Small children who are threatened by school yard bullies are fascinated by Superman and the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. As they grow older they take an interest in Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. When I was a kid anyone named Arnold or Sylvester would be picked on and beat up.
People never outgrow their desire for power. Most of us wish we had more physical, emotional and spiritual strength. We face a critical energy crisis. We have more stuff to do than power to do it. The name Jeremiah gave to Pharaoh Hophra fits us: "The Man with No Power But with Plenty of Noise" (Jeremiah 46:17 Living Bible).
The gospel is not just about principles but about power. Paul declared, "I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith" (Romans 1:16a). Salvation is not just the plans and principles of God. Being saved puts you in touch with superhuman power the power of Almighty God.
Jesus promised his disciples, "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 1:8).
Would you like to tap into that power in your own life? To be empowered like the disciples you must be prepared like the disciples.
Jesus told his disciples, "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, that I told you about" (Acts 1:4). Jesus' command was puzzling. He died, arose and commissioned his disciples to a needy world, but told them the next step was to wait. "What are we waiting for?" they might have asked. What they were waiting for is power. That's important, for instead of waiting for God's power we are tempted to substitute our own resources: intellectual, ecclesiastical, and financial (see Zechariah 4:6). When we do that we turn God's powerful witness into religious propaganda. Saving souls becomes human manipulation instead of divine regeneration. In effect, Jesus told the disciples, "Don't just do something. Stand there." Stand there until you have received the power of the Holy Spirit.
"Wait for the gift my Father promised" is a puzzle. And it is prerequisite. Much frustration in today's church is caused by pre-pentecostal powerlessness. Just as an electric motor will burn out if it is forced to run on inadequate power, so many Christians get "burned out" in church. They try to do God's work without God's power.
When Lawrence of Arabia took some Bedouin chiefs to London they saw faucets and running water for the first time. Impressed by their convenience, the chiefs tried to screw the faucets intending to take them to the desert. They didn't know that the faucets worked only because they were connected to a reservoir. Like those Bedouin chiefs, the church is more interested in faucets than in reservoirs. We look for techniques and tricks instead of the living water of the Holy Spirit.
At Pentecost Peter declared: "All the people of Israel are to know for sure that it is this Jesus, whom you nailed to the cross, that God has made Lord and Messiah" (Acts 2:36). The Holy Spirit said, "Amen" and 3,000 people were saved (Acts 2:41). If Peter had preached the same sermon one day earlier without the Spirit's "Amen," no hearts would have been moved and no souls would have been saved.
To receive power you must wait. And
When I give the invitation on Sunday morning and nobody responds, my first thought is I've got to preach harder. I hope your first thought is we've got to pray harder. The disciples "gathered frequently to pray as a group, together with the women, and with Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers" (Acts 1:14). Their prayer was preliminary. Prayer was not their last resort; it was their first. I laughed at a cartoon that shows two lonely men on a life raft surrounded by sharks. One says to the other, "We've tried everything else. I guess it's time to pray." For the apostles, prayer was not a response to circumstances; circumstances were a response to prayer.
Their prayer was preliminary and it was powerful. This is the first mention of Jesus' brothers in the book of Acts. In the gospels his brothers were unbelievers (John 7:5). We know from Acts and the Epistles that his brother, James, became a pastor of the church at Jerusalem (Acts 12:17). What a powerful change! What the life and witness of Jesus could not do, a prayer meeting did. Greek Philosopher, Archimedes, said, "Give me a lever long enough and a prop strong enough, I can single-handed move the world." Prayer is the lever and faith is the prop. With them you can move the world.
Their prayer was powerful because it was persistent. Pentecost came after a ten day prayer meeting. God could have sent the Spirit after a ten minute prayer meeting. But he didn't. Delay is not denial. It is not evidence of God's reluctance to empower his disciples. Instead, it is God's desire that we persist until we are fully ready for the answer.
You may have prayed to be filled with the Holy Spirit, but are you ready for Him whose presence at Pentecost was described as the sound of a mighty wind and burning fire? (See Acts 2:2-3.)
Don't blame The Electric Light and Power Company if your
bedroom lamp doesn't burn. It may not be plugged in. Unlimited resources
of power are available to you in God's omnipotence. Your problem is you're
not plugged in. The same Spirit that filled and empowered the apostles
can fill and empower you.