Paul wrote this portion of Ephesians 3 with one intent in mind: that contemplating what God is doing in and through the church throughout world history should always encourage us.
“So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.” Ephesians 3:13
Paul wrote Ephesians from prison—and knowing your spiritual leader is locked up for what you believe would be a tough pill to swallow. The Ephesians might be thinking, “If Paul can go to prison, we could be next.”
It is common to be discouraged as a believer. Maybe it is the divided political climate, increased secularism and it seems like our country is moving away from God, maybe you are faithful in witnessing and praying for people to be saved and it seems like your efforts are not bearing fruit. The fact is, that neither the news nor our feelings tell the whole story.
When was the last time you heard the evening news share of gospel advance in difficult places? When was the last time the front page of the paper highlighted how God used a church community to greatly bless a needy family? When was the last time the news reported the miracle of new life after someone repented of their sins and put their faith in Christ?
We should always be encouraged that God is working out His eternal plans for the world in and through the church.
Brothers and sisters, when you are discouraged, remind yourself what God is doing in the world. When you are discouraged in ministry, remind yourself what God is doing through your ministry—you are advancing the banner of the gospel and fighting a spiritual battle against the evil powers of darkness.
Don’t be discouraged Sunday school teacher, faithful church member, pastor, or faithful Christian parent—God is using your efforts, he’s hearing your prayers. Your work for the Lord will not only never be in vain, but it will put His manifold wisdom on display to the entire universe.
God does extraordinary things through ordinary people and situations.
Don’t be discouraged—God is doing great things that have eternal ramifications.
When I was a kid and there was a chore I didn’t want to do or think I could do, I would tell my dad I just couldn’t do it. “Dad, I’m trying to clean what you told me to and I’m scrubbing and scrubbing and it’s just not working!”
My dad would tell me, “I bet that if I gave you a million dollars to do it, you could do it.”
And you know what? Even though I never got a million dollars, that simple comment gave me energy to continue on by helping my see my “suffering” in a bigger context with a glorious goal.
When we don’t think we can go on in faith or in life, we are to remind ourselves of these glorious truths from Ephesians 3—we are to remind ourselves of the glory and the reward that is ours in Jesus Christ. As Paul says, we know that our sufferings will produce a future glory that is beyond compare.
I shared the story earlier of Umar—the Indonesian man who longed for forgiveness and received it in Christ. What I didn’t share is that right after he came to know the Lord, he told his friends and family what Christ did for him—and they rejected him and abandoned him.
They even took him to a religious court and he lost all of his possessions and wandered homeless for a year. But even though it seemed like he lost everything, he gained everything in the unsearchable riches of Christ.
Umar has since remarried and has dedicated his entire life to shining the light of Christ in dark places. He not only serves in his church but is also leading a movement planting house churches in Indonesia and Malaysia as a witness to those countries and the principalities of the glory and supremacy of Christ. And when his life on earth comes to an end, his reward will be great.
Father, your eternal plans for the world through the church are truly amazing. Would you greatly expand our vision for how you can use us to minister the gospel in this world and expand our joy in participating with your body, the church. We are so grateful to you for all that you’ve done for us in Christ.
In JESUS name,