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Power of God

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Power of God,’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 11/30/2014, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here:

We all want to experience God’s power in our lives; but most of us don’t know how to go about it. Are you ready to stop trying so hard to demonstrate His power, and simply allow God to work through you?

The Choice

All of us have a fundamental choice to make when it comes to our walk with God. Will you try and do everything yourself, and then ask God to bless it? Or will you allow God to work through you with supernatural power?

Too often, we make our own decisions, based on the plans we’ve crafted for our own lives. We set out in a new direction according to what we want to see accomplished. Then, after we’re already well on our way, we ask God to bless what we’re doing. The result can be endless frustration, because we’re asking Him to bless something He didn’t initiate! Shouldn’t we hold out for more?

Our decision-making process should be conducted with God at the center. Before we move a muscle, we should ask for His ample input in everything we do. Where do You want me to go? Whom do You want me to become? With whom do You want me to set out?

Letting God take full control over our lives should be an easy decision to make. However, it proves extremely difficult in practice for two reasons. First, relying on God requires that we give up control. We all love to be in control, and taking our hands off and asking God what He wants for us requires us to work against our natural instincts.

Second, giving God control requires patience. Especially in New York City, we live in a society where the consumer rules. Today is the Sunday after Thanksgiving. We’re coming off of Black Friday and Small Business Saturday; and tomorrow is Cyber Monday. Let’s face it: our lives are built around getting exactly what we want, when we want it. If a retailer doesn’t supply exactly what we need, we move on. For some of us, our relationship with God has fallen into the same trap. Giving God control means we can’t simply move on whenever we want. Relying on God forces us to remain steadfast and in covenant with Him.

The less we try and do ourselves, the more God can do through us.

Think about the difference between a sailboat and a speedboat. A speedboat has faster acceleration, and works better for a time. Eventually, however, a speedboat runs out of gas and needs to be refilled; and if you’re out at sea in the middle of your journey when that happens, you’re out of luck. But a sailboat operates differently. Once you unfurl the sail and catch a gust of wind, you’re on your way with very little effort. The wind might come and go, but you never have to worry about running out of gas in the middle of your trip. Your trip becomes effortless because the wind is doing all the work. God wants us to live our lives the same way! He supplies the wind, and we get to simply sit back and relax while He takes us where He wants us to go.

Your Words

Do you speak with power and authority? Jesus did. We are a people made in His image, and we are called to go out and do greater works than Jesus Himself (Jn 14:12). So if your words aren’t filled with power and authority, don’t you think they should be?

All of us want to be heard, but most of us aren’t very good at making it happen. Many of us suffer from “bloated language:” we think more words make us more effective. If we want to be listened to and remembered, we argue, we have to use more words, right? But that strategy is highly ineffective.

Jesus criticized the Pharisees as “hypocrites” in the Sermon on the Mount because of their many words in prayer (Matt 6:7). Patricia Fripp, an executive coach for the sales industry, describes talking too much as one of the 12 biggest mistakes salespeople make![1] Even Jerry Seinfeld understands the power of avoiding excess wordiness: he says he will spend an hour reducing an eight-word sentence to five words because the joke will be funnier. Less is more when it comes to words in a sentence.

We don’t need more words when we speak; we need more power. We benefit greatly from simply stepping back, putting the prepared remarks and contrived speeches on hold, and allowing God to speak through us.

What made Jesus’ teaching so effective? Power:

And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. – Mk 1:22

Jesus taught in a way that none of the Israelites had ever witnessed. He spoke, and commanded attention, with supernatural authority. If He was speaking, you were listening.

“Authority” in the verse above is the Greek word exousia, which is another word for power.[2] Exousia is the same power a general has over his men. It describes the ability to issue a command and watch everything fall into place. Jesus had all of heaven’s resources at His disposal, and He knew it. He was able to cast out demons with a word and watch heaven take shape right around Him! And we should be inspired to live our lives in exactly the same way.

What will make our words more effective? Power:

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. – 1 Cor 2:1-5

Paul spoke with power, and he gives away his secret to that power in the verses above. The power about which Paul speaks is the Greek dunamis. This is power for supernatural change.[3] This is the power every believer can develop when we understand our authority in Jesus Christ. This is the power we can step into when we fully embrace our mission as people made in God’s image!

Notice that the power wrapped up in Paul’s speech is different than the power Jesus displayed. Jesus has the authority (exousia); as a result, we have the power (dunamis). Paul stood on His authority and exercised miracle-working power in Jesus’ name.

We all want to see the power (dunamis), but we don’t realize that the authority (exousia) is our missing link. We have to humbly submit to the will of Jesus to see the power of God in our lives! Paul was a man just like us. He went out and exercised the miracle-working power of God, in the name of Jesus; and that is exactly what every believer is supposed to do.

I always enjoy reading Jesus’ words to His disciples as He tells them they are about to go on trial. Jesus knew they would face trial, torture, and even death as they defended their faith. But He didn’t tell them to prepare speeches, or make flash cards. He didn’t tell them to rely on their own preparation. He told them to rely on Him:

“But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.

– Mk 13:9-11

I believe wholeheartedly in preparation. However, there is a difference between relying on our preparation and relying on God.

The less we try and do ourselves, the more God can do through us.

Our Actions

We all want to see supernatural things happen in our lives. We’re called to, “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead and cast out demons” (Matt 10:8). Yet sometimes we go about pursuing the supernatural in the wrong ways.

The unfortunate truth is that most of us try and purchase supernatural abilities. We try to buy the power of God in our lives. We think that if we spend the right amount of time in prayer, or go to the right conferences, God will choose us. We think of our lives in terms of endless potential: all we have to do is find some way to activate it.

There is a man in the Book of Acts who tried to purchase the power of God. The Gospel had just been preached in the region of Samaria. Peter and John were sent there to baptize new believers in the Holy Spirit. They found Simon, a sorcerer, waiting for them.

Simon was a renowned miracle-worker. He accomplished supernatural results through demonic assistance. He had spent his whole life purchasing power in the spirit realm, and he thought he could simply show up and pull off the same routine to buy the power of the One True God. But God is not mocked. Simon’s plan backfired:

And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. – Acts 8:18-21

Peter and John rebuked Simon for thinking he could purchase the anointing. We read that passage and condemn Simon for ever even thinking of doing such a thing. But is the way we live our lives really that different?

We think of attaining the power of God as a transaction. We think if we ‘prove our worth by ‘putting in our time’ – praying for hours and making sacrifices in our lives – and put our hand up to be used, God will pick us out of an entire room of people! But God wants to pick the entire room! He wants to use each and every single one of us to demonstrate His power.

God’s ability to work through you with power has nothing to do with you trying harder. In fact, it has everything to do with you yielding more. Think back to the sailboat analogy from the beginning of the message. Are you striving and struggling to get started on the road you think you need to be headed down? Or are you yielding yourself to God, and allowing Him to work through you to effect supernatural change?

We all have a choice: are we going to try and earn the power of God? Or are we going to be fully yielded vessels: at rest until God moves us? Will we be like Simon? Or will we be like Paul:

Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Cor 12:9-10

Paul was a man who walked in the anointing so well that the sick were healed in his shadow (Acts 5:15)! We already saw Paul’s secret to speaking with power: yielding to God and relying on the authority of Jesus Christ. Here we see Paul’s secret to walking in power.

Paul took pleasure in his weakness. He knew that the weaker he admitted he was in and of himself, the stronger God could work through him. He knew that when he was weak, then and only then could God make him strong.

There is an important line to be drawn here. Paul admitted his weakness; he did not invite it. Paul did not go out of his way to make himself weaker. He didn’t expose himself to sin unnecessarily, or embrace sickness and disease as Jesus was walking about Israel casting them out. However, he knew that he was imperfect, and he embraced it. He didn’t allow himself to be dragged down by condemnation.

The more we admit we’re imperfect, the more God will work through us with power! The less we try and do ourselves, the more God can do through us.

Our Salvation

Salvation is a gift:

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. – Eph 2:8-9

Salvation can never be earned. Just as excess wordiness adds no power to our words, and excess effort adds no power to our actions, trying to earn our own salvation will get us nowhere.

So many of us work for our own goals and desires our whole lives and then ask God to bless what we’ve done. We do what we want, when we want, and ask for God’s favor over it. When it comes to our eternal fate, we just try our best to be good people – maybe by volunteering in a soup kitchen here and there, and saying nice things when it’s convenient – and then we just hope for the best! Surely a loving God will have mercy on us.

But there is a tremendous problem with that way of thinking. Trying to be good is simply not good enough for God. James explained this issue all of us face very succinctly:

For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. – James 2:10

The moment any one of us sins (and that moment will inevitably come), we become imperfect. But there is no sliding scale of guilt and imperfection. If we stumble in one point, we are guilty of all.

The moment we sin, we become just as guilty as the greatest sinner the world has ever seen. Even if we have the smallest imperfection, we’re just as guilty of sin as the worst mass-murderer. Sin is sin. When we die, we’re not going to be stacked up against a mass-murderer. God is going to compare us to Jesus Christ Himself.

Think about your life and be completely honest. Have you been perfect? Of course not. Yet God demands perfection. He is too holy to look upon sin (Hab 1:13); yet we are wholly in capable of living a sinless life. So what are we supposed to do?

Look to the Cross. Jesus Christ became Perfection for us. God, in His infinite wisdom, knew that none of us would ever be capable of living a perfect, sinless life. So He lived a sinless life for us:

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. – 2 Cor 5:21

When we accept Jesus Christ into our lives, we inherit the righteousness only He deserves. The Son of God hung and died on the Cross for us so that we could be saved from our sin and imperfection.

Salvation is a gift. Our righteousness in Christ is not by works; it is by faith. Allow God to work through you. Allow your life to be a testimony for God’s redemptive power. No matter how imperfect you are, He still wants to use you.

The less we try and do ourselves, the more God can do through us.

– by Pastor Mike White

© Michael D. White and CityLight Church, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael White and CityLight Church with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[2] Strong’s #1849

[3] Strong’s #1411

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