Have you ever had a “why me?” moment? A time when you just looked around at whatever was going on in your life and just wondered, “Why me? What did I ever do to deserve this?”
Or maybe you were picked to do some sort of job that you felt totally unqualified for, so when you’re into the thick of it, maybe feeling a bit overwhelmed as things begin to pile up around you and you start to wonder how you ended up in this position to begin with. What ever gave people the idea that you could ever do something like this?
In reading the third chapter of Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus you kind of have to think he’s asked himself the same question more than a few times.
Paul is writing this letter in prison to be sent to the church. We know he wrote a number of letters while in prison, and we know he was there because of his unwillingness to relax his attempts to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to the people in the region.
Paul starts to say something in the first verse, “This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles…” but then he looks like he gets lost in his thoughts. I suppose when you’re in prison, your mind might be rushing to say all it can while it has the chance, so it might be easy to get distracted when something pops into your head. So while Paul has started to say something in this first verse, he quickly jumps to another subject, he gets lost on a tangent for a while.
“For surely you’ve already heard the commission of God’s grace that was given to me for you… as I already wrote about above…”
In this little sidebar Paul finds himself on, he reminds us again, why he feels compelled to write this letter. He reminds the church that there is no longer a mystery regarding faith. While previous generations didn’t understand the mystery at all, Jesus came and revealed it to those who hear his message and receive the Holy Spirit. This is how the mystery is revealed. Paul himself encountered the Holy Spirit and has had this great revelation about what it means to be faithful to God and to share in the promise Jesus proclaimed in his time on earth.
Paul shows us his humbleness in this passage to. Paul knows what he did in the past as he gathered and executed the early Christians, and in this passage he confesses that he considers himself to be the very least of all the saints. But for some reason, God has chosen him, through abundant grace and mercy, to spread the Good News to the gentiles.
This is what Paul sees his calling to be. Paul feels God has called him to preach to the foreigners. The ones who don’t know about the God introduced through the Jewish people at all. Paul is taking this message, shared with him by the Holy Spirit, and taking it all across the region, bringing thousands upon thousands of people into the Christian church. One man, doing all this through Jesus Christ and God’s great mercy and grace. Sharing this message of love and grace across the land. Sharing with people so that they now know they have access to this gift from God.
And now, 13 verses later, Paul gets back to what he was first thinking about. Paul gets on his knees and he prays.
This is interesting, because the popular stance for prayer was standing. People would stand and offer their prayers, but there is also something powerful about getting on your knees to pray. To be honest, I don’t do this very often. Usually I’m sitting when I pray, or maybe even lying down when I go to bed.
Last winter I was at a series of lectures at Acadia Divitiny College, and on the second night of the speaker, there was a clear, powerful presence in the room. The speaker had taken us somewhere sacred, and it felt like a lot of hearts were opened and aware of this. Typically, at the end of each night there would be a brief question and answer period. But on this night, it seemed most appropriate to pray. And the whole room of a couple of hundred people got down on their knees and prayed together. It was a very powerful moment of prayer as we acknowledged that the speaker had taken someplace we needed to go, and with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we sought further direction and wisdom.
There’s just something powerful about getting on your knees before our Father. As Paul tells us, this Father is the source of every family on the earth. When we get on our knees, we are humbly coming before Him in a time of prayer. A time when we bring our burdens, we bring our concerns, our confessions, and we seek wisdom, answers and forgiveness.
So Paul prays to the head of every family here on earth. He prays to the Father of us all. When Paul prayed earlier in chapter one, he prayed for things we might know. But this time when Paul prays, he prays for three things he wants us to have.
The first thing Paul wants us to be is strong. Paul wants the church to be able to resist the things which try to break it apart through its weaknesses. So he prays that we have strength in our innermost being with the power of the Holy Spirit.
If you go to the physiotherapist with back problems, what do they make you do? Well, they make you do lots of exercises which are focusing on strengthening your core muscles. These are the muscles which hold you together. They are the ones which support the core of your body, your trunk. When these muscles are stronger, they help support your spine, they help your posture, and they help solve problems we may have with our backs, necks and lots of other things. When we have a strong inner core, the rest of our body is supported, and our weaknesses become less of an issue.
So when Paul wants us to be strengthened in our inner being, he wants us to be closer to God through Jesus Christ. He wants us to be open to the Holy Spirit which helps us unravel this mystery of faith, so that when others come and attack us, we have a strong foundation, a strong core of beliefs which will help us fend off such an attack.
The second thing Paul wants us to have is love. Paul realizes this is the key message that Jesus Christ shared with those who followed and came to him. So we need to understand just what this love means and we need to be grounded in it. So Paul asks Christ to dwell in our hearts, revealing this love to us.
This is how Jesus asked us to act. Jesus wants us to show love and share what he has blessed us with so that we can introduce more people to the love so freely offered. This requires that we also understand what this love means in our lives. It means we need to know Jesus Christ intimately so we may be grounded in his teachings and his love. Paul knows how important this is for people, how crucial it is not just for our lives here on earth, but also for eternity when God calls His people home. So if we ground our hearts in the love of God shown in Jesus Christ, we become true followers of God’s plan for the earth.
The final thing Paul wants to have in his prayer is fullness. Paul is praying for the impossible here. Paul asks the Lord to reveal His entire self to the church. Imagine what that could do?
Imagine if we had the whole knowledge of God within us! Stuart Briscoe says it’s crazy! He says it’d be like putting the engine of a Boeing 747 into a volkswagon. It’s just not going to work very well.
What Paul wants to see is that we carry the divine attributes of God within us. As human beings we certainly have our limits. None of us is perfect, and none of us ever will be.
But what this prayer is asking is that within our faults, within our weaknesses, let us all be vessels full of God’s love, power, wisdom and grace. Let’s just be so full of these things that all people are going to see of us are these things, love, power, wisdom and grace, just spilling out everywhere we go.
To do this, we need to be grounded in love. We need to be strong enough to carry this out. We need all three of these things in order to be able to live out as God calls us to live through the example of Jesus Christ.
So, I bring us back to the question. “Why me?”
Why are we the right ones to be doing this work? Why would God choose a weak, sinful person to be one to carry His love, power, wisdom and grace?
God chose Paul. A man who spent his days breaking apart the church. A man who killed followers of Jesus Christ. And even when Paul repented and was changed forever on the side of the road, God used him when he was in prison to continue to share these things with churches all over the region.
“I’m not Paul. I’m not strong enough to take on these tasks.”
Neither was Paul. Nor any of the disciples.
That is until they were touched by the Holy Spirit. When Jesus sent them a special gift which changed their lives forever. Paul’s prayer is that we too share in this gift. He prays for the church to receive it.
So, “why me?”
Why not let God fill you with blessings beyond anything you can ever imagine? Why not receive the greatest gift a humble human being can carry?
It’s God’s great pleasure to share it with us.