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.
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.
In Ephesians 1:15-16, Paul tells the recipients of the letter that he gives thanks for them, in part because of their “love for all of God’s people.” (The original language reads literally, “love for all of the saints.”) You might be tempted to read this phrase quickly and move on. But if you stop for a moment and think about it, you might wonder about loving all of God’s people. All? Really?
Biblical faith is not simply giving assent to theological claims. Rather, biblical faith is going a step further. It is not simply believing that Jesus is Savior and Lord. Rather, it is also putting your trust in Jesus to be your Savior and your Lord. When you read the word “faith” in the New Testament, you should think of it in terms of trust that includes but goes beyond belief.
The Bible uses “faith” in a different way. Though faith does go beyond what reason can prove, it is solidly based on experience and thoughtfulness. Faith is not wishful thinking. Even less is it believing something in spite of strong evidence to the contrary. Christians have faith in God because of what God has revealed about himself in history, in Scripture, among his people, and most of all in Jesus Christ.
I don’t believe there is only one, simple “in a nutshell” summary of the Christian life since it can be rightly seen from a number of perspectives. But, if we want to summarize our life in Christ, we might take the lead from Paul in Ephesians 1:15. Here, he mentions two core qualities in the lives of the Christians who are reading his letter: faith and love. If you had to put the Christian life in a nutshell, you couldn’t do much better than this: faith and love.