How Do I Bless God?
We’re working our way slowly through the book of Ephesians, attempting to take in the forest as well as the individual trees, and this morning we arrive at a piece of difficult terrain so our pace isn’t going to pick up anytime soon.
You see, after introducing himself, and addressing his readers, now Paul bursts forth in an excited, wandering, overwhelming gush of praise and prayer. And the result is one tremendously long sentence. Your version probably has it split up into at least three or four sentences, but in Greek, the language this was originally written in, Ephesians Chapter One, from verse 3 down to verse 14 is one long compound sentence that only a true grammar nerd could love.
The rest of us just kind of get lost, because when you read the passage, it can feel like words and ideas keep stacking up on top of each other faster than you can process them. And if you’re honest you find yourself skimming past it to get to something you can understand more easily.
I get it. It happens to me too. That’s why we’re going to continue our slow approach to Ephesians. Instead of skimming our way through, we’re going to take the time to make sure we really understand all the parts and pieces of what is going on here and what is being said.
Every Sunday we’ll learn a little bit more about what God is making out of us. And we’ll do it together because this is a letter written to a whole church of people, not just the leaders, and not any individual, it was something God wanted the entire church at Ephesus to know. So settle in and get comfy. Feel free to read ahead and read around in other spots in your Bible, but I need to set the expectation now: we’re probably going to be in Ephesians for a while because there is so much to consider in passages like this:
Eph 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
Two weeks ago we explored what it really means to be a saint, and last week we brushed up on our definition of grace. This week we need to make sure we understand another common word that pops up three times in here verse three: blessed.
You hear it in conversation; people say they’re “blessed.” They “bless” others. If someone sneezes you hear someone else say “bless you.” We sing “God bless America.” And if you’re from the South, you’ve heard a lady say, “Well, bless your heart.” And you know that can mean a whole range of things depending on the situation and the tone with which it’s said.
But what does it mean here?
Well, the Greek word is eulogetos. It’s from the root lego ‘to speak’ (it’s not the toys, they’re actually from the Danish phrase leg godt, which means ‘play well’). But back to the Greek, it’s from the word lego plus the word eu which means ‘good.’ So, put them together and you have a word that means ‘to speak well of someone’ and you can see that in our English world eulogy, the time in a funeral when we speak well of the one who has passed on.
So Paul is saying, “Speak well of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Speak well of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now let me ask: is that something we do? Do we praise God?
One of the Ten Commandments is: do not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. That is, do not use God’s name as a swear word or a curse. Don’t use it in a flippant or irreverent manner. That’s the negative.
But what about the positive? “Speak well of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Do we extoll God? Do we commend God to others? Does God get any social media likes from us? Do we favorite Him or follow Him? Is praising God a recognizable characteristic of your life? Does it bubble up naturally? Is it always on your lips? There’s a popular song right now on Christian radio that says, “your praise will ever be on my lips” when it comes on, can you sing along with integrity? Is there any enthusiasm in your walk with God?
I’m not talking about hyper-Pentecostal worship. I’m not talking about over-emotionalism. I’m not talking about getting all worked up in a spiritual frenzy. The cults can do that too. In fact, people can get emotionally charged about all kinds of causes, not just religious ones. Think of the emotional fervor and excitement you witness at pep rallies, sports events, and even political events.
So, I’m not saying you need to be a raving, shouting, chanting lunatic for Jesus. But do you speak well of Him? Do you eulogize God?
Let’s take some time this morning and run a little diagnostic on our lives and see where we are spiritually. If this is what it means to bless God, let’s consider – what does that look like in our lives, how does it affect the attitude we have to praise and worship music, and how does it impact our willingness to speak about God in everyday conversations.
Let me begin by asking: what else do you speak well of? When you’re single and meet a special someone – do you speak well of them? Do you praise them to yourself and others, going over and over the things you think are so wonderful about them? Have you ever listened to a parent? Don’t we all eulogize our kids or better yet, grandkids? Don’t we praise them and speak well of them to others, boasting a little about their habits, abilities and interests?
Do you speak well of technology? Do you love your device or your gizmo or your new app or new game? Do you speak well of it? Do you praise it to others? Do you have a favorite store, favorite brand? Favorite artist or website? Have you found a new restaurant or diet or workout and praised it to others?
Obviously these things show us that we know how to praise. We know how to speak well of someone or something. The question is: do we do that for God? Do we [Bless] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ?
Let’s just be blunt: too often the answer is no. Most people are not as enthusiastic about God as they are about all the other things they praise. There are things they are far more excited about. So, let’s talk about some of the things that keep us from praising God as we ought.
Number one is ignorance. You cannot worship a God you don’t know.
Jesus had a conversation with a woman who fit this condition. It occurred near a well on the outskirts of a city called Samaria. She was a spiritual woman, able to speak about religious things, but her life was a mess – she had been married five times and was currently living with a man she wasn’t married to. She ran into Jesus one day while she was out drawing water from the well and in the course of their conversation she asked a question about worship. And here’s how Jesus responded:
John 4:22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.”
26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”
She stood right there in the dirt looking at Jesus but she didn’t worship Him yet because she didn’t know who He was. But when she finally understood who was standing before her, it transformed her life and if you know the rest of the story, you know she went back to her city and spoke well of Jesus to everyone who would listen and then they all came out to meet Him too.
You can be a very spiritual person like this woman, you can have some religious ideas, but if you don’t know Jesus, you can’t bless His Father. You might bless some nebulous concept of God, some religious ideas you’ve cobbled together over time, but it’s not this God, not the God of the Bible, because you can only know this God through Jesus. In fact, the Bible says if you want to know more about God, learn more about Jesus.
So, again, the first and primary reason people don’t bless God is because they don’t know Him.
Or, they don’t know enough about Him. Your praise of God is limited by your knowledge and experience of Him. With many people, the more you get to know them, the more you know about them, the less there is to praise. But not so with God, with God, the more you get to know, the deeper you dig, the more there is to praise, the more things you discover to bless Him for. So, if your praise seems to be weak, dry, stale, one of the best things you can do is get to know God better, spend time in His Word, spend time in prayer, spend time quietly thinking about Him and it will be kindling to get your fire going again. Listen to the good things others have to say in Scripture, in song, in sermons, and in everyday speech. Fill your mind what is true and right and watch for the effect it has on your heart and mind.
The second reason why you might not be blessing God as He deserves is because other things have crowded Him out. We just don’t think about blessing or praising God because we’re too busy with other things.
Jesus told a parable that is worthy of our attention on this issue:
Luke 8:4 And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by a parable: 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6 Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. 8 But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.” When He had said these things He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
9 Then His disciples asked Him, saying, “What does this parable mean?”
10 And He said, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that
‘Seeing they may not see,
And hearing they may not understand.’
11 “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. 13 But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. 14 Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. 15 But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.
If you consider yourself a Christian, may I ask: are the cares, riches, and pleasures of this life keeping you from bearing spiritual fruit?
Oh sure, you show up every Sunday, or at least as often as you are able. You have a Bible. You even read it when you can; you just wish that was more often. You have Christian stations programmed in your car radio and some Christian songs in your music library, maybe even a playlist or two. But honestly, it’s been a while.
Not because you’re not interested in God, but just because you’re so busy with other things. It’s kind of hard to speak well of God when you’re so busy dealing with all this other stuff. There’s a principal at work here and I’ll share it with you: the way you bless God, the way you praise Him, the way you speak well of Him to Him and to others, is a reflection of what else is going on in your life.
The principal works itself out in a very similar way in the physical relationship between a man and wife. If you want to take the temperature of your marriage, look no further than the thermometer of physical intimacy. It’s an extremely accurate gauge. If you go to kiss your spouse and they’re too tired to kiss you back, or if they withdraw like ‘don’t you kiss me’ the problem is not with the kiss, it’s with the other things that are going on in life. It’s a flashing red light indicating: there’s a problem somewhere else.
So too, if praise and worship aren’t flowing out of your life, if you’re always looking for a reason to avoid worship or prayer, or if you find it hard to worship, if you struggle to speak well of God, to eulogize Him, to praise Him, if you’re uncomfortable with worship, if you’re like a frigid spouse rejecting the advances of Christ the bridegroom, there’s a problem, don’t you think?
What does it feel like to be a rejected spouse? It’s frustrating isn’t it? A little infuriating even? But there’s a reason for the rejection: it’s because something else is going wrong and your spouse is not going to warmly and openly receive affection from you until that something is addressed whether the problem is time, or conflict, or something physical or emotional that’s going on or a combination of the above.
So, is something else going wrong in your life when it comes to spiritual matters? Maybe you need to invite God to take a good hard look at your calendar and show you how to free up some time or redirect some of your time, rearrange your priorities so you have time to spend with Him and can be reminded again of all the reasons He is praiseworthy.
Or maybe you’re unclean and you need to repent. Maybe dirty, filthy, things have filled your mind and heart and they’re choking your passion for God. James rebukes us for trying to live two ways at once:
James 3:8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.
Friends, God really does care about what else you say after you say things about Him. In fact Jesus said, “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” If you find it easy to speak well of God, what does that say about what He has done to your heart? And if you find all kinds of other things coming out of your mouth, what should you be asking God to do with your heart?
So again, the second reason why we might not vigorously “[Bless] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” is that other things have crowded God out. But let me put forward a third and final reason and that is, a cloud may have passed between us and God and we find it hard to praise Him considering all the difficulty in our life.
It’s hard to say, “Praise God!” when you wonder where He is. It’s hard to say “Bless the Lord” when pain and sorrow have come to stay in your home. It’s hard to worship when all you can do is wonder, “Why, God, why?”
And if you find yourself in that place, I would lovingly and gently say to you, that we worship God for Who He is, not what we’re going through. The sun shines as brightly as ever during a storm, but the clouds separate us from it. It hasn’t stopped being the sun. It hasn’t gone away, it hasn’t disappeared or dimmed. It hasn’t changed at all, our circumstances have, but it has not. And eventually, those circumstances will change again and we’ll say ‘the sun has finally come out,’ when in reality, it’s always been there.
The prophet Habakkuk lived many years ago during a time when things weren’t looking good for the Jews, it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns, and yet here’s what he had to say:
Habakkuk 3:17 Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—
18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
19 The LORD God is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills.
Habakkuk was able to say, God is still worthy of praise, I will still bless His name, even when things aren’t going my way, because He is still God, He is still my source and my strength, and He is going to carry me through this difficult time.
Christian, read your Bible, read it from cover to cover and you will discover a multitude of saints who were able to say the same thing.
Job said, “though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego defied the threats of King Nebuchadnezzar by declaring:
Dan 3:17 …our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
They were worshipfully defiant and would remain so, no matter how God choose to let things play out. And if you know the story, you know they actually went into the fiery trial, and there, in the furnace, had a radical encounter with God. In the midst of the trial, in the midst of the pain, in the midst of the suffering they found themselves closer to God than they had ever been before.
How many times do the Psalms of David declare a similar thing? And remember the praise that is found pouring off the lips of Paul and Silas as they sit in a Philippian jail.
There’s no doubt that we experience sorrow, there’s no doubt we experience loss, pain, and grief, and yet, in a very wonderful and reverent way, there’s no doubt that none of those things change God.
He is always worthy of praise, there are always good things that could be said and that is why eulogizing God takes plays such a central role in the Christian faith. Consider the arrangement of our worship service – how do we open? With worship and praise. We begin with saying good, right, and true things about God set to music. And then, we move into the sermon and we listen to what He has to say to us from the Scriptures, and when that’s over, we go back to worship and praise and say good things about Him again.
Or consider the opening of the Lord’s Prayer. When Jesus’ disciples ask for instruction on how to pray, what was the example He gave them?
‘Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name’
This model prayer begins with speaking well of God. Hallowed be Your name. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Everything tells us that this is natural. This is normal. This is the pattern that should be followed. If we understand who God is, and who we are, and what He has done, then the result should be to bless Him. If you’re not blessing God, you’re not paying attention. You’re too busy, or you’re going through the motions, or other things have captured your interest and desires instead, you’re chasing after the promises of empty idols, or you’re crushed by the situations you face. But if you have your eyes set on God and you know who He has always been and has promised to be, praise is the natural result.
If you are a saint, if you have faith in Christ Jesus, if grace and peace are abundantly directed to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, then [Bless] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
And when you come back next week we’ll pick up this subject again and consider even more of the reasons we have to praise our magnificent God.