♣ Not by Might or Power
Posted by Shade of the Moriah Tree
“We are apt to say that because a man has natural ability, therefore he will make a good Christian. It is not a question of our equipment but of our poverty; not of what we bring with us, but of what God puts into us; not a question of natural virtues, of strength of character, knowledge, and experience—all that is of no avail in this matter. The only thing that avails is that we are taken up into the big compelling of God and made His comrades (cf. 1 Cor. 1:26-30). The comradeship of God is made up out of men who know their poverty. He can do nothing with the man who thinks that he is of use to God. As Christians we are not out for our own cause at all, we are out for the cause of God, which can never be our cause” – Oswald Chambers.
ONE OF THE root causes of failure within the Church today can be found among men and women relying on their capabilities to draw in the crowds. Success may be apparent for some time as members numerically increase, but it is wholesome fruit that lasts which matters to God. It is true that God endows men and women with natural abilities, but we must never gauge on such as being the very credentials for usefulness within the body of Christ. Let us not forget that secular leaders in the world have positively influenced societies on a mass scale without the stirring of the Holy Spirit. Even church elders have been known to have tremendous persuasive powers and abundance of charisma that sways the crowd, but without the Holy Spirit.
Some years ago, two Korean pastors visited a thriving church here in America. The American elders reeled off all the impressive accomplishments of the church’s history and stopped midsentence to enquire what these Korean pastors were interruptedly discussing in their own language. To their shock and astonishment came the answer: “We are amazed to see how much you have achieved without the Holy Spirit.” It was A.W. Tozer who said that if the Holy Spirit was to withdraw from many churches, most of them wouldn’t discern the missing Presence because so many rely upon their own agendas, programs and strength.
Our New Testament reveals that men chosen for the ministry were full of faith and the Holy Spirit – the Spirit Who leads into all Truth. Nowadays we place the emphasis on one preparing for the ministry who is proficient to teach and who exhibits an astounding degree of intellect. The devil will always be a better theologian than all of us put together (apologies for bursting the bubble of pride), but he can never counterfeit the reality of Biblical truths encountered that bears good fruit. Because someone is able to expound the Scriptures does not necessarily entail one is under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. There are many unconverted people who have an impressive grasp of sound Christian doctrine and how that should be a dire warning to anyone in ministry who smugly relies on their own ability to obtain results.
We need broken men and women today, people who have been brought to the end of themselves and have cleaved wholly to the Lord. It takes a while to understand the Scripture we so glibly spurt out, “Not by might, nor by power but by my Spirit” and that is rightly understood when we experience the reality of our total insufficiency to labour unto the Lord. Pride and self-sufficiency are the biggest hindrances to spiritual growth – not only in ourselves but others around us; individually and collectively. When we can say with Paul, “Who is sufficient for these things” there is great hope because then we look to the One who enables us to do the things that are impossible with men.
Moses was once great in his own eyes to deliver his own people before he fled for his life in the desert, then for forty years he learned how little he really was. When God appeared to Him, there was no strand of self-reliance – just the realisation of God, the One and only great I AM. “Who am I” Moses said, “that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:11). All self-confidence was blasted out of him in the wilderness to where he implored God to send someone else for the task. We have so many eager people desiring and rising for positions of prominence today, but God cannot and will not use those who are very much alive to themselves. It makes no difference how well you graduate from seminary and slip into the role of shepherding a large congregation. Have you been broken by the Shepherd? Are you weak in yourself – forget about what you know in your head; do you feel weak and inadequate to even contemplate leading a flock? We have heard that those who go in to the military are sooner than later broken of themselves until they are built back up again, not individually but collectively, to survive and work as a team. Would to God that such a spirit existed in our Bible colleges, where men are broken down of their own strength and abilities only to be rebuilt with unshakeable confidence in God alone.
As a Christian, Oswald Chambers experienced a heart-wrenching period during his Bible student years and in his very own words stated, “…for four years, nothing but the overruling grace of God and the kindness of friends kept me out of an asylum. God used me during those years for the conversion of souls, but I had no conscious communion with Him. The Bible was the dullest, most uninteresting book in existence, and the sense of depravity, the vileness and bad-motivedness of my nature was terrific” and as David McCasland wrote (in his biography of Chambers: ‘Abandoned to God’), “While others thought everything was fine in Oswald’s life and spoke of him as a saint, he alone understood the plague of sin in his heart. It was a lonely, undeclared struggle…” Oh, we reformed people can propagate the depravity of man so eloquently, but do we know it, can we say with Paul, “of whom I am the chief of sinners”? Is there any wonder as to why we have so many detached, cold-hearted and fake leaders in our pulpit today – just theological geeks? They say the right things and they say them so well, but no life is imparted. God make us real!
I know there are many theologians who will not even give any regard to Chambers because of his supposed leanings toward Arminianism, but I will say this (as one who adheres to the doctrine of election): that God used him mightily with the Christ-centred Gospel message of redemption with everyone he came in contact with and I dare to say that so many who have their theology all neat and tidy today would trail far, far behind Oswald in reaching the men and women of his day (and our day if he were alive). What was his secret? He knew the God beyond man’s interpretation of God. Read his biography, ‘Oswald Chambers: ‘His Life and Work’ compiled by his wife. It will leave you humbled as you read countless testimonies by others whose lives were profoundly impacted by him – and people weren’t so much impressed by him as to being brought face to face with Jesus Christ. That is a living and active Christian, friends. Our problem is that we know so much about God; we may be well versed in the Scriptures; we may sit under the finest expository preaching – but one thing we still lack: we don’t know God. Church history is made by people who know God and yet we are so content to muse over the past as if we’re erecting some kind of shrine. We ought to read of men of the past and be stirred in the depths of our being to cry out to God to make Himself known in our generation as he did to our forefathers of the faith. We celebrate the Great Reformation when we should be mourning and repenting of the spiritual decline in our era.
God’s method is still the same: not many wise people, not many powerful, not many of noble birth are called – but the weak are called to turn the world upside down with the life-changing word of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). We see this blueprint laid down especially when the original disciples of Christ were called – just ordinary folk, like you and I. We can be certain of this, that in all of the professionalism and business-like mentality within the Church, we would never have chosen common fishermen; it would cramp our style. No, we want men and women who have been to bible-school, educated at the feet of Gamaliel, instead of ordinary folk who have been with Jesus – “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognised that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). We are to be proficient in the Word – the living Word, not just with the text or the letter (which is so pandemic today). I seriously wonder sometimes at what is worse: the health, wealth and prosperity gospel or the one true Gospel preached without the unction and power of the Holy Spirit and a lifestyle that does not match the proclamation. No, we are to hear the whole counsel of God expounded and we are to study to show ourselves approved in rightly handling the Truth, but in God’s name there is to be permeating life as a result, not contained within a holy-huddle that leads to apathy concerning a world outside dead in sin, awaiting the resurrection unto eternal death!
The Great Commission before us is not realised with the gravity as much as it should be, for the Bride’s love is lukewarm toward her Bridegroom. A lukewarm church is hardly conscious – if ever – of her poor state; she may well believe she is prospering in her works (Revelation 3:15-17) and in all her activity, but it is such that is accomplished in her own ways and strength. Let this ring loud and clear in our hearts: not by man’s power, nor by men’s might shall the Church make history yet again, but by the empowering of the Holy Spirit – but first must come the emptying of ourselves, where we discover how weak we really are and so making that the only grounds of boasting that the power of Christ may rest on us again. When that takes place, the world will tell that we have been with Jesus – not just in the reading or hearing about Him.
Posted on August 6, 2014, in ♣ Devotional and tagged 1 Corinthians 1:26-29, A.W. Tozer, anointing of the Holy Spirit, boasting in our weaknesses, Brokenness, charisma, church history, cleaving to the Lord, confidence in God, counterfeit, David McCasland, dead in sin, devotional, empowering, emptying of self, expository preaching, fruit that lasts, full of faith, full of the Holy Spirit, good fruit, hindrances to spiritual growth, intellect, lukewarm, man's agendas, man's program's, man's strength, Mark Anthony Williams, ministry, missing presence of the Holy Spirit, natural capabilities, Not by Might or Power, Oswald Chambers, positions of prominence, power of Christ, preaching, pride, self-confidence, self-reliance, self-sufficiency, spiritual decline, success, teaching, the Great Commission, The Great Reformation, Truths encountered, unction of the Holy Spirit, usefulness, we don't know God. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.