True faith in Christ and a changed heart will first be exhibited in the home through the relationships with the people who know us best. As a father of three, Ephesians 6:4 speaks loudest to me, Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in training and instruction of the Lord. As parents we sometimes turn into mini dictators trying to control every aspect of our children’s lives. But here Paul tells us to raise our children through Christ’s instructions. What is good for our lives is also good for our kids. If they do not live through the instruction of the perfect teacher, then we are a poor alternative.
God does not tell us to avoid contact with unbelievers; quite the contrary. We are called by Christ to love others as He loved us and to lead them to Him. However, we are to be an influence in this world and we are to guard ourselves from being influenced by it. In Ephesians 5:6 Paul says, Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. We must always remember that the promises of this world are fleeting and hold temporary satisfaction and fulfillment. It is through our love and obedience of God that we are able to make an eternal impact on those around us.
The knowledge of Christ and a relationship with Him are two separate things. In Ephesians 4:21 Paul reminds the Ephesians of this, Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. As believers who have a relationship with Christ, and who study His word, we are taught the truth of who Christ is and how we are to be a reflection of Him. We have no excuses when we believe in these truths. If we fail, it is because of a conscious decision to rebel against what we know is true.
Before Christ, there was only a path to God through Israel. But God’s plan is perfect and He made a way for all people through Christ. In Ephesians 3:6 Paul says, This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. The plan has always been for all to be able to receive salvation. What is new is that we are now co-heirs; both Jews and Gentiles. God created all of humanity and His perfect plan and desire is to have a relationship with everyone.
We were all created by God to do great things. God’s intention was to use us greatly and impact those around us in a meaningful way in the light of eternity. In Ephesians 2:10 Paul tells the church in Ephesus, For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. We were created with a purpose. Let us remember that in all we do.
God’s plan is perfect. When we trust in Him to walk us through life and we follow His will, we accomplish a fulfilled life through God’s perfect will. Ephesians 1:11 says, In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will. When the chaos around us feels overwhelming, we can rest assured in the truth that God is in control.
To “fear” God is to have reverence for Him. When we revere God, we put our trust and hope in Him. In Psalm 147:11 it says, The Lord delights in those who fear Him, Who put their hope in His unfailing love. Once we put our trust in God and know His power over all we do, then God can use our abilities most effectively.
A prayer for guidance is self-centered if it is not accompanied by a recognition that God has the power to redirect our path. Wanting guidance to fit out wants and ignoring God’s will is not obedience. Psalm 143:10 says, Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground. David asked God to teach him to do God’s will and not his own. We should be asking God to open our eyes to His will so that we may know the right direction for our lives and align our wills with God’s.
We all get overwhelmed by our circumstances and stress. And while we don’t always turn to God as our first response, He is the best solution to all our problems in ever situation. In Psalm 142:1 David begins the Psalm with a plea for help, I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. There is no question God is the only guaranteed solution to all our problems. We may not always like the answers, and our requests may not be answered exactly as we had envisioned in our minds, but when God answers our prayers, it is the best answer in the light of eternity.
Sometime, in our sorrow, we forget what it’s like to be joyful. When the Israelites were exiled or in captivity, they would work hard to maintain their culture and their identity as God’s chosen people. Often that identity was tied to their life back in Jerusalem. In Psalm 137:5 the author wants to desperately remember his identity as God’s chosen and what it meant to live as a free and sovereign nation under God: If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. For us, when we are far from God or when we have lost our joy because of the sorrow in our lives, we should cling closely to our identity in Christ and the freedom we have from salvation, regardless of our present circumstances. While this is easier said than done, there will be times when this is all we have.