Why do those who claim to be followers of Jesus appear to have lives that are no different than their non-Christian contemporaries? Why are we so apathetic and powerless when facing trials and temptations? Are we missing something ... or Someone? Are these words anything more than a slogan?
Over the last several months as I have chewed on this question, prayed, and tried to listen to Scripture and the leading of the Holy Spirit, I've come to several convictions.
- These words are more than a slogan; they are a promise from God repeated throughout the New Testament in different ways.
- We don't receive the blessing behind these words of prayer because we ignore the phrase immediately following the words quoted above: "... according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen" (Ephesians 3:20-21).
- We don't turn loose God to bless us with this power because we don't pray for it to happen in our lives!
God's power at work within us is the Holy Spirit! Paul has just prayed for the believers in Ephesus and Asia Minor to "strengthen you with power through his [God's] Spirit in your inner being" (Ephesians 3:16). He had written earlier in his letter describing this power:
... his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms ... (Ephesians 1:19-20).
In other words, God longs to move with incredible power in our lives to bring himself glory and bring us his presence. This power is within us as followers of Jesus. And this power is turned loose in our lives through prayer!
Jesus had talked about this when teaching about prayer and about our Father in heaven longing to give us good gifts. Jesus said that the best gift that the Father gives is the Holy Spirit. And the Father blesses us with this gift, Jesus said, when we ask for the Spirit:
If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Luke 11:13)
Because we have not talked about the Holy Spirit, because we have fought about less important dimensions of the Spirit's work, and because we have made discussion about the Holy Spirit seem mysterious and difficult, we have not asked God to release the power of the Holy Spirit into our lives and the lives of those we love. We have neglected this great promise of God! Not because God has been unfaithful to this promise, but because we have not asked for it to be fulfilled in us!
Jesus' brother, James, wrote clearly about this kind of thing in his letter to early believers:
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures (James 4:1-3).
We fuss and fight with each other, we say things about each other that rip the hearts of fellow servants of God, and we forget to ask for God's blessings and when we do ask, we ask selfishly rather than asking for God to be glorified!
So I want to challenge you to step out of the mess we are in and be God's agent of blessing, power, and rebirth. Make a commitment to pray each day in 2010 for God's Spirit to fill you and empower you. Make a commitment to pray that the Spirit of God fill and empower those you love and those who are in your church, small group, or friendship circle of faith. Pray that God will be glorified by his people and that we experience more than a burst of renewal; that we find new life and God's power at work in us through the Holy Spirit.
Over the next year, I'm committed to focus throughout the year to reminding us that God wants us to be ...
I invite you to join our daily SpiritFire devotional group as we open Scripture each day in a free daily devotional that reminds us of the Holy Spirit's work in our lives. (If you haven't already signed up for this free daily email devotional, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and say simply, "Sign me up!")
Finally, I challenge you to look for the Spirit's work in your life as you seek to know and share the Lord Jesus through "his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."
The following questions are for your personal thought and for sharing with others in discussion as a small group, prayer group, house church, or other gathering. I'd also love to get your response to the questions or to the thoughts of this article on my blog: http://thephilfiles.com
When is the last time you have prayed for God to release his powerful presence in your life through the Holy Spirit?
When is the last time you have prayed that God release his powerful presence into the life of a believing friend or family member?
Why do you think so many believers have neglected or don't even know that God has promised the Holy Spirit to believers who ask for him?
Who is someone you can get together with regularly to help you stay on track in your daily prayer for the Spirit of God to be released into your life and the lives of those you love?
What are some Scriptures that talk about the five ways God wants us to be blessed by the Holy Spirit?