24. June 2018

The Power of God

Service Type:

‘…In Thy hand are Power and Might…’ (2 Chronicles 20, 6b)

Power makes a difference; power changes things; power makes things happen. People want power because with power they can do what they want to do – for good, or evil – because power is just that: the ability, the means, the wherewithal to make things happen. The more power one has the more one can do; the greater the impact, the more startling the effect, the more profound the significance. Our faith teaches us that God has demonstrated the power which is the power of God in two particular ways each of which causes us to realise that the power exercised by God is unlike any other source or application of power. Firstly, the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews dares us to believe that God created all that there is ‘out of nothing’ – whether such an event which signalled by a ‘big bang’ is a secondary consideration: what we understand as science is derived from creation, science does not, can not and will not explain the act of creation itself – secondly, Paul, writing to the Church in Rome, dares us to believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. This is the power of God. Those two examples are as they are so that we realise there is nothing that cannot be done by God, there is nothing that can withstand the power of God, there is nothing that God would have be done that cannot be done. Nothing is impossible with God. There is much we would do if we could do, but we cannot because we do not have the power to do it. There is nothing that God cannot do, provided God would have it done because God alone has the power to do whatever. Jehoshaphat was king over Judah at a difficult time. Judah was a small country and was vulnerable because even though small, its capital was Jerusalem, a city of great strategic significance in the region. The surrounding territories were threatening to invade. As a last resort He turns to God. He has an interesting way of engaging with God; in effect, He says to God, ‘You got us into this mess You get us out of it.’ Very often, whilst we wouldn’t necessarily put it in those terms, our attitude, even as believers is to have a very similar approach: we regard God as some extra-terrestrial superhero to whom we have a hotline, a celestial 999, on which to call up God and get God to sort it out. That is a misplaced, naïve, even blasphemous attitude because it betrays a fundamental lack of understanding concerning how to make sense of the way God relates to us and how we relate to God. We are to live in this world as people empowered by God to accomplish that which would otherwise be impossible from a purely human point of view. And by that I do not mean a very narrow, particular, supernatural, interventionist, miraculous way of doing things – although because nothing is impossible with God the possibility of such happenings should not necessarily be discounted – but rather, as Peter was heard to remark, that Jesus was anointed with power; and ‘went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil.’ Rather than content ourselves with calling upon God when we feel like it, when we feel there is nothing else that can be done, or no one else to turn to, we have to appreciate that as Christians we have been empowered by God to do good in Jesus’ name, for God’s sake. Putting our faith in God to save us from ourselves, to keep us safe from all ills, to protect us from our enemies, to defend us against all who would come against us, to free us from that which would otherwise constrain us, to provide for us that which we could not provide for ourselves, to love us in a way that otherwise we could never experience – of course all of this is by virtue of the grace of God – it is by grace, through faith and so on. But when we put our faith in God, when we determine for ourselves to trust in God for all these things, God invests in us the power that would otherwise reside only in God. God empowers us, trusting us to be the people of faith, us coming to realise that faith does not of itself bring its own reward, but rather that ‘faith without works is dead’ – not that we do good works in order to earn the rewards of grace – but in response to grace we pledge ourselves to work for good on behalf of the God who has so gifted us. We hear much of the ’fruits’ of the Spirit – and power is not one of them – we hear much of the ‘gifts’ of the Spirit – and power is not one of them, but as Paul pointed out to Timothy, he possessed the Spirit – a Spirit of Power, and of Love, and of a Sound Mind. It is only because of the indwelling of the Spirit, the power of God within the believer, only by that indwelling power is one able to produce the ‘fruits’ of the Spirit or manifest the ‘gifts’ of the Spirit. But in addressing Timothy in the way he did Paul reminds us that the power of God is not power for the sake of it; God’s power, the power of the Spirit is not self-serving in any way. The power of God only ever works in harmony with the Love of God; the power of God can never be deployed in a way that is destructive of anything or anyone; it cannot hurt or harm; cause pain or bring distress; it does not express itself as we might always imagine it might or should. Calvary teaches us that where necessary God is prepared to appear powerless in the eyes of the world that the love of God might be displayed to its most sublime effect, but of course, because God chose to be rendered seemingly powerless on the Friday, at sunrise, on Sunday the power of God was revealed to even greater effect. Jesus could have ‘cheated’ death but in His dying, was made possible resurrection. And not just for Him, but for us all. The power of God is not ours to appropriate for ourselves, but rather it is to empower us for the sake of others.