Ephesians 3:20 says God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. So how big can you dream?
Our dreams change at different stages of life. Children’s dreams are like Disney movies. Teens imagine the person of our dreams responding to how we feel. We hope to find our dream job, our dream car. Our imagination can go wild over music or art, creating a business or trading in shares, adventures in exotic places. The sky is the limit: God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.
Youtube has no end of sermons and conference messages on Ephesians 3:20, saying exactly that. But there is a problem. Starting with the self and what I want, it’s all too easy to reduce God to my servant, a fairy-godmother to call on to grant my wishes and fulfil my dreams.
That’s not the story of Ephesians 3:20. It doesn’t start with God bowing his knees to us, but us bowing our knees to him (3:14). God’s role is not fairy-godmother, but Father — the wise Patriarch who calls the whole family into caring harmony (3:15). Rather than fulfilling my desires, God gives us power to do his bidding (3:16). His divine presence among us empowers us to love each other in the astounding way he has loved us in Christ (3:17-18). In him, I cannot be full of myself and my dreams; the goal is to be full of God and his dreams for us all (3:19).
When God stepped into history, he did immeasurably more than anyone asked or imagined. Before Christ, humanity was at war over competing dreams. One story claims that when Alexander the Great had subjugated the known world, he wept that there were no more worlds to conquer. Eventually the Greeks lost power to the Rome, the Empire that forced all Europe into submission with their powerful army. These tyrants, like others before them, conspired to crush God’s nation too, claiming for themselves the land God had promised Abraham.
In their suffering, Jewish apocalyptic writers imagined travelling into the heavens to find out how God would resolve this injustice. They imagined God doing what he had done in the days of Noah, a mighty outpouring of his anger against the nations to restore his reign over his people.
But none of them imagined or even glimpsed the magnitude of what God would do when he sent his anointed ruler to his people. God saw how the nations were just as dead under the powers of evil as his own nation was. His anointed entered into the death of Israel and the death of the nations at the hands of the powers of evil. When he rose from the dead, the Messiah made us alive with himself (2:5), raised up with Christ in his reign (2:6). Despite what the nations had done, God rescued them anyway because of his astounding benevolence (2:8). God broke down the division between his nation and the nations (2:14), ending the hostilities (2:16), bringing the whole humanity together as citizens of God’s reign (2:19), the place where God dwells (2:20).
In all the prayers of God’s people before the Messiah came, in all their wildest imaginative stories, no one had ever dreamed God would do something global like this. What God did in Christ really was immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.
Ephesians 3:20 is not a licence for selfish dreams. It’s about God’s astounding dreams for planet earth. God’s dreams for his earthly realm are immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine.
What do you imagine as the future of our world? While many people live in fear of losing power, of domination by evil, of wars and nuclear disasters, our trust is in the God who saves. We anticipate a day when every knee bows to God’s anointed and every tongue confesses allegiance to him. What God is doing for all the people of the earth in his anointed is immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine.
My prayer now is that we who give allegiance to King Jesus will lift up our eyes to our leader and express his loving governance as his community, living in confidence of where his kingship will take us all:
Ephesians 3 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (NIV)