Text: Ephesians 3:14-21
Here’s a true story: While having a picnic on a scorching day at a
application: Ole Evinrude
was not a lazy man but he understood there are limits of human power. Everyday
we employ machinery to accomplish tasks human power alone would be either impossible
or very difficult to accomplish. But many Christians often stubbornly rely on their
own power in serving God to accomplish His tasks. There must be a better way.
Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Christians in the church at
THE MYSTERY OF SELF RELIANCE:
1) It is an ancient quest: “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God.” (Genesis 3:5)This is the most attractive statement the serpent had made to Eve: To be like God is the most attractive idea to finite human beings. We were born wanting to be independent from parents, teachers, supervisors, government and God. Eve was lured to believe that if she just disobey God once, eat that fruit which God said she and her husband Adam shouldn’t eat, they will be independent of God because they will be like God and have no need of God in their life.
2) It is a universal phenomenon: The quest of self reliance is not only for the ambitious, the higher educated, the able and the rich. It is a universal phenomenon regardless of race, socio-economic status, education or intelligence. We all want to be self sufficient and self reliant. We see little children wander away from mothers in busy shopping malls, shake off the holding hands of their parents when crossing a busy street and refuse to follow instruction of their teachers. The frequently used phrase “I can handle that” is both a dream and a statement of self reliance.
3) We want to do things our way: Being independent may not be a bad thing in life but to be independent from God and people may get us in lots of trouble. But all of us were born with that natural desire wanting to see things done our way. Most of us are reluctant to allow others to make plans for our lives. We don’t like to be told what to do and how to do it all the time. In trying to be truly independent of others, we have to rely on our knowledge, wisdom and experience—a more subtle way of self reliance.
4) We want that self assertion: Self assertion is one of the steps to build the value and purpose of our existence. Although we learn from experiences and knowledge of others, we love to see that unique value we may contribute to people and things around us. Because of the need of self assertion, we tend to value ourselves over and above others, be it ideas, methods or even philosophy. We trust in ourselves more than in others. This is another reason we love self reliance: it is I, me and myself. Some may call this self centeredness. Others may call it arrogance. But the need of self believing is a strong power that pushes us to rely on ourselves.
THE PROBLEMS OF SELF RELIANCE:
1) It is against God’s design: From the way God created the universe and human being, we clearly see that God wants to reserve the ultimate control and purpose in His own hands. The first communication between God and man was an order, a restriction: “do not eat the fruits of that tree or you shall die.” While God created human being with certain abilities, He did not create anyone of us with all the abilities to do all things to the point that we may think we don’t need God or we are gods like some may think. Anyone with a sober mind can see many limitations in all of us including limitations of wisdom, physical power, emotional strength and mental capacity. Human being is not all powerful. For anyone to think that way is against God’s design.
2) It is a sign of empty pride: In some cases, pride may not be so bad and could be a natural tendency. We may feel proud when we have accomplished a good job. But for anyone to be so self asserted to think that he is all he needs to do all the things he wants to do is plain empty pride. Once a Communist leader proclaimed a slogan: “Man’s power is better than God,” is an extreme example of man’s empty pride. There are so many elements in nature, environment and the world that may affect our efforts of accomplishment that are way beyond the control of a single person or a group of people or even a country. To have so much pride in self belief or reliance is worse than empty pride, it is plain ignorance.
3) It is a sure way to deficiency: Efficiency means effectiveness, high productivity and better results. Deficiency means just the opposite. When someone relies only on his power, wisdom and experience, he can only achieve the measure equals to his limited power and ability. I am sure when Ole tried to row that boat to buy his fiancée ice cream he must have done his utmost on his physical strength as fast as he could. Yet the temperature of a summer day, the distance and time to take that round trip were just too much for his human power to keep that ice cream from melting. That’s why Ole tried a different way---building a portable, light weight off-board motor so small boats don’t have to be rowed slowly by human power. If we insist on relying on our own power to serve God to make things happen, we are doomed to be deficient with little outcome of life.
4) It is not an honest assumption: If you are truly honest on human power and the idea of self reliance, you will see that there are very few things, if any at all, that are achieved totally and completely by a single person without the help of other elements. From career success to academic achievement, from family harmony to raising outstanding kids, we can easily see that there are many “outside contributing factors” besides yourself that make your achievement possible. To ignore, to discredit or to undervalue the importance of these contributing factors and to claim all of the credits to yourself is less than being honest or outright dishonest. We need to be fair to those who have helped us to achieve what we have today.
HERE IS THE
1) Empowered by His strength: “Out of His glorious riches, he may strengthen you with his power in your inner being.” (3:16) Instead of relying on our strength to live our life, to serve in church responsibilities, to manage our family, to raise our children and to be fruitful so we may glorify God, God offers us a better way to do all the above and more: be strengthened by His power. As Jesus said in John 15:5, all we need to do is “stay in Him” to receive that power to allow God to work in us instead of we “try” to work for Him. His power is much more than ours.
2) Empowered by His indwelling: “So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through (your) faith.” ()It is not how much we may do on the outside but what we have on the inside that counts. When Christ dwells in our heart, becomes our inner strength, we don’t have to rely on our own strength to produce fruits. The question is who occupying our hearts? Our own desires and human wisdom or Jesus himself?
3) Empowered by His infinite love: “(You) may have power together with all the saints to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” ()No one may accurately measure the power of love even the human love. We read and heard powerful and inspiring stories on the unbelievable power of love and the amazing results love has produced. How much more we may do and fruits we may bear and results we may achieve if we allow God’s love to be the center of our everyday operation of life.
4) Empowered by His fulness: “That you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” ()The “fullness” of God is the “all God is.” No one may imagine how much or how big God is. God, through the pen of Paul, wants us to know He loves to fill us up with “all of Him”: His power, His wisdom, His presence, his infinite knowledge, his immeasurable riches and everything else in Him. When we are filled by His “fullness”, we won’t be lacking anything in our life or any power to do His service. Is there any part inside us still not filled by God? Do we still reserve or keep part of us from giving it completely to God. When He is inside of us to the fullest extent, everything is possible.
5) Empowered for His work: “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within us.” ()Human wisdom, fervency, strength and good intention will never be sufficient when we try to do God’s work. We have to stop our own efforts, stop using our own wisdom, stop trying to design and promote His work and turn ourselves around in surrender, in humility and in faith that He will do much more than all we may imagine if we “let God do His work.” We need to have faith that He can do much more than we can ever imagine and remain still to allow His power to work.
6) Empowered for His church: “To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations for ever and ever! Amen.” ()When Christians are empowered by the indwelling of God, they are to bring glory to God’s church. The power of God was given to us to build His church so He will be glorified.
1) Realize our limitation: It is very biblical to admit our inadequacy and dependency of God in our life and service of God. We need to see the better way for our life and work for the Lord. It is from Him we receive all the power for life and work. We can do nothing without Him.
2) Seek and find the better way: God is never stingy in providing us power and courage to live and serve to glorify Him. But we need to humble ourselves before him to He can work His best through us for His glory.
3) There is the best way: The best way for successful life is to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. He will direct our life to a higher ground and make us achieve His purposes in us. Choosing the right way for your life and you will be a blessing to others.