Geared Up for Life

Have you ever sat in front of the television screen, looked at the clock in the corner, knew the home team had one more shot at winning and said, “I they make this kick/pass/shot/run?” Have you ever walked through a sunset field at the end of a beautiful day and thought, “I wish this would never end?” Have you ever sat at the bedside table of someone struggling to take the next breath and thought, “Please let them make it?” Have you ever sat around a table enjoying a meal and thought, “Why can’t we live like this all the time?”

Whether you realized it or thought about it in the moment, what you were experiencing is hope. It is the expectation, the wish for something to be or be experienced a certain way. It is taking a positive mental attitude toward something that has not yet happened with the intent of living as though you believe it will come to pass.[1] This week, we begin exploring Ephesians and we begin with hope. 

This week, we begin taking a journey through one of the most quoted and beloved of New Testament letters: The Ephesian Epistle. There are those who consider it among the greatest of epistles for its simplicity. The first three chapters talk about theological foundation for faith while the next three give some ideas on what that might look like practically for their local church. While it may seem like a simple little letter, there is more here than meets the eye. scholars have debated a lot of things regarding this short letter. One writer says,

Do we spend time explaining that this letter is different from others? Do we reveal that even the name of the church addressed doesn’t appear in all the manuscripts and that some wonder if maybe this was designed to be a circular letter, passed from hand to hand, congregation to congregation? Shall we discuss that there is some considerable question about the authorship of this letter, that it does sound like Paul’s thought, even while it uses language and grammar that is unique to this writing? Do we talk about the fact that this letter is the least personal of all the letters, in some ways, that there aren’t the glimpses into church life that enliven so much of the New Testament writing, which forces us even more to look at the words themselves and not attempt to get a glimpse behind the curtain at what caused this Epistle to be written? Where do we start?[2]

I think the best place to start is with simplicity, the simple idea of what is it saying. The other aspects can be argued over by theologians and those who are interested, but I think the best thing we can do with the letter is try and understand what it says. And I believe this first part talks about our hope in God through Jesus.

I think the writer of Ephesians is setting us to hope up by sharing their understanding of what God has done for us. Just look at this list:

  • Blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing that comes from heaven.
  • Asked us to live in the way of Christ
  • Taught us to be holy and blameless in God’s presence
  • Set us on a path to become his adopted children through Jesus Christ because of his love. 
  • Called us change the direction of our lives
  • Forgiven us for our failures based on his overflowing grace, which he poured over us with wisdom and understanding. 
  • Revealed his previously unrevealed thoughts to us, to bring all things together in Christ, the things in heaven along with the things on earth. 
  • Given us an inheritance in Christ
  • Set us aside by the plan of God, who accomplishes everything according to his design. 
  • Called us to be an honor to God’s glory 
  • Sealed us with the promised Holy Spirit because you believed in Christ. 

All these things are a result of our hearing the call of God and answering with an honest change of heart and life. All these things become the reasons for our taking a positive mental attitude toward living into the kin-dom lifestyle, believing the kin-dom will come to pass. Because God has offered all these things to us and given us wisdom and direction to accomplish them through the Holy Spirit, we can hope. Not just some fleeting, “I wish this would happen” kind of hope. But a deep, abiding sense of knowing what we have experienced and being able to live with the genuine expectation of more to follow.

Now what do we do with that? How do we live into hope?

We set our expectations on living into the Way of Jesus, believing change can happen as a result. We live with this hope as the driving force that moves us out of despair into joy, out of self into relationship, out of the confines of our personal circles and into the world to live hope out loud. We set our hope on God and live hope each day. We learn to look forward to seeing the Holy Spirit at every turn in the godly work we are doing. We learn to quit hiding behind in church comfort zones and reach out to where people live in the everyday world. We quit being afraid of making mistakes in the process of learning and reaching out and start living fearless lives of true engagement, searching, and spiritual exploration. We try things we have never tried before and fail and try new things with the constant belief that sooner or later the ideas land and connect. We give up on playing it safe and start living the Way of Jesus for real, in all its messiness, discomfort, and glory. 

And it starts by asking ourselves, are we people of hope and courage or are we people of fear, who will spend our days hiding behind these walls until they fall in?