Go Ahead…Ask! (Eph. 3:20-21)
On my desk at work sits a stuffed, purple dragon with orange horns and wings. His name is Figment, as in a Figment of your Imagination. He is a Disney-created character that can only be found at Epcot in Walt Disney World. Figment is a favorite of mine and sits on my desk to remind me never to stop imagining what can be or to stop dreaming what can be done for God. I have told my students that we need to think outside of the box (or throw the box away!). But, truthfully, I find that in the day-to-day logistics of doing ministry, the imagination muscle sometimes is underused and it becomes more and more difficult to dream big things for God.
Imagination is a good thing. We need to imagine more. Our children need to imagine more. Oh, not to create imaginary friends but to dream, believe, brainstorm, and inspire for what can be. To imagine is where our dreams are born. Often, however, that is where the dreaming stops because we think it is an impossible journey to go where our imagination takes us. When we begin to dream and envision what we can do for God, we sometimes have the same reaction. We pause, believing that it is too much to hope and dream.
Paul declares in his letter to the believers in Ephesus, however, that what God can do is not imaginary, nor is it impossible, but is very real and available to everyone who is His child. The first three chapters of Ephesians are a prayer that reminds us, believers, of the privilege and responsibilities of the Christian life. These initial chapters serve as a way to reinforce that there are perfect, lofty, God-sized goals we are called to reach as believers. Then he closes his prayer with a doxology.
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. AMEN. (Eph 3:20-21)
This short doxology to the prayer (and possibly to the entire book Ephesians) strengthens our faith that we might not stagger under the weight of all the great things that Paul has been praying for – as if these goals we dream about are too much for God to give or for us to expect.
As believers, this leaves us with a key question:
What is too much for us to ask or expect from God?
Let’s unpack these powerful two verses phrase by phrase, take a personal reality check, and see if we can find the answer.
1. Now to Him —– In the three chapters leading up to this doxology, Paul has been praying for believers, their needs, and the task before them. Then all of a sudden, he switches it, almost as a way to contrast us and our needs with the one true living God and His power. At the beginning, middle, and end of the day . . . it is all about Him.
Checkpoint 1: Do you know Him? (If you cannot answer this question with a confident “Yes,” you can know for sure by clicking here)
2. Who is able — to be able, to be capable of. The word for “able” here is a form of the same word for power. Not only is he capable, but also he possesses all the power necessary.
Checkpoint 2: Do you believe He is able? (Really believe or do you just hope?)
3. Above all — Notice the word order here. It may seem more natural to separate the phrasing in such a way that “all” relates to what we are asking. That is, “all that we ask.” However, a better way of reading this phrase connects “all” with “above”, meaning, Above all else, He is able. This keeps the emphasis on the One who is able rather than the one who is asking. Read it this way: Now to Him . . Who is able . . . above all, over all, beyond everything, anybody, anyone, yes, that God… Pretty powerful stuff, huh? Because He is able, above all else, then God should be our first refuge, rather than our last resort.
Checkpoint 3: Do you believe He is the only one that is truly able?
4. To Do Exceedingly Abundantly – super abundantly, beyond, over, above, more than, far over and above. How many more adjectives can we use to explain how much God can do?
Checkpoint 4: Are you aiming high enough or are you settling for mediocre?
5. That we ask or think — It is not just those things we put words to, but also those things that are the secret desires of our hearts, that we are almost fearful to whisper in the dark. Remember, my sisters, we are the objects of His infinite love and all that we dare to ask or think – even those things beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes and dreams – that is what He is prepared to do.
Checkpoint 5: What have you not dared, but are dying to ask?
6. According to the power that works in us. – Not just any power, but God’s power in us. Everything is propelled to new heights through the infinite power of God from which so much may be expected. It is the ability that works, is acting, in operation in us and actualized through His power that continually operates within the lives of believers.
Checkpoint 6: What power source are you connected to?
7. To Him be glory – The focus always comes back to God and the glory that is due Him. Praise Him! Declare His glory!
Checkpoint 7: At the end of the day, who got the glory?
8. In the church – God chooses to manifest His wisdom through the church. His glory is shown through His power working through a body of believers to accomplish all for His glory beyond what can ever be imagined. God did not intend for us to do all this alone. In spite of what we may think, we are not to be independent women, but INTERdependent women.
Checkpoint 8: Are you isolating yourself or are you working in concert with other believers?
9. By Jesus Christ – in and through Jesus Christ as her head and representative. Christ is the head of the church . . . and He is the head of all believers. We cannot live without a head, nor can we fight against it. It is a daily submitting to His Lordship.
Checkpoint 9: Is Jesus the Boss of you?
10. To all generations – We do the big things for God, and expect the big things from God, in order that the generations that come behind us can see His glory. In a day that uncertainty rules, we are able to dream big and expect big, that His glory will be declared to all generations today, tomorrow, and for eons to come.
Checkpoint 10: Do you realize that the impact you have the younger generation is an eternal, Kingdom impact?
Let’s go back to our initial question…Is there anything too much for us to ask or to expect from God?
Imagine what you could do if:
- You truly knew Him…
- You truly believed that He is able – above anyone, anything else…
- You aimed high enough…
- You dared to ask…
- You were connected to the right Power Source…
- You made sure it’s all about Him…
- You submitted to the headship of Christ…
- You realized the magnitude of the impact you are having on the next generation…
He has promised to give good things to those who ask (Matt. 7:7-11).
Go Ahead…Ask Him!
Terri Stovall serves as the Dean of Women’s Programs at Southwestern Seminary. She co-authored the book Women Leading Women. Terri and her husband Jay enjoy riding motorcycles and roller coasters. Connect with Terri on Facebook or Follow her on Twitter!