14For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:14-19 NIV)
One week ago today my father passed away at 82 years of age. I was privileged to have known him for 57 years. Although I knew his death would inevitably come, it is still difficult accepting the fact that he is no longer present in my life. If I needed to see him, or be with him, I knew where I could find him. Even in the latter stages of dementia, he was still present. I could feel his breath when I kissed his face, I could feel the warmth of his hand when I held it, and I could get a smile from him when I made him laugh, I could see his tears when I told him I loved him. I could hear his voice if I got close enough to listen – the disease had almost succeeded in robbing him of that. The most important thing was that he was still present with me, and I with him.
In seminary I took a course in pastoral ministry, and we studied the “power of presence”. In a nutshell, it is just “being there” for people when they need you. Sitting with the afflicted, comforting the brokenhearted, spending time with the lonely – it is so important to be available for people in their time of need. There are so many people who are “alone” or who “feel alone”. This is one of the benefits of belonging to a healthy church family that truly loves and cares for each other. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard in the last week, “if you need anything, just call”. I am surrounded with a church family that is present, and willing to step into my life to help in time of need. Praise God!
In today’s passage, we get a picture of the triune God who is present in our lives. This picture is found in Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-19 – a prayer he started in 3:1, but got side tracked on the “Mystery of Christ” and His riches. Now we find Paul kneeling before the Father. A Father who is head over a huge, world-wide family, with millions of children, some on earth and some in heaven, who all bear the same name (vs. 14-15). What a family reunion that will be…when we all get to heaven!
The next verses (16-19) contain the incredible truth that the triune God is present with us. In Paul’s first prayer request we discover that Holy Spirit is present in our “inner being”, available to “strengthen” us with miracle working power. That power goes deep within us, to the very depths of our soul, to encourage us, and give us the ability to continue to persevere through the trials of life. The purpose of Holy Spirit strengthening us is “so that” the indwelling presence of Christ might be fully realized in our hearts. What better way to be “encouraged” – which literally means to be made strong in heart – than to know that Jesus dwells in our heart by faith. I read it that Holy Spirit reminds us in our time of need that Jesus resides on the inside of us, and that we need to lean on Him by faith. Keep believing by faith that Jesus is with you, no matter how hard it gets. And, why is it so important to know that Jesus indwells us? Because the love of Christ is what will carry us through every trial. Paul actually prays that we will realize (comprehend) that this love we are “rooted and established” in, is what will give us the desire to know more of the love of God. You have to taste and experience something before you want and desire more of it. The power of residing Holy Spirit enables you to grasp the vastness of God’s love – a love that is, “wide enough to reach the whole world and beyond…high enough to raise all believers to heavenly places in Christ Jesus…deep enough to rescue people from sin’s degradation and even from the grip of Satan himself” (Gaebelein, p.52) This love is so incredible, it “surpasses knowledge”. How can you know an unknowable thing like His love or His peace? Only by experiencing it! You can’t read about it in a book, or study it as a discipline. It is only experienced as Holy Spirit pours it into your heart (Romans 5:5), and as you get to know God, who is love (1John 4:8). Knowing this love is what causes you to be filled with “all the fullness of God”. If God is love, it just comes to reason that as we are filled with more of His love, we will be filled with more of God. In essence, Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians is that they would be continually filled with God (Eph. 5:18). The result of being filled with God is that we will love His family more. When we love His family more, we will be demonstrating the love of God within us by being present with others, not only in their time of need, but continually as God is with us. Paul sums it up like this, “Christ’s love compels us” (2Cor. 5:14).
Friends, when we have really experience the presence of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in our lives, that is when we have truly experienced love. And, when we have truly experienced His love, is when we can truly extend that love to others so they can experience His love also. “We love because He first loved us”, now we can love one another. One of the ways we demonstrate that love is to be present for people in their time of need. Think about all the passages that describe a God who is present – “I will never leave you, nor forsake you”; “I am with you always”; “Fear not, for I am with you”. Hundreds of times in His word, God reminds us of His presence with His people. That is on His heart from beginning to end – He wants to dwell with His people! We reflect God best to others when we desire in love to be present with people – Jesus demonstrated this in His ministry to the world. He loved; He entered in to people’s lives – the good, the bad and the ugly. God is ever present with us! Let us demonstrate that by being present for others. Reflect this week on how you can reflect His presence in your life by being present with another,