Our Real Wealth

Ephesians 3: 14-21

This is a marvelous prayer in which Paul asked the Lord for some vital things.

Paul prayed that we might be strengthened with power.
He prayed that we may experience faith in love.
He also prayed that we may experience the fullness of God.

Let us look at each of these great spiritual blessings.

First, Paul prays that we might be strengthened with power through God's Spirit in the inner man.

This inner strength is not self-discipline or the power of positive thinking. Philip Yancey, in his book, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, describes the importance
of the white corpuscles in our bloodstream.
They are "the armed forces which guard against invaders."
When damage threatens the body at any point, an alarm seems to sound...
as if they have a sense of smell... nearby white cells abruptly halt their aimless wandering.

Like beagles on the scent of a rabbit, they home in from all directions to the point of attack.
Using their unique shape-changing qualities, they ooze through tissue via the most direct route.

When they arrive, the battle begins... a shapeless white cell, resembling science fiction's creature,
"The Blob," lumbers towards a cluster of luminous bacterial spheres.
Like a blanket pulled over a corpse, the cell assumes their shape;
for a while they still glow eerily inside the white cell.

But the white cell contains granules of chemical explosives, and as soon as the bacteria are absorbed
the granules detonate, destroying the invaders.
In 30 seconds to a minute only the bloated white cell remains.

When the body is attacked, it resists.
To do this, it must be strengthened from within.

When Christians are attacked by the forces of evil, we too, must resist.
And to do this, we need reinforcements.
We need to be strengthened from within.

That is why Paul prays that God according to the riches of His glory, may strengthen us
with might by His Spirit in the inner man.

No matter what form the attack takes, we can be "more than conquerors."
In fact, that's the only way we can keep coping and functioning and living in a world such as this. God, the Father, is the source of this power of inner strength.

How do we get it?
We ask God for it in prayer.

This kind of power is not physical power.
It is not intellectual power.
It is not emotional power.
It is spiritual power.

I have wanted that kind of power all of my Christian life.
I have wanted the power to do what I should do and power not to do what I know I should not do.
I want the power to close that gap between what I ought to be and what I am.

Where is the power?
What does it look like?
How do I get it?
Why haven't I felt it?

Haven't you ever wanted to pray to have the rain stop, and then pray to have it start raining again?
Haven't you ever wanted to pray to see multitudes saved?
Haven't you wanted to pray to see signs and miracles?

We don't have that kind of power.
I'm aware that some claim to, but they don't.

When you study the Bible, you learn that the signs and miracles were concentrated
within a relatively short time frame.
They were periods of rapid or crucial change, such as: the deliverence of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.
The time of the prophets when God was trying to get the nation of Israel to repent
so that He would not have to send them into captivity.
The life and ministry of Jesus and the time of the early church when God moved
to a different level of relating to His children.

As the message of the gospel was established and began to spread, exciting displays
of supernatural power began to subside.
Trace the chronology of the epistles in the New Testament (which is different
from the order they appear in the Bible) and you see the Christian faith take on a deeper, quieter tone.

In the lives of believers you see hope, contentment, thankfulness, joy, peace, praise, humility,
steadfastness, patience, and love.
While none of these are flamboyant manifestations, they are subtle but miraculous evidence
of the power of God strengthening the inner man.

Without the power of God, we cannot grow and become more like Christ.
We cannot be motivated selflessly to serve others.
And we cannot be content in Him.

God does not promise us the power to overcome all circumstances or the power to change
all our thoughts, behavior, and our character immediately.
What He does promise is the strong underlying power of a gradually growing,
changing life to be more like Christ. I would like to have that power all the time.
But if I did, I would get used to that kind of power, and soon it wouldn't be enough. The point is -- the power resides in God and not in us.
I do see signs of it, and I must look through eyes of faith.

God is at work in us and through us.
We don't always recognize it because we are looking frantically in the wrong direction or for the wrong thing.

Paul prays that we might be strengthened with power so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith.

When we were little children, we believed Jimminy Cricket who sang,
"When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true."

Most of us have repeated, "Starlight, starbright, give me the wish I wish tonight."

We have wished upon the evening star.
We have wished on birthday cake and candles.
We were sure, if we believed hard enough, our wishes would come true.
Needless to say, we have had lots of disappointments.

Unfortunately, there are many grown-up Christians who operate under a similar kind
of Magic Kingdom illusion that if you pray long enough and hard enough --
and some would say "claim the result" -- it will happen.
They believe that the only thing that will keep it from happening is your failure to believe.
In other words, if you believe something will happen, it will.

This is not faith.
It is wishful thinking.

Faith is strong and solid and active.
Faith is believing what God has said and acted accordingly.

Many people say, "It doesn't matter what I believe, as long as I believe it sincerely."
Others say, "Faith is believing in spite of the fact that there is nothing to believe."
Even worse some would say, "Believing in spite of the evidence to the contrary."

But faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed. Faith by itself is absolutely worthless.
Faith will not get us off the ground.
Faith will not get us to the second floor.
Faith will not get us even one mile from home.

Only an airplane can fly us across the country.
Only a an elevator can get us to the 40th floor.
Only a well built bridge will get us across the river.

When it comes to power for daily living, the object of our faith must be Jesus Christ.
Once we have invited Christ into our hearts, we must allow Him to settle down and be at home there.
That requires the strengthening power of His Spirit.

Robert Munger, in his book, "My Heart, Christ's Home," provides us a very helpful illustration
of what this means.
The Christian life, he says, is like a house.
When we invite Jesus in, He moves from room to room.

He says that in the library of the mind, Jesus throws out the trash
and replaces it with His Word.
He also says that in the dining room, Jesus replaces our sinful appetites for prestige,
materialism, and lust with the virtues for which we, as believers,
are to hunger and thirst -- humility, meekness, and love.

He describes how Jesus moves on to the living room where He finds many worldly companions
and activities, and even into the closets where we keep our hidden sins.

Munger says that only when Jesus has cleaned every room,
closet and corners in the entire house, can He settle down and be at home.

Christ takes up residence in our hearts when we receive Him as our Lord and Saviour.
But to have Christ dwell in our hearts through faith means He is at home in every corner
of our lives because we believe His promises and, therefore, become obedient to His Word.
(John 14: 23)

Paul prays that we might be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man
so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith... and so that we may experience His abundant love.

Philip Keller in his book, Lessons from a Sheepdog,
tells of a border collie he bought to herd sheep on his ranch in Canada.

The collie was inexpensive because it was ill-tempered and unpredictable,
but Keller was short on funds and hoped the animal would work out
until he could afford a better one.

When Keller got the dog to his ranch, it quickly became clear
that the animal had been beaten, starved and neglected.
It was wild and nervous, and filled with fear and suspicion.

Keller spent several days just trying to win the dog's trust.
He spoke repeatedly and gently to the collie.
He never moved quickly, but always cautiously tried to pet it.
Nothing worked.
The dog remained suspicious and unpredictable and refused to eat.

After almost a week of this, Keller realized that the dog was going to starve to death
unless he let it go free.
So he released the collie and watched it disappear over the hill.

Although he figured he would never see the animal again, he continued to put out food and water
and frequently let his eyes roam the horizon, hoping to catch a glimpse of the dog.

One day, Keller spotted the dog watching him from a distance.
He spoke to the animal, softly.
It disappeared.
The next day the dog appeared again, and that evening, some of the food was gone.
For several days this pattern was repeated as a distant bond of trust began forming.

Then, what seemed impossible, happened.

One morning as Keller sat on a large rock overlooking his grazing sheep,
he noticed, out of the corner of his eye, some movement -- the collie was coming up behind him.
Keller sat motionless, his hands braced behind his back.
Suddenly, he felt a cold, wet nose on his hand,

After a moment, Keller turned slightly and the dog stayed.
Keller put his hand on the dog's head.
The dog began to wag his tail.
At that moment the bond was sealed between the man and the dog.

The collie became Keller's constant companion, giving to him unwavering devotion and obedience.
When Keller left the ranch, the dog refused to eat.

The animal became an extension of Keller himself, working the sheep
with uncanny instinct and precision, loyalty and devotion.

Keller's experience with the collie is a picture of the healing, enriching
and transforming process and progress of love.
That process -- between God and man -- is exactly what Paul is talking about:
"... That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints
what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge
(Ephesians 3: 17-19)

Paul says we are like a tree sinking our roots deeply into the soil of God's love.
Tapping into this love -- experiencing this love -- gives us life and strength and enables us
to stand with security, stability and permanence.
When the winds of adversity blow, the love of God holds us steady.

Paul prays that we may be able to comprehend the magnitude of this love:
"... the breadth and length and height and depth" -- of God's love.

This is not always easy because, as human beings, we have a distorted view of love.

Do you remember that romantic moment in My Fair Lady when lovesick, Freddie wanders
the street in front of Eliza Doolittle's house, lamenting, "that overpowering feeling," he has for her?
That is what love is today -- "that overpowering feeling."

If we wake up the next morning, and don't have that overpowering feeling,
we assume love is gone.
So we dump that relationship and move on, searching for another emotional experience
that we have deluded ourselves into thinking is love.

That isn't love.
It's the world's view of a tom cat.
Love can always wait -- lust can't!

Without a doubt, God hates the world's concept of love.
But not for legalistic reasons, and not because He wants to spoil our fun.

God hates it because the value system of the world is totally opposed to His value system.
The value system of the world says that love isn't forever. And every time, we act on these worldly definitions of love,
we sow the seeds of our own destruction -- pain, emptiness, and dissatisfaction.

God is love!
God mirrors the true definition of love. And the more we become like Him, the more joy, meaning and satisfaction we will have in life.

How do we comprehend His love?

One important way is through the evidence of that love in the lives of His children.
When we experience the love of Christ demonstrated by His people,
a capacity to comprehend the meaning and importance of God's love is awakened in our hearts.

Why else would Christ have commanded us to love others as He has loved us?

Paul prays that we might be strengthened by His Spirit in the inner man
so that we might experience supernatural faith and love...
and so that we might experience the fullness of God.

J. Wilbur Chapman, a minister of years ago, told the true story of a man who,
after years of estrangement from his family, had become destitute.

One day, positioned near a train depot, he touched the shoulder of a passenger getting off the train.
He said, "Mister, can you give me a dime?"

The passenger turned around, and the beggar started to hold out his hand.
But when the beggar saw the passenger's face, he went white with shock.
It was his father, who he had not seen for years.

"Father, Father, do you know me?" He cried.

With tears in his eyes, the father threw his arms around his son.
"Oh, my son, at last I found you! I found you!
You want a dime? Everything I have is yours

That is so much like us.
We tap the world on the shoulder, begging for a dime, when our heavenly Father wants
to give us everything He has.
We are content to scrounge for crumbs, when we have been invited to a banquet.
We settle for the emptiness of the world, when we can "be filled up with all the fullness of God."

What is the fullness?
Is it some state of Nirvana where all troubles cease?
Is it some charismatic ecstasy of "blessedness" in which we are free of all pain and problems?

Not really.

We begin to taste the fullness of God as we experience
the process of prayer, the exercise of faith, and the experience of love.
Then, we are transformed more and more into the image and character of God...
and we become more and more like Him.

God does not force Himself on anyone.
God's Holy Spirit impresses upon us our sins and convicts us of our need of Christ
and touches our heart with His love and His Word and shows us Jesus.
He invites us to give Him our lives.
We invite Jesus into our hearts, and God gives us Jesus, and we give to God the control of our lives.

When we turn control over to God, He fills our mind, our emotions, and our will.
The mind of God influences our thoughts.
The love of God warms our heart.
The will of God becomes stronger than the pull of the world.

And we are filled with God.
We begin to think His thoughts, know His will, feel His love, and experience the realness of His presence.

This is our inheritance!
This is our real wealth!

Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at hleewhite@aol.com