Acting Out Our Faith: Real Power

Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is the divine power known as the Great Power.”  They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic. But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw. – Acts 8:9-13 (NIV)

There is a great scene in the Avengers movie where Captain America is standing on top of a taxi giving orders to some police officers.  When he is done, one of the officers asks, “Why should we listen to you?”  This pertinent question is followed by Captain America’s clear display of power against otherworldly warriors, after which the officer begins to relay the Captain’s orders.  Power can change people’s mind and earn respect, whether it is out of admiration, fear or gratitude.

Simon had followers because he had displayed power, but it was rooted in a limited source.  Simon could only do so much to impress his fans.  When Philip comes to town, the people are confronted with a different kind of power and are changed by it.  Instead of having to go to Simon whenever they want to see power, they are empowered by the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Instead of being fans of Simon, they became followers of Christ.  This was such a startling show of power that even Simon believed.

That power is still at work in the world today through God’s people if they choose.  It is not a power that we use to rule over others or hold them in sway.  We are empowered to empower others.  We extend to others that same power that inspired the Psalmist to write, “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”  We get to take our place in the long line that leads others from brokenness to wholeness, from sorrow to joy and from apathy to gratitude.

Motivated by love, empowered by God, we are sent forth to change the world.  The problem for me and the rest of fallen humanity is that we have a long history of abusing power or being abused by it.  We have words of warning about how power corrupts, but the reality is that corrupt power corrupts.  God’s power heals, saves, resurrects and sustains.  It does not corrupt.  He does not corrupt.

I want to be that vessel of clay.  I want to hold the power of God so that it can be poured out into the world and the lives of others.  But I must watch out for the Simon in me; the one who wants power for himself and for his own fame and fortune.  I must watch out for the fawning member of the crowd that can lurk in my heart, waiting for the next magic trick to come along and fascinate me.  I want to be like Philip; a man empowered, but not worried about power.

Lord, empower me to extend Your love, grace, healing and hope.  Guard my heart from worldly powers that might draw me away from You.  Amen.

Acting Out Our Faith: Empowered by God

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 1:7-8 (NIV)

Power has received a bad rap, notably for its repeated abuse at the hands of so many of us.  We even have the saying “Power corrupts” floating around, but that really isn’t true.  It is we who corrupt whatever power we gain or receive.  It isn’t power that is the problem; it is the weakness of the human heart and mind.  Christ offers us hope in this passage for a different kind of power.

The power the apostles received was pure and incorruptible.  The power of the Holy Spirit equips us to be what we cannot be on our own – holy.  He brings fruitfulness, purity, gifting and more.  This certainly does not sound like corruption, but it is certainly powerful.  In our flesh we pursue power in the worst possible ways.  We seek power so that we can be in control and get what we want, but the power of the Holy Spirit is given for the purposes of God’s kingdom and no other reason.

Being empowered by God is something that comes through seeking Him and waiting on Him.  If we seek the power first it can lead to all kinds of unhealthy and unrighteous behavior.  We can think there is some secret combination of religious requirements that will gain us access to this power, but we are grasping at thin air.  God cannot be manipulated into empowering anyone.  He empowers those who follow His Son when they need it and how they need it.

I need the power of God in my life.  We all do.  We cannot do the work of God without the power of God, but we cannot have the power of God if power is all we want.  I need to grow the attitude in myself that the power of God is means to be used by Him.  So I will pray for a right heart.  I will seek God with all my heart, mind, strength and soul.  I will do all I can to make myself available to be empowered by the one who calls me beloved.