(Photo: Going Beyond Ministries)
Priscilla Shirer, Bible teacher, best-selling author and popular conference speaker, takes hold of two brief but weighty verses from the Book of Ephesians to remind readers that "just because God can doesn't mean He will," and "just because He hasn't doesn't mean He won't." The bottom line, according to Shirer, is to remember "that He is able" — but you won't ever know it unless you take God at His word and put your faith to the test.
In God Is Able, Shirer, a married mother of three, Dallas Theological Seminary graduate and daughter of Pastor Tony Evans, takes Ephesians 3:20-21 and builds upon the apostle Paul's emphatic confession that God "is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us…" by parsing and distilling each phrase, the most pivotal of which might be "immeasurably more."
Or, infinitely more...far more abundantly...exceeding abundantly above...above and beyond — some of the most common translations of the term "hyperekperissou hyper" that Paul uses to convey "the extravagant, profuse, exaggerated capacity and work of God," Shirer explains in God Is Able.
"Even in the original language that Paul wrote these two verses, he couldn't even find one word that encapsulated the grandeur of God's ability," Shirer explained to The Christian Post. "He literally ended up making up words. It's kind of like us making up 'awesomer.' It's not actually a word. That's what Paul did — he started making up words so that he could communicate back then and by the Holy Spirit to us today how great God is."
Below is a transcript of CP's exclusive Q&A with Shirer about God Is Able. It has been edited for clarity.
CP: First off, please give a brief overview of God Is Able, and what you hope readers take away from the book.
Shirer: God Is Able is a book that is just about two simple yet very very powerful verses in the Book of Ephesians. Ephesians 3:20-21 that say 'Now unto Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above and beyond anything that you can ask or think, according to the power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus both now and forever. Amen.'
It's a whole lot that Paul packed into those verses. He could barely even find the right words. He's just spilling over himself, tripping over himself trying desperately to figure out how to communicate the greatness and the grandeur of God's capacity and His ability to work miracles in our lives and to be engaged in the details of our everyday living. And to encourage us as believers to bring our requests to Him, bring our impossible situations to Him, and then watch Him do something magnificent with them according to His own sovereignty.
CP: Well, some readers might say that's easier said than done. So how might someone actually get themselves to a point of making this kind of attitude a reality in their lives?
Shirer: The only way to make this happen is to put it into practice. That's all you can do with this. It's like someone saying in a friendship even, 'Hey you can trust me. You can trust me with your secrets.' The only way you're ever going to become truly confident in that, is over time as you build a track record with this person, because you're vulnerable with them and open with them and go ahead and give them some of those secrets, and then you watch them be a loyal friend to you with the information you have given. That's the only way you're ever going to prove it in a friendship. It's the same way in your relationship with God. This cannot be proven until you trust God with something that's going on in your life.
We can watch other people, God will come through in other people's lives. We can hear testimonies in church and clap and applaud and celebrate what God is doing for other people. But that will never replace the deep longing we all have in our hearts to have our own experience with God in that regard. The only way to make that happen is to go ahead and step out there on the water and trust that He can keep you afloat even when it seems like all else is saying the contrary.
CP: You're not suggesting that Christians can just "name it and claim it" or tag on "in Jesus name" and get what they want.
Shirer: Absolutely. These two verses and Paul's original intention in writing it, and my intention in writing this book are so far to the opposite direction of the prosperity gospel which basically just says 'You name it, you claim it. You deserve it. God should give it to you, He will give it to you. If you live right, you'll be blessed in these tangible, physical ways.' Well, the Scripture actually says that 'I pray you prosper' but 'as your soul prospers.' And sometimes we want the prosperity physically without our own soul being sold out to God, being honed and matured and developed and grown into the people that God has called us to be. We want one without the other, and that's not what this is an invitation to see happen in our lives.
The second half of these two verses actually speak to that very very carefully. Paul says 'according to the power that is at work within you.' He says all of this only takes place according to the power that's at work within you. That tells us two things. Number one: you're supposed to have power in you; and number two: you're suppose to have power that is working in you. So the only reason why Paul would specify 'according to the power that works within you' is if it's possible to have power that ain't working.
There are a lot of believers who have the power...because everyone who has placed faith in Jesus Christ, we have power in the Person of the Holy Spirit that indwells every single one of us at the moment of salvation. It's not that we don't have it, we're just not living according to it. The Holy Spirit is there to guide us, convict us, challenge us, direct us, comfort us and on and on. He's given to us for so many things, but unless we access Him by heeding the voice of the Holy Spirit and living according to the fruit of the Spirit and the giftings of the Spirit...until we begin to access and put that power to work in us, we will not be able to see this extravagant greatness of God in our life on a regular basis.
If anyone is seeing, as I have been in my life, a little bit of a disconnect between what the Scriptures say God can do but what I'm actually seeing happen in my own experience, I don't point my finger to God anymore and shake my finger at Him and say, 'You know what, You're just not good at your job and I'm mad at You.' First, we should look inward and say, 'Wait a minute. Have I been working this power that is in me, or has it been laying dormant without any access from me?'
CP: Although God Is Able speaks to what God can do in individual lives, you tie this back to the church community.
Shirer: The Scripture says, that last verse says 'to Him be the glory in Christ Jesus and in the church.' Well, this is the Church. The Church of Jesus Christ is not a building. … We are the Church, and God gets glory, glory is where we magnify God, where we put Him on display, where we shine a spotlight on Him. The world is gonna see a spotlight on Jesus to the extent that you and I are living as testimonies to the greatness of God. They don't need to hear us talking a good game anymore. They don't need to hear a bunch of good messages about how great God is, and watching all these religious people do religious things. They've had a lifetime of watching Christians say how much they believe God. What they need to see, is somebody's life who God has actually done something in. The only way that's gonna happen is if you and I boldly take our prayer requests to God and then watch Him come through in His timing, in the way He sees fit due to His sovereignty. Then, when we point the world's attention to God and shine a spotlight on God and say, 'Look, look what God has done. Despite me, despite my circumstances, look what God has been able to pull off.' Paul says that's the way that God is gonna get glory in the church.
CP: Some of us might struggle with a mindset that there are some things we can surely take care of on our own and don't need to bother God about. How do you speak to that?
Shirer: I love the portion of the verse that says 'now unto Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that you ask or think.' I love that world "all" so much. I like that it's there in this passage, because it helps people like me who have a tendency to think, 'You know, God is kind of busy doing big things.' There are people that are hungry that need to be fed. There are whole countries at war right now. There are people dying of cancer, Lord. There's a friend of mine down the street who has a child that the doctor has just labeled terminally ill. Those are big things and we're praying for miracles. And it's easy for someone like me to be so caught up in the fact that God might be a little busy, I kind of tend to think God might be busy doing the big things that I hesitate to take my "little" things to Him.
Well, Paul wants to put all that to rest here for us when he writes this passage. Because he says, 'Listen, God can do all that you ask or think.' All, last I checked, means all, like everything. So even the little things that might be insignificant to somebody else if they were listening in to your prayer life. If they are mentionable to you, if they are worth mentioning to God because they're on your heart or they just keep you up a few extra minutes at night, or they cause tears to fall from your eyes and your best friend or your spouse doesn't even know that that's a pain that has cut deep within the recesses of your heart about that issue in your life...if it's big to you, it's big to God. Even if it's little to somebody else and seems insignificant in terms of the grand scheme of all that's happening in the world, it matters to God because He's concerned about all that concerns us.
Learn more about Shirer and her ministry at GoingBeyond.com.