Over the past couple of years, even when money has gotten tighter than it ever has before, I have begun asking myself a question, “Why do I settle for second or third best? I am not talking necessarily about large money items here. For example, why in the world do I keep using a wash cloth that is totally ripped on all the outside edges? Why do I buy the clothes I don’t really like, but the sale price was so very good? Why do I keep complaining in my head about the dirty bathroom floor, but I don’t get down and scrub it hard? In other words, why do I settle for less in quality of life in the areas I can exert control? It doesn’t take a lot to buy a new wash cloth; it actually saves money not to buy the clothes I don’t like; and it takes only about 15 minutes to scrub the bathroom floor (it’s a very little room). Do I make the assumption that just because money is tight and time is also on a budget that I have to live life like I’m in the bottom of the heap?
I remember once I on purpose bought a flavor of ice cream which my husband didn’t like because he wasn’t supposed to have the sugar. It was my favorite flavor (chocolate mint) and I knew he hated that variety. Imagine my surprise when I went to the freezer a short time later and there was no ice cream. I asked my spouse what had happened to it and he said that he had eaten it. I was stunned and asked why in the world he ate it since he didn’t even like that flavor and he said, “Because it was there.” What an illustration for settling for less! Why do we settle for something we don’t really want and that won’t improve our lives when it is just the easy way out? Why are we just so complacent?
Why do we often settle for less in the vital area of the quality of our walk with Christ? Do we just want to stay complacent and have an easy pain-free path? In the Book of Ephesians the Apostle Paul expects in his prayers that the Ephesians are to have a relationship with the Father in which they are always getting to know Him better. Paul’s prayers for them leave no place for them to have the attitude, “Oh, I can knock off the Christian stuff today and give myself a vacation.” Paul writes: [For I always pray to] the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, that He may grant you a spirit of wisdom and revelation [of insight into mysteries and secrets] in the [deep and intimate] knowledge of Him, by having the eyes of your heart flooded with light, so that you can know and understand the hope to which He has called you, and how rich is His glorious inheritance in the saints (His set-apart ones) (Ephesians 1:17-18, Amplified Bible). Note that Paul is always praying for them this way; it is not a once and done thing. It must be a serious matter for Paul to be so burdened about this regarding the Ephesians, especially when Paul himself had a life filled to the brim with things that many would have considered more important: – death threats, beatings, shipwrecks, people turning on him (to name a few).
In this passage Paul also prays regarding “your heart being flooded with light”. This can be a painful exercise. For example, picture being in a room which is pitch black and suddenly having a spotlight shining in your face. It would be a shock and probably quite stressful to the eyes. However, once you were accustomed to the room suddenly being illuminated, you would desire to continue in the light and not be still groping around in the pitch black. That’s the way our spiritual journey should be: we never want to go back to the dark again. We don’t want to settle for easy religion that never satisfies and we want Christ to shine the light even in the areas of our life which we have kept hidden for a long time from any spiritual light.
The International Bible translates the Ephesians passage this way: “17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms”. I love the terms “hope”, “riches” and “power”. The hope to which He has called us is to be like Christ. This hope can be quite unpleasant sometimes as the Holy Spirit shaves away at our lives so that Christ can shine. It may feel like having to undergo surgery without anesthesia. This hope is encouraging because even the most adverse circumstances, when placed in His hands, can become a delightful key in the Master’s plan. In other words, there is nothing meaningless in a Christian’s life when God is at the helm. There is no meaningless pain or heartache and there also is no meaningless joy.
The riches of the glorious inheritance mean that I am inheriting everything as a child of the King. To name a few of these riches of our inheritance, we should consider incredible strength, love that is ever abounding, and the ability to persevere even as Christ persevered on the cross. None of these riches are to be taken lightly. As for the power, this is resurrection power. That is quite incredible – the power of God to take this tattered life and to make it into something new and worthwhile.
This is an unusual life that Paul is praying for the Ephesians. It is a hard life that can be filled with unexpected twists and turns, and I would liken it to a well written mystery book. When I get a new book, I often read the first chapter of it and then promptly reading the last chapter. Friends of mine can’t figure out this quirk of mine, but for me it makes sense – I want to know where I’m going. I want to know that all the twists and turns have a purpose and I want to know that in the end this is all going to make sense. That is exactly the faith God wants from us, to believe that all the joys and pain in the twists and turns have an eternal purpose and in His eyes the plan does make sense. This is not a life for the faint-hearted or for those who want the easy path. This is the life for those who want to go full-tilt for Christ, no matter the cost because we want a first class Christian life – one that is in step with the Savior. This is the life that Paul prayed for, not only for the Ephesians but for all of us who call ourselves believers in the resurrected Christ. What a life!!