God through All and in All [Ephesians 4]
1Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,
2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
In the first three chapters of Ephesians we have seen the resounding theme of God's grace, His power at work in us. As we jump into the last three chapters it is easy to forget all that has already been said. God, through Paul, is giving the practical of what this new life looks like. It is natural for us to look at these instructions as what we need to do. "Ah," we think, "now I know what my part is." And then we promptly start trying to do it, in our own strength, completely apart from God. Then we promptly fail on the first thing mentioned, "with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love."
Why is this? Did God purposely give us commands so that we would always be in a failure mode? Does He pile on us a standard that we can never do? Is His motive to keep us trying harder? Frankly, I lived the first 20 years of my adulthood with this mindset. I would try to be gentle and patient, do okay for awhile and then fail miserably. I would then feel guilty for letting God down which would cause me to be determined to try harder, all the time thinking this is what God required of me. Sound familiar?
I now understand that my focus was wrong. Can you see it in the description of my behavior? The subject of each of my statements is "I." Which is also the subject of pride. So in my misunderstanding of these passages and those similar, my Christian journey was a walk in pride filled with do and don't lists, not one of walking in the good works God had prepared for me. (Ephesians 2:10).
As I am beginning to learn more about God's grace (His divine influence on my heart and its reflection in my life, including gratitude, Strong's Dictionary), I can now look at this passage in a different light. What God is actually instructing me is to know what His reflection will look like in my life. He is giving me hope - hope that through the work of His power, my life can reflect Him more accurately. It begins with humility. Humility is recognizing that this description of His fullness in my life is absolutely impossible in my own strength. Apart from Him doing the work, I cannot "walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which [I] have been called." Humility requires me to "bow my knee before the Father" and "pray that he will grant me to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man." (Ephesians 3:14-16). Then gratitude will overflow from my heart as I recognize that it is Him, not me, doing the work.
With this new understanding when I see the lack of gentleness, patience and love in my life, it becomes a reminder that I am trying in my own strength again and that I need to run to God and ask Him to do the work instead. He is "one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all."
Together we bow before God the Father and praise Him for His power that is at work in us, and that He is over all, through all and in all.