My Good and His Glory
It is beautiful to me that Paul, formerly called Saul and a persecutor of Christians, stopped right in the middle of his first sentence to speak about God’s grace. Although imprisoned, he didn’t forget the grace that was bestowed upon him. And Paul still considered it grace that kept him in chains.
“1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles… Paul actually stops here. mid-sentence
2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you.”
The grace of God and the love of God are almost synonymous. Grace is the love of God in action, coupled with His power, forgiving our sins, transforming our lives, nurturing us in the new life, guiding us in His service, preserving us for eternity. We see grace most clearly in Christ’s saving work for us. (Disciples Study Bible)
The grace Paul is speaking of is not only God’s gift of his personal salvation, but also of the knowledge which God gave him of the Divine plan for the conversion of the Gentiles.
Paul made three long missionary journeys throughout the Roman Empire, and at the time of this writing was imprisoned in Rome awaiting trial because of his missionary efforts on behalf of the Gentiles. He did not view himself a prisoner of the Roman Government, but a prisoner of Jesus Christ (as stated in verse 1). Because he knew Jesus was the Lord of his life, and God was in control, he knew his circumstances were part of God’s plan.
I am humbled when I think about Paul’s positive attitude toward his unfavorable circumstances. Paul seems genuinely honored to be IMPRISONED for the sake of his Lord. He possesses TRUE JOY.
Would I feel the same way if I were in Paul’s position?
Do I feel joy when:
- finances are tight?
- my marriage gets tough?
- my child gets hurt?
- my life takes a turn I hadn’t anticipated?
The answer, unfortunately, is sometimes no. I don’t feel joy. I can have a tendency to forget that:
God is in control.
My circumstances are not unbeknownst to God.
God has a plan.
And let me clarify, God loves me more than I could ever imagine; His plan is for my GOOD. Not for my harm. In my limited capacity as a human being, I simply do not understand all that God is doing in the heavenly realms. For my GOOD and His GLORY.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. Psalm 147:5
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
In verse 3 Paul speaks several times of the “mystery” made known to him by revelation. Paul wanted them to know that he did not come up with this on his own. He was speaking on behalf of God the message of the gospel to bring the Jews and Gentiles together.
This was God’s plan for all of history which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.
The gospel is for everyone. Those who trust in Christ become heirs to the throne of God, regardless of their race, color, gender, or language. This is part of the “mystery” Paul speaks of.
Before Jesus came, the Jews and Gentiles did not realize that all people could come to Christ. As used here in Ephesians 3, the word “mystery” does not imply something that remains unknown. It means it was hidden and now has been revealed.
From the beginning of time, God has loved every one in the world.
It was always His plan to send His son to be the Savior of the World.
In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
Every person who trusts in Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior has equal access to God. Those who trust in Jesus can go to God without fear or shame, because their identity is in Christ. Prayer is done in freedom and confidence.
Lastly, I want to reflect upon verse 13.
I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory. Ephesians 3:13
Paul did not want the Ephesians to be discouraged, or lose heart. Paul was still making himself available to be used for God . He trusted that God had a plan. He wanted the Ephesians to understand that.
I wonder if Paul, even for a minute, wondered how being locked in a prison would be more useful than going town to town spreading the gospel. I wonder if Paul ever thought about just sitting around and feeling sorry for himself or complaining about his circumstances.
In my flesh, I can come up with many ways to serve God. I think I am steps ahead of God and plan out exactly how I’m going to do work FOR God. When things don’t go my way, I am tempted to give up or I get angry at God for making my life so difficult.
It has been in God’s grace that He has taken me through some pretty tough circumstances. In some ways a prison cell made just for me. A place I did not want to be and never imagined I would be. Initially, a very dark and terrifying place. An unfamiliar place. A very lonely place.
In God’s grace, He spoke to me gently and never abandoned me during my darkest hours. I called out to him and he answered. Every time. I prayed for wisdom and strength and he provided it. While I still experienced great sadness over earthly losses, I genuinely possessed a JOY that could only be described as FROM GOD. My prison became a workshop in which God CHANGED ME from the inside out. The only plan I know of for certain is that God didn’t leave me in the spiritual shape I was in before things got bad. He plucked me out of my seemingly happy circumstances and placed me squarely into a 4×4 cell with the only thing I needed. HIM.
And I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The gift He gave me was a more intimate relationship with Him. A deeper understanding of his love and mercy. It was His plan that I experience a specific hardship at a specific time so that I could live in greater surrender to Him and greater freedom in Him. I am so thankful. I am so very thankful that He didn’t leave me where I was. In His grace, He scooped me up and placed me somewhere for my GOOD.
And I believe scripture that it will be ultimately for his GLORY.
Maybe my circumstances are being used in God’s eternal plan. FOR HIS GLORY.
Paul was being used for God’s eternal plan. His Roman imprisonment produced the letters of Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon. These books continue to spread the gospel throughout the world today!
In the same manner, each of us has a place in the service of God’s eternal plan. Knowing this and working toward it is a great guard against losing heart in the midst of tribulation. David Guzik
I encourage you to trust that God has a plan for you. I pray that you will have joy in the midst of difficult circumstances. Whatever prison cell you find yourself in, I ask you to consider that God has placed you there for a reason. I invite you to believe that your prison is a workshop where God does MIGHTY things in and through you.
Help me to be like Paul. Help me to remember that YOU are in CONTROL. When my circumstances seem to be too much, I pray that you will remind me of your presence and your promises. Thank you, Lord, for hardships that have drawn me closer to you. I want to have a servant’s heart like Paul. I want to remain focused on YOU. I can not do it on my own. I realize it is only through the power of your spirit that I will be changed. I ask these things in Jesus’ precious name. Amen.
Living in Grace,