God Wants You Strong
A Conversation on Ephesians 6
Ephesians 6 is the final “chapter” in this letter Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus. Take a couple minutes to read it. If you have 20 minutes, read through the entire letter Paul wrote to this church at Ephesus. Make note of any questions you have. Engage with the text. Wrestle with it.
During this pandemic it’s pretty easy to see where I’ve felt adequately prepared and ill equipped. Certain things have helped me feel prepared to handle this season. My relationship with my wife and kids. My job. Knowing that God is with me. Having a team of people I can count on at work. The ability to take rest and reflection time. Having amazing connections within the Corner community. Then there are ways I have felt completely unprepared. The rollercoaster of emotions during this season. Feeling helpless and unable to fix anything. Enduring the length of this season.
What about you?
How were you adequately prepared for this season and how were you ill equipped?
The end of Ephesians feels like a moment, that, if Paul were in the room, would have been very attention demanding. Throat cleared, fingers snapped, voice raised.
Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get. - Ephesians 6:13 (MSG)
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. - Ephesians 6:13 (NIV)
Prepared. Meaning equipped, refined, trained, supported, resourced. Ready.
What are your expectations for “prepared?”
I have been prepared several times and have failed miserably. Returning movies to the movie store. Getting locked out of vehicles. Showing up to the correct doctor’s office.
I’ve been “prepared” and then failed. I have been “prepared” and then hurt people. I’ve been “prepared” but then found out that I wasn’t actually prepared. Preparation doesn’t automatically equal success.
Why should someone prepare if preparing doesn’t equal guaranteed success?
Now that we’re living in Maskeapolis, I realize how unprepared I am for the practicals of dealing with this virus.
I tried to order masks this week so they’d get here in time for the new rules. EVERYONE IN THE WORLD IS ORDERING MASKS RIGHT NOW so getting them here on time is out of the question.
Part of this conversation about preparedness for me is to realize that maybe my definitions of success are off or need some adjusting. Why do I define success as success? Even in the general sense, what is considered success? What is considered failure?
When it comes to preparation, maybe success has less to do with an outcome of a situation and more to do with how we prepared for it and went into it.
Paul certainly would not have felt successful in some ways. As he was writing this letter from prison.
Hey Paul, what’s going to be your main measure of success?
Well, if I do a bunch of cool stuff and plant some churches and then end up in prison, that’ll be pretty good for me.
Paul ends his letter to the Ephesians saying “pray for me that I would fearlessly declare the gospel.”
He didn’t ask them to pray for him that he’d get out of prison. Why not? That seems crazy to me. I know that’d be the first thing I’d be asking for prayer for.
Why didn’t Paul ask the Ephesians to pray for him to get out of prison?
Maybe Paul wasn’t so concerned with getting out of prison because maybe his definition of success wasn’t based on it.
I don’t think it’s wrong to ask for prayer. I don’t think it’s wrong to pray to get out of bad situations. I’m just very challenged by Paul, that he didn’t pray for what me would be a no-brainer, and had a perspective on his situation that wasn’t woe is me or this is the worst. Paul likely would have written his letter to the church in Phillipi around the same time as his letter to the Ephesians. In that letter he makes a bold statement:
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. - Philippians 4:11-13 (NIV)
Paul’s focus definitely didn’t seem to be keeping comfortable, or even keeping himself from trouble.
Maybe you’re familiar with the “armor of God.” Maybe not. Much of this traditionally has been communicated as “if you’re not equipped you’d better get equipped. FIGURE IT OUT. Read it and do it. READ DO. And then reading it, Ephesians 6 definitely seems like steps to take in order.
The message version focuses a lot less on the specifics of the armor and really paints a clear picture of how the end of a letter might come across. Take a moment and read chapter 6 in the message.
Paul’s main point is that God is strong, and he wants you strong. Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Use every weapon God has given you. Pray hard and long. Pray for me.
Notice that he doesn’t say anything about comfort, or avoiding pain, or that following God will make you happy all the time. No, God wants us strong, even if we’re uncomfortable or experiencing pain or unhappy. Paul’s prison experience was not comfortable, or enjoyable, and Paul probably didn’t have fun, but he was content and he was strong. He experienced these truths found within the concepts of this armor of God. Righteousness, peace, salvation.
What about you? What about your life right now? In the middle of this pandemic?
This is not a moment of obligation.
It’s not a moment of “here’s the 7 steps you need to take and here’s the pieces of the puzzle you need to adopt.”
This is another moment of internal reflection. Again, we’re not going to give you the answers (because SURPRISE, we don’t have them.) There is no amount of screaming “GET EQUIPPED!” that can ever actually make me “get equipped.”
Do I feel equipped for my life right now? What “truths” am I experiencing and living out? In what ways do I feel completely unequipped? Remember that part of this might be our own wrong ideas of what success is or isn’t.
Living in truth doesn’t mean that our circumstances line up. It doesn’t mean that everything looks good or is going good. God’s truths over us often look silly or upside down or illogical. The gospel narrative can seem completely out of reason. Just as Paul wrote this letter to remind the Ephesians of some things, I constantly need to be reminded of God’s truths.
In what ways do you feel equipped or unequipped for life?
What truth is God reminding you of to remember?
This series in Ephesians has been difficult for me in this season.
Paul’s continual reminder of the importance of grace and the hope that comes through grace can feel so distant to me in these times. Yet, Paul’s circumstances were anything but perfect and his focus was on preparing and equipping others.
Paul didn’t write Ephesians so Greg, 2000 years later could learn something. I think Paul might actually be surprised that we are still reading his word today.
Paul wrote to a people he knew, that he cared about, and ends this letter encouraging them to be prepared and be equipped.
Paul felt heavy responsibility to communicate this message to the Ephesians. I wish we knew what their response was, how this letter changed their perspective and encouraged them in their growing relationship with Jesus.
Paul’s constant focus on grace is now balanced with a responsibility of being equipped, of doing the work, of preparing.
Grace and works.
The constant tension that is to be lived in, not something to be figured out.
I really believe that we are to live in this tension, hope because of grace, and actions that prove the grace we have received.
These two ideas can often feel like opposites, but rather they are dance partners, beautifully complementing and empowering the relationships in our lives.
Live in this tension, explore it’s depths, be uncomfortable where things don’t match up.
Know that Jesus is with you in all of it. This is faith.
How does grace impact being “equipped?”
Take It Deeper Questions
Read Ephesians 6:10-23
If you were going into a “battle” today, would you tend to put on too much armor or not enough armor? Why?
What sets you up for success on a normal day? Sets you up for struggle or failure?
What sets you up for success in being Christlike? Sets you up for struggle or failure?
With Paul’s equipment list in view, where are you adequately prepared and where do you have gapes to address?
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