What God Wouldn’t Do for You!
Ephesians 3:14-21 (NLT) 14 When I think of the wisdom and scope of God’s plan, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit. 17 And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 20 Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope. 21 May he be given glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever through endless ages. Amen.
Intro: Our Ephesians study takes us straight to the heart of God today. There is so much in His heart for us that He wants to see happen! And He is doing so much in and all around us to bring those things about. If we only knew the half of it, we would be totally amazed that He goes to such lengths to help us. Today, Paul’s prayer gives us a glimpse of God’s heart for us.
I. God wants to make you strong on the inside (16)
[Do pressure illustration with Coke can if possible. Use full can & empty can, have helper try to crush full can with hand, then have them crush the empty one. When God is in us we can withstand the pressures that come.]
-How does God make us strong on the inside? Through the Holy Spirit. If the outside pressure becomes greater than the inner pressure, we will collapse. The Holy Spirit comes and lives inside of us (in our hearts or spirits) when we put our trust in Jesus. He gives us the inner pressure we need to withstand the outer pressure of this life. This begins with a change of heart that God brings about when we call on Him and trust Him with our past, present, and future. When we ask Him to forgive us for our past sins and failures, He comes into our present and gives us a future hope that is centered around Him. This heart change includes a change in our character and our behavior. Our intentions and our actions begin to reflect His goodness.
-God wants to make you strong on the inside by His Holy Spirit so you can withstand the pressure that comes from the outside. We all know there are many things in life that can cause pressure on the outside. And when we get to Ephesians 6, we’ll see that we need to stand against the schemes of Satan. There are spiritual forces at work in this world that are coming against us at every turn.
-So we ask one another questions like, “How are you holding up?” What we are really saying is, “How are you resisting the outer pressure?” “Have you collapsed yet?” People use resistance to try to maintain enough inner pressure to survive (anger, total independence, building walls around their emotions, shutting people out, or just plain checking out of reality through escapism).
-It is only when Christ does a work inside of us that we can avoid a collapse in our lives. Some people collapse morally. Others collapse physically, mentally, and emotionally. Some experience a collapse in their ability to love or trust anyone because someone betrayed them and wounded them deeply.
-The kind of collapse that needs to happen is our will collapsing under God’s will. Lord, I give up! I can’t do this on my own. The pressure of Your love is greater than the inner pressure of my resistance! Please make me strong on the inside with the power of Your love. What wouldn’t God do for you! He wants to make you strong on the inside!
II. God wants to help you learn to trust Him (17)
-People will always let us down. We will even let ourselves down. But God will never let us down or betray us. God is not a man that He should lie. What He says He will do.
-Yet God takes us as we are and helps us change. If we have been self-reliant and independent just to survive in this life, God is working in us to increase our trust level. He reminds us in the Bible that He has never failed, never lied, never broken a promise, and will never leave us or forsake us. He can be trusted! It is through a relationship with Him that we will overcome our lack of trust and give Him the wheel.
-Have you ever ridden with someone whose driving you didn’t trust? My wife has….
-Result? Christ will be welcome and feel more at home. No trust = no intimacy. The more we trust Jesus, the more He will feel at home in our hearts. That really is the idea here in the original language. That Christ would dwell in our hearts means to live in as a home, to settle down and be at home.
III. God wants you to be firmly planted in His love (17)
-Why? Because love produces life and growth. God is our source of life and His love connects us with His life. The result of joining our lives with Jesus is the beginning of a new love in our hearts. It must be nurtured and tended, but if the root system is established it will continue to thrive in the midst of many unfriendly outside forces. What is a threat to a new plant? Lack of light and heat, lack of moisture, lack of nutrients, weeds, and bugs. You gardeners know what I’m talking about. Some of these are outside forces that seek to destroy us, and others can come about from our own neglect to stay connected with Jesus through prayer, praise, and receiving His word.
-God wants your root system to go down deep into His love. If you are drawing your life or fulfillment from any other source, it will either turn out to be toxic or leave you feeling incomplete. This next thought goes right along with this.
IV. God wants you to fathom the completeness of His love (18)
-His love is unlimited, unbeatable, unconditional, unending, infinite… and it is directed right at you!
-Have you ever thought about how much God loves us? As we were on vacation, we saw a small demonstration of God’s handiwork that reminded us how vast He is and how great His love is for us. [Show pictures]
V. God wants you to experience the love of Jesus (19)
-It is not enough just to talk about it or even to contemplate it. That is a start. However, we must experience it by receiving it and allowing it to change us from the inside out.
-Some of you cannot escape the idea that God tolerates us or is outright disgusted with us. That is not the God of the Bible! The God of the Bible was merciful to broken people with broken and empty lives. His love went out to all who were weary, oppressed, shunned, beaten down, and thrown away. He helped people deal with their shame, and His love gave them dignity and self-respect because the One who really mattered was crazy about them!
-God loves you! He loves YOU! Maybe it is hard for you to comprehend it or feel it, but that does not change the reality of His love. You may not feel loveable or worth loving, but the One who made you knows you and loves you.
-If you haven’t yet experienced His love I pray that you will have an encounter with Jesus that will change your life! If you have experienced His love but haven’t felt it lately, I pray that you will experience His great love for you again and never stop.
VI. God wants you to be filled with His life and power (19)
-All of these previous points lead to the fulfillment of this one – living with the fullness of His life and power. And if we are filled with God’s life and power, there is not an outside force anywhere that can cause us to collapse or be crushed.
VII. God wants you to know that His dreams for you are bigger than yours! (20)
-God is able to do so much more than we could hope or dream of, let along dare to ask for. Sometimes our dreams remain small because our expectations are small. We don’t want to ask God for too much or we might appear to be selfish. Yet His dreams for us dwarf our own dreams we have for ourselves and our families. I’m not even talking about finances, although God is able to do so much more than we have the faith to ask for. Do you have dreams for your family members? God has bigger ones! Do you have personal goals you’d like to achieve? God has greater ones for you! Have you dreamed some dreams for your church of what you’d love to see happen here? God has, and His dreams for us are HUGE!
-As some of you already know, I came back to some very disappointing news from the building inspector. The leadership team here at CLC has sensed the Lord leading us to finish what was started almost 20 years ago – the completion of the upstairs portion of our building. The vision God gave us was to build a Youth and Children’s Center as a tool to help us reach the young families of our community. We are fully aware that a building, no matter how nice, is not a substitute for simply loving people and helping them find Jesus. However, it is a tool we can use that will give glory to God as the One who provides and does miracles, and does them very well!
-So, back to the disappointing news…. Before leaving for vacation and a worship conference, I submitted our building plans to the best of my ability and knowledge, along with what seemed like a very large check to get the process started. I came back to a message from the inspector that we would need to have an engineer or an architect draw up our plans for us, which could mean another $1000 or more, and possibly several more weeks before we get approval to start building. But that wasn’t the worst of it. He told me that after consulting with His site planner, we would need to put in an elevator and a sprinkler system. Suddenly, my dream of somehow squeezing a miracle out of what we currently have in our building fund was shattered. Those 2 things just upped our expenses by $50,000 or so.
-Needless to say, I was disappointed, discouraged, and a little angry. Does it surprise you that your pastor is human too?
-Well, I began to pray about it and eventually gave it back to God. After all, this is His church that Jesus said He would build – the family of God, including those who have yet to join His family. However, the family house is His too! If He wants His house finished, He will make a way. It sounds like I came to this easily, but I assure you it didn’t feel very easy. I remember telling the inspector, “Well, I guess that’s the end of our project. We can’t afford to do all that!” I told Steve that I had tried to find out all this kind of surprise information before we jumped into the building project. We even had the inspector come out and look things over, and these things never came up.
-Have you ever had the Lord ask you a question? Well, I sensed a question coming from the Lord that went something like this: “If you had known about these surprises before you started making plans to build, would you ever have started?” Of course my answer was, “Probably not.”
-Let me share with you some things that I believe came from the Lord as I spent some time with Him in the last couple of days. [Share from prayer journal.]
-God doesn’t budget out His dreams! No, He has great plans for you and me and all of His family! He has incredible dreams for Christian Life Center – that is you and me together! And that is why we can praise Him and give glory “to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us!” He wants to do great things in us (inner strength, trust, fill us with His love, open our hearts and minds to more of His love, filling us with His life and power). He also wants to do great things through us – things that exceed our expectations, things that are above and beyond all that we could ask or think, according to His power that is working in us. May he be given glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever through endless ages. Amen.
Conclusion: Maybe something I said today meant something to you. Please consider the fact that the Lord may take just one element of a word like this and use it to help you grow. The question is, what now? Where do we go from here? Maybe you need inner strength from God through the Holy Spirit. Maybe you need to learn to trust God more. Maybe today you need a genuine love encounter with Jesus. You want understand how far reaching His love is, you want to experience it, and you want to be planted firmly in it. God will hear you today if you ask for more of His love. He is not disappointed in you. He is working in you, calling you out to come closer to Him. Maybe you need greater faith to dream the kind of dreams God has for you. You know, He is able to do exceedingly more, abundantly more than all we could ask or even think up on our own. What an amazing God! If you need to respond to Him today, please do it. Tell someone what you are feeling. Ask someone to pray with you. Spend a few minutes talking to the Lord and listening to Him. What He wouldn’t do for you! He loves you and will help you if you let Him. [Pray]
And now may the LORD bless you and keep you, may his face shine on you and give you peace in your coming and going. And when you walk out those doors, remember that God goes with you. And if God is for you, who can be against you. Amen.