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GOD STRENGTHENS YOU

Ephesians 3:14-21
21st September 2003

It does not matter your background or limitations, with God's strength, you can go anywhere from where you are now. Many people need God's strength urgently. Every day, for forty years I have met one or more persons who have given in to an urge to gamble, drink or take other drugs, commit adultery with someone not their spouse, or take things that belong to others. Most people have felt an urge to do something they know they ought not do. What they need is inner strength to enable them to cope, stand up, to be strong, to do what is right.

Likewise, there are people who face enormous difficulties brought about through no fault of their own - sickness, frailty of body or mind, the frailty of someone close to them that requires their fulltime care, or who have suffered the anguish of sudden unemployment, accident or death, the spread of a disease, bankruptcy or the ravages of bushfire, drought to flood. It requires a great deal of strength to cope with the strains of living. Some people, particularly older people, are just so strong and tough. I was at Molong in the Central West of New South Wales in the drought and said, "You farmers are tough. You had a drought, then flood, and now you have drought again. It takes toughness to be a farmer these days." One farmer said, "You think I'm tough. You should see my grandfather. When the floods were here twelve months ago the water came up around our farmhouse, six feet deep all around the house. I looked out and here was a hat floating on the water. I watched it with fascination. It moved up and then down again. I couldn't work it out. Then I realised it was grandpa. He had said the day before, "Come hell or high water I am going to plough the side paddock tomorrow!"

How can you find inner strength and the inner resources and toughness to enable you to cope? Some struggle with suffering, or depression or deep despair. There are families with tension between husband and wife, parents and children. It requires inner strength to be able to cope. Some businessmen make decisions that affect the lives of many people. That takes inner strength. Paul in his letter to the Ephesian Christians gives practical guidance as he prays they would have God strengthen them. His points are: if you want God to strengthen you:

1. PRAY.

Paul prayed that Christians might have inner strength. Ephesians 3:14 15 "For this reason I fall on my knees before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth receives its name, and I ask God..." Paul is praying not only for Christians then in Ephesus, but for Christians here now. Note for what he prays. Paul asks v16 "I ask God from the wealth of His glory to give you power." That is his prayer, to give you power through His Spirit. Jesus said, "I will send you the Holy Spirit, the Comforter." The word "Comforter" comes from two Latin words "Com" and "fortis" which means "with strength". Someone to come alongside you with strength "that you might be strong in your inner selves."

I was talking this week with Miss Margaret Somerville. Margaret was born in 1912. Her father was a Methodist Minister in rural NSW with the result that Margaret grew up in the country. At school, she developed her skills in art and craft and even while at school she was in demand as a person who could make handwork for teachers in local schools and kindergartens.

From a teenager she was self-employed and supported herself. Like her parents Margaret was interested in overseas missions. She was reading "The Missionary Review" and felt impressed that "the Lord was calling me to mission work". She offered her services to Methodist Overseas Mission's Department and was surprised that they accepted her. Except they needed her to teach and care for mixed race aboriginal children who were neglected both by white and black communities. She left for Darwin in November 1941 on the last ship that took civilians before World War Two commenced. She spent six months on Croker Island when the Government and the Methodist Church, ordered her to leave before the approaching Japanese captured her. She was told she had to take the half-caste children with her.

On April 7th 1942, she helped evacuate 95 children from Croker Island, to the coast of Arnhem Land, where they were left to fend for themselves. She carried flour and made damper. They built a raft to cross a crocodile infested river. With the children she started to march towards Darwin. The heat, flies and lack of all facilities made it difficult for the children to continue. As Margaret told me of the hardships, I was conscious of saying, "I see"…."I see…" when in truth the enormity of the journey was such that I couldn't see how she did it. A cattle station killed a bullock for meat. They drank rainwater. She wanted to go 2000 miles to Sydney. The journey took six weeks to complete. She and the 95 children journeyed by cattle truck to Alice Springs, then caught "The Ghan". They spent three weeks at the Church of England Mission Station at Oenpelli. Then 5 days coming from Alice Springs on the trains to Adelaide, Melbourne, Albury, Sydney.

It was an incredible journey, not just for the 95 children, but for the young woman who led them. After the war, Margaret returned to Croker Island with the children and continued as a 'Cottage Mother' for 24 years. The book, "They Crossed A Continent" (based on the letters she wrote to her parents) tells the story of Margaret's epic journey. When Margaret returned to live in Rockdale, Sydney she fostered two of the Aboriginal children until they were returned to their parents. Margaret's service to young Aboriginal people has been recognised by the Queen with an MBE and by the naming of the Somerville Homes in her honour. During her retirement years over the past 30 years, she has made and sold finger puppets to raise funds for Missions worldwide. The amount raised has run into thousands of dollars. Margaret will turn 91 this week, on September 24th. Enabling her through all of her life has been the conviction from scripture: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

2. INVITE CHRIST INTO YOUR LIFE.

Paul v17 He prays that through faith you will invite Christ into your heart. "I pray that Christ will make His home in your heart by faith". Have you invited Jesus into your heart? There are many people who have never accepted Jesus. You may feel worthless, useless, without purpose in your life, but when you invite Jesus into your heart He gives you a sense of personal worth and new purpose in life, and a new future together with Himself.

I was talking this week with a dear friend of mine named Ian. Ian was born on a small farm on the northernmost tip of New Zealand. The original farm of his grandfather was split into eleven small farms, one for each son.

Ian's father's share was too small to make a decent living. The community was so remote there were only a handful of kids in the school and the Government sent a teacher there only two days a week. Smallness. Poverty. Inadequate education. You would predict this child could not go far. But there was also a small Presbyterian Sunday School there and his parents were devout Presbyterians. Ian became a believer in the God with whom all things are possible. Ian studied hard, even though his opportunities were limited. He won a scholarship to Takapuna Grammar School, another scholarship to Auckland University, another to Cambridge University and another to the London School of Economics. He then returned to New Zealand to enlist as a soldier for World War 2. For six years he served with the New Zealand Army in the Solomon Islands, Middle East and Italy.

He was promoted to Major and holds many decorations. He rejoined the British Colonial Service in the Pacific area including 8 years as Magistrate in places like the Gilbert and Ellis Islands. In the 1960's Ian was appointed Governor of the West Indies in Grenada and St Vincent's including Administrator and Speaker of the Legislature. After Independence the West Indians asked him to remain as Governor and Queen's Representative under the new constitution in Antigua. He came to Australia as a businessman, Chairman and company director of such diverse companies as Cape York Space Agency; Stereo FM; Penrith Lakes Development Corp; Standard Chartered Bank; Capita Financial Group; 2MMM Radio Group; Newcastle FM; Hoyts Media; Hoyts Entertainment and TNT Security Pty Ltd; New World Pictures; Chloride Batteries Australia; Borg Warner Australia; and many other companies.

He is the Honorary Consul for the Cook Islands; was Chairman, NSW Trade Mission to Japan; the NSW Trade Mission to Yugoslavia; Father of the Year; Trustee, Cancer Research Foundation; Chairman Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme; Governor NSW Conservatorium of Music; Chairman Sydney Dance Company; Chairman, Sydney International Piano Competition; Honorary Member of Diet of Japan; Chairman, Japan Entrepreneurs and Presidents Association; Chairman Australian Youth Trust 2001; Director Commonwealth Council; Director Ted Noff's Foundation and Chancellor, Board of Governors of University of Western Sydney 1989 - 2001 where he granted degrees and shook the hand of 36,000 graduating students. What a life! It started on a small farm with a two day a week schooling, faithful Presbyterian parents and a life-long belief in the Lord Jesus, to become SIR IAN TURBOTT, Officer of the Order of Australia, Knight Bachelor Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George; Commander of the Royal Victorian Order; Commander of the Order of St John of Jerusalem; Doctor of Literature, University of Western Sydney. With Christ in your life who knows where He may lead?

3. KNOW CHRIST'S LOVE.

Paul asks for his friends: "I pray that you might have your roots and your foundations deep in the love of Christ." In our Gateway home a sign on the office wall says: "The Best and the most beautiful things in life cannot be seen with the eyes or touched with the hands. They can only be felt with the heart." Until you learn to know Christ's love you cannot understand how God loves you or how you can love other people or even yourself.

4. BE FILLED WITH GOD'S STRENGTH.

Paul prays, v19 "Yes, may you come to know his love-although it can never be fully known-and so be completely filled with the very nature of God." If God comes into your life He will give you inner strength. God promises: "Do not be afraid for I am with you. I am your God. I will strengthen you." Let the fullness of God dwell in your heart you will know His strength in you.

5. ACHIEVE YOUR HOPES WITH GOD'S STRENGTH.

Paul concludes v20 "To him who by means of his power working in us is able to do so much more than we can ever ask for, or even think of:" Through inner power, God plus you can achieve anything - "more than we can ask for or even think of". What things? Getting a job; overcoming alcoholism; facing up to study; learning to live together within your marriage in love; learning to understand your children; maintaining your diet whatever it is, it is through the indwelling presence of God that His power enables you to do anything. Note the logic in what Paul says. "Start your life by getting it right with God. Understand the love that Jesus has shown for you in dying for you upon the Cross. Invite Him to make His home in your heart. Trust God for His indwelling nature, and then with His power go forth and conquer."

He ends by saying that "to God be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus for all time, forever and ever! Amen." There is your recipe for finding inner strength. You are capable beyond your capacity, and with God you can be strong in your inner self. Have you found that inner strength? Have you found the inner resources to cope with whatever comes your way?

Wesley Mission, Sydney.