Why so many Christians are powerless

“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.

The captain nervously informed him that this would not be possible.

Later, an aide told Warner the reason he was not invited aboard.

The ship was a sham.

Sometime earlier, the boilers on the cruiser had burst 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?

Impressive but powerless

–We know churches like that.  They’re lovely and imposing, 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 smiled. ‘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).  Likewise, the more a Christian flirts with the world, the less he/she senses the Lord’s presence or the need for His guidance. So, when “God is out of there,” that one is the last to know.

–Every pastor knows what it’s like to preach without power.  But after preaching the Word under the anointing of the Holy Spirit even once, 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 requires 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 to ask a question. “What are you doing you cannot accomplish in your own strength?”  That started a great time of soul-searching and repentance.

–King Saul teaches us something about the absence of God’s power in our lives.  As he rebelled against the Lord and inserted his own plans and relied on his own wisdom,  he grew more miserable by the day.  With God nowhere to be found, the man was literally losing his mind. Saul had 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).  That, my friend, is the consequence of the absence of the Holy Spirit.

Peace, power, prayer 

The presence of 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.

Perhaps 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.)

The way to God’s power is no secret.  It involves a daily surrender of one’s life to Christ with 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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