In the summer of 1990, after several months of testing the waters of high tech, I plunged in and officially joined the computer age. With the help of a friend I purchased an IBM PC-compatible XT computer and an Epson LQ-510 printer. Compared to the lightning speed of the newer generations of 286, 386, 486 and now 586 DX computers, my XT moves like a tortoise in January, but it does the job nevertheless.
I use my computer primarily for word processing, a high tech term for typing. The software that I use for word processing is supposedly very powerful. I say “supposedly” because of the 541 pages in the manual that came with it, I have read about 70 pages. Of the nearly two dozen programs contained in my software package I know one: the word processor. And of the dozen or so applications contained within the word processing program I know one: how to type. I have read just enough to get me going but not enough to fully understand all that the software and thus the computer can do. The only way I am going to discover the full power of my computer and its software is by becoming more familiar with what it can do.
If we apply the same analogy to the Ephesians, we can begin to understand the content of Paul’s prayer for them in Ephesians 1:15-23. His prayer is motivated by their faith in the Lord Jesus and their love for all the saints. He has heard about their faith in the Lord Jesus; they have the computer. He has also heard about their love for all the saints; they are using the software.
Yet they just don’t know how powerful both of them really are. There sits this powerful machine, loaded with all sorts of information and capabilities, but much of it goes unused simply because they have not fully familiarized themselves with all it can do. They have confessed a saving faith in Jesus Christ; that’s good. They have also demonstrated a vibrant love for one another; that, too, is very good. But if they are to get a real handle on God’s power, they must deepen their faith and broaden their love.
Underlying Paul’s prayer is his conviction that the more we learn about God’s character, the more we will discover about His power on our behalf. The more we discover about God’ s power on our behalf, the more we are able to get a handle on it.
To get a handle on God’s power, we must familiarize ourselves with
I. The Responsibility of Privilege (Ephesians 1:17)
Before the creation of the world, God chose us in Christ. He knows us. He knows how we are made, what makes us tick, what makes us do the things we do. He knows us better than we know ourselves and still He chose to adopt us as His children through Christ. Our election by God is a privilege. At the same time, that privilege implies a responsibility. God knows us, but how well do we know Him? An even better question would be, how well do we want to know Him?
When I was a little boy my hero was Mickey Mantle, the great switch-hitting center fielder of the New York Yankees. I knew a lot about him; where he was born, where he played minor league ball, the brand of bat he used, that he played in pain most of the time. However, even though I knew a lot about Mickey Mantle, I didn’t know him personally. There are many religious people who know Christ in the same way I know about Mickey Mantle. It’s one thing to know facts about Jesus Christ; it is an entirely different matter to know Him personally.
We must be careful to make sure that our knowledge of Jesus Christ goes beyond simple familiarity with the facts about Him. Our salvation doesn’t depend on knowing the facts about Jesus, it depends on knowing Him personally. In Matthew 7:21, Jesus said these very disturbing words: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Paul was convinced that the Ephesians knew Jesus personally. Yet that didn’t stop him from praying that the Holy Spirit would help them find ever new ways to know Christ better.
It is the nature of a personal relationship to grow in knowledge, intimacy and trust. The Spirit is given to help us deepen our knowledge of Christ by giving us God-directed common sense and insight. The goal is not so much that we become Ph.D.s in our knowledge of Christ, as it is that we become life-long learners: disciples who continually make it our aim to know Christ more and more intimately throughout our lives.
To get a handle on God’s power, we must familiarize ourselves with the responsibility of privilege; we must also familiarize ourselves with
II. The Reason for Our Existence (Ephesians 1:18)
A tourist came too close to the edge of the Grand Canyon, lost his footing and plunged over the side, clawing and scratching to save himself. After he went out of sight and just before he fell, he grabbed onto a scrubby bush which he desperately grabbed with both hands. Filled with terror, he called out, “Is there anyone up there?” A calm, powerful voice came out of the sky, “Yes, there is.”
The tourist pleaded, “Can you help me? Can you get me out of this? Can you rescue me?”
“Yes,” said the voice. “I can help you, but…”
“But what?” asked the panicky tourist.
“Do you have faith?”
“Yes, yes, I have faith!” the tourist shouted.
“In that case,” said the calm, powerful voice, “let go of the scrubby bush and everything will be fine.” There was a tense pause, then the tourist yelled, “Is anyone else up there?”
Real hope is founded on trust in the person in whom our hope is placed. If we do not fully trust God for our salvation, then our hope in Him is hollow.
According to Colossians 1:27, the hope to which God has called us is rooted in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Listen to what it says: “God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” That’s good news! That means if on some days I’m in a blue mood and think that all is lost, it isn’t. That’s because the hope of my salvation doesn’t depend on what I feel; it rests on who Jesus is: the unchanging, eternal Savior, Redeemer and Lord. The better I know Jesus, the better I will be able to trust Him; the better I am able to trust Him, the more certain will be my hope in Him.
When you come down to the brass tacks of our faith, our redemption rests squarely on our hope that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. There is a pattern here: faith leads to knowledge. Knowledge leads to trust. Trust leads to hope. Hope assures our faith, increases our desire for knowledge and strengthens the fiber of our trust. The more we grow in the assurance of our hope in Christ, the more we become willing to risk great things for the sake of God’s kingdom.
This is why Paul prays “that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened.” It takes spiritual eyes to see spiritual blessings and one of our spiritual blessings is Christ in us, the hope of glory! It also takes spiritual eyes to see things that are not yet and make them a reality by risking our lives by hoping in Christ.
The great English missionary to India, William Carey, is reported to have once said, “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.” May our expectation of God’s great things keep growing until the day when the hope we see in our hearts becomes visible to our eyes.
To get a handle on God’s power, we must familiarize ourselves with the responsibility of privilege, the reason for our existence, and thirdly, we must familiarize ourselves with
III. The Reality of Our Possession (Ephesians 1:18)
When I was in grade 2, the public school I attended began a program to encourage students to save money. Each student opened a passbook savings account with the Franklin National Bank. Every week we would bring in our passbooks and make a deposit into our student savings account. This program lasted until grade six. By then my little account grew to about three hundred dollars. For an eleven-year-old that was a small fortune.
So there I was with three hundred dollars. How was I going to spend it? What could I buy with three hundred dollars? A baseball glove? Toys? A new bike? Anything but clothes! An eleven-year-old with three hundred dollars is like a mosquito in a nudist colony. He knows what to do, he just doesn’t know where to start. I needed someone to give me wisdom and revelation to help me spend my money wisely. That role was fulfilled by my Mom and Dad.
As Christians we have been blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing. In Christ, we have been given a limitless spiritual inheritance. We are, if you will, a church full of eleven-year-olds with three hundred dollars. We need someone to guide us in the knowledge of these blessings. We need someone to teach us when to use them in the right way, at the right time and for the right reasons. We need someone to give us insight as to how these blessings are meant to help our faith That Someone is the Holy Spirit.
It is the role of the Holy Spirit to teach us how to use the infinite variety of spiritual blessings we have in Christ. At the same time, He is a deposit guaranteeing that the blessings we enjoy on earth are but a foretaste of the reward that awaits us in heaven. An inheritance is no good if it is misspent and doesn’t last. If the eyes of our heart are enlightened by the Holy Spirit we will learn not just to spend our inheritance wisely, we will also grow in our confidence of its eternal existence.
To get a handle on God’s power, we must familiarize ourselves with the responsibility of privilege, the reason for our existence, the reality of our possession, and lastly, we must familiarize ourselves with
IV. The Resource at Our Disposal (Ephesians 1:19-23)
When it comes to our knowledge of God’s incomparably great power on our behalf, many of us are like the fellow who purchased a chain saw, then brought it back to the hardware store where he’d purchased it. He slammed the chain saw down on the counter and bellowed at the owner, “That is a piece of junk! You told me that I could cut down 40 trees a day and I can’t cut down any more than three.” The owner said, “Well, maybe the teeth on the saw need to be sharpened.”
Once that was done, the man took the saw back home, only to return three days later. The man said, “It’s still a piece of junk. It’s a little bit better, but not much. I cut down five trees but you said I could cut down forty. I want my money back.”
The store owner was confounded. “I really don’t understand it. This is a good piece of equipment. Let’s try it out.” With that he pulled the starter rope and the chain saw roared to life. With a look of complete surprise the man demanded of the store owner, “What’s that noise?”
If we only know about God’s power on our behalf it’s like trying to use a chain saw with the engine turned off. But if we know God’s power in a personal way, suddenly the chain saw of our faith roars to life. If we are to know the incomparably great power of God, we must know His incomparably great Son, Jesus Christ, as Savior. God’s power is incomparably great because it’s a power out of all proportion to our needs.
How mighty is God’s power? It’s like the power He exerted when He raised Christ from the dead. It is resurrection power. It is the power that breathes life into people and situations we believed were long since dead. It is the power that enthrones Christ as Lord over the universe. The power that guarantees the ultimate triumph of light over darkness, justice over oppression, good over evil, life over death.
It is the power that establishes Christ as Lord of the church. He is the Head who fills the body with the fullness of His presence by His Holy Spirit. He directs us according to His will the way our brains direct our bodies.
The same power with which God exerted Himself to raise Christ from the dead, enthrone and establish Him as Lord of all, is the same power He lavishes upon us in order to overwhelm us with His glorious love, wisdom, understanding, revelation, forgiveness, mercy, healing, peace, grace, indeed His very essence. It is the power that God uses to restore relationships, overcome obstacles, heal broken bodies, comfort grieving hearts, assure anxious minds, and more. And all for us in Christ!
Sometime ago, I read a story about another man’s entrance into the computer age. When he first tried to start up his computer it didn’t work. He checked all the plugs, double-checked all the switches, but there was no power. Finally, his son looked down at the surge protector into which the computer, monitor and printer were all plugged in. “Daddy, what is this switch for?” And with that the man’s five-year-old son succeeded where his father had failed — he turned the whole system on.
That is the essence of Paul’s prayer. We are plugged into the very power of God by virtue of our faith in Jesus Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Our responsibility is to make sure that the switches are always turned on.

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