Power in Christ
Imagine three people sitting in the Cherry Tree, discussing what was the earliest profession we find mentioned in the Bible. The surgeon says it was clearly the medical profession, when God took a rib out of Adam and fashioned it into Eve. The engineer disagrees, saying that it was a massive feat of engineering to create such a magnificent world out of the chaos that pre-existed it, and he though he had won, until the politician responded by saying, “you would have had nothing to work with if we had not been there to create the chaos in the first place”.
There is a place where we may encounter and experience real power. First a quick test — Who said these words, and under what condition? “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” (Job 1:21)
It Job, an Old Testament character, said after losing everything, including all of his livestock, which represented his wealth, plus all ten of his children! And yet, he praised the name of the Lord! How could he do that? How could he praise God after such losses? That’s power in being seen in action!
“In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” Job 1:22
We have to wonder why Job did not feel God was to blame, or that God could have done something to stop him losing his wealth and his children? How could Job endure such a great loss? Maybe the reason is at the very beginning of the book of Job, 1:1 “In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He feared God and shunned evil. Could that also be said of us? Fearing the Lord is not being terrified or afraid of Him, it is having the greatest, the highest, respect for God. We can confidently assert that Job walked by faith in God and that his faith in God was strong. He knew, that God knew, best, and was willing to accept whatever God allowed to happen to him. That’s real power! Job also shunned evil. Not only he would not DO evil things, but also he refused to attribute evil things to God. This was a huge faith, that provided supernatural power to endure such heavy losses, and yet still praise God. There’s a well know story out of Texas about an oil field that came to be known as the Yates Pool. During the Depression years, the field was a sheep ranch owned by a man named Yates. The farm was not turning over enough money to pay the mortgage and interest, and Mr. Yates was living very close to foreclosure, and the loss of his beloved ranch. He could not feed or clothe his family properly, and had started to live on charity and government handouts. Day after day, as he grazed his sheep, he wondered how he would pay his bills. Then an oil company told Mr. Yates there might be oil on his land. They asked permission to drill a wildcat well, and he signed a lease contract.
At 1,115 feet they struck a huge oil reserve. The first well came in at 80,000 barrels a day. Many of the later wells were more than twice as large. Thirty years later, the wells still had the potential of pumping 125,000 barrels of oil a day. And Mr. Yates owned it all! From very poor to super rich, in a couple of days. Here is the thing though — the very day he purchased the property, intending to raise sheep, he also had the oil and mineral rights. When living on government assistance, there was incredible wealth right underneath his feet. There was a simple problem: he did not know it was there. He owned it, but he had no idea he had it. It works in pretty much the same way for Christians. We have incredibly good things available to us in Christ, but often we don’t realise it! We have help from God just sitting there, unused. We have the wherewithal to overcome the obstacles and difficulties in our lives – that sounds great doesn’t it – if we will simply use what God has given to us. In Ephesians 3, Paul tells us about three ways we can receive God’s power for life:
1 Power through prayer
2 Power through the Holy Spirit
3 Power through love
I. POWER THROUGH PRAYER
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being. Ephesians 3:16
John Wesley, that great preacher and founder of the Methodist movement, and who was often found on his horse around here. He said: “I have so much to do that I spend several hours in prayer before I am able to do it.” I reckon this was the reason he accomplished so much for Christ during his life. John Wesley traveled many miles a day for 40 years. It is estimated he rode 250,000 miles in his lifetime. He preached forty thousand sermons (2 or 3 times a day); and published four hundred books; he knew ten languages. At eighty-three he was annoyed he could not write more than fifteen hours a day without hurting his eyes, and at eighty-six he was ashamed he to not preach more than twice a day. He complained there was an increasing tendency to lie in bed until 5:30 in the morning. Wesley was quite a man, quite a preacher and teacher, and it is easy to see why he accomplished much for Christ.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had absolutely no other place to go.” The sad thing is Lincoln tries many things before realising there is nowhere else to go but to God, when he could have gone to the Lord first! Why don’t we turn to God first instead of turning to Him as a last resort? Corrie Ten Boom, one of my faith heroes, used to ask people: “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tyre?”
That’s a deep challenge to us today. Let me give you an example: we encountered a difficult problem at OneSheep this week, with a problem client. My first reaction was defensive, what is our legal position, what arguments could we have? Spare tyre response. As I made a cup of coffee, the words of the old hymn were playing loudly in my ears … ‘all because you do not carry everything to God in prayer’. I had to admit that I was bouncing into ‘solutions’ before I had bothered to say, ‘Jesus, you take the wheel here please’
Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be a stronger person. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers, pray for powers equal to your task. Whatever God calls a person to do, it can be done with God’s strength, and we must ask Him for that strength.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”. Matthew 7:7–11
In Luke’s gospel, we read about a day when Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” Why did they ask Jesus to teach them to pray? What did they see that made them want to learn to pray? Could it be that Jesus received power through prayer, power through talking to His heavenly Father? There is great power through prayer, not because of who we are, but because of who He is! Thinking we should pray more is not the same as praying!
II. POWER THROUGH SPIRIT
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.
Two Christians were standing in the rain forest at the edge of the mighty Victoria Falls, that straddles Zimbabwe and Zambia on the great Zambezi river. Looking at the huge volume of water falling over the edge, swirling into what’s called The Boiling Pot, and then into treacherous rapids, one of them remarked that they were surely looking at the greatest unused power in all the world. His friend responded with, ’the greatest unused power in the world is the Holy Spirit of the living God.”
There is truth in that story — the Holy Spirit has great power. He waits to give us strength to serve the Lord, but He is not to be used by us, rather we are to be used by Him! That is such an important truth to learn. It has been said of D. L. Moody, the famous 1800‘s preacher before, that he didn’t have a monopoly on the Holy Spirit but that the Holy Spirit had a monopoly on him! Imagine that in your life! When they Holy Spirit has a monopoly on our lives, we experience greater power for life and service. You see,(E. M. Bounds) “The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better people. The Holy Spirit does not flow through methods, but through people. He does not infill machinery, he fills and uses people. He does not anoint plans, He anoints people of prayer.”
The moment our hearts are emptied of pride, selfishness and ambition and everything that is contrary to God’s law, the Holy Spirit will fill every corner of our hearts. But if we are full of pride and conceit and ambition and the world, there is no room for the Spirit of God. We must be emptied before we can be filled. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. And He gives the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead, who we need as much as we need our Heavenly Father and Jesus our Saviour! Jesus made this very plain:
7 But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. John 16:7–13
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being. Ephesians 3:16
III. POWER THROUGH LOVE
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17–19
Is there anything better than being rooted and established in love? Love the way God loves and there is great power. So let me tell you a love story. It comes from Jim Cymbyala, an man God has used significantly in the slums New York City. Jim tells the story: It was Easter Sunday and I was so tired at the end of the day that I just went to the edge of the platform, pulled down my tie and sat down and draped my feet over the edge.
“It was a wonderful service with many people coming forward. The counselors were talking with these people. As I was sitting there I looked up the middle aisle, and there in about the third row was a man who looked about fifty, disheveled, filthy. He looked up at me rather sheepishly, as if saying, “Could I talk to you?” We have homeless people coming in all the time, asking for money. I said to myself, though I am ashamed of it, “What a way to end a Sunday. I’ve had such a good time, preaching and ministering, and here’s a fellow probably wanting money for more wine.”
He walked up. When he got within about five feet of me, I smelled a horrible smell like I’d never smelled in my life. It was so awful that when he got close, I would inhale by looking away, and then I’d talk to him, and then look away to inhale, because I couldn’t inhale facing him. I asked him, “What’s your name?” “David.” “How long have you been on the street?” “Six years.” “How old are you?” “Thirty-two.” He looked fifty–hair matted; front teeth missing; wino; eyes slightly glazed. “Where did you sleep last night, David?” “Abandoned truck.”
I fumbled with my wallet, thinking; I’ll give him some money. Usually we don’t give money to people. We take them to get something to eat. I took the money out. David said, “I don’t want your money. I want this Jesus, the One you were talking about, because I’m not going to make it. I’m going to die on the street.” I started to weep. I was going to give a few dollars to someone God had sent to me. See how easy it is? I could make the excuse I was tired. There is no excuse. I was not seeing him the way God sees him. I was not feeling what God feels. But oh, did that change! David just stood there. He didn’t know what was happening. I pleaded with God, “God, forgive me! Forgive me! Please forgive me. I am so sorry to represent You this way. I’m so sorry.” Something came over me. I started to weep deeper, and David began to weep. He fell against my chest.
He fell against my white shirt and tie, and I put my arms around him, and there we wept on each other. The smell of His person became a beautiful aroma. Here is what I thought the Lord made real to me: If you don’t love this smell, I can’t use you, because this is why I called you where you are. This is what you are about. You are about this smell. Christ changed David’s life. He started memorizing portions of Scripture that were incredible. We got him a place to live. We hired him to do maintenance, and we got his teeth fixed. He was a handsome man when he came out of the hospital. They detoxed him in 6 days. He spent Thanksgiving and Christmas at my house. When we were exchanging presents, he pulled out a little thing and he said, “This is for you.” It was a little white hanky. It was the only thing he could afford. A year later David got up and talked eloquently about his conversion to Christ. This past Easter we ordained David. He is now an associate minister of a church in New Jersey. And I was so close to saying, “Here, take this; I’m a busy preacher.”
We can get so full of ourselves. There is great power in living a life of love.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20–21
Praise to Him who empowers us for living the Christian life!