I can’t remember exactly how the topic came up, but at a recent dinner at home, my daughters were talking about the movie Aladdin. Of course, the character of Genie came up. Aladdin finds a golden lamp in a collapsed cave, and as he rubs the lamp, he inadvertently unleashes Genie. Genie reveals that he will grant Aladdin three wishes, with the exception of murder, romance, and raising the dead, of course. So, my girls began talking about what they would wish for if they had unleashed Genie. At the time, I think their wishes had something to do with not having to eat their vegetables. That one didn’t come true. But, it did bring about an interesting conversation on what they would do with such power at their fingertips.
Now, I’m certainly not comparing God to Genie, but in Ephesians chapter 3 we are given a very powerful promise … a promise that God is able to unleash His power and do immeasurably more than all we could ever ask or imagine.
In the first three chapters of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul is writing all about what God has done to bring us in to a relationship with Him and all that He will do to continue to shape our relationship with Him. So for three chapters we hear about God’s grace and His blessings in Jesus and His plan for Jews and Gentiles. Chapter 3 ends with Paul basically telling us about the amazing love of God … that we literally need supernatural power from God to even begin to grasp “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (v.18) Paul then ends chapter 3 by telling us that God is able to do “immeasurably more than all we could ever ask or imagine according to His power that is at work inside of us.” (v. 20)
As Paul moves to chapter 4, this is where things turn a corner in the book of Ephesians. We are moving from what God has done to what our responsibility is because of what God has done. And, this is where things start to get really interesting for me. If I were writing the book of Ephesians and I just said that God’s power is so incomprehensible that He can do immeasurably more than all you could ever ask or imagine, my first instructions then would probably be something like this: “Since God can do more than you’d ever imagine, go get ‘em! Be bold! Take the ball down the field. Don’t let anything stop you or get in your way. Since God can do immeasurably more, go after it!” Now, all of that is true, don’t get me wrong. We certainly need to remember that God is with us and we can move forward in His power. Our faith is meant to do some good! But, Paul’s very first instructions after saying that God’s power is so great that He can do immeasurably more is a mysterious contradiction to all of that. Paul says, “God can do anything, you know. He can do far more than you could ever imagine or guess or even ask for in your wildest dreams! Because of that … ‘be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.’” (v. 2) Interesting.
When told that God can do immeasurably more, I immediately want to turn it toward what I can now do, but Paul immediately turns it toward who I can now be. As I’ve reflected on this over the past couple of weeks, I’ve come to realize that it’s probably easier for me to take the ball down the field and to go after it and get something done because all of that focuses on what I’m doing. But, being humble and gentle and patient and bearing with one another … those things focus on who I’m being. I think it’s always easier to do than to be. It’s always easier to focus on what I want to accomplish rather than on who I want to become. And, my own personal thought is that God is probably more concerned with who we are being rather than what we are doing because who we are will always show up in what we do … every time. (Stanley).
So, personally, that means it’s more important for me to think about who God wants me to be and how He wants to continue to shape me into that person … and that change will always start with humility.
So, if I want to allow God to continue His change in my life, it always has to start with me humbling myself. I know I’m not humbling myself when I see the best in me but the worst in others. I know I’m not humbling myself when I’m more concerned with being right than trying to understand. I know I’m not humbling myself when I’m more aware of what God has to do in you and less aware of what God wants to do in me. I know I’m not humbling myself when I start looking down on someone else because they are not yet where I believe I am. I know I’m not humbling myself when I’m seeking to be heard more instead of seeking to listen more. I know I’m not humbling myself when I’m willing to accept the credit but unwilling to accept the blame. I know I’m not humbling myself when I’m not praying. I know I’m not humbling myself when I’d rather be known for doing great things for God instead of being known for faithfulness to the God who has saved me.
If I’m not humble, I won’t be gentle. If I’m not gentle, I certainly won’t be patient. If I’m not patient, there is no way I will bear with someone in love. And, all of this just seems like an impossible task to me … to be humble and gentle and patient and bearing with other people … I mean, seriously! Give me a task to do any day! But, the reality is that I can’t “do” humble. I must “be” humble. I can’t “do” gentle. I must “be” gentle. I can’t “do” patient. I must “be” patient. I can’t “do” bearing. I must “be” humble and gentle and patient in order to bear with others in love.
There are some very difficult people out there. And, honestly, I don’t have to look any further than the mirror to see one of those difficult people. When dealing with difficult people, my natural reaction is to always ask, “Why do they have to be this way?” But, when I do that, I am basically looking at how they need to change instead of how I need to act. Yet, in the most difficult of situations, I need to be completely humble and gentle and patient and I need to bear with others in love. And, I just don’t know how that’s even possible sometimes … until I read Ephesians 4:7 … “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” So, what that tells me is that God’s grace will always intersect my life and enable me to be the person I could never be on my own.
“God’s grace is the most powerful force in the universe … It reaches you where you are and takes you where God wants you to be. It has the power to do something that nothing else can do: transform you at the core of who you are as a human being - your heart.” (Tripp)