15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints,
16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,
17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,
18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might
20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,
21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. (Eph 1:15-21)
As I was memorizing this passage in November 2006, little did I know the significance it would hold for me fewer than three years later. At that time, these were just the next verses in line. I was plowing through them with little thought for what was behind them, especially vv15-16. I had never experienced that kind of deep, abiding affection for anyone outside of my family. I could not relate to Paul’s words.
Not only was I unaware of what these specific verses would eventually mean to me, but I also had no idea how familiar I would become with the book, nor the mode for attaining that familiarity. In November 2006, I had absolutely no desire to be a pastor. I thought the Lord had me in seminary to be a biblical counselor or even a college professor. I didn’t recognize them at the time, but looking back I see the circumstances around me and Shelby, changing our hearts and giving us the desire for pastoral ministry.
Sitting in a systematic theology class that Fall, I listened as Dr. Bruce Ware recommended to us a bible memorization plan developed by a former Southern student. I was intrigued and downloaded the plan as soon as I had the opportunity. The plan recommended memorizing books of the Bible rather than isolated verses. The book of the Bible used to illustrate the plan was Ephesians.
That was the only reason I started there. There was no deeper, more meaningful reason for doing Ephesians first. What a gracious blessing it is to look back now and see that where I was clueless, God was all-purposeful, preparing me to know, love, and preach that book to a congregation that did not yet exist, preparing me to love dozens of people I did not yet know. Knowing what I know now, I still believe that Ephesians is the perfect place to start with a new body of believers. Providence is a very fitting name for our church.
I’ve since come to know what many of you were doing three years ago. Some of you were in the middle of that desperate and frustrating church search that so many of us have endured, every Sunday in a different church, not knowing which was the more appropriate question to ask ourselves – “Is this where we belong?” or “Is this something we can live with?” Now I praise God for that search, both on behalf of my family and yours. That search, while at times tempting us to despair, steeled our resolve and conviction that doctrine matters and God’s Word must be held high. I know for Shelby and I, that church search was a gift of God’s grace without which we never would have considered planting a church.
God was also moving in the Joneses at the same time, and the Eberts, and the Jonsons, and the Peters – different circumstances but the same destination. In the Lord’s time, so many others came…and stayed! And in the short time we’ve been together, He has knit our hearts together with the blood of Christ as the bond.
The time we spent together Sunday is something I’ll not soon forget. The building is a tremendous blessing, but the most striking thing to me was the obvious common faith in the Lord and the mutual love for all the saints. So many people from so many different stages of life and backgrounds, all worshiping together and enjoying the fellowship that only inclusion in the body of Christ affords – that is something only God can do. It cannot be strategized. It cannot be condensed and put into a church growth book. It cannot be reduced to methods or marketing. The sovereign God has saved us, reconciling us through His Son to Himself and each other, so that we are able to enjoy fellowship with Him and the church. The Lord has blessed us. May He find us to be faithful stewards.
So now I read Eph 1:15-21 differently. I understand Paul’s affection for the Ephesians. His prayer has become mine. Because I know of your faith in the Lord and your love for all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, praying that the Lord would give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.
Can’t wait to worship with you again Sunday.