Often when we hear people talk about God’s power from the front of a room it’s in the context of words like faith, holiness, “filled with the Spirit,” or even words like fasting or prayer. There are times I’m even one of the guys sharing messages just like that. Sometimes, though, I wonder if we may be missing one of the true keys to seeing God’s power activated in our lives because it’s something we fear talking about.
What would be so scary, you ask, that we would purposely not talk about it? What topic would be so off the table that even though it leads to God’s power being manifested, we avoid it? What truth would be so unthinkable to talk about that we would not pass on a secret to God’s power?
The answer: Your weaknesses
Now, I know that seems a bit counter intuitive and maybe even a little too easy. Isn’t that not speaking in faith? How could talking about your weaknesses give you access to more of God’s power in your life? Paul tells us this:
Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
-2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Pay attention to what Paul says here: I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. There was something about the way that Paul would talk about his weakness, his set-backs, his trials, and possibly even the ways he still felt imperfect in himself, that actually caused him to trust more fully in the God who raises the dead and does what no one else can do. As Paul boasted about his weakness and trusted in God’s power more, the power of Christ would dwell more in him.
I would tell you that in my brief experience following Jesus, the same thing has been true. Whenever I’ve known someone who truly moved in God’s power, they were always telling me stories about how the odds weren’t right, or how they weren’t deserving enough, or some impossible setback that made true breakthrough against the odds for them. They were quick to make Jesus the hero of their story. These people–the ones who boast in their weaknesses–have been the kind of people who I’ve seen God use powerfully.
So, if you want to have more access to God’s power, stop pretending to be a rock star. Instead, purpose to be weak. Be forward, even in your speech, that you are weak. Let the weakness not just be something you say, but something you believe. Begin to trust, not in your greatness, but trust in a God who is great, even when you and things in your life are not. It’s a doorway to God’s power in your life, in a way that few ever truly learn or comprehend.
Often in pursuit of a more missional, incarnational lifestyle we spend a lot of time serving people. We feed the poor, help where help is needed, and act as family for people who are not yet part of God’s family. Our hope is that in doing these things, people see the love of Jesus, hear the Gospel, and turn to Christ. This is good and part of God’s plan to draw people to Himself.
Let’s not forget, though, that Buddhists and atheists feed the poor, help where help is needed, and even act as family to those who aren’t part of God’s family. While these are all things God’s word instructs us to do, they are also things humans can do.
Without stopping doing these things, we should also begin to seek to do the things only God can do. We can listen to the Holy Spirit while we are serving people and see what He is saying. Then say it. One word from the Holy Spirit will unlock someone’s heart. If we’re serving someone and find out they are hurting or sick, we should pray for them, right then and there. God can and does heal and healing is a sign that the Kingdom of God has drawn close to people who are far away from God.
So don’t stop being servants or feeding the poor, but in all your doing, make room for God to do the things only God can do. Let’s introduce people to a God who can do more than just what nice humans can do. Let’s show them Christ who can do what only God can do.
Yesterday I argued that uncrucified Christianity is a hot mess.
As I was writing yesterday, the Holy Spirit began to speak to me a little bit about the idea that taking up our cross is the way that we make room for the Holy Spirit.
This should be obvious: Most of Galatians 5 talks about how the flesh and the Spirit are at war with one another within us. Paul goes on to say that those who belong to Jesus “nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there,” (Galatians 5:24).
If you go back and read Galatians 5, Paul is almost circular in his reasoning: “Let the Holy Spirit lead you. Then You won’t desire the things of the flesh. But you have to have crucified your fleshly desires. So walk in the Spirit.” As you read it, you see this divine cycle where we both get help from God and we partner with God in this fight against our uncrucified selves.
My point is this: Taking up our cross opens a realm of activity for the Spirit. It’s not an accident that Jesus’ death on the cross opened up Pentecost for the early church. So if we desire greater activity of the Holy Spirit, we have to (by His help) appropriate the crucifixion in our own lives.
Friends, I am about as charismatic as they come. I desire more of the Holy Spirit moving and operating in my life. But there is some of the flesh, some self-glorification, some level of selfishness that has tainted much of the Spirit-empowered work at least in many parts of the world where I have witnessed it.
But I have also seen parts the work of the Spirit where people are laying down their lives for Jesus and the Gospel. In these places, the men and women have a purity like I haven’t seen. They aren’t flashy. The Gospel spreads. Miracles are common and Jesus is glorified. And this is what I’m hungry for in the West. Not just miracles. The fullness of the Holy Spirit that comes when we lay our lives down.
Today, I’m sort of just ranting. But I hope I’m right about this reality and I hope we all together can pursue this and encourage others, so that more and more of the church can be swept up into this reality.