During my first week of Seminary at Columbia International University in South Carolina I was out in the yard talking to one of my new neighbors. All of a sudden I felt a terrible stinging and burning sensation all over my legs. I looked down and I was standing near the largest anthill I had ever seen. My new Southern friend quickly informed the clueless Wisconsin girl that it was no normal anthill I was standing by – I was being attacked by fire ants! I ran into the house stomping my feet in an attempt to rid myself of the ants. My roommates helped me get rid of them as best as they could through their poorly suppressed laughter. After the whole ordeal was over I was brought to my knees in laughter at my foolishness and the thought of what I must have looked like to anyone passing by or looking out their window! I was careful to keep my distance from any and all anthills in the future. (Side note: my memory of this event may be slightly skewed, but how is a girl expected to remember the details of such a traumatic event?!)
Throughout the course of my life I have been brought to my knees in laughter more times that I can count. I have also been brought to my knees in pain, in deep sadness, in worship to God and because of a whole host of other emotions. I am sure the same can be said of you. We have been looking at the Apostle Paul’s life as he wrote to the people of Ephesus. He was in prison and he just got done telling the people of Ephesus that he was in chains because of them, but to not lose heart because of what he is suffering for them. He continues on…
Paul was suffering in prison because he obeyed God’s call upon his life to minister to the Gentiles. Paul’s response to suffering was to get down on his knees and ask God to strengthen the Gentiles by His Spirit and ask that Christ live in them. I am challenged by Paul’s words. What is my response to suffering? What is your response to suffering? When we suffer it is easy to get bitter and to turn our backs on God. Paul did not do this. He didn’t get bitter, he loved. He didn’t turn his back on God; he loved God and embraced the fullness of Him!
I find it interesting that Paul doesn’t pray for a brute strength but for a glorious inner strength. I often pray for strength and I am betting that you do as well. The strength that I pray for is most often physical strength. I pray for the physical strength to get things done, but that’s not what Paul asks for. Paul is more concerned about the glorious inner strength of Christ living in us as we open the door and invite Him in. You see, Christ living in us is so much more important than getting the laundry done or being able to cook supper. Even Paul knew that!
The foundation for all of this is love, Christ’s love. I don’t know that we will ever be able to fully comprehend Jesus’ love but it is real and it is proven. I can say, along with the Apostle Paul, that it won’t disappoint you. “Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights!” Even then, it’s just a taste. God has more love for you than you could ever accept from Him. “Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.”
Remember that a full life doesn’t have to be a busy life. It doesn’t have to be a rushed life. It doesn’t have to be a life filled with brute strength. Like Paul, you can reach out to others and you can spend time with God and strengthen your walk with Him – within the confines of your cell, I mean home! In agreement with the Apostle Paul, from my comfy chair in my apartment, this is my prayer for you: I ask the Father to strengthen you by His Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite Him in. And I ask Him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love.
Will you open the door and invite the Spirit in? Will you allow Him to strengthen you with a glorious inner strength? Will you plant both feet firmly on love? Will you take in the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love for you? If not, you’re missing out, and as one of my pastors often says, “If you miss Christ, then you have missed it all.”
"No king succeeds with a big army alone, no warrior wins by brute strength. Horsepower is not the answer; no one gets by on muscle alone. … We’re depending on God; He’s everything we need. What’s more, our hearts brim with joy since we’ve taken for our own His holy name. Love us, God, with all You’ve got—that’s what we’re depending on." -Psalm 33:16-17, 20-22, MSG
© December 12, 2012