GSFA Devotional: Bread for Our Journey
1st Nov 2021 (All Saints Day)
THE GOD OF THE IMMEASURABLY MORE:
A Testimony after the 8th Global South Conference
(Eph 3:14-21 )
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20–21, ESV)
It is a wonderful gift to be given an experience of God doing immeasurably more (or “far more abundantly” as in the translation of v20 above) than all that you can ask or imagine.
That is indeed how several of us who participated in the recent 8th Global South Conference felt at the end of the conference. About 90 of us from 16 Provinces of the Anglican Communion, literally across the two ends of the globe, had gathered online in two-hour slots each day from October 14th -17th. Only God could have transcended all the limitations of such an online gathering to produce a deep and joyous sense of ‘koinonia,’ which is a rich biblical word for fellowship in the deepest sense of the word. As we worshipped the Lord through streamed-in songs & liturgy, heard His word preached, discussed issues related to Gospel mission & ministry, and shared and prayed in small “breakout rooms”, the Spirit of God knit us together in a felt oneness as the body of Christ. There was a freedom and a joy in our midst that came from believing the same deposit of truth from God’s holy word, and, uniting in love to make known that saving truth to all the world.
What could have been just another church business meeting was transformed by God to be a time of humbling and finding new strength in the Holy Spirit for the challenges of our times. When it came to the Resolutions at the end of the Conference, the delegates were practically unanimous in our commitment as the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches to guard the truth and to pursue ways in which we would be a people ready to share the Gospel, ready to suffer for the faith, ready to care for the needy, and ready to meet the returning King. A Conference born out of minimal expectations and slow response turned out to be a fresh launching pad of a ‘missional koinonia’ among the gathered orthodox Provinces. Only the Lord could have done it! It was a distinct experience of ‘the God of the immeasurably more’ in the here and now of life and ministry. Therefore, we pour out our hearts in thanksgiving and give Him all the glory.
Such an experience causes us to look more deeply at the words of St Paul in his prayer for the Ephesian church in Eph 3:14-21. Here we are brought to behold ‘the God of the immeasurably more’ in His salvation plan for the world.
When Paul says ‘For this reason I bow my knees … (v14)’ he is emphasizing that it is the greatness of what God has purposed and accomplished in Christ Jesus that causes him to pour himself out in earnest prayer for the Ephesian believers. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God has reconciled a wayward world to Himself, and He has created a new world-wide society in which the deepest of human divisions are healed and reconciled. God has done immeasurably more than all Paul’s Jewish training had prepared him for. God’s new covenant in Christ fulfilled and far surpassed the old covenant that came through Moses. Indeed, the “exodus” Christ accomplished on the Cross (Lk 9: 31) outstripped the exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt and even their liberation from Babylonian exile. In Christ, God has given Christians the capacity to grow in degrees towards the full glory – and this is what the apostle is passionately praying will be fulfilled in the Church.
The footing of our faith is in these salvation events recorded in and interpreted by holy Scripture. Yes, we are stirred and encouraged when we experience the God of the immeasurably more in the ‘here & now’, but our faith does not rest on our present experiences of God but on the trustworthiness of the God revealed in the Bible.
Paul’s prayer invites us to trust and call upon ‘the God of the immeasurably more’ in times of acute adversity. The world is presently facing the crisis of a generation, brought on by the COVID pandemic. The Scriptures describe such times of escalated conflict, catastrophe, and upheavals as “birth pangs” that mark the time between our Lord’s first and second coming. Such times are invariably times of God’s chastening and God’s discipline.
We need a strength not out own to hold fast to our faith in such times and to hold forth our faith to a suffering and searching world. Paul wrote his prayer while in prison and in the midst of adverse times for the Church. Yet his prayer is full of adoring praise because he knows that in such times Christians can rely on the immeasurably great power of the God who raised Jesus from the dead. That dynamic power is made available to us through the indwelling Holy Spirit-: “strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” (Eph 3: 16, 20). Take heart, beloved people of God, for the God of the immeasurably more has made every provision for our journey through a contested world and to bring us at last to the new heaven and the new earth.
Like Paul, we too must give ourselves to fervent prayer and unrestrained praise because we serve the God who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or think. Let us go forth then with renewed confidence in this our God and let us together be channels of His saving love and trumpet-voices for the Gospel to His everlasting praise and glory, in all the Church and across all generations!
The Rt Revd Rennis Ponniah
Hon Director, GSFA Secretariat
Hon Fellow, St Peter’s Hall (Diocese of Singapore)