Fill Me Up
By Rev. Heidi L. Barham | July 25, 2021
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Read Ephesians 3:14 – 21 (NIV)
Just two weeks ago, like today, the sermon text also came from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians… a letter which scholars believe was intended to be circulated among the churches in that area in that time… and a letter which still provides encouragement to us as the church today.
In the passage which calls for our attention this morning, we find Paul’s words of prayer and praise for God’s power and provision. Words that remind us that God’s love is all-encompassing and all-powerful. Words that offer us comfort and reassurance that what God has done before, God can do again and as amazing as it may seem, God can and will even go above and beyond our greatest expectations.
Now, perhaps we would do well to back up a few verses to the beginning of chapter 3 to understand just what was responsible for Paul’s outpouring of prayer and praise.
It is in the opening verses of this chapter that Paul talked about having the opportunity to preach to the Gentiles and to share with them the grace that God has made available to ALL people – not just to some.
And that is what filled Paul’s heart with joy… being equipped and used by God to spread the gospel to everyone. Now his joy seems all the more incredible when we take into consideration the fact that Paul was writing this letter while he was in a Roman prison for doing the exact thing that brought him so much joy… preaching and proclaiming the good news about Jesus.
It is the same joy that fuels Paul’s prayer for his brothers and sisters in Ephesus that they might come to understand the all-encompassing power and strength that comes from God’s love for us. At the center of Paul’s prayer is his hope that they, and by extension we, would know and understand the fullness of God’s love for His children – for ALL of His children.
And so, this morning, I want to invite us to make a simple request of God. It is a personal request that extends beyond our corporate desire for the church. It is an acknowledgement that in order for us to be prepared to do the work that God calls us to do as the church, we must first pray and ask God on our own behalf to: FILL ME UP.
There are three elements contained in Paul’s prayer that I think we would do well to ask God to fill us with also.
The first element is GOD’S POWER.
Paul writes, “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.”
It is interesting to note, that out of all God’s glorious riches… riches that are far greater than anything we can imagine… Paul does not ask for the people to be blessed with material wealth or prosperity, but with power through God’s Holy Spirit.
This prayer for power is echoed in Paul’s letter to the Colossians where he writes:
And Jesus also spoke of this power to His disciples when He appeared to them after His resurrection.
In Luke 24:48, we read, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” While in Acts 1:8, we read, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
And Paul explained to the Roman church that “it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16).
So, the prayer to be filled with power is a prayer to be filled with that which brings the good news of salvation to others. And in order for us to share good news of salvation, it is important for us to maintain a strong connection to the source of that power.
I came across a story about a seminary professor, Dr. Herbert Jackson, who started out as a missionary. It is a story that he is reported to have told to his seminary students that I thought would be worthwhile sharing.
Ill health forced Dr. Jackson and his family to leave, and a new missionary came to that station. When Dr. Jackson proudly began to explain his arrangement for getting the car started, the new man began looking under the hood.
Before the explanation was complete, the new missionary interrupted, “Why, Dr. Jackson, I believe the only trouble is this loose cable.” He gave the cable a twist, stepped into the car, pushed the switch, and to Jackson's astonishment, the engine roared to life.
For two years needless trouble had become a routine for Dr. Jackson. The power had been there all the time. Only a loose connection kept him from putting that power to work. (Story credited to Ernest B. Beevers. Retrieved from: http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/p/power.htm)
And so, as we endeavor to spread the good news about Jesus, let our prayer be, Lord FILL ME UP with power and help me to stay connected to the source which is your Holy Spirit, so I can fulfill the mission to tell others about you and the gift of salvation.
Now, the second element found in Paul’s prayer is GOD’S LOVE.
Verses 17 – 18 of our text as they are found in the Message Paraphrase read:
In other words, what Paul was explaining is that God’s love is boundless. It reaches into every nook and cranny of our being. It is wide enough to span the breadth of our own individual experience while covering the rest of the world at the same time. It is long enough to stretch across the length of our lives and across all of eternity as well.
God’s love is high… rising to the heights of celebration and elation and yet it is also deep… reaching down into the depths of discouragement, depression and despair and even death.
God’s love is immeasurable and it is inexhaustible… and nothing can ever separate us from it. As Paul’s letter to the Romans reminds us:
And it is this boundless, immeasurable, inexhaustible love that we are called to share with the rest of the world. This is not a love that we can or should simply keep to ourselves because it is this love that went to a cross at Calvary so that all who believe will have eternal life (see John 3:16).
So, let this be our prayer, Lord FILL ME UP with your unconditional, never-ending, all-encompassing love that I might share it with the world, that they may come to know you and experience your love for themselves.
And that brings us to the third element of Paul’s prayer which is GOD’S FULLNESS.
Verse 19 of our text reads, “and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
In his letter to the Colossians, Paul put it this way, reading from the Message Paraphrase:
I can think of nothing that we should desire more than to be filled with the fullness of God which is expressed in Christ. Because it is when we live in union with Christ and with His empowering Holy Spirit that we are complete. It is then that we are living in the fullness of God.
So, let this be our prayer as well today: Lord, FILL ME UP with your fullness that I may live a life that truly honors you in all that I say and do.
It is through faith and prayer that we will be able to operate in ways that reflect God’s power, love and fullness… as we do what we have been called to do, both individually and collectively as the church – and that is to love God and love one another as we spread the Good News about Jesus and make new disciples.
Because at the end of the day, that is what it is all about… following Christ’s command to love God with all of who we are and to love our neighbor as ourselves and to fulfill the Great Commission Jesus gave to, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Needless to say, this can seem rather daunting to some of us. But the good news is that we never have to rely on our own strength to do what God has called us to do.
Because verse 20 of our text tells us, “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…”
In the Message Paraphrase, this verse reads, “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.”
It is God’s power, love and fullness that is at work within us, enabling us to do what God calls us to do. God is the one who equips us for the task and continues to fill us.
Left to our own devices, we would not be able to do anything. But as Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
Now, there is one more thing that I want to point out this morning which is that when we have been filled with God’s power, love and fullness, we are complete… but we are not finished. In fact, we are only just beginning… beginning to live into the life that Christ has made possible for us.
A life filled with possibilities and opportunities for us to do like Paul and lift our prayers and our praise for the wonderful ways that God can and will use us for His glory.
And as we pray that prayer, Lord, FILL ME UP, be prepared to watch with excitement and anticipation as God does so much more than we could have ever imagined.