Discovering Your Identity in Christ – A Study in Ephesians – Part 11

Before God Can Use a Man Greatly

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13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.”  Ephesians 3:13 NIV

Do you really want Christ to use you greatly?  Do you really want Christ to use you greatly?

Then He must first wound you deeply.

A.W. Tozer once said, “Before God can use a man greatly, He must allow him to be hurt deeply.”  A more modern rendition of that saying is that, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

According to Ephesians 3:13, the suffering of the Apostle Paul was the glory of the church.  I have never seen my sufferings as the glory of the people I serve, but that is how

Paul sees it.  Maybe we can get a better picture of this in Acts 20.   

God uses tribulations to comfort the saints and to convince the sinner.

Turn to Acts 20:  Notice that when Paul went to Miletus, the Ephesians went to meet him.  They took the time to travel far to be with their shepherd.  They knew his care for them.  They knew the sufferings he endured for them and the suffering he would endure for the Gospel as he continued on.  This was a very emotional meeting because they knew this was likely that last time Paul would see the Ephesians in person.

Let’s look at the passage.

13 We went on ahead to the ship and sailed for Assos, where we were going to take Paul aboard. He had made this arrangement because he was going there on foot. 14 When he met us at Assos, we took him aboard and went on to Mitylene. 15 The next day we set sail from there and arrived off Chios. The day after that we crossed over to Samos, and on the following day arrived at Miletus. 16 Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost.

17 From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. 18 When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. 19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. 20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. 21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.

22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

25 “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God,[f] which he bought with his own blood.[g] 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.

32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

36 When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. 37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. 38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.”  Acts 20:13-38 NIV

It’s important to take notice of the close relationship they had together.  See how they wept together?  The relationship Paul had with the Ephesians was so close that he was able to exhort them before they wept, embraced, and kissed him.

This is why Paul could instruct the Ephesians in chapters 4-6.  This is why he can tell them not to lose heart.  This is why he can tell them how to live their lives in marriage.  This is why he can tell them how to engage in spiritual warfare.   

I wonder how often do we try to avoid suffering in life and ministry.  I wonder how often we try so hard to avoid something which is “your glory” or the glory of the people we serve.

Why is it that when things get hard, we think God must be closing a door?  We think pain, discomfort, or suffering in our lives, must be a sign from God that that is NOT the direction we are to go.  We think obstacles, a lack of opportunity, and a lack of “feeling” called, means it’s not something we are supposed to do.   Paul sees it differently.  He sees his suffering for the church, as the glory of the church!  God uses tribulations to comfort the saints and to convince the sinner. 

I wonder if God is just setting us up for the glory of His people.  God allows us to endure and persevere through crushing trials as Paul did so that we can experience His comfort and presence – and then share it with others.

Paul understood the importance of stopping to be with people.  I struggle with this.  I am a person who likes to get from point A to point B, in the shortest time possible.  I don’t like to move through crowds slowly.  I want to get out as fast as possible.    I forget that non-believers and people of this world are not impressed when they see Christians being good in church, but when they see the light of Jesus Christ shining through broken vessels.  The enemy is not intimidated by Christians who only follow Jesus when their lives are comfy and cozy.

God uses tribulations to comfort the saints and to convince the sinner. 

Holy Spirit I struggle with the truth in these passages.  Increase my heart to be more like Yours… less like me.  More of You.  Less of me.  In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.  

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