Don’t Bottle Up Grace, Peace and Love!

bottle photo  (Ephesians 6:23)  “Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

At the beginning of this letter to the Ephesians, God’s provides us with His official proclamation in this Dispensation of Grace: “grace and peace.” (Eph 1:2)  We see this throughout Paul’s epistles. Here we arrive at the end of this epistle full of advanced information for our edification and encouragement. We see God has even more than “grace and peace” for us. He also gives us “love with faith.”  Grace, peace, faith and love are the key provisions we have from God at so many different levels it would take libraries of books to describe it all.

Ephesians provides the Church with the ideals in doctrine and application. Every local church is supposed to be a mini-picture of what is designed for the entire Body. We are supposed to be the visible demonstration in our communities that there can be true peace and true love. We are supposed to live at a higher level than the economic, political, entertainment and media driven society in which we are immersed. It’s important we recognize what God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ directs towards us today. But if we look around at all the problems and hypocrisy in Christianity, it’s hard not to wonder how God could possibly expect this out of human beings. On one hand God tells us he directs peace and love towards us but on the other hand we see just the opposite. Is God wasting His time or expecting something that isn’t possible?

In Christ, we are free from judgment and condemnation (Rom 8:1). We are free from the bondage of our old identity. Therefore, we are free to exhibit the attributes of God Himself because He is our identity and gave us every provision we need for Him to personally live through us. We are designed to live on a higher level than our flesh and the old sin nature. He is the One who makes us qualified and capable to live in a mature faith. The Lord doesn’t direct grace, peace and love towards us for it to be bottled up within the boundaries of our own soul and spirit. He provides us with His identity and indwelling, and thus a capacity, so we can reflect these attributes towards each other. This is the real key to overcoming every problem in a local church – living out who we were made to be in Christ. We can live better, higher and more powerfully than what most believe is “normal” in our local churches.

Renewed Thought – What kind of impact could we have for the gospel if our local churches were made up of believers reflecting the attributes of God towards each other and those without? 

The Source of Permanent Encouragement

Bible photo(Ephesians 6:22)  “Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that ye might know our affairs, and that he might comfort your hearts.”

The Ephesians’ prayers for Paul were designed by God to encourage him as he battled in spiritual warfare. Tychicus, the beloved and faithful minister, was sent to deliver the news about Paul’s situation and condition. This epistle we are reading was also delivered to them. While prayer helped Paul, it was the doctrine in the Word of God that was meant to encourage these believers.

It was natural for the Ephesians who loved Paul so much to be concerned about him. These believers had a heart for Paul but we also know Paul had a heart for these believers. When Paul realized he would most likely never see them again, look at the reaction.

(Acts 20:36-37) “And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all.  And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him,…”

The Ephesian’s ministry in prayer helped Paul. His heart was to give them something that would provide a source of permanent encouragement. The Lord had something bigger in mind than simply a letter that would be lost in the sands of time. Today, in this epistle, we hold a permanent source of encouragement contained in six short chapters. The first three chapters give us deep doctrine about the Body of Christ and the final three chapters show us how this can be applied to the details of everyday life. It is definitely comforting to know the eternal truths about who we are in Christ and the reality of how they can be lived by real people! The Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and communicates it to our soul to provide what we need to live a transformed life that conforms to Christ Himself. Yes, this is the mind of Christ delivered to us – the source of our renewed mind!

Renewed Thought – The Word of God is God’s source of encouragement. It is a permanent fix for temporary discouragement.

Encouragement Through Prayer

(Ephesians 6:21)  “But that ye also may know my affairs, and how I do, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things:”

Tychicus, mentioned by Paul in his epistle to Timothy (2 Tim 4:12)  and Titus (Titus 3:12), is known as “beloved” and “faithful.” We see Tychicus as a co-laborer as early as Acts 20:4. He was the brother who many believe delivered the epistle to the Ephesians.

In addition to it being crucial for this letter to find its way to the recipients, it was also important they were able to “know my affairs.” I wondered why Paul wanted them to know his situation and how he was doing. Was he whining about his circumstances or looking to generate pity? No, it’s obvious from the context of this chapter there is a real part of ministry in the Ephesian church to be praying for the Apostle. He laid out the doctrine of spiritual warfare and then applied it by describing his own personal battles. By understanding these things, the Ephesians could keep him encouraged through prayer so Satan would not gain the upper hand through depression and oppression. They were working hand in hand with Paul to keep preaching the gospel in Rome!

How many beloved and faithful people in the Lord do you know who have been overrun by the attacks of the enemy? Maybe there are men you know who left the pastorate not because of sin or indifference but because they became so discouraged.  Maybe there are missionaries who came home from the field because they did not see the results they had hoped to see. Too often, I’m afraid Christians in the pew think overcoming severe discouragement in ministry is an issue of personal strength and fortitude rather than seeing it as part of spiritual warfare. Many people don’t know how to fight in this type of battle so they respond with inspirational sayings or admonitions to “toughen up.” Worse, they respond with indifference. After all, aren’t pastors and missionaries supposed to be “stronger” than the average Christian? Instead, what is really needed by those in ministry is the ear of someone trusted and the knowledge they have someone praying for them. In my personal experience, when I was at my lowest point in ministry, it was like water in a  desert to know someone prayed for me and would pray with me. One person who would do this gave enough strength to make up for a hundred who would not stand up with me or encourage me. Thank the Lord there were some people who surrounded me in my time of need. Faithfulness works on both sides – those who are ministering and those who have the opportunity to minister to those who minister.

If you are discouraged, depressed or feeling cast down in the work of the ministry, it’s important that you share what is on your heart with someone who will pray for you and with you. You should have some people around you who may know your affairs and stick with you through the discouragement. If this is you, and you aren’t surrounded by those who would stand with you, please reach to info@mychangedmind.com. It would be a privilege to be there for you today.

Renewed Thought – Your prayers can help someone who is discouraged in ministry to see beyond where they are right now.