Beneath the surface of America's streets and beyond the sight of motorists, the nation's underpinnings are collapsing. The American Society of Civil Engineers has issued a dismal report on the state of America's infrastructure. Some of the worst spots are in places like New York City, where gas mains, water lines, sewage systems, bridges, and subways are over a hundred years old. While retailers make sure the storefronts on Fifth Avenue are resplendent, impending disaster lurks beneath the sidewalks.
The same is true for our national morality. We focus on our exterior images but neglect the infrastructure of the soul. We see it everywhere: NFL players, celebrities, politicians, sometimes clergy, sometimes you and me. Much of the blame lays with today's dominant philosophy telling us we have no interior lives anyway--no souls. We're just a collection of chemicals, so what's to worry? We're no more than doomed biological accidents of multiple, mindless mutations.
I don't believe it. I've adopted a more credible view from Scripture that we are human beings created in the image of God with an inner person - a soul - needing nourishment and guidance. Recently I've nurtured my own soul on a simple Bible verse about this--Ephesians 3:16, which is a wonderful prayer: I pray that out of His glorious riches He (God) may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being.
Notice three aspects of this prayer.
1. Ephesians 3:16 tells us of God's willingness to strengthen us with power through His Spirit. The word power is translated from the Greek word dynamis, the source of our English words dynamite and dynamic. It refers to the omnipotence of the eternal God, conveyed to us by the Holy Spirit in a way that strengthens us inwardly for everyday acting, reacting, and serving.
Wade C. Graber, a pastor, said that years ago he was driving fifty-eight miles everyday to school, getting up early, going to bed late, and trying to hold down a part-time job. One morning, his tired eyes read Ephesians 3:16. "The instant I finished reading this verse," he said, "I experienced an 'infusion.' It was electrical... I was immediately empowered, energized, and invigorated by the indwelling Spirit." Many years have passed since then, but Graber wrote, "I continue to quote Ephesians 3:16 on multiple occasions. The electric physical sensation is not always experienced, but the strengthening ministry of the Spirit still occurs in my times of need."
We need strength from beyond ourselves, and the Bible is filled with verses about the energizing dynamic available to us through a real Christ-based relationship with God.
2. God strengthens us out of His glorious riches. The wealth of God is a primary theme of the first three chapters of Ephesians, and since I'm as curious about extreme wealth as anyone I find these verses fascinating. Last month, there was a report in Slate Magazine about the 2,325 known billionaires in the world. They hold a combined net worth of over $7 trillion, or about four percent of global wealth. The average age of these men - nearly all of them are men - is 63. On average, each of them has four homes with a combined value of $94 million dollars.
But here's what Slate left out. The humblest child of God is wealthier than all the billionaires put together, and in real terms. Because of Jesus Christ, we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. We are beneficiaries to "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Ephesians 3:8). Because of Him we have:
• A relationship with God we could never earn.
• Access to His throne we could never buy.
• A purpose in life we could never purchase.
• Precious promises no amount of money could acquire.
• A Book that surpasses silver and gold.
• Wisdom that exceeds diamonds and rubies.
• A peace that passes understanding.
• Real estate in the Celestial City, an eternal home that will never perish, spoil or fade, reserved for us in heaven.
3. Out of these vast reserves, God strengthens us daily in our inner being. As I said earlier, we're not a mere concoction of chemicals; we're made in the image of God. We have an inside, a soul, an essence and a spiritual core to our personalities. Psalm 103:1 calls this our "inmost being." In 2 Corinthians 4:16, the apostle Paul refers to our "inner self." Peter also speaks of our "inner self," which, he says, is "of great worth in God's sight" (1 Peter 3:4). In multiple references the Bible speaks of our "spirits" and "souls."
This is in keeping with the pattern of creation. Bones have pith. Trees have rings and a center. The earth has a core. The solar system has a sun. The atom has a nucleus. You and I have an essential, eternal essence. The Bible says it's the seat and substance of who we are, and it needs constant strengthening.
There, down in the deep places of life where we really think and feel and live, is where God strengthens us. This is what enables us to be stronger fathers and mothers and husbands and wives and lawyers, doctors, educators, journalists, homemakers, and students. We should be stronger than we are, morally and ethically, stronger in the face of temptation and adversity, stronger in faith and fearlessness, stronger in prayer and stronger in our love, joy, peace, and patience. We need strength to help others, strength to lift a broken world.
How then do we strengthen the infrastructure of the soul?
Try spending time in Ephesians 3:16. Read the whole passage, Ephesians 3:14-21, then zero in on verse 16. Write it on the notepad of your mind and on the tablet of your heart. Offer this prayer for yourself often. Learn to whisper it throughout the day. Do as Paul did--pray these words for others, especially for your children and grandchildren. These are dangerous times and lives are collapsing all around us. Here is a prayer to strengthen the infrastructure of the soul. Here is a promise to keep you from crumbling.
I pray that out of His glorious riches
He may strengthen you
Through His Spirit
In your inner being.