Praise From A Prisoner

Bible Book: Ephesians  3
Subject: Victory; Praise; Joy; Strength; Christian Living

Praise From A Prisoner

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor,
  1. In chapter one of Ephesians Paul reveals the Believer’s Blessings.
  2. In chapter two Paul reveals the Believer’s Biography.
  3. In chapter three Paul reveals the Believer’s Bliss.

Paul begins chapter 3 of Ephesians in the pit of prison, but he ends in on the pinnacle of praise.   Paul often wrote from prison, but he was always writing with a joyful heart - so something wonderful must have been going on inside of him. I would like to know what it was, and we can know. So what can give a Christian in a dungeon the delightful of unspeakable joy that Paul experienced? And don't think that this was a one-time experience for Paul. The fact is this had happened to Paul many times in his Christian life.

Paul's first visit to Philippi resulted in imprisonment and a beating at the hands of the guards. What did Paul do? He praised God so faithfully that a guard, and the guard’s entire family, was saved.

As Paul stood before Agrippa he stated that he wished for Agrippa to be in His condition, with the exception of the chains. Agrippa was arrayed in slendor and had great wealth and power. However, Agrippa was unsaved, lost and standing on the fragile sinking sand of earthly things. Paul, however, though in chains, poor in terms of earthly things, and powerless in human terms, was saved and standing on the eternal promises of Jesus. Paul was not intimidated by the power of the earthly throne because Paul had bowed down before the Sovereign King and Risen Savior who is Lord of all earthly lords.

When Paul was in a Roman prison he wrote to Philippi saying, "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice." (Philippians 4:4) Paul knew a joy, an inner gladness and happiness, which the whole world is looking for.

There is a humorous story about a politician on the plane. The politician said, “I think I will throw some twenty dollar bills out the window and make some people happy.” One of his opponents was sitting nearby and replied, “Why don’t you just jump out the window and make us all happy!”

Happiness is not found in money, power, pleasure and any of the things most people are searching for in life. Paul’s life verifies this truth. Paul had joy in the midst of terrible and threatening circumstances. His joy came from knowing the Lord and seeking to bring glory to Him. So few people understand this principle. Many Christians miss the deeper joy of the Christian life because they seek a peace that the world cannot give. Our grandest gladness will come when all we do is seek to bring glory to the One who has given eternal life to all of us who have believed upon Him.

Paul delivers a doxology at the end of this chapter which is among the grandest praise Paul ever offered to God in His writings. Yet he did this from a prison cell. It was not a forced religious expression. This came from deep within Paul - an overflowing, bubbling, effervescent, hilarious explosion of praise and joy. It was a volcano of victory from a man who appears to be a victim – he is in chains at the time of this doxology. The purpose of this message today is to get us from our prison of earthly drudgery to the power of spiritual praise - real praise.

I. The Common Suffering

Some people will complain by saying, “You just don’t know how much I suffer. I have been treated so badly. Life has not been fair to me. I live with pain in my body and/or my soul all the time.”

First, know that Suffering is common to all people. Paul had his share of suffering and pain, and I dare say none of us here ever suffered for Jesus the way he did. He was ridiculed, beaten, stoned, imprisoned, shipwrecked, hounded, heckled, and eventually put to death for his faith. Would you like to line up your hardships along side that?

I have my suffering and you have yours. The songwriter penned, "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen.” In some ways that is true. Each of us much walk the path of earthly difficulties individually. Everyone can sing a sad song and be honest about it; however, in another sense, we are facing hardship common to mankind. Being a Christian does not keep you from it suffering, and in fact being an obedient believer may introduce you to more of it. That was certainly true for Paul.

Listen to what Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.” (John 15:18-20)

Paul knew that he was not alone in the matter of suffering for his faith and walk with Christ. Note 2 Timothy 3:12, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” NKJV

In essence, joy is not a matter of the absence of hardship but a matter of the presence of faithfulness to Jesus. He honors us when we honor Him.

II. The Christian Stewardship

It is important to understand that part of our suffering is due to stewardship. Paul called it “administration” or “dispensation”, but it is the same thing as “stewardship.” The only way to never have a car break down and cause you distress is to never own a car. But then you can never enjoy the pleasure of driving, the freedom of mobility and the pride of ownership unless you are willing to advantage of auto ownership. So possession involves responsibility. "To whom much is given, much is required." (Luke 48b)

Certainly some of our suffering is simply due to life itself. We live in a fallen world and means there is no place like Eden in this world. But, for the Christian, we are to react to suffering as a matter of stewardship to God. We are to honor God in our hardships. We are to show that we belong to Him and that He is with us.

In the spiritual and ecclesiastical realms this issue has special significance. No one who ever got involved in God's work without being hurt, put under pressure, or blamed for something that went wrong. But here is a principle that must be learned: All suffering incurred due to godly living, if endured properly, leads to maturity in the believer. Also, such suffering becomes an example to other Christians and the church. Above all, to endure hardship as a Christian brings glory to the Lord. After all, He is the One who endured the greatest suffering of all – and He did it for us!

But, is the Christian life meant to be a miserable life? Certainly not. Then how are we to deal with the suffering? Paul is getting to that next.

Let me say a word to all of you who serve in any capacity of leadership or service in this church. If you expect to serve God and not have your feelings hurt, you might as well quit now. If you expect that you can serve the Lord and not be misunderstood at times, misquoted at times, and mistreated at times, you have an inappropriate view of service. You accept service to the Lord with the understanding that it comes with the risk of being offended. Someone has well said that servants of the Lord must have the hide of an alligator and the heart of a dove.

III. The Companion Strength

The strength we need is not energy in ourselves, but in the companionship of the Lord. Jesus is with His people in the person and power of the Holy Spirit. Look at the prayer Paul prayed for the Ephesian Cnristians.

A. A Prayer for Power

In verse 16 of Ephesians 3, Paul prays for the Ephesians to be strengthened in their inner person with the might of the Lord. Though Paul knew the believers had the Lord in their hearts, he did not presume that they were enjoying His power. Paul  knew that we have to pray in order to maintain the strength we need in service for the Lord. If you expect to bring glory to the Lord, you have to spend some time talking to the Lord.

B. A Prayer for Perception

In verse 18 of Ephesians 3, Paul prays for the Ephesian Christians to have a greater comprehension of the love of Christ. Paul went on to say that this love is beyond human knowledge. Understanding the love of God is not about your I.Q. or your educational level, rather it has to do with your “comprehension” of His love. To comprehend the love of God is to grasp all that the love of Christ includes. Wow! Even the thought of grasping, understanding, or comprehending all that the Lord gives and means to us staggers the imagination. Yet, that is what Paul prayed for the Ephesians.

My strength is in the Love of Christ for me. How do I keep going when I am misunderstood, ridiculed, or generally ostracized? Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:14, “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if one died for all, then all died…” (NKJV) We are compelled by Christ’s love for us. It is His love that stimulates, encourages, persuades, compels, provokes, and produces faithfulness in those who serve through thick and thin.

C. A Prayer for Presence

In Ephesians 3:19 Paul prays for the Ephesians to be filled the presence of God. Paul knew this was so important.

I was visiting my doctor the other day for a follow up to an examination. After we went over my  physical issues, he began to talk about the Lord. He is a wonderful Christian and we can spend more time discussing Scripture than my aching bones or weak heart. He talked about his study of  the Tabernacle and how he noted that the Brazen Altar was so much larger than anything other piece of furniture in the Tabernacle. He noted that this spoke of how much greater the forgiveness and grace of God is than our sin. This, he said, is how we get into the presence of the Holy of Holies – we enter through forgiveness and grace. My doctor is correct.

We are not simply serving God – we are allowing God to work through us. Without Him we can do nothing. When we see ourselves struggling to do God a favor, we are heading for a self- inflicted defeat. We are to understand that God is with us, and He will empower us as we yield to Him. Don’t get me wrong. It doesn’t mean that we put forth no effort. On the contrary, we must do our best with the understanding that He will then do that which we cannot do.

Our greatest task it getting into the presence so God’s super-dynamic power, which then infuses us with abilities we do not possess in ourselves alone.

Barney Fife, of the old but still popular Andy Griffith television series, was always getting into embarrassing situations. More than once he locked himself in one of the two Mayberry jail cells. There he stood, all full of self-pity and defeat. Just outside the cell door, within an arm’s reach on a wooden peg, the keys to his escape were hanging within his easy grasp. Every person experiences a prison - a measure of suffering - a kind of jail cell - in which he or she is thrust as we serve the Lord. In truth, the key to escape is within our grasp. We must ask the Lord for the power we do not possess in ourselves, for our eyes to be opened to perceive His love, and to be filled with an awareness of His awesome presence. That is what Paul prayed for the Ephesian Christians.


Suppose you were on a dark street. It is late at night. Suddenly you get a feeling that someone is following you. You turn and there behind you are five street-wise hoodlums. One has a chain, the other a knife, and another a glass bottle with the end broken off of it. They start toward you and you heart begins to pound. All of a sudden they stop. Then they turn and run. You look around and there behind you is a 6' 5" policeman with a shiny 45 caliber pistol in his hand. He says, "Come on, I will walk with you." You would feel a lot better, rignt? You would not be out of the alley, but you would be filled with peace and jubilation!

We have such a friend in the midst of our trouble. Let us draw nigh to Him today - let us with heart-felt praise lift Him up. To Him be glory in the church and through our lives.