Today’s post is about the Unseen in our world. Although the vast majority of the Unseen are very distant from us, we happen to walk right by some of them every day. Since we walk right by them, why don’t we see them?
This is a good question and I will answer it in due time. But first, I want to propose to you that God wants us to see them- and as we begin to see them we will begin to experience God in our lives- God among us- in ways that we never could have imagined.
HOW TO SEE THE UNSEEN
The first step in being able to see these Unseen is to fix our attention on our Father and Our Lord, Jesus Christ. So, let us focus in on verses 18 and 19 of Ephesians 3:
18 may you have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God
What is Paul praying here? It appears he seems to be saying this:
God wants us to understand and be so gripped by his love that his love shapes the way we see and subsequently live out our lives in his world. From Paul’s prayer it appears that when we are so gripped and shaped by God’s love, we experience a fullness that we could never have dreamed possible- the fullness of God.
What in the world could Paul have possibly meant here? How can we experience “the fullness of God”?
We in Interserve work in the Asian and Arab worlds. A number of people who work in the Asian and Arab worlds have encountered a lot of difficulty. Some have even been killed. Even to this day parts of these worlds are experiencing high levels of turmoil. These places of turmoil are difficult places to work. So, why are people drawn to work there?
The answer is because in some way those who work there made this prayer in Ephesians 3 their own: May I have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that I may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Think of the sheer impossibility of Paul’s prayer. Who in the world can understand how wide, how long, how high, and how deep God’s love is? Paul himself recognized this because he said Christ’s love surpasses knowledge. Yet, the key difference here is that Paul was not just praying about us getting the right content, the knowing Paul was referring to here is an experiential knowing. Paul was praying that the Ephesians would experientially understand the width, length, height and depth of God’s love. This is why the New Living Translation translates verse 19 this way: May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Again, who can ever comprehend a love that is unbounded- infinite? But, look at what Paul says in verse 20: Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us. Oftentimes we use verse 20 to encourage ourselves to keep praying about some problem we have because God has the resources to do abundantly beyond all that we can ask or think. Yet, the context here is much more specific that that- the context is that God is exceedingly and abundantly able to help you and me, help us experientially understand the width, the length, the height, and the depth of his love.
The Height and Depth of God’s Love
When I came to faith John 3:16 was the verse that stood out among many: For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son. When I read that verse the Spirit seemed to make it immensely personal to me – God loved me so much that he gave his only Son. And this was right and proper because this was the first step he used to help me discover the height and the depth of his love for me. The Spirit also used Psalm 103:11 to help me see the height of God’s love: As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him. Psalm 139:7-8 opened up to me both the height and depth of his love: Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
The Holy Spirit seemed to take these verses and helped me understand God’s love for me as his child, and I am sure that he uses these verses in all of us because we are his children. The Spirit wants us to know intimately that Jesus went through all that suffering and pain for you and me.
But, the God doesn’t want to stop there in working within us. Once we begin to see the height and depth of his love for us- God also wants us to see the width and length of his love for others, all those around us- as well as all those so very distant from us.
THE WIDTH OF GOD’S LOVE
Let’s think about the wonderful width of God’s love. Did you know that only 3% of all Christian workers serve among Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu peoples? 90% of all Christian workers work in Christianized areas of the world.
Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu peoples comprise more that 3 billion people- way more than one quarter of the world’s population!
To help us conceptualize the significance of this statistic of three percent, let me ask you: How many of you came to faith on your own by reading a book, by reading the Bible, by listening to a radio program or by watching a TV program? If you don’t mind, please stand.
Now, how many of us turned to Jesus through a relationship or a series of relationships with other believers? What I have seen wherever I go is that the vast majority of us come to faith because we had a relationship with other followers of Christ. Now, if only 3% of all Christian workers serving among Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu peoples, how will these people’s ever hear and turn to Christ?
And why does this incredible imbalance in people and resources exist?
It is not because the Church doesn’t care. From my experience, whenever the Church sees a need, the Church responds to it. But what happens when the Church doesn’t see the need? Then the Church doesn’t respond.
By now you all realize that I am not referring to seeing with our two eyes. Our eyes see Muslims and Hindus on our streets every day. We see daily the needs of the Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist worlds when we turn on the news. We “see” what is happening in the Middle East, in Nigeria, in North Korea and China; but these one-minute sound bites don’t elicit within us God’s loving care for them. How many of us come to the end of a news program and pray for even one of the tragic issues we watched?
What God wants to do within each and every one of us is to expand our understanding so we see the breadth and length of his love with the eyes of our hearts. He wants us to see the needs of these worlds through the eyes of tender compassion. And God is the only one who can open the eyes of our hearts! He does this when we pray, when we give him the permission to do so by praying Paul’s prayer. This is something God wants to do in us.
Why? He wants us to become so gripped by His love that his love shapes the way we see and subsequently live out our lives in his world.
Why is this so important to God?
Paul points out why in verses 20 and 21:
20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.
Notice this in verse 21: Glory to Him in the church. We, the church, bring glory to God when we experience the breadth of his love and allow his love to shape the way we live out our lives in his world. Jesus said basically this same thing in Matthew 5:18- In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
When we begin to see and experience within ourselves the breadth of his love, something within us changes. We begin to pray for those around us, as we pray God changes us. We find ourselves with the courage to walk across the room to talk to those we hadn’t seen before, walk across the street and talk to them. We notice them in the places where we regularly shop. God’s love motivates us to move out of our comfort zones and take the risk to say hello, and ask questions about who they are and what and how are they doing? We see them, we care for them, and we make ourselves available to be kind to them.
In these simple ways we begin to express to them God’s infinite love for them.
Oh, what a privilege, to be able to impact Syria, Egypt, Somalia, India, China for Christ just by watching a news program and praying afterwards. What a privilege impact Syria, Egypt, Somalia, India, China by eating in a restaurant in Philadelphia. What a privilege to impact your neighbors for Christ simply by beginning to simply talk with them. And you find that you finally see those who were previously unseen and you find that you are motivated and emboldened to interact with them this simply because you made Paul’s prayer your own.
God is faithful. He will take your prayer and use his love to shape the way you see and subsequently live out your lives in his world.
Experiencing this work of God in your hearts is your privilege as his children. And as you experience it this opens up a whole new level of fullness that you could never have dreamed possible. And this is all there waiting for you just by asking.
But, this is not all. When you begin to make this your prayer, you may discover that God places in your heart a desire to go overseas and live among these peoples so that they too may tangibly experience God’s grace and love and come to know about all that Christ has done for them through you!