Last week, Jack Donnelly wrote an article entitled “The Power”. Now you might get the impression from an article like this that the whole thing about ‘receiving power’ from God was somewhat against the gospel message, which really taught us to lay down our lives for the sake of others. After all, doesn’t the Bible teach us that we are “joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together”? And what about a passage like Luke 14:27, in which Jesus says, “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple”? Do these passages teach us that power is the means to finding favor in God’s eyes … or do they teach that suffering is the means by which we are to enter into the kingdom of God?
Well, according to Charlie Baker’s article of February 5th (this past Monday), Charlie exhorts us to ‘rightly divide’ the word of God, according to the command given in 2 Timothy 2:15: “Study to show thyself approved unto God,a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” We are then not to necessarily talk about ‘power’ as being something that is contrary to suffering, and neither should we talk about suffering as being something that is contrary to power, for both, in fact, can go together, as can be seen by a verse like 2 Corinthians 12:9:
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
In this passage, you will remember that Paul is talking about the fact that he is experiencing some type of ‘opposition’ in his life. It is really taking its toll on him, and he appeals earnestly to God, “Take this burden away from me.” But God is not pleased to do that. God knows that, in the end, it would not be to either Paul’s benefit, or the benefit of so many that Paul needed to minister to. In order to make sure that Paul would truly remain a ‘humble servant of God’, God allowed the affliction. Paul then was humble, not so much by his own choice, but by God’s choice. But notice what Paul writes in the last part of that verse, concerning the whole issue of ‘power’ (and here’s where we see ‘power’ and ‘suffering’ tied together) “… that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
Was Paul ‘power hungry’? Well, yes and no. He wasn’t ‘power hungry’ in the sense that he gloated in this power that he had received. But he was ‘power hungry’ in the sense that he desired to use the power that God had entrusted to him, for the sake of serving Christ, whom he loved. So much did he desire to serve God, in fact, and give up his own selfish desires, that he wrote in Romans 9:1-3: “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh”.
In the book of Ephesians, Paul actually ‘zooms in’ on this power, and mentions it as something that he wishes and prays that all Christians would be able to walk in. Reading from Ephesians 1:15:
“Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”
Paul then was far from “weak” in the sense of the power that he was given by God, to use for the sake of serving him. In fact, in another passage, Paul challenges the Corinthians to a kind of a ‘show down’ to show just who exactly it was that was approved unto God. The ‘man’, Paul said, that was approved unto God, was the man with the power, for we read in the book of 1 Corinthians:
“But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power.” (1Co 4:19)
What is Paul saying here? Simply this: That if you think you are a Christian, and you boast of it, and you think that you are better than he [Paul] is, then let’s prove it. Paul says, “I will show you my power. And I will find out who is not a Christian by the fact that they have none.”
Again, in the very next verse, Paul emphasizes this even more strongly, when he writes, emphatically, “For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.” (1 Corinthians 4:20)
Do Christians who seek for power fall into a snare? Well, it is possible. They could always fall into the snare of being proud that they had this power. They could always use the power that had been given to them in an unwise manner. We have all abused the gifts that God has given to us at one time or another (eg. if we play music, we may have played songs that were not glorifying to God; we may have done things with our hands that were unholy; we may have spoken words with our mouths that were unholy, etc, all by using the ‘gifts’ that God has given to us). But does this mean that having power is wrong? Definitely not! In fact, Paul says that that is what the kingdom of God is all about. (1 Corinthians 4:20). That, and love, joy, righteousness, peace, humility, etc. — all of these working with one another to produce the fruit that God desires in our lives. But don’t be fooled. Without power, Paul says, there is something wrong. Paul can ‘prove’ that he is a Christian by the power that he exhibits (if a person exhibited this power, however, but was not humble, we would have to question where this gifting came from, since there are counterfeit powers, as well — so all things must line up with Scripture).
I encourage you today not to be afraid of power that heals, or that restores broken lives. Don’t be afraid of miracles, or gifts of revelation, that God may wish to give you in order to serve him. And by all means, don’t be afraid of the Holy Spirit who gives us all these things.
May the Lord bless you today as you consider these things.