Summary: The journey of faith is like a spiral stair, the whole held up by the love of God, but the sequence of steps always the same. Commit yourself to the grace of God. Surrender more of yourself to Christ. And love the people he puts in your path as if he h
I wish I could play the piano. Not just picking out a tune with my right hand, but really playing - composers like Bach and Beethoven and Mozart. As most of you know, my mother plays. She’ll be back here in May, and Martie’s already agreed to let her play for the service. Even though she’s done with her 18-year project to complete all the Beethoven sonatas, she’s still giving annual concerts. And when I was growing up the piano was always playing in the background. Of course I wanted to play too. So - I took lessons for 8 years. But did I learn to play like my mother? Nope. Not a chance. Because I didn't practice. Scales were BORING, and besides, sitting on the piano bench for even half an hour made my back ache. My mother, on the other hand, practiced for 6 hours a day. She played exercises for an hour before she even started on performance material. And whenever she started learning a new piece she would work over and over and over on each phrase until she got it right. At 85, she still practices nearly two hours every day. I knew what it cost to be the kind of pianist my mother was. I loved the music - but I didn't want it badly enough to put in the effort that it took.
It's a good thing that God doesn’t give up just because his creation keeps producing discords, isn’t it. Failing to the follow through is not one of the divine attributes. God repeats things over and over - until we get it right.
If we can understand that, then we can see that when Paul prays for the Ephesians he’s not just voicing a vain hope, sort of a "wouldn't it be nice if..." He's asking for something that is already theirs, and he’s also praying for us, because it's ours as well.. Paul prays for us to receive what God wants for us, and has already offered to us. And God has a purpose for us, the church of Jesus Christ, that is a whole lot bigger than any earthly artist's performance.
Since its been nearly two months since we looked at the first part of this chapter, let me remind you of what Paul said in v. 10, just a few verses earlier. He says that God's plan for his church is that "the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places." Now, that's a pretty big deal, when you stop to think about it. The idea of human beings actually demonstrating God's wisdom to the "rulers and authorities" is a heavy responsibility. It's also pretty kind of hard to believe. Imagine the audience up there watching, snickering every time humanity makes another collective nose dive or prat-fall, elbowing each other and whispering things like, "I told him it'll never get off the ground."
But the success of God's plan is not up to us - thank God. He has taken our human shortcomings into account. He has provided every resource we could possibly need, and all we have to do is ask.
We mustn't make the mistake, though, of assuming that God is just going to wave a wand and make us instant Maestros. We have to travel the road he has laid out for us ourselves. We can't delegate it, and we can't just read guidebooks. We have to do it. Now, mind, God provides everything we could possibly need for the journey: food, clothing, maps, shelter. We are guided, accompanied, empowered and rewarded by His love. But walk it we must. We have to build spiritual muscle, so to speak.
My mother had to abandon her music for several years, and when she took it up again her hands wouldn't obey her. I particularly remember the way she worked on the Chopin Polonaise Militaire because it has a killing series of left-hand octaves in double time. She worked until she was nearly weeping with pain. She knew the music - but her hands wouldn't cooperate, because she wasn't in practice. What's inside your head isn't enough. You have to practice. Your body - your reflexes - your habits of behavior and response - have to be trained. And love is like that, too. Being told about the love of God doesn't make you able to experience it. You have to practice love in order to have it.
But how do you practice the love of God? In Eph 3:14-21 Paul has outlined a sequence of 4 steps for us to take.
The first step is to claim the grace, goodness and power of God. Look at verses 14-16.
"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power