Have you ever played limbo? It’s a game of how-low-can-you-go where the most flexible person wins.
My 50th birthday was celebrated with a skating party. I was pretty excited as people dropped out one after another and yet I kept in the game of limbo. I ducked my head low, curled up in a ball, my right leg out, my left leg supporting me.
Later, when I checked birthday videos, I laughed out loud when I realized that the guy holding the pole was cheating for the birthday girl.
Perhaps you’ve experienced limbo of a different kind. And it’s no fun at all.
You’re stuck somewhere between a dream God has placed in your heart … and the reality of arriving there any time soon.
That’s where Paul lived as he scrawled the letter of Ephesians. His residence was prison and his reality was house arrest. Paul longed to be building churches and people.
He was not alone in that prison. Sometimes his visitors were named Barnabas or Luke, but other times his visitor was named discouragement. (Acts 23:11)
Which makes the next set of verses that much more powerful.
Somehow he filled up — even in the waiting period, surrounded by guards, far from his dream of
Ministry — and was so filled up that it allowed him to pour out into others.
Everybody should have a skating party to celebrate their 50th, right? <3
Without realizing his dream of ministry.
But let’s look at this from a different camera angle.
No, HIS dreams of ministry weren’t unfolding.
In fact, he might have complained to a friend, “I’m stuck. All I can do in this place is write letters.”
Like the book of Ephesians that you and I are reading right now. Like 1st and 2nd Thessalonians.
Like Philippians. Like Galatians, Romans, 1st and 2nd Timothy. Colossians. Titus. Philemon.
In all, 13 letters that were later included in Scripture.
He had no idea of what God might do with those letters. His goal was to write them to a local church, but under the anointing and power of the Holy Spirit, those books have reached beyond the churches and transformed millions of people who read them in prison, in trouble, who are hungry for more of God, who desire to know Jesus, who want to break free of addiction, who simply want more in their faith.
Read the prayer again in Ephesians 1:15-23.
That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you — every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank.
I ask — ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory — to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him — endless energy, boundless strength!
All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.
We are reading it in a different version (THE MESSAGE) because, as we grow in our faith through the Word, we need to push beyond our familiar boundaries to discover more ways to soak in and meditate on His word.
Sometimes seeing it in a new way brings depth, and perhaps shows us something we missed in our first read.
On Monday we personalized this prayer.
Today, consider Paul as he wrote it. His discouragement. His limbo and waiting period. His heart to reach beyond the confines of limbo and be flexible, at least as far as he could reach on his own. The fact that he had to feel that somehow there was more for him — if he could just get out of limbo.
Then consider what God did with those small, hand-written letters.
Now, let’s look at your life and put some practical application to these passages, because that’s all part of the growth process.
1. Am I in limbo?
2. What is my prayer during limbo or a waiting time?
3. Have I let discouragement keep me from seeing what God can do with faithfulness?
4. What does Paul’s prayer and his story have to teach me?
5. What is one thing I can do differently after reading (and understanding) this passage?
Perhaps we will not know until eternity what took place in our limbo periods, but for this girl it’s encouraging to know that my “limbo times” — we’ve just emerged from one that stretched nearly three years — is productive in the hands of a mighty God.
Share your answers here. I’ll also stop over at my Facebook page to chat, if you have questions.