And what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might. (Ephesians 1:19)
Over the years, I’ve been privileged to travel to many lands and countries to preach the gospel. One of the best parts about this is experiencing the different cultures, particularly their food and cuisines. Meals are times of joy and jubilee, when the hosts go all out to make me feel at home.
This is especially true in Sicily. I’ve often joked with my Sicilian friends that eating is a full-time job there. Sicilians take pride in making sure you are well fed, and you’ll often hear them say, “Mangia” (eat) or “Mangia qualcosa” (eat something), even right after you’ve just eaten. Food is of the utmost importance there and the answer to many of life’s problems. I understand this because my grandparents were of Sicilian descent.
There’s a joke in Sicily about a young man with a guilty conscience who tells his mother, “Mama, I’ve robbed a bank.” She says, “Well, that’s not good.” Then, he says, “And I’ve stolen a car.” His mama says, “I see. That’s not good either.” Then he says, “And I haven’t eaten today.” And she jumps up from her seat and screams, “What! You haven’t eaten? What’s wrong with you!?”
I once invented a joke of my own that the Sicilians found funny. I said, “After studying God’s Word, I’ve discovered the disciples of Jesus were Sicilian.” They looked perplexed. While they were still scratching their heads, I had them turn to John 4:31, which says, “Meanwhile the disciples were urging him [Jesus], saying, ‘Rabbi, eat.’” I think that joke has been making its way around Italy ever since.
Needless to say, there’s never been a time when I’ve been disappointed with mealtimes. I’ve been to Sicily twelve times and I can’t think of one instance when I didn’t have more than enough food placed before my eyes. I will never forget the first meal I had in Sicily. It was on a Sunday afternoon after church. I was told we were going to have “a little something” before dinner that evening. They brought out course after course after course. I was stuffed to the gills before the main course even arrived and this wasn’t even dinner.
My translator told me later, “Chris, the Sicilians go all out for every meal. You are never going to survive if you try eating everything.” If I’ve learned anything about the wonderful Sicilian people over the years, it’s that they don’t mess around when it comes to food: it’s always going to be over and above, more than enough, and plenty left afterwards.
The apostle Paul talks about God’s power this way in Ephesians 1:19. Here, Paul was sharing with his church in Ephesus what he prays for them. He tells them that he prays they will know the hope that God has called them to and the riches of God’s “glorious inheritance in the saints” (verse 18).
The hope that God called us to represents the beginning of the Christian life. While we did call upon God to be saved (see Romans 10:13), He first called us. He called us to belong to Christ and have a new life free from sin, to be holy and separate from the world, and be part of God’s celestial family.
The riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints alludes to the end of the Christian life. It is our total inheritance, which we will receive when the fullness of time comes. Until then, we are waiting for it with patience. In short, verse 18 speaks about the beginning and end of the Christian life.
At present, we find ourselves in the middle. Our Christian life has taken off, but we have yet to receive the totality of God’s promises. As we make our way toward receiving this final inheritance, we find our path strewn with all sorts of challenges, difficulties, and suffering. To push us past these and over the goal line, God has given us His power—“what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe.”
The Greek word for “immeasurable” is hyperballō. It is a two-part Greek word that comes from: hyper (above, over, beyond, more than) and ballō (to throw or cast). It literally meant to “throw beyond” or “surpass.” Over time, it came to express other means of excessiveness such as outbidding someone at an auction, extreme heat from a fire, unbearable pain, and the intense brightness of stars. Hence, it was a word used for something that stood out, excelled the norms, and went beyond the standard amount.
The idea in this Scripture is that God supplies an over-and-above ration of His power to help us overcome the obstacles and challenges we face so we can receive the full inheritance promised to us. Not just a little, just enough, or even more than enough, but an over-and-above, highly excessive amount, like a meal in Sicily. We can stuff ourselves with God’s power and never come close to exhausting it. It’s all around us and is ours for the taking. And we aren’t to be stingy with it because there is enough to go around and plenty to take home.
Perhaps you are wondering how you can tap into this smorgasbord of power. The way Paul tapped into it: through prayer. When you come into prayer, you stand before a banquet table that is heaped with everything you could possibly need to overcome your troubles. And you are free to take.
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