9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.
Our recent trials here in WV with power outages (which some of you are still facing) have opened my eyes to all that can spiral downward in a hurry when there is no power. Within 24 hours of the storm, there was no gas, no ice and no bread in Teays Valley at the one grocery store that we were all trying to utilize. Putnam County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Sorsaia gathered a few pastors together on Saturday talk to about how churches might be able to help. In that meeting he painted a worst case scenario. He said it was predicted that cell phone service would be out that night by 6 p.m. and that the sewer would be backed up by 3 p.m. on Sunday.
Knowing that we were facing a potentially dangerous, chaotic and life threatening week for some, we took action. We organized a shelter in place at the church where we housed people for three nights and fed them three meals a day for four days. People stopped in to charge their cell phones, plug in their oxygen machines, get ice from our ice machine, get food to eat and to take with them, and several made use of the shelter overnight. Every part of our lives, from eating and drinking and bathing and transportation and communication is connected to us having power available to us. What a joy it was to hear of church families that didn’t lose power, taking in their family and neighbors and friends. For those with power certainly ought to share it with others.
I have never seen people so happy for others in my life over electricity. When you heard that a friend had gotten power and they posted it on Facebook, there were congratulations and “praise God’s” like I hadn’t seen before. When I heard Tim and Ladonna had power, I rejoiced. When I got word that Carolyn Lucas had power, I was thrilled. Why? Because Tim and Ladonna live west of Carolyn. Power was coming east. It was coming my way! If they had received power, I had hope that I would be receiving it too!
Our power came back on Monday evening. While I didn’t take advantage of it because I was sleeping here at the church with some community folks, just knowing I had power at my house, just knowing that power was available to me, brought me great comfort and relief. If I needed it, it was there.
Then on Tuesday night when I closed the shelter and came home to a cool place, I sat down, propped my feet up, turned on the TV and scrolling across the bottom of the TV screen was the warning that storms were headed our way again. About 9:00 p.m. our power went back off and my heart sank. In that moment I thought, almost out loud, “I don’t want to live without power again.” Praise the Lord it came back on within about a minute, and in that minute, a sermon was born!
I want you to know that spiritually speaking I cannot live without power, and guess what? I don’t have to! II Timothy I:7 tells me God has given me a Spirit of Power! (Luke 9:1-2) Just as many of us prayed for power this past week, we need to pray for God’s power to be consistently at work in us. Pray that we might not sin and cut off our power source. Pray that we won’t grow indifferent and cut off our power source. Pray that we will be aware of God’s power at work within us so we can effectively utilize it. Pray that nothing will stop the flow of God’s power in our lives.
I see at least three reasons in this Colossians passage why we need power. First, we need power in order to BEAR FRUIT IN EVERY GOOD WORK. One evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in a Christian’s life is the demonstration of good works in their lives. Now that doesn’t mean that just because someone does good works they are a Christian or are filled with the Spirit of God. Atheists can and do good works. People who are professing pagans and Satanists can do good works. There is a difference however, between the works of non-believers and the works of believers. The difference is where those good works will lead someone. Our good works are to bear spiritual fruit. That is, by our good works we are to lead people closer to Jesus.
Listen to Matthew 5:14-1614 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.15 “Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. The goal of our good works is to use them as a tool to help people see Jesus! We don’t serve this community in order to be seen, but in order to make God visible to them.
Now the part of good works that can be a struggle is the second of the two words, “work.” It is work to serve people. It is work to show God’s love. That is why we need God’s power at work in us to sustain us.
One reason people lose steam and quit serving in their Christian walk is because they operate out of their own strength and depend on their own power. You can only go so long in the flesh. Once you depend on the strength of the flesh, the mind follows suit, and it’s downhill from there. You get into a fleshly mindset and you start to question why you are doing what you are doing. You ask yourself things like, “Is this really making a difference?” “Will it matter if I don’t help this time?” “Do they really deserve my help?” “Am I being taken advantage of?”
When you head down that slope you then slide down the next hill by giving yourself reasons to opt out of serving. You begin justifying why it isn’t your job, how you don’t have time, or how it’s not in your skill set to be involved. The problem with all of that is that we have been created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). So, if we have been created to do good works and we aren’t doing good works, what can we call that? Isn’t that missing the mark? Isn’t that shrinking from what God in Christ has commanded us to do? That then is disobedience which is then sin. Work is hard, but with God’s power it can become easy. It can be a blessing. It can be fun and exciting and fulfilling.
I think if I said it once during this past week, I said it a hundred times, “I don’t know when I have ever been this tired.” It was a physically demanding week. My husband was gone. Our church secretary was gone. Gary and Mandy were gone. Pastor Jonathan was Denver bound and had students staying in his home by Tuesday evening. So many of you pitched in to help with the shelter and Doug and Cassie Escue were my right arm and my left arm! They can testify that we did a lot of work together. Still it was a joy to serve the people of this community. It was awesome to know we were making a difference. It was satisfying to live out the Scriptures about giving a cup of cool water in Jesus’ name. But as great as it was to be on mission for God, it was still a lot of work. We had to remember our calling. We had to stay mindful that God was at work. We had to be prayerful about conversations we were having with people. We had to be in prayer about our attitudes. We had to pray for strength from God. All of the above is what it means to rely on God’s power.
Branches can’t bear fruit when they are separated from the plant or vine, right? If we bear any fruit from our efforts this past week or in the Community Service Invasion weekend that is coming up at the end of this month, it will be because we are connected to Jesus as our Source of power and inspiration. John 15:5 (NIV) – “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Nothing spiritual will happen. Nothing of eternal significance will happen if we don’t stay connected to God’s power. We are to bear fruit that will last for eternity. Look at John 15:16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last.”
Secondly, we need God’s power to be able to grow in the knowledge of God. Growing in knowledge can happen in our own power as we read and study any topic. We can learn how to fix a car. We can learn to speak French. We can even learn how to do brain surgery, but growing in the knowledge of God requires we take initiative to learn God’s Word and apply it by faith.
Look at 2 Peter 1:2-4 “2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
In II Peter, the word “know” or “knowledge” is used at least thirteen times. It doesn’t refer to head knowledge or intellectual understanding, though we have to possess that. But it is a knowledge that comes to us by living as full participants of the truth of God’s Word. In other Words, God gives us His divine power as we seek to learn and walk out the Word of God. Tell your neighbor, “Power comes through participation.”
Paul prayed in Philippians 3:10-11 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Paul linked knowing Christ with active participation. Paul didn’t just want to know about Christ, but he wanted to actively participate in life the way Christ did so that he could “know” what Christ went through and as a result, Paul said he would “become like Him.” When was the last time you prayed to know Jesus in that way?
Everything we need to know about God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit has been revealed to us in the Bible. Under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, godly men penned the words of the Bible. We are without excuse when it comes to knowledge of God. If you don’t have a Bible at home, take one off the back shelf with you as you leave today. If you have the internet and a computer, you can read it online. Many of you have already downloaded it to your cell phones. There is no excuse for not reading and learning God’s Word. Hosea 4:6 “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.” A lack of knowledge of God’s truth will keep you weak and exposed to the attacks of Satan. Having spiritual power which translates into spiritual success begins with knowing what God’s Word says.
But study alone is not enough. God has always expected us to put His Word into practice (James 1:22-25). You will gain power in your life by consistently practicing the Word of God. Ephesians 3:20-21 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” We often want God to demonstrate His power by doing something for us and sometimes we need Him to do just that. But we need to remember that He doesn’t always want to do something for us, but He wants to do something in us, and He can’t unleash His power in us when we want to sit in our comfort zones and play it safe.
You won’t know you can witness to your friends and help lead them to Jesus until you step out in obedience and faith and let God’s power work in you. You won’t know you can tithe and give ten percent of your income to the Lord like Scripture says and still be able to pay your bills until you step out in obedience and faith to put that check in the plate and let God’s power work in your obedience. You won’t know you can lay hands on people, anoint them with oil and pray for them to be healed until you open the bottle, exercise your faith and call on the power of Heaven to flow through you and make them well and watch God’s power at work in your faith.
I didn’t know I could run an emergency shelter. That wasn’t on my resume’. I didn’t take “sheltering 101” in college, but I saw God do “more than I could ask or imagine” because I responded to the truth of God’s Word that I am called to be salt and light and that I am called to be compassionate and care for people in need and the fact that we had power at the church was like a flashing green light that said, “Go, Pastor, go!” I didn’t need to pray and ask God if He wanted me to try to help people in need. Remember, people with power are supposed to share it! I had no idea what it would mean if I opened a shelter. I had no clue how long it would last. I had no idea how I would do any of it, but God supplied the power for everything that was needed and all that was accomplished! Hallelujah!
Finally, we need to pray for power in order that we will have (vs. 11) great endurance and patience. It is one thing to tough something out, to just make up your mind to get through it or to grin and bear something, but it is another thing to endure something with patience. How many of you who lost power found yourself wanting to be patient about it coming back on? Our son, Josh thought it was adventurous, of course, to sleep in the church basement and meet new people every day, but I’m guessing most of us were constantly running home to check to see if our power was on or we were texting neighbors or calling our houses to see if our answering machines would pick up.
The word patience means “endurance when circumstances are difficult.” Every one of us will face trying and unexpected circumstances. I’m pretty sure the power outage caught everybody by surprise. I don’t believe any of you had “power outage” written on your calendar for the end of June and the beginning of July. J You need the power of God when the unexpected happens because those unexpected things can last a long time (can I get an amen from those who lost power?)! Those surprise moments can be stressful. Now you can just get through it and endure it or you can endure it WITH patience. Enduring hardship with patience means we recognize God is in control, God is at work, God has something to show us or teach us, and we have to stay His course for the long haul if we are to become what He desires.
Patience plays a key role in the maturing process for us as Christians. It has been said, “If we do not learn to be patient, we are not likely to learn anything else.” (Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – New Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 2.) Endurance isn’t possible without patience and without endurance we can’t run the race God has marked out for each one of us. Hebrews 12:1 (NKJV) “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”
One of the fruits of the Spirit of God is patience. We must have God’s power at work in us to develop patience so we don’t quit when circumstances become difficult. I can’t count the number of people I have encountered in my 21 years of ministry who enjoyed being a Christian when it was easy and who gave it all up when the going got tough. Listen to me, “It’s always too soon to quit,” (Dr. V. Raymond Edman) especially when God can empower you to stay in the race.
“The Greeks had a race in their Olympic games that was unique. The winner was not the runner who finished first. It was the runner who finished with his torch still lit. I want to run all the way with the flame of my torch still lit for Him.” (J. Stowell, Fan The Flame, Moody, 1986, p. 32.)
Oscar Pistorius was born without a fibula in either of his legs (the bone which runs between the knee and ankle, next to the tibia). At the doctor’s recommendation, his legs were amputated just below the knee. He was fitted with prosthetic legs.
Today, Oscar is known as “Blade Runner” and the “fastest man on no legs.” He is a runner. He uses J-shaped prosthetic running legs called Cheetah Blades. And if he succeeds in his plans this year, you’ll get to see the Blade Runner sprint in the London Olympics—not the paralympics—the Olympic Games. To get to the point of even being a competitor for the Olympics, Pistorius has spent his life pushing himself. He has competed in paralympics and world championships. He is said to have a “fierce, even frenzied need to take on the world at maximum speed and with minimum caution.” His tattoo reads “I do not run like a man running aimlessly,” quoting the Apostle Paul from his letter to the Corinthians. He is intent and resolved to get to the Olympics and has been pushing his way through training and competitions to get there, against the one thing you would think would keep a man from running: he has no legs.
This great athlete could have given up thousands of times. He had to exercise great patience while his prosthetics were being developed and had to be tweaked time after time. He had to exercise patience with himself while he learned to stand up on them and walk on them and finally learn how to run on them. Had he not had patience, he wouldn’t be an Olympic contender. Yes there was also discipline and determination, but all of the discipline and determination can be for nothing if we aren’t patient with the process.
You need the power of Holy Spirit patience when you are enduring a great test and trial. That patience will lead to endurance which will keep you in the race for the long haul. As James says in chapter 1, “James 1:2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
God not only has a plan for what you are going through, but He has the power to see you through what you are going through as well. Pray that God will work His patience into you.
How is your current power supply spiritually speaking? Do you see others with power and hope that one day you’ll possess it? Has your spiritual power been off for a while now? Has it been flickering off and on? Do you need to see the power grounded and become consistent in your life? Did you have full power years ago and somehow you lost it? Have you ever tapped into the power Christ offers? Are you bearing fruit that will last? Is there power in your life that is helping you grow in the knowledge of God as you participate in the truth of living out God’s Word? Are you patient in the middle of times of testing so that you don’t quit the race? God has power to strengthen you in your inner man that is available to you today. Will you come and plug into it? Will you join me in praying for power?