Only one thing missing

“God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of love, and of power, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).  “Having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof….” (2 Timothy 3:5).

Former U.S. Senator John W. Warner used to tell of an experience during his term as Undersecretary of the U.S. Navy (1969-72).  During a visit to an unnamed foreign country, he was impressed by the majestic World War II cruiser on display in the harbor of the capital city.  This major component of the country’s defense system looked to be everything one would expect with its gleaming brass gun mounts, its sparkling paint, its bright signal flags.

When Mr. Warner asked for permission to come aboard and inspect the ship, a routine request almost always granted, he was surprised as the captain nervously informed him that this would not be possible.

Later, an aide told Warner the reason for the denial.

The ship was a sham.

Sometime earlier, the boilers on the cruiser had bursted and had to be removed.  Due to cost restraints, they were never replaced.  The ship had no power.

The only way that massive ship could move from place to place in the harbor was to be towed by tugboats under cover of darkness so no one could see that the nation’s defense was an illusion.

Impressive on the outside.  Empty on the inside.

Remind you of anyone you know?

That is a metaphor every preacher understands.

–We know churches like that.  They’re lovely and impressive, they may have congregations large or small, and their membership may include the well-known and well-heeled.  But they depend on the “tug” of a few wealthy members to keep them afloat and going forward from year to year. Their boiler room is empty.

–Many a church could have the Holy Spirit depart (“Ichabod”–see I Samuel 4:21)  and they would go right on as before, doing everything they’re doing now, never realizing His absence, never missing His presence. There is no harsher indictment upon a congregation than this.

–We think of Samson.  As the Philistines barged in on the newly shorn strongman who was just awakening from his fatal nap, he said to himself, “‘I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free.’  But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him” (Judges 16:20).  We conclude from this that the more the Spirit-filled individual flirts with the world, the less he/she senses the Lord’s presence and depends on His guidance. So, when “God is out of there,” that one is the last to know.

–Every pastor knows the feeling of preaching without power.  But after even once preaching the Word under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, no minister of the gospel is satisfied with anything less.

–The constant prayer of men and women of God should be that the Lord would “fill me with Thy Spirit.”  This means emptying oneself of our self-trust, confessing our sins and giving up every hindrance and obstacle.  “Present your bodies a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1).

–“You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be my witnesses…” (Acts 1:8).  The power is not eloquence, not strong conviction, and not personal dedication.  The power is not in education, training, or experience.  it is not found in knowing one’s subject, identifying with one’s audience, or mastering one’s vocal technique.  The power is the Holy Spirit. God Himself and no one else.

–Dr. Carl Bates, longtime pastor of Charlotte’s First Baptist Church, used to tell of a time when he was beseeching Heaven for the power of God upon his life.  One day, the Lord interrupted his pleading with a question. “What are you doing you cannot accomplish in your own strength?”  Why did he even need the Holy Spirit’s power? Why do you?

–The life of King Saul vividly demonstrates the absence of the power of God in his life, and should speak to us.  As he rebels against the Lord and inserts his own plans and depends on his own wisdom,  he drifts further and further into his own misery.  God is nowhere to be found, and that literally drove the man crazy. Saul finds himself with no peace (see I Samuel chapter 16), no power (see I Samuel chapter 18 and following), and no prayer (see I Samuel 28:6,15).

–These three–peace for strength, power for service, and prayer for steadfastness–are directly related to the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer.  When the Holy Spirit is absent, one may be religious and may look and sound impressive. But he/she is a sham.

I’m thinking at this point we should end with a prayer that the Lord would install a boiler system in us, but that metaphor may be a little dated.  These days, the power of a huge ship is just as likely to be a handful of uranium, I expect. And I have no idea how to put that into a prayer!  (Smiley-face, please.)

We all know, however, that the way to God’s power is no secret, but involves a surrender of one’s life to Christ, and then regular devotion to Him through Bible reading, prayer, confession of sin, and renewed/daily surrender.  God will not arm a rebel, refuses to empower an enemy, and opposes the proud.  But He gives grace to the humble and He empowers those whose heart is completely His.

“Father, may I always know the difference in working in the flesh and abiding in Thy Spirit.  Deliver me from being satisfied with what I can accomplish by my gifts and talents, poor and limited as they are.  May I forever long for more and more of Thee and thus live and work on my knees, with my heart being completely Thine. For Jesus’ sake.” 









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