Ephesians deals with something that spans from eternity to eternity. On the one side, we see eternity past. In eternity past, God had a predestination, a plan, and a will. On the other side, we see eternity future. In eternity future, God will accomplish His own purpose and gain what He is after. In between the two eternities, within the span of time, what is He doing? What is He doing to accomplish what He determined to do in eternity past and what He will gain in eternity future?
Paul’s prayer has two aspects, the subjective aspect and the objective aspect. On the objective side, he prayed that we would have the full knowledge of God and know the hope of His calling and the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. On the subjective side, he prayed that we would know "the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe." After we have known God and His work from eternity to eternity, we will see this power within us, and only then will the subjective aspect begin. First we need the objective seeing, and then we need the subjective working. Many Christians have dropped one of these two sides; they have neglected altogether one of these two aspects. They think that they can put aside the knowledge of God and His eternal will, and make it their first priority to acquire power from God for themselves, so that they can be more holy, more victorious, and more spiritual in themselves. Their attention is on themselves and not on God. But God’s focus is different: through our knowledge of Him and of His eternal purpose, He will work in us to the extent that we fulfill His eternal purpose. God works within us for the purpose of fulfilling His eternal will. All of our personal victories and individual works are for the fulfillment of God’s eternal goal.
Among God’s children, many have reversed this order. Their attention is on personal things. They are concerned with their personal victories, their personal holiness, and answers to their personal prayers. This is true of those who do not have a seeking heart for the Lord. But it is also true of those who are seeking, who hope to go on properly before the Lord. Many times, they only desire that their personal problems would be solved before God. Their attention is on their personal problems. Their desire and hope are merely for God to deliver them and release them to live a peaceful and happy life. Many people are centered on themselves. Their lives revolve around themselves, and their attention is only on themselves.
It is true that God needs to work on us, and we need personal victories, holiness, power, strength, freedom, and deliverance. But there is more at issue than this. First, God wants us to see a vision and know the goal of His work, and then He wants to work within us to fulfill that goal. God’s goal is not merely to grant us an overcoming life or a holy life. God’s goal is not that small. God desires to show us His work which He intends to accomplish from eternity to eternity. Every redeemed person has a part in His plan, and God works according to the operation of the might of His strength for the purpose of fulfilling His eternal plan.
Hence, we must see one crucial principle: the subjective work is based on the objective seeing. The subjective power is based on the objective vision. First there is the vision, and then there is the power. First there is the objective, and then there is the subjective. If a man does not have a vision, he cannot expect God to work within him. Suppose a father asks a son to buy him something, and he gives him some money for that purpose. The father’s goal is not to increase the money within his son’s pocket. The father’s goal is for the son to come back with the purchased goods. In the same way, God has given us power not for our personal spiritual enjoyment only, but for the purpose of reaching His goal. We must deal with this matter in a thorough way before the Lord. We may think that this matter is too broad. This matter is indeed great, but it is very much related to our spiritual future. Many people do not experience God’s subjective work within them because they have never received a vision. All subjective work is based on the vision we have received from God. Vision comes first, and then subjective work follows. First we see the vision, and then we have subjective work. First we know the hope of the calling and the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and then we know the surpassing greatness of His power toward us. May the Lord grant us grace to see that it is not enough for us to be servants in the house of God; it is not enough to merely perform some duties. We must be God’s friends, those who understand His heart. We have to see, know, and have a vision; this vision must seize us and capture our heart to the extent that we realize before the Lord that God’s work is our work.
(A Prayer for Revelation, Chapter 1, by Watchman Nee)