For the last 30 years, my first sermon of the New Year has focused on ways to challenge and improve ourselves. Those lessons have been good, but this year we took a different approach.
Instead of thinking about ourselves, we focused on God.
Too often, we concentrate on the physical, what we do and think we control, and undervalue the unseen aspects of our lives. Yet, it is the unseen that should concern us most.
It is with that understanding that the apostle prays this prayer: “For this reason, I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19).
He is not concerned about them trying harder or being stronger. Instead, he prays that God would strengthen them. He prays that their inner being would be changed. He asks that Christ and the Holy Spirit would dwell in them and be seen through them. He wants them to understand how much God loves them and he wants that love to overflow to others.
I am all for taking our faith seriously and doing our best. However, real change only happens through God’s power. Being better people is good. Being spiritually led people is better.
Paul’s prayer ends with these hope-filled words: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, 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” (verses 20-21).
Why not use this prayer as your own for the coming year?
When we get beyond ourselves and allow God to work in and through us, anything can happen.