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About this series
Overcoming the Pain of Your Past
Pain. It is part of the human experience, and one of the things that helps us grow to maturity. But for some of us the pain we have experienced feels crippling. Broken promises, dysfunctional families, damaged relationships and rejection keep us from experiencing the abundant life Jesus promised. Sometimes it's a challenge just to get through the day, let alone to extend love and strength to those around us. The Bible, however, offers great hope for pressing on. From the book of Ephesians, learn who you really are and why the pain of your past doesn't have to obscure God's plan for your future.More from this series
Fathers care, don’t they? Fathers protect their kids, fathers provide for their kids.
So Paul looks at the situation and he bows his knees and the word, it’s a picture, he prostrates himself down before God and he says to the Father, who really cares, “There are all these broken relationships and there are all this mess and I want to bring them to You and I want You to heal them.”
And when you pray, what it does, you know what? These weren’t, “Oh, help my girlfriend to love me, help my leg to get better, help the new coach to like me, help everything to work out okay, oh God…”
These were the most honest, penetrating, “I can’t go on unless You show up, and You’ve gotta be real, and You’ve gotta give me what I can’t get from anything or anyone,” prayers.
And unfortunately, it usually takes God taking the pillars of the things that you trust in, out from under you, so that everything collapses in your life except Him and Him alone.
And I would learn later that if there were a kinder or gentler way for Him to let me experience Him as my fullness, I would have got it a kinder and gentler way. But for this son He needed to pull all those pillars out.
And that’s why sometimes you hear me and you feel like I’m just railing on the Evangelical church, and railing on Western Christianity and, see, this shortcut, “God will make everything wonderful; you’ll be healthy, wealthy, and wise; there are a formula; just love Jesus, give the first ten percent, then give gradually. Put your kids in these kind of schools; always do this, this, and that; read the Bible a little bit in the morning; pray a little bit over here; go on a missions trip. A + B + C + D + E = wonderful, amazing life with no problems.”
There are a word coming to my mind that would not be appropriate to share. I mean that. But that’s hogwash. And people are digesting that and are disappointed with God and are feeling like God is unfaithful, and unfair, when God never said any of that and God never promised any of that. That’s human centered Christianity where Jesus becomes your pilot for the fulfillment of the American dream.
And here’s the thing, it doesn’t deliver. And so how do you restore a broken relationship and overcome the pain? First, you talk to your Father. Well, if you’re going to talk to Him what do you ask? You’re going to notice he just doesn’t ask, “Make it better.”
Ask God for the inner strength to yield rather than resist His work in your life. Well, what you have to pray here is you gotta pray, “God, would You help me lean into, and yield to, and accept, and embrace, not fix the things or change the people.” That’s what we tend to pray.
Notice what he says, “I pray that out of His glorious riches,” in other words, all these resources he’s talked about in the first three chapters, “He may strengthen you with power,” how? “through His Spirit,” where? “in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.”
The word “strengthen” here is power, or the infusion of power, and he uses it earlier. It’s the exact opposite word of being discouraged. It’s God infusing you with the strength to go on and deal with the situation. The inner man is the heart, the place of reason, or conscience, or will. It’s the deep-seated place of where you deeply, not just think about stuff, but where you make up your mind and heart, and will and volition, about what you’re going to do with your life.
And through the Holy Spirit, who has the ministry of giving grace, and power, and wisdom… and notice the purpose clause, “that Christ may dwell.” It’s a compound word: “Kata” for down; “Oikeo” is for a house. He says, “I want you to pray that out of this abundance, riches of God’s mercy, and grace, and concern for you, He’ll infuse a strength inside of you, by the power of His Holy Spirit in the deepest portions of your being, so that you could allow Christ to be at home, and at rest, and be in complete control of every room in your spiritual home.”
Where the future room, and the study, and the entertainment room, and the relationship room, and the money room and…
He’s just, “Where Christ could dwell in fullness.” And Christ only dwells in fullness where He’s in control. And He only wants control to give you the highest and the best, so that you fulfill purposes that bring honor and glory to Him.
And, often, it’s through pain, and only through pain, that we get to the point where we can allow Him to be at home in our hearts. Why? Because God longs to make your heart Christ’s home. He longs for you to be a dwelling place of the living God.
Isaiah 57:15 is a very interesting verse for me. I was on one of my Scripture memory rampages, in my younger days, and any verse that I thought was cool I was trying to memorize. I had no idea what this one meant, but I thought it was a really cool verse.
And it goes something like this, in probably multiple translations, because I tended to mix them in those days. He says, “Thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, ‘I dwell in a high and lofty place,’” and it begins to talk about, “in the heavens, in the outer reaches.” And then it says, “Also with those who are humble and contrite in heart.”
And as I read that verse, I realized there are only two places that God dwells with complete freedom. It’s in the highest of the heavens, where He reigns and they worship Him, and He’s totally in control; and when He can find the heart of a human being that has a broken and contrite spirit, and completely recognizes the desperate level of need that we have. And then we allow Him to be our all in all.
And that’s where He’s worshipped and that’s where He manifests His power and that’s where He manifests His presences and that’s where that psalmist was talking about. That’s where He’s the strength of your heart, that’s where you experience He’s your portion forever.
And I think the invitation is really what Jesus was saying, in Matthew 11:28, when He said, “Come unto Me all you that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest for your souls.”
And then notice the invitation, He says, “Take My yoke,” it’s the picture of the two oxen with the wooden yoke. “Take My yoke upon you,” and the picture is Jesus is in one side, and they would work very hard on the way they would make these yokes, so they would fit perfectly, so it wouldn’t rub, so as the animals would push together, two of them could do four or six times what either one of them could do individually.
And Jesus says, “Take My yoke upon you,” and then notice the journey and the humility, “and learn from Me.” And this is a side of Jesus a lot of us, I don’t think, really get. “For I am,” literally the word is, the King James is, “meek.” The word means “gentle.”
“For I am meek and lowly of heart.” In other words, “I’m going to be delicate with how I deal with you. I understand we’re treading on very sensitive issues. I get that the person that was yoked up, and you were trusting in before, may not be here. Or the circumstances that you thought would deliver and the dream that you had may be dissipating.
It might be that picture of ashes,” and He’s just saying, “Come. Come to Me. Let Me dwell deeply in your heart, learn from Me, surrender the control,” but not out of fear of a God who is harsh and is going to tell you all the things you never want to do. But a God who says, “My burden is light and My yoke is easy and you’ll find rest for your soul.” Isn’t that an amazing invitation?
And so to overcome the pain of our broken relationships we talk to the Father, we ask for inner strength to yield rather than to resist the work. And then third we ask God to help us grasp and experience His love in the midst of our pain.
And so he gets very specific. He says, “And I pray,” this is second request, “that you being rooted and established,” underline “rooted” and “established.” It’s two metaphors we’ll come back to.
“I pray that you,” and it’s in what’s called the “perfect tense.” It means “you, on a certain day at a certain time, having already been rooted,” with implications it will continue into the future, “and you having already been built,” or established, continuing into the future.
So he’s telling them, “I’m praying something for you that’s based on something you already possess, that God promises will continue on into the future, so I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power,” where? Put a parentheses around “together with all the saints.”
He says, “You’re going to be rooted and established and I’m praying He’s going to give you dunamis or dynamite or power,” where? “in the context of community, together with all the saints to do two things: To grasp and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.”
Circle the word “grasp,” circle the word “to know,” and the word “to know” here is there is two words in the New Testament. One is to know, by way of two plus two is four. It’s like a factual knowledge.
This is a word that you know by experience. You might have heard the “gnostic,” to know. This is that word. It’s a word that has to do with a mystical inner knowledge of experience of God.
And so he says, “I’m praying that you’ll have power. And this power, not rooted in some experience out there but it’s rooted in,” and this is the metaphor here is a plant that’s been deeply rooted, or a tree that’s been deeply rooted, “and established,” is the picture of a building and it’s the foundation of a building that goes deep and it’s not going to change, and so you already have that, that you’re going to have this power with fellow believers to intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually grasp, and then experience His love, that surpasses even any intellectual knowledge of His love. And then there are a purpose clause, “That you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Left to ourselves, we all pray that God will change the relationship, or change the person, or bring the someone back and that’s simply shortsighted. It’s fine to pray it. And God may do that. But what we really need to pray is to have a power to grasp how deeply, how intentionally, how unconditionally that just where we’re at, with what we have, with our baggage, with where we’ve been, with the struggles that we’ve had, that we are the object of God’s love and you will never be more loved by God than you are at this minute, right now.
And he wants you to get that. That’s what he’s praying.
You need to pray that for yourself. You need to pray that for your kids. You need to pray that for your friends. You need to pray that for your family. You need to pray that for your small group.
How many of our prayers, have you ever thought about when you look at the prayers of Scripture versus how we pray? How many of our prayers are what I call, “Logistical prayers,” or “Strategic prayers” around, “God, will you do this?” Things. “God, will you do this?” People. “God, will you rearrange that? God, will you shift that? God, will you change that? God, will you restore that?”
What would happen if all the people we’re praying for begin to understand, regardless of their circumstances, how deeply loved they were by God, and they experienced His love to such an overflowing measure… the fullness of Christ?
That’s that same phrase of coming to be Christlike and begin to experience all of God. It’s your heart - that He’s your portion.
I wonder what would happen to all those people that we love if they started experiencing that? I wonder how much of the sin that we commit, both mentally, and with our tongue, and with our behavior is really chasing after things that we think will satisfy, because down deep we don’t feel deeply loved and accepted for who we really are, so we feel like, “If I accomplish this then I’d be a someone,” or, “If he or she would like me or if we could go here or…”
I just think an awful lot of the things we struggle with, as Barney Fife would say, “Would be nipped in the bud,” if we understood His love.
The reason is authentic spiritual growth only occurs in the fertile soil of genuine love. We love because He first loved us.
The final request here is that we would just grasp the vastness of what it is. “The height and depth and length, the breadth,” you can almost tell the apostle Paul, led by the Spirit, I just, “Lord, I don’t know how to tell them about who You are and how much You love and what it is,” and it’s just, He just kind of, “Let’s see, wide, high, far, length…”
And if we had a microphone and had another couple hours to spend I would suggest, we did this in one of our interactive groups and we got a beginning on it. If I could ask you, “When, in your personal experience, have you felt the most loved by God?” I have a hypothesis that for many, many of us, I mean, the most loved by God, that for many of us it would not be when everything was going absolutely great, every relationship, every circumstance was just over the top.
I would suggest, it’s probably when you have experienced the greatest loss or the greatest failure, and blown it in the biggest time, and God showed up in a way that you thought, “I know I don’t deserve this.” And yet it’s like He’s putting His arms around you.
If you’ve ever lost someone close to you and people ask you how you’re doing and it’s days before the funeral, and days after, and there are this, a buoying up, you know what I’m talking about?
It’s just like the love of God just kind of surrounds you, for a season, to take you through it.
The final request is expect God to answer your prayers in a manner beyond your wildest dreams. And we often quote this apart from the rest of this, “But now to Him,” see he says, “expect God,” He’s going to answer, “to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine,” how? “according to the power that’s,” where? At work out there? No. “…that’s at work in us.
And to Him,” notice the focus, “be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever.” God is able! God wants to. You are the object of His affection. He’s not going to leave you. It won’t be this way forever.
He promises, often on earth but for sure in heaven, that the greatest, wildest, best will happen, and He wants to deliver you. And the reason is that your welfare, and Christ’s glory, are uppermost on God’s agenda. Your welfare, I mean, if you could, if we could just but believe.
I love Tozer’s words in The Knowledge of the Holy, in his chapter on God’s Goodness, he said, “[Oh the difference it would make in believers’ lives] if we could all believe that we [live] under a friendly sky, and that the God of heaven, though exalted in majesty and power, is eager to be friends with us.”
He’s so for you, He’s a sun and a shield. He gives grace and glory. No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly. There are seasons of loss, and pain, and hurt, and broken relationships, and the goal is for you to be strengthened in your inner man, so that Christ could dwell in you and be comfortable and in control, all that you are, all that you have, so that you could learn that apart from any circumstance or any person, though you can desire both, that He and He alone can satisfy.
And His promise is, “I have unlimited resources, I’m a sun. I have unlimited protection, I’m a shield. I long to give grace and glory, undeserved blessing into your life and I promise I’ll not withhold any good thing from you.”
I turn the clock now ahead many, many years and I thought to myself, “I found a girl and a wife and a woman I could never…” my best choice wasn’t good, and so I gave that to God, and I did not marry that girl. And God gave me Theresa. And it was a bonus deal because I got two kids in the deal.
And I found after multiple injuries, my idol of basketball… a new coach came, I got injured again, but the last ten games of the year we played the number one team in the nation, we finished strong, and out of the blue I got an envelope asking me to play with this team of other college athletes, and we played all throughout South America all the summer of ’76, all the summer of ’77, and then I joined an Australian team.
And I’m this little NAIA player, a small college guy playing with guys from UCLA and Oregon and USC and Erskine – we’re playing every Olympic team throughout South America, and sharing Jesus at half time. And with my heavenly Father just leaning down, smiling, going, “It wasn’t about the basketball, Chip. It was your heart.”
And then I graduate from college and that bricklayer said, “You want to learn how to do ministry?” And he said, “Why don’t you come and you can mix mud for me and we’ll start another ministry here together.” And we did. And it was out of doing that with him that God called me to be a pastor.
My dad actually got more than sober, he got godly. But it was a journey. When I look back? Hopeless. Ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five years? Exceedingly, abundantly, beyond anything I could ever ask, think, or imagine.
Don’t bail out on the process, don’t take a shortcut, don’t get yoked to anything, or anyone, or put your hope in anything, or anyone. Circumstances do not have the power to make or break your life. Relationships, human relationships, no relationship, no matter how wonderful, does not have the power to make or break your life.
Only God can fulfill the deepest needs of your soul and He does that in the person of Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the context of community, rooted in His Word.