God to answer. Paul says that He can do this according to the power that is at work within us (20). Paul says in Romans 8:26, “Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
Our Heavenly Father is not distant or aloof.
He is not dispassionate or unresponsive.
He knows us and works fervently on our behalf.
He graciously gives us the Holy Spirit who continually works on our behalf.
This is good news because we are a weak people and we need His strength.
It doesn’t always feel like God is working in us with this great power does it. The promise is not that we will feel strong; but that His power will be present in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
In Romans 11:17 Paul reminds the Gentiles that they have been grafted into the nourishing root. They are always receiving nourishment and life from Christ. In Romans 11:18 Paul says these words, “...remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.”
In Ephesians 3:21 we see that this God who is willing to answer our biggest request is deserving of our greatest praise. Paul says in verse 21, “...to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
God alone is deserving of glory. Isaiah 42:8 says, “I am the LORD, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to created idols.” Our praise is to be to God alone for He is the one who has saved us. And it is He who gives us strength in all circumstances and in all areas of our life.
There are two ways that Paul says God’s glory is seen: (to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus)
in the church
and in Christ Jesus.
To have a high view of Christ is to have a high view of His church.
Christ is the Head and the church is the body.
He is the Shepherd and the church is made up of His sheep.
He is the vine and we are the branches.
So many today see the church as something that hinders people from seeing the glory of Christ; but Paul came to love the church and suffered greatly for the body of Christ (Ephesians 3:13; Colossians 1:24 – Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the church...).
I am sure that Paul remembered Christ’s words to him on the road of Damascus in Acts 9:4 when he was going there to persecute the church. Christ said to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
On that day, Paul was blinded by the glory of Christ; but he was able to see more than he had ever seen before. He remained blind until a Christian brother came to him to restore his sight and bring him into the fellowship of the Church (Acts 9:19 – For some days, he was with the disciples at Damascus). Because of this, Paul must have had a special view of the beauty of the church and of Christ Himself.
Finally, Paul says that God is worthy of glory throughout all generations, forever and ever. Paul says with the psalmist in Psalm 79:13, “But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise.”
Through every circumstance and in every season we are to praise Him. On our worst days, in the toughest battles and in the midst of our darkest moments we are to praise the LORD for He alone has the strength to deliver.
Moses sang this song after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, “The LORD is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise Him, my father’s God, and I will exalt Him.” (Exodus 15:2)
Psalm 21:13 says, “Be exalted O LORD, in your strength! We will sing and praise your power.”
As we have now come to the second half of Ephesians, Paul will begin to admonish us to live in accordance with the grace that we have been given. We will have countless opportunities to pray as Paul has in this letter. In Ephesians 1:15-21 Paul prayed that we might have wisdom and revelation. Here in Ephesians 3:14-21 Paul has prayed that we might be strengthened with power.
Let these things daily be in our prayers. And if we will pray often for these things for ourselves, it will only be natural for us, like Paul, to pray that others will receive these things as well.
In Ephesians 3:13 Paul commanded the Ephesians not to loose heart because of what he was suffering. Yet, apart from the grace and strength of God, Paul would not have endured and many in the church would have lost heart.
There is so much chaos, calamity, struggles and suffering in this world. And our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and everyone else who sees us would be greatly encouraged by the strength that they see in believers. They will glorify Christ for this because all of this will be done by Him to accomplish His will.
To see a Christian who is naturally weak, but who is empowered by God will be such an encouragement to so many. The sight of such a person will help them to not loose heart and God will inevitably get the glory for it.
Romans 12:12 – Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.