This is typical religion. Lots of need. Little real help. There is no praise in this. We do not praise the 30 foot Buddha statue with cracked cement nor do we admire the Hindu goddess of death. People might fear these idols, but they do not admire them. And perhaps there are those few devotees that would admire, but surely what they would admire is on a whole different level than what we see here in this verse.
Nor do we praise humanism who believes in man’s success but in every case we see man failing, floundering and acting like a plain fool. We get so used of quarrels, fights and wars. They just seem to be appendages to mankind. Shame on us for exploring other planets when we cannot rule our own well. We would just transport wretchedness to other places! The shows go on and on praising some actor and giving some award, but are we saying anything about the true person’s character? They might have a horrible life but give an award for their acting quite willing to dismiss how mean he was to his or her spouse. Man wants to give praise but how foolish we cast our praise. Having you ever given praise to some sport’s star, actor or organization? Are they really that honorable? Men can get quite deceived and carried away, sometimes not for good motives.
Jesus is different. He healed the man. He took God's power and had that man lift his mat and walk. We are so used to worldly ways that we cannot even fathom what God wants to do in most the circumstances that we face. We are blind to His great work. May God open our eyes to see more of Him and His power.
Do you remember they did this to Herod.
“Now he was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon; and with one accord they came to him, and having won over Blastus the king’s chamberlain, they were asking for peace, because their country was fed by the king’s country. And on an appointed day Herod, having put on his royal apparel, took his seat on the rostrum and began delivering an address to them. And the people kept crying out, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died.” (Acts 12:20-23).
Although Herod was mad and therefore the question of a future food supply was in question, the people of Tyre and Sidon worked out the political deal through Blastus who had a key role for Herod. For food and money many will do a lot of things such as yell out “the voice of a god not of a man.” I doubt the people believed it, maybe they did, but Herod did and was struck by God just like the antiChrist will be in the coming days.
Only God is to be praised. Everything else that is exalted attempts to steal from God’s glory. Instead let us be like the Psalmist who says, “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Thy name give glory because of Thy lovingkindness, because of Thy truth.” (Psalms 115:1). We are accountable for all our thoughts and words. We must be careful that we do not praise the foolish and vain and do not give sufficient adoration to the great King of Kings.
Source of Praise is His Power
God receives praise because He is powerful. When we think of power, we might think of big tractors or a rocket blasting off. That is a display of power but nothing compared to God’s.
The word for power is actually used twice in Ephesians 3:20, once as a noun and once as a verb. It comes from the Greek word from which we get dynamite. This gives us a great image of power. The verb here is actually translated “he is able.” Whereas dynamite speaks of a destructive power, the power spoken of here is constructive. We find that it is easy to destroy things. The terrorists can destroy something in one day as massive as the World Trade Towers. God’s power is much more awesome in that it is constructive.
Imagine having a grenade sort of object which you could throw into an empty field and a tree full of delicious fruit would instantly spring up. Or toss another kind into an empty city plot and a beautiful high rise would come about in just moments. Or throw another one into the sea and one would have a great ocean liner. This is power. Power to build, construct and accomplish. In the creation God merely had to cast some words about and great things happened. This is power unlimited!
God’s power is so great that He must use more power to keep Himself from destroying evil than actually allowing it to exist. We describe this power as His patience. He destroyed the world with a large flood. He put a reminder in the sky in the form of a rainbow to remind Himself not to destroy the world again in that way. Imagine God’s power in forming a colorful circle in the sky just to remind himself of His promise. This is our God. Fortunately, God specializes in constructive energy. Man has something like this but it is on a whole different scale. We call it work.
Man takes what is not his and modifies it for his own use. Man takes God’s things, most often without permission, takes and reshapes objects made of atoms, gases, wood and genes and makes things often for his selfish use. While this can be constructive, it is hardly on the same level God does His work. Jesus turned water into wine. “Jesus said to him (the lame man), “Arise, take up your pallet, and walk.” And immediately the man became well, and took up his pallet and began to walk.”( John 5:8-9). God makes a way that the sinner, fully deserving judgment, can escape it! Jesus takes the dead and makes them alive. Praise God!
Exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think
Paul describes God’s work as “Exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think.” The more he thinks upon God’s power, the more he is stunned. The combination of these two words ‘exceeding abundantly’ takes our minds into another orbit. Paul has seen it. He actually saw someone touch his poor clothing and immediately found healing. The people rightly saw superpower in what happened but wrongly connected that power to Paul. This story the man did not even need to touch Paul but to look into his eyes.
“This man was listening to Paul as he spoke, who, when he had fixed his gaze upon him, and had seen that he had faith to be made well, said with a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he leaped up and began to walk. And when the multitudes saw what Paul had done, they raised their voice, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have become like men and have come down to us.” And they began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. But when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you in order that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, WHO MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA, AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM. “And in the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” And even saying these things, they with difficulty restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.” (Acts 14:9-18).
We should not only think of healings. God works through all sorts of circumstances to bring about praise to His great Name.
It is not always what is done that is so great but how it is done including the time, touch of grace and finesse. I remember the first time I went to India. I found out that it would cost about $8,000. I only had weeks left to raise the money. I only had enough for a one way ticket. Little money came in. For a few days, I had to fight off surges of worry. Then God heard my cry and spoke to me with two verses. One verse was “You give them something to eat.” I was amazed as I thought upon this verse from the Feeding of 5,000.
This and the other verse gave this helpless guy faith and assurance to take what he had, which was not much, and give it towards the trip. We were going to feed these hungry pastors and evangelists. We needed many thousands of dollars but I only had a boy’s lunch worth. But somehow by His grace He supplied at the very last moment. First, there was money for a full ticket. Then enough for one seminar and lastly, for all the seminars. God loves to show His exceeding abundant power in these impossible situations. It was no coincidence. God intervened.
Those things that we would not even think about asking or thinking possible are the very things He specializes in doing. Now I do not believe Paul is only speaking of great things He will do in the distant future but now in our time and world. God is seeking to strike against secularism by showing His glorious power and love. The problem is that when we hit impossible situations that we then give up! We allow the opportunity to see God’s amazing grace to pass by. We end up being discouraged and people who do not see God’s great works and turn to God. Instead we become those who do not really believe in the power of God in this what is called modern age.
What if we, instead, stopped thinking what God could not do and started to turn those impossible situations into times to see what God could and would do? We are not thinking about whether God wants to do something special. We only have to look at the Bible to see God loves doing great things. But we need to corporately and personally start to look to Him on how He can and will. Let us see how His power has to do with our lives.
The Power in our Lives
God has made us as His children to be those stewards of His grace. He says “according to to the power that words within us.” Is this the same power that is exceeding abundantly beyond what we ask or think? Sure. The power is there or should we say the God who is able to do such things is there in the lives of the believers.
What for? He is there to bring glory to His great Name. This truth has great ramifications on how we are to live out our Christian lives. There is nothing, nowhere, no situation in which God cannot show His extraordinary power at work. In fact, the more given up, hopeless, and impossible, the more God is able to get the power, honor and glory. The more we are all convinced that it is impossible, the more we are convicted that it is God who has done it and not ourselves.
When Paul says that it is beyond what we ask or think, he is stating that we cannot come up with solutions. He is not saying that we should not seek His power to help us in these situations. I tell myself and others this often repeated advice, “It is okay not to know what to do.” The point is that we come in faith and believe God can care for the need that we bring to Him. It is much like Mary’s mother when she told Jesus of the need for wine at the wedding.
What did she do? The scriptures simply tell us, “His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” (John 2:5). She did not bother with the impossibilities but was content Jesus knew about the need. We are told that this became the first miracle that Jesus had done. It was done because a need was given to Jesus that man could not handle. Did you watch what the servants did? As they followed Jesus’ instructions, the need for wine was fully cared for. (Click for more on John 2:1-11)
This power that is mentioned is said to be in us, brothers and sisters. God who dwells on high lives within us. He is waiting for us to start believing and seeing Him work. Let me try to work this out a bit more practical.
God often puts some need on our hearts. We become really burdened with something.
Some might rightly ask, “How do we know that it is something that God has put on our hearts and not just something that we are thinking?” If it is something honorable and something that we cannot do, it probably is from God. If we could somehow handle the situation on our own, then perhaps it is from the evil one. This would only build up our pride.
Because we do not have resources to do a certain thing, whether time, health, emotional stability, finances, education, we often just dismiss them as impossible. This is where you are instead to come back to your authority as the children of God to take this need before the Lord of Lords. It can be something as simple as the comfort of a person who has lost a loved one, strength to serve when you are weak, peace when you are confused, patience where you have lost all your sanity. They are all things that God would want and that we cannot do on our own.
We then start the prayer, “I know what you want but I cannot do it on my own.” Notice how we admit our inability but lean on His ability-His power. I have again and again done this very thing in my ministry, whether it was starting a church, knowing how to disciple, knowing what to say in a very awkward situation, need for finances, strength to preach in oppressive situations. There are people who have the gift of faith, but this privilege, or should I say responsibility to make God more alive in this secular world is the responsibility of all of us. He doesn’t say that the power lives only in the apostles or those with a gift of faith. Jesus again and again told His followers, “Ask what you wish and it will be done for you.”
The Lord put a certain circumstance in my life the time I was writing this sermon. I believe it was for you as much for me. Let me share this humble and yet real story.
Testimony on God's Power
God has been working through the sermon preparation as well as several other verses through the day. I had been extremely busy. I had little to no free time. I started cutting into my sleep hours. Then something happened. It started off so innocently when my child came to me telling me that the garage door wasn’t working. Our Isaac went to help our Rebekah get the tricycle out of our detached garage.
I went down on that hot day figuring I would just figure it out and come back. But no, the door handle had been fixed into a locked position. It wasn’t working. The garage door was opening but someone turned the handle and locked the metal bars into the rail so nobody could open it. Without a separate entrance, I figured that I would have to break through one of the small door panels, crawl through the small opening and straighten out the bars. But the whole thought of it made me a bit disgruntled especially since I felt extra busy.
This just so happened just before a class that evening. I had only about 2o minutes to fix it. I could not. I tried putting more torque on the turn of the handle, but it would not budge even when I lifted the door the 4-5 inches that it could. Humbled, I went to class. I didn’t know what I would say to my son-in-law. After class I was to pick him up at the airport and bring him to my house so that he could get his car. I earlier had told him that I would put his car in the garage while he was away. After I picked him up, we were there looking at the stubborn garage door at midnight. I just gave him keys to my car and told him to come for dinner the next evening. Hopefully, we would have his car out by then.
I had been praying for this whole matter. The Lord reminded me the next morning that I had not been able to praise Him for this situation. I did not at all feel like praising Him. Busy, distracted and not wanting to put a hole in the door that I would later have to fix did not appeal to me. But I humbled my heart and gave praise to Him for ruling over all things including my locked garage door. He is the great sovereign one who rules over all things.
It was a good thing that I praised Him. When I did this, God started to give me His extraordinary patience. He also gave me ideas. At breakfast I thought about the door having a keyhole. I honestly did not think it would help but because I thought about it, I started to follow the idea up. I asked my son to look in the drawer for a set of keys. He could not find anything. There was the small thought that told me I ought to look for the key.
Now you must realize that I did not at all think the key would work. I could not remember using the key at all (of course with my memory that doesn’t mean I never used it before). In any case, I went through the drawers cleaning out some junk and discovered an old ripped envelope with the words, ‘garage door keys’ on it. Inside I saw a key. I went down to the garage in the rain to try it out.
As I figured, it didn’t even fit in because of paint. But I moved it to and fro and finally got it into place but wouldn’t budge the handle as I thought.
Meanwhile, I had been preparing this sermon on Ephesians 3:20-21. I realized that this whole door incident could possibly have been framed to bring me to my end. Later in the day when I got a break, I took the key, oil for the lock, screwdriver to take the lock off, a chisel to get the paint off the screws, pliers to turn the key, hammer to pound out the panel and a block of wood to put on the panel so I might be able to reuse the panel, though I doubted it. My son-in-law was soon coming to get his car. I needed to get in there. I then prayed. I realized that He was able to make the door work. He was testing me whether I believed He was able to help me with the lock and the management of my time. I told Him that I would tell others if He helped me. When I went down there with all my tools and old clothes to climb through the hole, I trusted somehow He would help me. I was hoping that He would make it easy.
My daughter found out I was going down and so followed me. I sprayed the hole. I figured I would try the key again. It would not budge so I used the pliers trying not to break the key. It did not move at first but then started to loosen. In the end the key actually turned and I could unlock the handle. My six year old said, “Just perfect.” It was just perfect. She could now get her tricycle.
The lesson was about God’s willingness to use everyday events to show His power and remind His people to put their trust in Him. After I praised Him for the opportunity, I started to pray. He reminded me of a very faint memory of a garage key in a certain drawer. I have learned to follow those little thoughts that come after prayer. I was sure that it would not work. But I went just the same trying every last step even cleaning out the drawer and seeing if it was there even when my son said he saw no keys. God opened the door. God was able. His timing to again show me the truth of the Word was important.
You see, it would not have been so special if I was not so busy, my son-in-law’s car was not trapped in there, and my 6 year-old’s tricycle was not also locked in there. But with this pressure, it made me find a solution. In the end, what was impossible to me was possible with God. It is such situations that we meet with all the time. Would I complain or praise Him? Did I believe He could help me or not? This passage again showed me that God is in control of all things. Praise to His Name! 5/16/07
The general principles are seen in the verses below.
“Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7).
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11).
“Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they shall be granted you” (Mark 11:24).
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you.” (John 15:7).
“And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” ““And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever” (John 14:13, 14, 16).
Is there something that God has prompted you to do and would like done, but don’t know how? If so, say with me my simple prayer.
“Lord would you by your Almighty power …… . You know how helpless I am. I can’t do it. You can. In Jesus’ Great Name. Amen.”
Your prayer might be for a child, a wife, a husband, a nation, for understanding, financial breakthrough, opportunity to evangelize or for hundreds of people to be saved. Just ask what the Spirit prompts you. You will have enough faith to ask this because the Spirit has prompted you. Then carefully watch God’s awesome power at work.
This is God’s amazing power. We have looked at God’s power. Now we will focus on God’s amazing glory in Ephesians 3:21.