Summary: A sermon to give support and strength to those struggling in difficult times.
Life has its trying times times. Some would say we have more than our share right now. Life is not easy. We only go round once. And for most it’s no merry-go-round ride, but a difficult, bumpy journey.
People pressures get us down; problems pile up; worries and anxieties persist. The fires of our faith on the hearths of our hearts slowly burn down. Life has a way of dampening those fires. Our passion for life burns down as our energies are sapped, our reserves are depleted, and our hopes smolder. Disappointments in our personal lives, discouragement over the financial recession and despair over world crises stifle the flame of expectation about the future.
All of this, multiplied by our personal needs, equal a depleting burn out. Sometimes it seems like there is nothing
left on the hearth of our hearts but burned out white ash.
But look again! There is a red ember in that white ash and the Living Christ is here to put a bellows on that ember until it ignites into a flame and then a blazing fire again.
Spurgeon was right, “ We have great needs, but we have a great Christ for our needs!”
What do you want from the Savior this morning? Vision, courage, strength, power not only to cope, but to triumph in these tough times? Here is the really good news: tough times don’t last; tough people do. And Christ is here to toughen us up with the truth about how He can turn our struggles into stepping stones.
My message this morning is not one more admonitionary, motivational talk about what you need to DO in these tough times, but rather about what is offered to you to survive in them. Then, instead of crying, “Lord, get me out of this!” we can pray, “Lord, what do You want me to get out of this?” Our motto will be, “Things don’t work out—God works out things!”
What I want to say this morning is based on a powerful passage of Scripture from Ephesians by the Apostle Paul that speaks directly to this problem we all face at times: growing weary, being discouraged, and facing the temptation of losing heart.
There is no passage in the New Testament that soars with a more magnificent assurance of strength for our struggles than Ephesians 3:13-21. Nowhere does Paul sound such depth of spiritual emotion or rise to such heights of passion as in this mind-stretching passage.
It is the Apostle’s prayer for the churches at Ephesus and Roman Asia Minor in about 63A.D, but it had implications for all of the first century church, has had an impact all through the centuries, and is the prescription for you and me for the times when we are tempted to lose vibrant hope.
As a Hebrew, Paul usually prayed from a standing position. But he told the Christians at Ephesis that when he prayed this prayer for them, he bowed his knees. “Bowing the knees” was a phrase used to express prostrating yourself. Paul wanted the Christians to know the deep earnestness of this prayer for them. Calvin believed that Paul had his face in the dirt of the floor of the prison from which this prayer was dictated. If that was so, he would have had to take down the Roman guard who was chained to him. Parenthetically, it is bracing to remember that they had to rotate off the guards who guarded the Apostle, because they all were being converted to Christ!
The Apostle Paul’s prayer was prayed for Christians who were being tempted to lose heart. They were deeply concerned about the tribulations he was going through in Rome and for the challenges all of the followers of Christ were facing. It was not easy to be a Christian in Ephesus or Asia Minor. Note the verse that immediately precedes the opening of the prayer: “Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart” and then the prayer begins….”For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Greek word for loss of heart used by Paul is ekkakein, from the verb ekkakeo, pronounced, enkakein, to be dispirited, downcast, to grow weary, lack courage, faint, or lose verve and vitality.
There’s a deeper meaning to ekkakein. It can mean to give in to the forces of evil. This would be the meaning of ekkakomen in Galatians 6:9 “Let us not keep on giving in to evil while doing the good.” And II Thes. 3:13 “Do not grow weary in doing good.” Here “enkakesete” implies to behave badly in, to be cowardly, to lose courage, to flag, to faint. It can happen when the evidence of evil in the world around us actually draws us into giving in to evil in our own choices and behavior. It is a growing hopelessness that brings us to helplessness in temptation. Paul’s friends at Ephesus were tempted to discouragement about their own challenges because of what was happening to him in prison.