“To the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:14). The apostle Paul used this power phrase not once but twice to kick off his powerful letter to the Ephesians. The letter is a beautiful description of our faith and all that is precious to those who live in Christ. Paul began the letter by identifying himself as an apostle who spoke with authority on behalf of the risen Christ. Paul was set apart by the will of God before he was born (Galatians 1:15). He launched the letter with the greeting, “Grace to you” (Ephesians 1:2). Paul wanted the Ephesians to understand their incredible wealth as believers and the grace lavished on them by God. He continued, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (v. 3). Our abundance in Christ springs forth in praise to God regardless of the external complexities of this life. God lavishes his love and grace on us because we are wrapped in Christ and adopted into his family. Because of this love gift from our heavenly Father and our intimate relationship with him we can rejoice in every eternal promise.
Blessed in the Heavenly Realms
I live and serve in Tanzania, East Africa. Living in a new culture has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. This cross-cultural experience allows me to critically examine ways of life and traditions. It allows me to look at Scripture through a new light and in an ever-growing pursuit of kingdom culture. Regardless of the challenges, I am blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing needed to carry out God’s mission here on earth.
One of my favorite phrases in Kiswahili (Tanzania’s national language) is Bwanasifiwe, a meaningful greeting shared when one believer in Christ sees another. This exchange between two Christians can take place at home, in the field, in the market, or at a place of worship. When shared with a solid handshake it’s a way of saying together, “Praise the Lord!” I have always admired this confident exchange. The greeting is shared to identify that the two who have met are in Christ—“the saints and the faithful,” as Paul wrote. These people have been radically transformed by Jesus and now exercise their faith in Christ in the most amazing ways.
Their first acknowledgement in any conversation is that God deserves to be praised. This simple greeting continues to be a powerful lesson for me after all these years living in this dry and dusty land. Despite the political climate, the lack of food, disease that haunts the community, the hard labor required to survive, and the drought that lingers, Tanzanian believers acknowledge that their God is one to be praised. It is the will of the Father that we are set a part to praise him with our life no matter the external conditions.
Blessed with a Future Inheritance
Through Jesus we are adopted as God’s children and his amazing love cascades over us to the “praise of his glorious grace” (Ephesians 1:6). Nothing can take that away from us—not even death. The promise found in Ephesians secures our blessing of a future inheritance and complete freedom. Jesus has paid for our sins and we are called to his side to make his name known among the nations. Our love is a reflection of who God is and the unfolding plan is to the praise of his glory.
This passage draws me to live a life that amplifies God’s rich grace and acknowledges that he is worthy of my highest praise. When John peered into Heaven, he witnessed an anthem of praise: To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13). We are to echo the praise that is found in the Scriptures and those that form from our heartstrings. My redemption is found in my faith in Christ and now my trust is in him. It is an honor to be a child of the King. I cannot help but to be captivated when I see glimpses of his glory.
Blessed to Give God Glory
An African sunset, stars that twinkle at night, nations that turn to acknowledge the one true God, giraffe that run gracefully along the plains, the face of a newborn baby, flowers that turn toward the sun, a lioness protecting her young, a culture in continuous transformation, and a sinner who surrenders to the glorious grace of Jesus Christ—each of these is to the praise of God’s glory. You and I were made to share in God’s glory for all eternity. My thoughts and the words on my lips gratefully acknowledge my glorious Creator. “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). This is my lifeline combined with worship to know the will of the Father and to access all that is needed to reveal his love to the nations. Although I live in a nation that seems to stand at the end of the earth, I have an inner strength that remains strong in the midst of the challenges, the heartbreak, and destruction that falls all around. These truths have strengthened my inner self and my outlook on how I face the world around me. This great plan is of God and therefore he is praised. All that I do and all that I am is to the praise of his glory!
Wendy Wagoner serves with The Joshua Foundation in Tanzania, East Africa. She is the Early Childhood Overseer at the foundation working to improve literacy and educational opportunities within committees for transformation.