Now to him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,…
It is necessary that we should emphasize the fact that this describes the Divine disposition; for although men think, perhaps, that it makes but little difference, if God only does what we ask, whether He does it from a direct, voluntary purpose, or whether it is the tendency of the Divine mind previous to our petition, yet it does make a great deal of difference. It makes, perhaps, but little difference to me whether a river is supplying Brooklyn with water, or whether it is supplied by a reservoir; but it does make a difference in respect to abundance and continuity. There is that old iron slave, the steam engine — the only slave that you have a right to keep in bondage — and night and day it stands lifting, and lifting, and lifting the vast supplies of water, and pouring them over into the Ridgewood reservoir. I know that there will be enough; but when you are talking about endlessness, copiousness, what is this compared with that which I see every day under my chamber window, where the whole ocean sweeps in and out, and, night and day, without pump, or steam, or any like mechanical force, is always there, as it was before there was a man on these shores, and as it will be after the last man shall have died in future ages? The copiousness, the abundance of the ever-flowing ocean, may fitly represent the abundance of the Divine thought, and mercy, and goodness; where most men think of God as one from whom favours are obtained, if at all, by what may almost be called the pleading of prayer; by the bringing to bear upon Him influences which at last persuade Him to grant the things asked for, so that when the persuasion stops, the supply stops. Many seem to think that prayer is but an engine that lifts — abundantly lifts, it may be — blessings upon the heads of those that employ it; but that if the engine stops for a moment, the reservoir will run dry. No! it is the eternal disposition of God to be full of love, and mercy, and kindness, and He inspires in you those impulses which lead you to go and ask Him for those things which you need. Now this quality of the Divine disposition is shadowed forth in God's natural government. When I look into nature, I see — what? Not sticks, stones, flowers, trees — I see Him that made them. I see things that were created by Christ Jesus. When I look upon the heavens of the natural world, I behold Him who made the natural world. If I see frugality, narrowness of compass, want of variety, I am not mistaken as to the disposition of the Creator; but if, on the other hand, I find abundance, superabundance, endless change, and endless variety, I cannot be mistaken as to their meaning. In the revelations of nature, then, we see God's disposition. We see His housekeeping. These are His gardens; these are His fields; this is His colouring — His frescoing; these are His seasons; and I can, from these elements in nature, infer His disposition, as much as I can infer a man's disposition from those things which go to make up His housekeeping. What is their language? Do they not corroborate the declaration of our text? Is He not a God that does exceeding abundantly beyond what we ask or think? Variety is another term for abundance. From the infinite variety that abounds throughout nature, one would think that God never wanted to have two things to be alike. An endless diversity, that tends to endless unity, is the characteristic of creation. Abundance by continuity and succession is another of these hints; for everything which takes place in nature occurs in such a way as constantly to link it with something that is to come. There is a tendency in nature to reproduce and continue, so that there shall not only be great variety and great abundance at any one time, but greater variety and greater abundance in time to come. Abundance by increase affords an illustration of the Divine nature. Men say, "We get just according to what we do." They suppose that the effect which we gain from natural laws is measured by the cause which we employ. It is not true. I plant a single kernel of Indian corn, and I gain from that kernel a stalk with two or three ears, and not less than a hundred kernels on each ear. I plant one kernel and get three hundred. Is there any proportion between what I do and what I get? The seedsman goes forth, sowing not one seed, but many seeds. He, taking them, and scarcely knowing their nature, gives them to the furrow, and they germinate, and the earth nurses them in its bosom, and persuades them to come forth, and the wind searches for them, and the dews and rains hunt them, and all warming and stimulating influences begin to play upon them, and they give back not according to what the sower gave to the earth, not according to the power which he has exerted upon them, but according to that nature which God has infused into the material creation; and therefore they give abundantly beyond what the sower did, and beyond what he had reason to expect before he had experience of God's bounty. On my summer nook stands a venerable apple tree, probably a hundred and fifty years old. It has now lost much of its hair. It is dead and bald at the top. I let it stand because it is a sentinel of ages. It has buried generation upon generation. It heard the old revolutionary cannon; balls fell not far from its foot. For probably a hundred years it has borne its annual crop of apples, and a great abundance of them. There was a time when a boy eating an apple, took from his mouth a seed, and snapped it, and it fell into the grass, and the rain worked it into the soil, and the soil coaxed it to grow. That little seed of an apple, not so large as your fingernail, struck down its root, and lifted up its trunk, which has stood the greater part of two centuries, and produced a thousand bushels of fruit and myriads of seeds. Now, is God's nature indicated by this? Yes, because the way God makes the natural world act indicates how He thinks. It indicates what His thoughts and tendencies are, and these mark His disposition. Would that we had a more frequent sense of God's bounty! No man can look upon what he brings to the work, and what the work becomes in his hand, without being humbled in view of his own weakness, nor I trust, also, without being filled with admiration and reverence for that loving Heart that does exceeding abundantly more than we ask or think. If these views and experiences are correct, there is every encouragement for men to ask in prayer for what they need. Now how have you been dealing with this God who has dealt with you on this pattern of doing exceeding abundantly more than you asked or thought? You have treated Him on the assumption that He was penurious, and willing to give only on terms that were strict and severe. Many men seem to shrink from prayer as though it were a matter of doubt whether they could pray. God, then, does not limit Himself by the desert of those to whom He gives mercies, but takes His patterns from the largeness and generosity of His own nature. He pleases Himself by giving.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,