Matthew 6:13b (NKJV)
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
It’s one of the most beautiful verses in all of Scripture… which, ironically, may not actually be in the Bible (or at least, perhaps not in your translation of the Bible).
But as you will learn in this podcast, it really doesn’t matter. Because what Matthew quite possibly did not write, Paul most certainly did.
Ephesians 3:20-21 (NLT)
20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.
Paul ascribed glorious praise and power to His sovereign God who quite possibly broke Paul’s heart. His heart broken by a shattered dream, an unfulfilled longing.
It’s absolutely remarkable that Paul continually attributes such praise and adoration to Jesus, even though he daily faced the disappointment of God’s plans being different than Paul’s dreams.
Yet through Paul’s resilience, we can and WILL derive much comfort in the face of our own shattered dreams, broken hearts, and unfulfilled longings.
Let me explain.
In today’s terms, we’re surrounded by individuals who: desperately long to get married, but they never do; desperately yearn to have children, but they can’t; desperately wish their children would love God, but they refuse; desperately long for a job, a dream to achieve, a place to live, an education to complete… whatever it is, this dream that seems to capture us becomes a seeming impossibility. Why does God do this? Why can’t we have all our dreams come to fruition?
Now, I know the verse:
Luke 1:37 For with God nothing will be impossible.
In my opinion, this verse is too often flippantly thrown around, out of context and with inappropriate timing.
The thing is that these words were spoken by the angel Gabriel to Mary, whose cousin Elizabeth was miraculously with child – humanly impossible. Therefore, people tend to throw around this verse to imply that YOU can’t fulfill your dreams, but GOD CAN!
But what if he never does?
Again, too often the reply from well meaning Christians is, “Well, you must lack faith. Maybe there’s sin in your life. Maybe for some reason, you’ve fallen out of God’s favor.”
Or perhaps, just perhaps, we’re just like Paul in this matter.
Paul went to his execution with an unfulfilled dream burning in his heart. Are you going to tell me that he lacked faith? That there was sin in his life? That he had fallen out of favor in God’s eyes?
I know for certain that Paul knew by heart David’s words in Psalm 37:4
Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.
That’s a promise. But what happens if the longings are never fulfilled and continue to burn within us, impossible to fulfill? And what does this have to do with the end of the Lord’s Prayer?
First off, let’s remember that Paul wrote the letter of Ephesians while imprisoned.
Secondly, when we read in the book of Romans:
Romans 1:5 (NLT)
5 Through Christ, God has given us the privilege[c] and authority as apostles to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name.
Would it surprise you to learn that Paul’s dream was not to be the “apostle to the gentiles”?
Instead, we see the longing in his heart expressed in Romans 9:
With Christ as my witness, I speak with utter truthfulness. My conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm it. 2 My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief 3 for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them. 4 They are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children.
There it is – Paul’s unfulfilled dream. He would have much preferred to be the “Apostle to the Jews”.
God said, “No.”
Paul wrote 13 letters in the New Testament. Not one of them were to the Jews of his day. All were written to Gentiles.
Then, we see in the following chapter:
Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. (Romans 10:1)
God said, “No.” And, God never explained to Paul why.
Don’t get me wrong. Paul counted his role in expanding God’s kingdom to the Gentiles as a privilege. But it wasn’t his dream. The apostle chosen to fulfill the role Paul so desperately wanted was actually Peter – a man Paul had a somewhat “spotty” relationship with. Yet, Paul still had it in him to write the following:
For the same God who worked through Peter as the apostle to the Jews also worked through me as the apostle to the Gentiles.
That’s huge. I can’t imagine how hard it was for Paul to write that. Especially when in just five verses later, Paul calls out Peter as a hypocrite:
11 But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. 12 When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile Christians, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. 13 As a result, other Jewish Christians followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.
I mean, it’s bad enough to have your dream go on and on unfulfilled. It’s even worse when you have to sit back and watch someone else fulfill it. And you live with the reality that God didn’t choose you, He chose them (especially when the “them” was Peter, the hypocrite).
Aren’t you encouraged that all these guys, these iconic Christians who walked with Christ and wrote Bible, are just like you and me?
Now, let’s take a minute to think about our own unfulfilled longings and dreams.
Single men and women who passionately want to get married, but instead are left wondering if there is something wrong with them; married men and women who wish that they were instead single; married couples who wish that they had children, but they can’t while they sit and watch some of the most irresponsible, self-centered and unfit people become parents; parents whose children have strayed away from God’s path; men and women who would kill for a job, or a different job since the one they have is killing them; apartment renters who wish to be homeowners; homeowners who fear that they will lose their homes… the list goes on and on and on.
Dreams that have now been transformed to disappointment, left unfulfilled while they sit and watch others fulfill them.
Yes, they pray about it. Yes, they love and follow Jesus. Yes, their hearts are pure. Yet still, God says, “No.”
One bit of encouragement is: they’re not alone.
Moses’ dream was to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. God said, “No.”
Naomi’s dream was to have a husband and sons – which was fulfilled. But then these dreams were swept away as all the men in her life were killed. What’s worse, to never have your dreams fulfilled or to have them come true and then taken away?
Hannah longed to have a child. Her husband had two wives and the other wife had no problem bearing children and spared no words in letting Hannah know that she was barren. For years and years, God said, “No.”
Elijah spiraled into such despair and depression that he longed that God would simply kill him in his sleep. God said, “No.”
The apostle John longed to end his exile on the island of Patmos and return to the church in Ephesus. God said, “No.”
Paul’s dream was to be the apostle to the Jews. God said, “No.”
So, why does this happen? Did God break His promise to each of these people – His promise that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our hearts?
The truth is that God’s plans are often even greater – far beyond our own earthly dreams and longings.
Naomi just wanted the family that she had in Moab. God’s plan was for her to move to Israel and that her daughter-in-law would marry Boaz and become part of the lineage of Jesus Himself!
Hannah finally did have a child – Samuel, who would become one of God’s greatest prophets to God’s people and would anoint David as king.
Elijah did get to heaven. In God’s timing, not his. Ironically, he had longed to die, yet he was one of two people in the history of mankind (along with Enoch) to not die, but rather he was swept up into heaven.
The apostle John was trapped on Patmos physically, but not spiritually, as he was granted a peek into the future and the heavenly realms, as he wrote in the Book of Revelation.
Moses not only didn’t get to enter into the Promised Land, his body wasn’t even buried there. However, centuries later, when Jesus walked to the top of the Mount of Transfiguration one night and was transformed to a brightness too briliant to behold, Jesus stood with two men: Elijah and Moses.
God did not abandon any of these people to their broken dreams.
I’m certain that each of these people, despite what they may have thought were unfulfilled dreams, would echo Paul’s words:
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.
And Paul – while he didn’t spend his earthly career ministering to the Jews – did and does continue today to draw God’s people closer to Him through Paul’s epistles. Yes, the ones originally written to Gentiles.
So let there be no doubt, Jesus is clothed in sovereignty and glorious power. He will, in His own way and in His own time, transform our deepest disappointments into His glorious victories! He will accomplish more through us than we can ever even imagine!