Ephesians 3.1-3, 7
“For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles — assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly … Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power.”
Paul had been a prisoner in Rome under Emperor Nero for approximately five years, being falsely accused by Jewish leaders and imprisoned under Roman authority. However, Paul’s perspective was that his imprisonment was “for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles.”
This is a great example of E+R=O, and the importance of mindset and perspective. Event + Response = Outcome. It’s how life works.
How you view a situation to a great extent determines how you respond to the situation. Perception drives action. How you see directs what you do. Where your mind goes, you go.
Most people in Paul’s situation would see themselves as a victim, fixate on the unjust treatment they were receiving, and be in fear of severe punishment or even death.
Paul, however, did not look at the situation through a victim lens; rather, he looked at his imprisonment through the lens of the kingdom of God. Because of his kingdom mindset, Paul saw his situation in two ways:
1. Paul understood he was a Steward.
Paul had the mindset of a steward; that is, he understood he was responsible for taking care of that which belongs to someone else. Paul was a steward of the mystery of Christ. God had revealed to Paul that which had been hidden and now was made known: that through God’s grace, Jew and Gentile are now united in the body of Christ, fellow heirs and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
Like Paul, we are stewards of the kingdom in our time and place in history. This means that from a kingdom perspective, our lives belong not to us, but to the Lord. “You are not your own,” Paul reminds us in Corinthians, “you were bought with a price.”
We must look at our life, our work, and our circumstances through the lens of God’s calling on our lives. We are stewards; we don’t own, we serve.
2. Paul understood he was a Teacher.
Paul had the mindset of a teacher. In particular, a teacher of the mystery of Christ. God called and empowered Paul for this ministry of teaching. Paul’s mission was to help people (in particular Gentiles) see who Jesus Christ is, and to understand the plan of the mystery: that through the Church God’s character and glory and wisdom would be revealed to the angels.
Like Paul, we are called and empowered by God to proclaim and teach his truth. “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4.1-2)
The apostle Paul had a kingdom mindset. He looked at his life and ministry through the lens of the kingdom of God. He looked at every situation he faced—including imprisonment in Rome—through the lens of the kingdom of God.
Here, then, is a series of important questions:
- Do you have a kingdom mindset?
- Do you see the world, and yourself in the world, through the lens of the kingdom of God?
- Do you understand yourself to be a steward of God’s saving grace through Jesus?
- When you face difficult and challenging situations, do you see those situations through the lens of the kingdom?
If you whine and complain about life’s difficulties, then you have a self-oriented perspective—a worldly perspective—and it’s time to refocus. It’s time to get into a kingdom mindset.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:3-5)