The process of refining metal is incredibly arduous.
If you took the time to watch this video of gold being refined, even fast-forwarding through it, the task of refining metal is immense. So much time and energy are required to purify the gold. The process of refining people is grueling as well. Anyone with children can attest to the difficulty of refining a human. From teaching them how to eat food without choking (we had an episode last night) to potty training and eventually launching them into college or a career.
God does the same for us through the work of the Holy Spirit and His word, the holy Scriptures. The Bible is riddled with statements of God being a refiner of men. I’ve found that as I’ve read through Ephesians over and over again that God is washing truth over me. It’s rather invigorating, like those little micro-beads in your body wash that removes dead skin follicles, leaving me feeling fresh and alive. An awakening.
With that, here are some thoughts on Ephesians 1:15-23.
15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father,may give you the Spirit[f] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
I heard a little preface to this letter from Paul that said this book was written to a group of Christians that was either entirely Gentile, or at least so much so that any Jewish presence was practically negligible. This information reshaped my understanding of Paul’s vernacular for this letter. He used terms like “predestined,” “called,” and “foreknown” to show the non-Jewish church body that they were specifically chosen by God, and were sealed by the Holy Spirit (v. 13-14) as God’s possession.
He writes a beautiful section of thanksgivings and prayers for the Gentile church. I am seeing a two-fold reasoning for his thanksgiving and prayers. The first is that people are coming to faith in Jesus. Paul’s calling and commission was to reach Gentile’s to reveal the mystery of God through Jesus for the Church. Gentile’s had formerly needed to conform to Jewish worship practices, and yet were still limited in their ability to participate. Now through Jesus’ death and resurrection they were now invited fully into the community of faith, no conformity required.
The second reason is that it affirmed for Paul his work around the globe. Being a pioneer is a tragically lonely vocation. My dad is a church planter, similarly to Paul, and I can attest to the lonely nature of the calling of God. A.W. Tozer wrote,
The loneliness of the Christian results from his walk with God in an ungodly world, a walk that must often take him away from the fellowship of good Christians as well as from that of the unregenerate world. His God-given instincts cry out for companionship with others of his kind, others who can understand his longings, his aspirations, his absorption in the love of Christ; and because within his circle of friends there are so few who share his inner experiences he is forced to walk alone.
– The Dwelling Place of God, Ch. 39 (Download Free PDF here)
I can only imagine that the success of the gospel of Jesus spreading like wild-fire among Gentiles throughout the Roman Empire was encouraging. His whole life was devoted to reaching the Gentiles for Christ, even going through imprisonment, shipwreck, stoning’s and lashings to say the least (2 Corinthians 11:25). So the growth of the church in a predominantly Gentile land led Paul into a lengthy prayer of thanksgiving for them.
So much of my life could be turned upside down if I lived in prayers of thanksgiving. If I looked to pray hopefully rather than in my wants. To pray for my leaders, both political and spiritual. To pray for my friends and enemies. To pray for my family and the church, both local and abroad.
A prayer of thanksgiving re-frames my perspective. It did for Paul while in a Roman prison.