God's Power for Living
Where do we find the
power and courage to face life's problems? Our society believes many things
about receiving the courage to face life and the power needed to overcome
the hurtles. We have an adage that says, "Whatever the mind of a person
can conceive and believe can be achieved." We say, "You can do it." We
say, "Just do it!" Another way we face life is through the "Power of Positive
Thinking." Don't take me the wrong way, I don't especially appreciate negative
thinkers. They will pull you down. But how far will positive thinking take
Others say, "You have
to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps." My thinking is much too practical
to understand this "bootstrap" approach. I envision grabbing on to your
own bootstraps and trying to pick yourself up off the floor while standing
erect, which to me seems impossible. Maybe I have the wrong mental picture
of this "bootstrap" thing. If I were able to do this, I have a feeling
that I would end up standing on my head.
I want you to try to
imagine the captain of a ship, driven about by rough winds and desiring
to drop anchor, trying to find a suitable place to do so right on board
his own vessel? Such a thing seems ridiculous, but for the sake of a lesson,
let's picture the skipper proceeding in that fashion. He hangs the anchor
at the prow, but still the boat drives before the wind; he casts it upon
the deck, but this too fails to hold it steady; at last, he puts it down
into the hold but has no better success. You see an anchor resting on the
storm driven craft itself will never do the job. Only as it is thrown into
the deep can it be effective against wind and tide.
In facing the difficulties
of life our worldly philosophies today encourage us to discover the power
that lies within each of us. This is like trying to anchor a ship without
throwing the anchor overboard. Our actions are as futile as one who seeks
to keep the anchor aboard his ship.
If you desire change,
and if you are using personal strength to get it done, you will never have
enough courage and perseverance to accomplish lasting change.
God wants us to know
in our hearts that we are completely dependent upon Him for everything
- the air we breath, our ability to get out of bed in the morning, the
continued blessing of our relationships, our material possessions and the
ability to make a living, and most importantly, our salvation. Jesus said
in John's Gospel, "Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can
bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.
Neither can you
bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the
branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit;
apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5, Emphasis
of God's Power
Paul uttered a prayer
for the Ephesians in chapter 1:18-21: "I pray also that the eyes of your
heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he
has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and
his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the
working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised
him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,
far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that
can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come."
It is God's power that
enlightens us, that gives us hope and gives an inheritance with God. God's
power which is at our disposal is realized as we see ourselves in Ephesians
2:1,6. Paul says that in Christ Jesus we who were dead in sin have been
resurrected from spiritual death and have been raised up with Christ and
we are seated with him in heavenly realms with Christ. Now if Christ is
raised up by God and is sitting in heavenly places far above all power
and might, is Paul not saying that we are lifted up with Christ in those
heavenly realms? What does that say concerning the power God has given
us in Christ? In Christ God has also placed us above all power and dominion.
Any serious study of
this passage will make one aware that the power of God is real. Paul says
that there is a boundless source of power for those who believe in Christ.
The kingdom of Christ as a whole has failed to understand the boundless
source of power available. We err not knowing the scriptures or the power
of God. We have had a form of godliness but largely denied the power of
God. (2 Timothy 3:5)
The kind of power available
is incomparable; there is nothing that is in comparison to it. It is the
kind of power that God used in raising Jesus from the dead and seats him
at his own right hand far above all other powers. Paul says again of this
power in Ephesians 3:20-21: "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."
In Ephesians 3:7 Paul
writes, "Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace
of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power." Paul was able
to serve by the effective working of God's power in his heart.
In Philippians Paul
indicates that the power of God's grace continues to be effective in our
lives. Philippians 1:3-7 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,
Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, For
your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; Being
confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you
will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: Even as it is meet
for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch
as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel,
ye all are partakers of my grace. [Emphasis mine]
Paul tells us that God
will continue his work in Christians until the day of Jesus Christ. That
is until his Second Coming.
Eph 3:20 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, (Emphasis mine)
God's power for us today
is just as real as it was for those for whom Paul was praying. Too many
times we come to passages such as these and begin thinking that this prayer
was only for those in the first century. But Christ was exalted to God's
right hand and continues to be over the powers of the present age. (Ephesians
1:21) Paul said, "I can do all through Christ who gives me strength." (Philippians
4:13) Paul indicates that Christ is enabling us to do his bidding as we
sit in heavenly places with him presently.
Sometimes we are afraid
that if people tap into the power of God that they will begin to speak
in tongues or start doing double back flips or drift away from the written
Word. So we shy away from talking about God's power for those of us who
believe. Which leaves us with only a form of godliness without any real
power to do God's work.
While visiting Switzerland,
Charles Spurgeon met two people who talked by the hour about various types
of ferns. He said they knew the names well, but not once did they mention
any of their characteristics, uses, or habitats. They engaged in "a medley
of crackjaw titles and nothing more." Evidently they felt they were ventilating
their botanical knowledge, and each kept the other engrossed "by alternate
volleys of nonsense."
They were about as sensible
as some professing Christians who forever talk over the technicalities
of religion but have experienced nothing of its spirit and power. Said
Spurgeon, "In botany, he who knows mere names but has never seen a flower
is as reliable as he who can expound on the finer points of theology, but
has never known the love of Christ in his heart."
The Need of God's
We are totally
dependent on God's power to believe. It is only by God's power
that we can believe in Christ. Notice what Paul says in Ephesians chapter
3. Paul prays that we may be strengthen with power in our inner being so
that Christ can dwell in our hearts through faith.
I pray that out of
his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through
his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your
hearts through faith. 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. (Emphasis mine)
According to Paul's
prayer, he wants us to be strengthen with God's power, which gives us the
inner strength to allow Christ to dwell in our hearts through faith. We
not only need to know the precepts of God's Word, but we must have a power
within our life that will enable us to practice what we have perceived
with our mind. God gives us that power so that we may do more than we could
ever think or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20) God is willing to walk with us
and willing to give us strength to believe and practice what he requires.
How to Discover God's
power for living is available through his Spirit. Paul prayed that
we might be "strengthened with power through his Spirit." Regardless of
what anyone says God's Spirit lives within each of us and it is through
his indwelling Spirit that we receive strength and power. Paul said, "Know
ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth
in you?" (1 Cor 3:16) Paul also said, "Who hath also sealed us, and given
the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." (2 Cor 1:22)
power for living is available through God's Word. Paul
prayed that the Ephesians might come to know God better. He prayed for
the Ephesians enlightenment. (Ephesians 1:17-18) I do not believe that
the Spirit can do much for us if we are disconnected from God's written
word. Because it is only through the Word that we can test the spirit that
is leading us. We have more than one spirit that wishes to thrive within
each of us. John wrote, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the
spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out
into the world.
Hereby know ye the Spirit
of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh
is of God . . ." (1 John 4:1-2)
power for living is available through the prayers of the church.
Paul asked the brethren to pray for him that he might have the ability
to say what he needed to say. In Ephesians 6:18-20 Paul was expecting the
prayers of the saints in Ephesus to help him discover God's power to do
what God had called him to do. "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions
with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and
always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever
I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known
the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray
that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."
You can only wonder
how much of our teaching is lost because we are not faithful in praying
for each other that our minds be instructed and our hearts enlightened.
It is so necessary that this truth not be held with the intellect only
-- a mere academic understanding of doctrine -- but that it be gripping,
vital, and compelling, and that we will see its full impact. The teaching
is to instruct the mind, the prayer is to awaken and enlighten the heart,
and, thus, the will is enabled to act. And if people can't act as Christians
it is very likely that one of these elements is missing.
Peter was released
from prison as a result of Christian's prayers.
Acts 12:5 Peter therefore
was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto
God for him.
When the apostle Peter
was put into prison, a group of Christians met to pray for his release.
But when they were told that Peter was knocking at their door, they didn't
believe it. We are often like those first-century Christians. We pray but
really don't expect much to happen.
The story is told of
a man who got a permit to open the first tavern in a small town. The members
of a local church were strongly opposed to the bar, so they began to pray
that God would intervene. A few days before the tavern was scheduled to
open, lightning hit the structure and it burned to the ground. The people
of the church were surprised but pleased--until they received notice that
the would-be tavern owner was suing them. He contended that their prayers
were responsible for the burning of the building. They denied the charge.
At the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, the judge wryly remarked,
"At this point I don't know what my decision will be, but it seems that
the tavern owner believes in the power of prayer and these church people
Too many wonder why
they need to go to church today. How about for the purpose of discovering
each other's needs and praying for one another that we might receive God's
enabling power to live for Christ. Others need you support and prayers.
When the author of Hebrews was writing to those who had seemingly lost
the strength to go in Christ he gave them this advice.
And let us consider
one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling
of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another:
and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
Believers are meant
to be channels through which God's power flows first into our own inner
being and then into the lives of others.
Christians need one
Jesus is telling us
to pray that we may receive the power to believe. "Ask, and it shall be
given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto
you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth;
and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." (Matthew 7:7-8) Jesus says,
"With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible." (Matthew
Sometimes we are like
the honest little boy who was praying. He was asked why he prayed, he said,
" I pray for something which I want very badly, and which I am afraid I
can't get it in any other way."
In James 5:13 the Word
of God says, "Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let
him sing psalms." This leaves no doubt about the power that is available
to us in prayer. James says that there is power available to us when we
are sick. James says in James 5:14-15: "Is any sick among you? let him
call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing
him with oil in the name of the Lord: 15 And the prayer of faith shall
save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed
sins, they shall be forgiven him." There is power for us to overcome sin
when we sin. James 5:16 says, "Confess your faults one to another, and
pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer
of a righteous man availeth much."
Christians must seek
time and opportunity to be in the presence of God. Believing, prevailing
prayers receive powerful answers.
Paul and Silas were
released were released from prison through prayer.
Acts 16:25 And at midnight
Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard
It is through
prayer God gives the power to know the deep things of God. In Paul's
prayer in the first chapter of Ephesians, he prays that God would give
the Ephesians the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that they might know
God better. He prayed that the eyes of their heart might be enlightened
in order that they might know the hope of their calling. It was through
prayer that Paul came to understand the power of God's grace.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
And lest I should be
exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was
given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me,
lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord
thrice, that it might depart from me. 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. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in
reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's
sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
"In Pilgrim's Progress,
Interpreter shows Christian a small fire burning against a wall. Although
a man continuously pours water on the flame, it only burns hotter. Interpreter
tells Christian that the man pouring water is the devil. Then he reveals
why the fire doesn't go out. On the other side of the wall stands another
man, who is secretly pouring oil on the same fire. 'This is Christ,' explains
the Interpreter. 'With the oil of His grace, He continually maintains the
work already begun in the heart of His people.'"
G. S. Bowes comments
on the futility of all worldly power and ambition. Citing four of the world's
most powerful rulers, he writes: "Alexander the Great was not satisfied,
even when he had completely subdued the nations. He wept because there
were no more worlds to conquer, and he died at an early age in a state
of debauchery. Hannibal, who filled three bushels with the gold rings taken
from the knights he had slaughtered, committed suicide by swallowing poison.
Few noted his passing, and he left this earth completely unmourned. Julius
Caesar, 'dyeing his garments in the blood of one million of his foes,'
conquered 800 cities, only to be stabbed by his best friends at the scene
of his greatest triumph. Napoleon, the feared conqueror, after being the
scourge of Europe, spent his last years in banishment."
In Ephesians 6:10-11
in Paul's concluding exhortation to the Ephesians he writes: "Finally,
my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put
on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles
of the devil."
God is calling us upward.
There is a high calling for the believer. There is much the Lord commands
us to do. But the commands of Christ are not burdensome. Have you ever
felt that you didn't have what it takes to do what God is calling you to
do? Someone said that every command of God is not a demand on you, but
a demand upon God who gave the command. God will never ask you to do anything
that he has not already given you the power to do. If we could only begin
to live with the knowledge that in Christ we are already sufficient for
everything he calls us to do.
It is a challenge to
think and live biblically in this world. But it is our only chance. The
old "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" approach is like trying to get
enough energy out of a triple-A battery to fly a 747. To tackle fundamental
personal and life pattern problems we need to plug into the only power
source that can bring permanent change: God. We need His power to change,
but He needs our cooperation. Without God we can't change, but He "can't"
change us unless we submit our wills.