by Mike Ratliff
12 ἐν ᾧ ἔχομεν τὴν παρρησίαν καὶ προσαγωγὴν ἐν πεποιθήσει διὰ τῆς πίστεως αὐτοῦ. 13 διὸ αἰτοῦμαι μὴ ἐγκακεῖν ἐν ταῖς θλίψεσίν μου ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν, ἥτις ἐστὶν δόξα ὑμῶν. (Ephesians 3:12-13 NA28)
12 in whom we have boldness and access in confidence through faith in him . 13 Therefore, I ask you not to despair concerning my afflictions for you, which is for your glory. (Ephesians 3:12-13 translated from the NA28 Greek text)
The words “not to despair” above translate μὴ ἐγκακεῖν. Μὴ or mē expresses absolute denial. Paul is expressing his desire to the Ephesians that they DO NOT do something. That something is ἐγκακεῖν that is the Present tense, Infinitive mood, Active voice form of ἐκκακέω or ekkakeō, which literally means, “to turn out to be a coward, to lose one’s courage, to faint or despond in view of trial or to be utterly spiritless.” So perhaps my translation of “not to despair” seems insufficient in light of this, but what we must see is that the verb structure Paul used here is speaking of a way of life not a one-time action.
This sort of encouragement would make no sense in the theology of most of those who preach Your Best Life Now or Name It and Claim It or Health, Wealth, and Prosperity as the focus of Christianity. However, anyone with any depth to their Biblical knowledge knows that those are heresies and not Biblically sound at all. Instead, what we learn is that the true Christian will be persecuted in this world because he or she will not be of the World. He or she will be in the World, but not be of the World. The World loves it own and hates the real Gospel because it condemns all that are of the World and not of Christ. You see, no one can be of both. Therefore, Paul is telling us that we can be persecuted. He wrote this letter to the Ephesians from prison. Paul is challenging all of us to not faint, not to sink into despondency not to become so dispirited and cowardly that we just quit.
Much of what we hear from preachers like Rick Warren and those who promote the self-focused form of Christianity is to rely on self-confidence and that from being “busy.” What would the result have been if Paul had said, “I’ll just keep a stiff upper lip and willpower will see me through?” Would he have been able to go willingly to his death for His Saviour with that worthless attitude? About 100 years before the time of Martin Luther there was a Church reformer named John Huss. He was arrested and condemned by the Roman Church for heresy. Here is what he told those who were preparing to burn him alive, “You need not tie my hands to the stake; I will stand in the flames on my own!” He could say that and do that because he had the same power that Paul had that all of us who have not lost hope have that is far beyond our own.
We all get discouraged at times in our Christian walk. I would be lying if I tried to tell you that I never get despondent about that. However, these things are part of the trials that are actually part of “out glory.” In Romans 8:18 Paul wrote, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Let us keep our eyes on the prize my brethren.
Soli Deo Gloria!