[The following is an excerpt from A Walk Thru the Book of Ephesians: Real Power for Daily Life a small group study guide from Walk Thru the Bible and Baker Books. © 2009 by Walk Thru the Bible]
There's still a copy of the ticket on the wall of the den. It's framed and a little dusty, but prominently displayed. Ken's windfall seven years ago wasn't a huge amount by lottery standards, but it was enough to get him out of a hole—for a time. He keeps another copy of the ticket in his wallet. It reminds him that at least on one beautiful day long ago, he was very lucky. And who knows? Maybe it will bring him luck again.
Christine is worried about her future. Will she find a job? A nicer apartment? Or, most importantly, a husband? She could probably wait for the first two to unfold on their own, but the third . . . well, she's desperate to know. And the number for that psychic hotline seems to show up on TV at oddly "coincidental" times—like when she's been thinking about her future and a phone is nearby. She's starting to wonder if it's worth a try.
Matt has been mail-ordering an expensive cologne—or, as the ad called it, "a pheromone-enhanced product for men." He might as well, he figures. His looks and personality haven't won him any dates in over a year. Something has to work. Maybe this is it.
Alan has been putting a huge prayer request before the Lord for years. He's been very persistent and, by no choice of his own, very patient. Sometimes he thinks the waiting has been ordained by God, and sometimes he just thinks he must have blown it somewhere along the way. "Maybe," he says to himself, "if I become as holy as a Christian is supposed to be, God will answer." So he vows never to sin again if God will grant his request. And weekly, even daily, he's reminded that he doesn't measure up.
What do all these people have in common? They all want life to be better, and they're convinced—or want to be convinced—that a certain technique will make it so. These people aren't unusual; they represent nearly all of us in one way or another. Some of our techniques are superstitious, others mental, some mostly or partially rooted in scripture, some thoroughly godly, and others thoroughly pagan. We have rituals, habits, tricks, routines, formulas, and all sorts of other means to influence a situation. That's because we feel out of control, and we're desperate to have some semblance of mastery over our circumstances. Mostly we're just trying to get by in a frustrating world.
Human beings are full of questions: What does my future hold? Who will protect me and provide for me? How can I find the truth? Does truth even exist? How can I be fulfilled? When we feel confused, we search for answers. And when we feel beaten down—by adverse circumstances, by the forces of fate, or simply by the unpredictable movements of everyday life—we appeal to whatever sources of help we can find. History is littered with such appeals, from the mundane to the mystical: half-hearted superstitions, good-luck charms, psychological tricks, ritual prayers and sacrifices, magical blessings and curses, mantras, horoscopes, and on and on. Trapped in the confines of a material world, we seek access to whatever's behind it. Something in us craves an alternative to our very inadequate resources. We're frustrated by our limitations, and we hunger for supernatural help.
The people in and around Ephesus were also seekers of the supernatural. They had an array of incantations, spells, amulets, and other techniques for harnessing divine power. Paul used some of their terminology in his letter to the Ephesians, but for a different purpose. He attributed all power and authority to the One who was raised from the dead and exalted in heaven. God's people—those who humbly depend on him in faith—have access to a greater power than the world has ever known.
One of the strongest messages in Ephesians is that we don't have to live in frustration and futility anymore. Though we have long lived in a murky, confused, rebellious environment—a world separated from its Creator by its own counterfeit pursuits—our connection with our Father has been restored through the grace and the exaltation of His Son. We are seated with him in heavenly places, above every other power and authority (Ephesians 1:20-21; Ephesians 2:6). We are no longer alienated from God or each other; we can have deep fellowship in His Spirit. We are redeemed for so much more than we've experienced in the past.
If you've ever felt like someone groping in darkness for any hint of light; if you've ever felt powerless to face the assault on your life by the world around you; if you've ever longed for a deeper connection with your heart's true home; then let the powerful words of Paul's letter to the Ephesians really sink in. Its truths take us out of our own limitations, seat us at the right hand of the ultimate Father, and bestow on us the family name. We've been given an entirely new wardrobe—the clothes of the kingdom of light—and empowered with all we could ever need. We don't need tricks or techniques to get by. Our call for help has forever been answered.
Adapted from A Walk Thru the Book of Ephesians: Real Power for Daily Life, a small group study guide from Walk Thru the Bible and Baker Books. This small group study and others can be found at www.walkthruguides.org.