Because of sin’s influence on our hearts, we find it natural to live for ourselves. Plus, so much in our secular culture affirms this approach to living. But there is another way: the way of Christ, the way of the cross. Even as he gave his life for us through his death, so we are invited to give our lives for him, not by dying literally, but by dying to ourselves and living for Christ, for his purposes and glory.
Paul is saying that the love of Christ is not just something he receives with gratitude or admires with awe. It is also something that grabs hold of him and moves him forward. It presses him on. It urges him to act in a certain way. For Paul, the love that Christ has for him and for all people is the fundamental motivation of his entire life and work. You and I may not be apostles, but we can also be compelled by Christ’s love for us and for others.
We pray. We ask for something we need. And we want God to answer right away. But our desire for God to respond quickly to our prayers isn’t simply a product of a technological age. In Psalm 102, for example, we read the prayer of an individual who badly needs God’s help. Verse 2 reads, “Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly” (102:2).
So far in this week’s Life for Leaders devotions we have been focusing on how we can know God better, taking our lead from Ephesians 1:17. Today, I want to consider the question: Do you know God personally?… Knowing someone implies something more personal. It suggests a two-way relationship. It involves knowing things about someone, but goes much deeper than just gathering information.
If we read this [Ephesians] simply as God’s Word to us individually, we would fail to reflect upon the communal dimensions of Paul’s prayer. He is asking God to give the Spirit of wisdom and revelation not to separate individuals but to individuals joined together in community. Therefore, in our quest to know God better, let’s remember that we are not alone. We should not think of ourselves in this way.
The simple good news of Ephesians 1:17 is that God, through the Spirit, will help us know him better. God does this because he seeks relationship with us (see also Ephesians 1:5 and John 4:24). God wants you to know him better! Thus, we are encouraged to pray as Paul prayed, both for ourselves and for others. May the Lord give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that we may know him better.
The whole Scripture bears witness to the fact that knowing God is not something you can do on your own. Rather, it depends on God. You can know God truly only if God chooses to make himself known to you. The good news of the Bible is that God has already revealed himself in profound ways: in creation, in history, in his people, in Scripture, and most of all in Jesus Christ. Moreover, God has given us his Spirit and placed us in the community of his people so that we might know God deeply, accurately, and intimately.
How easy it is for those of us who are in positions of leadership to squander our integrity at home. We appear to be people of high ethics in our workplace or public endeavors, but we may be altogether different when we’re with our family and friends or when we are alone. No matter how I live and lead in public, I ask myself what my wife and children really think of me. Do they see me as a person of integrity? Or do they know I major in hypocrisy?
Why is thanksgiving such an essential element in prayers of asking? Of course, it’s always appropriate to thank God for his many gifts. But the act of giving thanks not only acknowledges God, but also increases our faith. When we remember all that God has done for us… then we are inspired to pray more boldly. We have faith to ask God for more of his favor because we remember how generous he has been in the past with his favor.
How often do you hear “Thank you” from your colleagues at work? From your boss? From your subordinates? How often do you say “Thank you” to your colleagues?… Paul’s example in Ephesians 1:15-16 can inspire us to share our gratitude for others with them. In this passage, the Apostle Paul tells the recipients of his letter that he thanks God for them. He doesn’t just thank God. He shares his gratitude with those for whom he is thankful.