Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ephesians 3:11

If you follow my other blog (The Contemplative Catholic Convert) you know I've been struggling with a severe case of sciatica for nearly a month. I am finally feeling comfortable enough to sit at the computer again.

. . . . so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord . . . (Ephesians 3:10-11).

We spent the last three lessons looking at verse 10. Let's turn our focus now to verse 11. Here St. Paul tells the Ephesians God's plan -- the plan Paul has been writing about for the past two chapters "was in accordance" with God's eternal purpose.

God's eternal purpose.

I think that's a remarkable concept. The full reconciliation of rebellious men and women with their holy Creator, the complete and utter cleansing of sin from the human soul, the union of all peoples by the blood of Jesus, the creation of the Church through which God would give spiritual guidance to the nations -- all these and more were conceived by God before the creation of earth itself -- even before the creation of time.

Even before Eve ate that fruit, and gave it to her husband.

Most people of Christian faith understand (as best as humans can understand the infinite God)
-- most Christians understand God sees the future as clearly as He sees the past and present. And nothing -- including events in the Garden of Eden -- nothing catches Him by surprise. Desolation, disease, disaster, death . . . nothing necessitates that He develop a Plan B to deal with those things that usually shake us to our core.

But while the recognition that God is not caught by surprise might make for interesting table-talk, table-talk does not meet our need when desolation overshadows our lives. So what can St. Paul's words here in verse 11 mean for my situation? Or yours?

Take a look at these passages here, here, here, here and here, before you answer, and before you move on in this lesson. You might want to pause at each passage and mull the texts over in your mind for a while.

The Lord's question in that last reference (John 11:26) I think speaks to the heart of the entire question of God's eternal purpose in what often appears to be desolation: Do you believe what I have said?

Life often undulates with confusion, heartache and loss. Live long enough and it's easy to wonder where is God in the midst of it all. But verse 11 of Ephesians chapter 3 -- and the passages you just read -- each remind us that from the very moment time began, God's plan for your life, for my life, and for the lives of those we love . . . God's eternal plan and purpose had already been conceived in His compassionate and loving heart.

He is simply bringing it to fruition in our personal timeline, and according to His eternal purpose.

And that is why we can trust Him to work all things together for good to those of us who love Him and are called according to His purpose (see Romans 8:28).

Next time we will look at how verse 11 directly affects our ability to accomplish verse 12.

Questions for Reflection:

1. Read John 11:1-35. What does verse 35 say to you about our Lord's heart toward you?

2. Read Proverbs 3:5. Why do you think it is often so difficult to do as this verse exhorts? What strategies might you employ to better enable you to trust Him?

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