What rolls off your tongue more easily, complaints or gratitude? While reading about Brother Andrew, a missionary who smuggled Bibles into communist countries, I asked myself that question. In God’s Smuggler, which chronicles Brother Andrew’s efforts, he said he knew whether someone was ready to be a missionary by their conversation. When someone complained more about the communist system than praised the goodness of God, they weren’t ready.
I’m afraid, especially during this election year, I’ve grumbled more than I’ve talked about God’s goodness. After reading Brother Andrew’s words I’m making an effort to change that.
Philippians 2:14-15 says, “Do all things without grumbling and disputing so that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.”
Paul lived in a crooked and perverse generation. Yet, he did not use that as an excuse to gripe. In my efforts to stop grumbling I realized something: it’s not enough to try to stop complaining. Nature abhors a vacuum. We must replace complaining with its opposite — praise and thanksgiving.
Ephesians 1 provides the cure to complaining. It reminds us to bless God with our lips for all the ways He’s blessed us. Praise stops grumbling and flows more readily when we focus on the riches we have in Christ. Let’s count some of these blessings that even a crooked and perverse culture can’t squelch.
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1. I’ve Been Rescued by Grace
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” (Eph. 1:1).
Paul begins by establishing his authority as an Apostle. God, not human authorities, chose Paul for his role in God’s kingdom. What’s so amazing about this is who Paul was when God chose him.
Acts 9 records Paul’s conversion. On the road to Damascus to capture Christians and haul them back to prison in Jerusalem, the Lord appeared to him in a blinding light. Paul, a religious zealot, was sincere, but sincerely wrong in his life’s pursuit.
Paul wasn’t seeking Jesus, but Jesus found Paul. Paul responded with what Romans (1:5; 16:26) calls the obedience of faith. He was transformed into a new man with a new identity and purpose.
In many ways, Paul’s transformation illustrates the truths presented in Ephesians concerning all believers. Like Paul, we are saved by grace (God sought us when we were following sin and Satan [Eph. 2]), through faith (we respond to Him), and not of ourselves (Eph. 2:8-9). Even the grace to respond to God’s wooing is a gift from God. Yet, we are responsible to exercise that gift of grace. As we do, grace to believe and respond is released.
Do you remember where you were headed when God called you to Himself? When we’re tempted to moan over our past, let’s consider where we’d be if Jesus hadn’t rescued us. God saved us, like Paul, when we were His enemies (Rom. 5:10).
2. I Have a New Holy Identity
“To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:1-2).
Do you see yourself as a saint or a sinner? According to Paul, it is better to call ourselves saints who sometime sin than sinners. When we’re tempted to complain about our weaknesses and grumble over our mistakes, we need to praise God and affirm the new creations we are in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).
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3. I’m Bountifully Blessed
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: who has blessed us” (Eph. 1:3).
The words “praise be” and “blessed” in this verse come from a combination of the same two root words, eu and logos. Eu means “good, well done;” logos is “a word, say, decree.” We say good things about God because He has done or declared good things for us.
“…blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Eph. 1:3).
Shortly after we moved to North Carolina, my husband visited his hometown of Phoenix. While he was there, I had access to everything in Phoenix. All I had to do was call my husband, and he could pick up what I wanted and send it to me.
Our bridegroom sits at the right hand of the Father. All we have to do is call to Him. When we need wisdom, patience, courage, forgiveness or the ability to forgive, we have access to these blessings through Christ.
The next time you start to murmur about some lack, remember to access your blessings in Christ.
4. God Chose Me
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world” (Eph. 1:4).
Whom do you admire in all the world? What would it be like if this person chose you to be on his or her team? Well, listen to this: God the Father chose you before He created the world to belong to Him. Before He separated darkness from light or made the first tree, you were in His heart!
The next time you feel alone or left out say out loud: “God chose me. God chose me to be in His family.”
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5. He Likes the Real Me
He chose us “to be holy and blameless in his sight” (Eph. 1:4b).
Our spirit essence changed the moment of spiritual birth. But our soul/personality is in the process of being sanctified. God sees our new nature — even when we don’t. He chose us to be holy in His sight. What He sees is most important.
Paul listed all types of people who will not inherit the kingdom of God in 1 Corinthians 6:11, then added, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” When your behavior falls short, praise God for the changed person He sees you to be in Christ.
6. God Loves Me and Adopted Me to Be His Heir
“In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will — to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves” (Eph. 1:5-6).
Some people trip over the word predestined. Here it speaks more of the what than of the who. In Paul’s time, an adopted son enjoyed all the rights and privileges of an adult son born into the family. This speaks of our standing and relationship to our Abba Father in God’s forever family (Rom. 8:15). Christ secured our future by giving us all the privileges of a full-fledged adopted son.
Paul uses words like “in love” and “pleasure” as well as others to show how only kindness flows from God’s heart to His children. He only seeks our highest good.
7. I Am Forgiven and Redeemed
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us (Eph. 1:7).
Paul adds more reasons to praise God. In Christ we have:
- Redemption: Jesus purchased us from the slave market of sin with His own blood so that we no longer have to serve sin.
- Forgiveness: of all our sins—past, present, and future.
These blessings are “in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (verse 7)—not out of. Think of being blessed according to a child’s allowance or according to a billionaire’s bank account. In other words, God has lavished us with His grace.
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8. I Am Sealed with the Holy Spirit
“When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:13).
When a man proposes, he presents his fiancé with an engagement ring guaranteeing his pledge to take her as his bride. The moment we believed in Christ, God put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit of all to come. Our Bridegroom will return for us and fulfill every promise He’s made.
9. His Power Is at Work in Me
Paul includes a beautiful prayer we would do well to pray for ourselves and each other.
“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. 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, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 1:17-20).
The human mind can’t comprehend all the riches we have in Christ. We must “keep asking” God to grant us “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.”
When I think of revelation, I picture seeing into the future or the unraveling of complex mysteries. In this case, the Spirit illumines Jesus so we can know Him better. He is beyond human understanding and in Him all our riches lie.
This understanding includes knowing that the power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to us when sin, fear, doubt and discouragement assault us. Think about that for a moment. What difference would drawing on this power make in how you face life’s obstacles?
10. Our King Is Lord Over All
“Far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Eph. 1:21-23).
Finally, Paul reminds us that Jesus is Lord over every ruler and authority in heaven and on earth. He is above the media, every political ruler and your boss. Just saying that infuses me with hope. We never have to fear any election or spiritual authority removing our King. No power can usurp His authority. No tragedy can shake Him. Our God reigns! Now, that’s reason to praise!
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Drawing from her walk with Christ, and decades as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy the fruitful and satisfying lives found only in God’s grace. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, releases February 2020. She and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at debbieWwilson.com.