In my last post, I talked about God answering prayer and how, much more often than I should, I would be surprised if God were to answer some of my prayers. Maybe you’re in the same boat. How often do we, as Christians, feel helpless and victimized? We lament the direction the world is going and the growing persecution we face. We pray for a variety of things from emotional help to physical healing without expecting our prayers to be answered. We’re surprised when they are.
I can easily agree with Romans 1:16, which says, For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (NET)
Yes, God’s power saves us from an eternity of separation from Him. But what kind of effect does that power have in our daily lives on earth? Can we expect to see it at all here?
1 Corinthians 4:18-20 says, Some have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord is willing, and I will find out not only the talk of these arrogant people, but also their power. For the kingdom of God is demonstrated not in idle talk but with power. (NET)
According to my concordance, both the verse in Romans and the verses in 1 Corinthians use the same word for power. But there’s a difference in context. In Romans, the power is being exercised by God to save people for eternity. In the other, it seems Paul expects to see God’s power expressed in true believers’ lives with his own eyes in the physical world.
My concordance says that the word “power” is talking about power of the miraculous variety, usually meaning a miracle. This makes sense. Salvation is a miracle, and the God who works that miracle is powerful to work others, as well.
It seems to me that many Christians–myself included–often think of the “power” we have as the ability to love when it’s hard or the ability to resist sin. I do think those are part of it, but I think that if we stop there, we’re selling our faith short. God cares, is powerful, and has infused our lives with his power.
I realize there are different schools of thought on how God’s power is evident today, and I’m only going to scratch the surface here. My purpose in writing this is to meditate more on God’s power in the lives of believers myself, and to help you do the same.
With that in mind, the same word for power as used in the above passages is also used in these verses (all copied from the NET version of the Bible):
Luke 5:17, Now on one of those days, while he was teaching, there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting nearby (who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem), and the power of the Lord was with him to heal.
Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.”
2 Corinthians 12:8-9, I asked the Lord three times about this, that it would depart from me. But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me.
2 Timothy 1:7, For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.
These verses teach me that believers are given power for witnessing to all nations. There’s also power for physical healing. The verse in Luke is talking about Jesus healing, but healings did occur at the request of others in the Bible, and Paul certainly seemed sure that he could ask the Lord for deliverance (we don’t know for sure that his was a physical ailment). From Paul’s example, we see that in the cases where the Lord doesn’t use his power to grant deliverance, he has a more significant purpose in mind.
Notice the verse in 2 Timothy lists power separate from love and from self-control. We have power and love and self-control. Three things, not one, so that the power we have is more than the power to love or to resist temptation.
This power is something with real, visible impact in our lives. The Spirit God has given us empowers us to do whatever Christ has called us to do. (I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13, NET) When that requires a miracle, God is powerful to do it.
The apostle Paul isn’t coming to check up on our faith today, but I can assure you that many around us are watching to see if this Jesus thing really works and if there’s really any power in Christ.
There is. Let’s live our lives accordingly.