Power. Truth be told, power is something few of us aren’t compelled by in some capacity.
On a professional level we desire greater influence, greater control, greater oversight and responsibility. The sporting world is consumed with it. Power indexes and power rankings come across our news and twitter feeds at the very least, weekly. In the hunting world we look for more killing power, higher velocity, and bullet energy. Photographers crave more powerful sensors.
Our spiritual lives are no different. We seek the power of God to overcome, to influence, to persevere, and to be fulfilled. Though we all know well the dangers of the abuse of power, those are good desires, the pursuit of which is admirable.
To what end though? As Christians, we must ask ourselves, why do we crave such power from the Lord? As I look in the mirror as well as interact with many who would identify as Christians, I am more and more convinced our desire to tap into the power of God is at its core self-centered. We want to “make it”, to be successful, and “do better”. Again, I ask, “Why?”. Is it so we can be comfortable, accepted, and feel good about ourselves?
Scripture has a different view of the power of God to which we must bend our will if we are to be the followers of Christ which He calls us to be.
The book of Acts opens with the promise of power. Jesus promised the disciples they would receive power when the Holy Spirit would come upon them. The purpose of such power, the power which comes from God, was to empower them to be a witness for Christ, propelling the message of forgiveness of sin around the world.
“So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.'”
Luke records with stark vividness the display of such power in the opening chapters of Acts.
Peter, the brash yet cowardly lion of the group of disciples, was completely transformed by the power God. In spite of arrogant words, Peter didn’t have the courage to even identify himself socially with Jesus when confronted by what Luke describes as a “servant girl” (Luke 22:54-57). Yet, when standing before thousands of incredulous onlookers from all over the world, he proclaimed without fear or hesitation the glory of the crucified and resurrected Christ.
A few chapters later, in the same power of the Holy Spirit, Stephen preaches a most powerfully convicting sermon and continued to carry on even while being pelted with rocks which eventually claimed his life. Possibly the most poignant demonstration of such power was seen in the words, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:60).
God gave them such power for one purpose, to powerfully preach the gospel amid opposition.
The Apostle Paul (who by the way, witnessed via his participation in Stephen’s death the power of God) spoke of the power of God when he wrote his letter to the Colossians.
“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”
Paul prays his readers would “…be strengthened with all power, according to [God’s] glorious might…” His desire for their “power” flows out of his request before the Lord that they would “bear fruit in every good work”, followed by his desire for their endurance, patient joy, and thankfulness to God. Paul’s passionate plea on behalf of the Colossians related exclusively to their ability to bring glory to God. Without exception God’s power was appropriated not for their well-being but their success in accomplishing God’s purposes for His glory.
The giving and outworking of God’s power throughout history has always been such. Whether it was Moses leading Israel, one of the deliverers in the Book of Judges, King David, or countless New Testament believers, the power of God is never spent on the mere luxuries of people. On the contrary, the power God avails to believers is for the furthering of His purposes and work.
Whether in the bold proclamation of gospel truths, patient endurance amid excruciating affliction, or the power to live a life of God-honoring goodness in a fallen world, His power in us is the power to glorify Him. May we seek the power of God to serve in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, so we may faithfully proclaim His work of salvation for the lost.