God is able to strengthen the human heart — your heart, today. He can do more within us, according to His love, than we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20), and the Apostle Paul helps us understand how this strengthening happens.
Through his epistolatory writing, Paul instructs the believers at Ephesus to not “lose heart” over what he is suffering—namely, his imprisonment for the gospel (Ephesians 3:13). He and the saints in Ephesus are connected in the Lord. They are all part of His holy temple built on the foundation of the apostles, with Christ the cornerstone, as the dwelling place of the Spirit (Ephesians 2:1).
In Paul’s concern for these believers, he exemplifies for them what gives him courage as an apostle and member of Christ’s temple. He builds them up in the way of spiritual strength through a prayer about the saints’ shared love of God and oneness in Christ (Ephesians 2:15).
We can follow Paul to pray that our hearts would be strengthened too according to the ways and works of God.
God strengthens our hearts with power—through His Spirit and in the location of our inner selves. We need God’s power to be at work. Thus, we do not want to be hindering the work of God with unconfessed sin (Psalm 66:18). We do not want to be cherishing sin in our hearts—but looking for it (Lamentations 3:40), asking God to examine us for its presence (Psalm 139:23), and then understanding, confessing, and repenting of what is found.
The Spirit of God is the member of the Trinity who has applied salvation to us who believe. He has brought about a washing of regeneration and renewal, which has been richly poured upon us through Jesus Christ. This work of God has enabled us as individuals to be justified before God’s holy court, that we might receive the promise of eternal life—according to His grace, not our righteousness (Titus 3:5-7).
By this powerful work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, through the faith that we have exercised in Jesus, we have the basis for the strengthening of our hearts—through turning from sins and for inner beings that are fully convinced of the love of God for us in the Lord.
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2. We pray that our hearts would be strengthened with rootedness and grounding in love (Ephesians 3:17).
Being grounded in Christ involves not changing our minds about God’s love. The work of the Holy Spirit in our lives should not be able to bypass our notice or be met with our near indifference. As we think of the power of God to turn us from His enemies (Romans 5:10; Colossians 1:21) into His family (John 1:21), and as we think about the goodness of the Holy Spirit to change our inner beings, we will marvel.
We will see that these truths are where we want to sink the roots of our lives. Better love than this, greater power than this are not to be discovered. Once we have found God (Isaiah 55:6), the God who came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10), no other spiritual searching is warranted. We have arrived at the home of our lives and the place we belong, connected to the eternal land where we want to plant our forever-roots. We ask that He never take His love from us! We read in Romans that nothing shall separate us from it (Romans 8:38-39).
3. We pray that our hearts would be strengthened to comprehend with all the saints the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love, and know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:18).
We must let other believers speak to us of the love of God. Others might see the tenor of our lives and thoughts differently than we do — they might see weaknesses in our approach to God or understanding of Him. God’s love can extend through all of who we are — do we see it? Do we think there is an area of ourselves beyond the reach of God’s love? How erroneous fallen human thought can be!
The love of Christ extends to the most unlovable and unlovable-feeling parts of us. Perhaps our belief in God’s love has lessened or been stifled from growth because we begin to accept the world’s values about good and bad personal traits or characteristics. Do we reflect God’s view about what traits and characteristics are of worth? We must test the assumptions we have formed, remembering that the world has been known to call evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20).
Perhaps our feelings of being unlovable come from the sins that we hate that have been a part of us. If so, do we think our sin is more powerful than the grace of God? Do we disagree with Paul that where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more, such that — in love — Christ’s righteousness could take hold of us (Romans 5:20-21)?
We must not be caught thinking that God’s plan for salvation is ineffective for forgiving our sins, healing our wounds, granting corrected sight, or setting us on the path of righteousness. We ought not dishonor our God by entertaining doubts about His capabilities.
As we look to the ways God’s love has so evidently changed our brothers and sisters in Christ around us and continues to do so, we begin to comprehend together with the saints the reaches and riches of His kindness and His steadfastness toward us.
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In Christ dwells the fullness of God, and we are being rooted and built up in Him (Colossians 2:9-10; 2:17). Our aim as believers is to together be able to house the full measure of the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19) as the holy temple of His Spirit. We are being built into this holy temple on this earth, and we will fully be glorified—we will fully attain the measure of His fullness — in His presence one day.
In this goal, believers are unified in the great love of God in Christ. As we commune with one another in love, trusting and obeying God in this, God delights to root and ground us more and more. He is wanting to bless us with His uniting love, to reward those who earnestly seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). We must seek God in our inner beings — after all, Paul is actively praying for a great strengthening in the hearts of the Ephesian believers. And we must trust His work in us, which we could never perform in ourselves, according to His power.
We can know that He is desirous to do this work of love in His people — according to His richness of glory, not limited by the starting or natural capacities or frameworks of our hearts or relationships. As we come to a knowledge of the truth and as His love is our grounding, we will be filled with Him.
We learn from Paul to continually expand our thoughts from our power to His. The work of strengthening believers in love is for His honor and glory (Ephesians 3:21); so, it must be a work greater than us. Given that His strengthening comes out of the riches of His glory (Ephesians 3:16), how great is that strength He will give to His people who are committed to attributing the glory to Him!
Let us not be surprised when the work of His hands, then, is indeed far more than we ask or think; this is the certain hope we have. Being built by the Spirit on this foundation that Paul’s prayer sets, God strengthens the human heart.
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Lianna Davis is author of Keeping the Faith: A Study in Jude and Made for a Different Land: Eternal Hope for Baby Loss. She and her husband, Tyler, live outside of Dallas, Texas and have two dear daughters.