Power. Obtaining it, having it, exercising it and keeping hold of it. It is an obsession for many.
Napoleon Bonaparte said, “Power is my mistress. I have worked too hard at her conquest to allow anyone to take her away from me.”
Winston Churchill perceptively said, “The power of man has grown in every sphere, except over himself.”
But how can you quantify what power is? One definition of power is position of control. Sir Francis Bacon said that Knowledge is power. Oskar Shindler, the man that saved many Jews from German concentration camps in World War II said, “Power is when you have every justification to kill someone, and then you don’t”. A modern day writer, Amy Tan, has said that power is holding someone else’s fear in your hand and showing it to them.
In each of these definitions, power is portrayed as something to use, possess or harness.
The Bible speaks of power in a different way. It speaks of power as a person.
Psalm 115:3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.
Daniel 4:35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”
Matthew 28:18 – Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” All authority – power has been given to JESUS!
We would all agree with the statement that God / Jesus is “All powerful”.
But there is another question that we must face, especially in light of our passages this morning.
That question is: How much of this all-powerful God have YOU and I and the church experienced in our life and how has that changed us.
It is the question that flows through our readings this morning. To acknowledge that Jesus Christ, God, is ALL POWERFUL is good, but it is imperative that this knowledge becomes a reality in our lives.
It is the question which God confronts Job with. Chapter 38 of Job is amazing. Imagine the scene! God comes to Job and tells him that he is about to question Job. I don’t care how big your GPA is – or what fine school you may have graduated from – being questioned by God means we are not going to do well with the answers. Job was never going to be able to answer these questions. So why does God ask them?
God educates Job. Like a good teacher who may question a student in order to elicit understanding, God questions Job in order to teach him something. And God shows Job a tiny glimpse of the immensity of his power – just listen to what he says where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth – who determined its measurements – who shut in the sea with doors.
You can’t get more powerful than that!!
Job was now understanding what power was – not having wealth and influence – but in understanding that God is himself POWER.
And it is this ALL POWERFUL God, the one who laid the foundations of the earth and who determined it’s measurements who, in our gospel reading, slept on a cushion during a violent storm.
Have you ever been in a storm at sea in an open boat? Water would be rushing into the boat – the wind howling, the boat tipping and lurching and here is Jesus, getting wet, maybe even sliding back and forth – and yet he remained a sleep. There are only two ways to sleep through such a storm – narcotics – and lots of them – or utter and complete peace, a peace that has no fear – a peace that is rooted in the truth that there is no power greater than God and his purposes.
If we were able to have asked the disciples the question, “How powerful do you think Jesus is” before they had left the shore I wonder what they would have said – moderately powerful, fairly powerful, potentially powerful? What is clear is that the disciple’s answer would change in the course of this journey.
The storm was violent. When professional and seasoned fishermen are afraid then the storm is bad. Which is shown when the panicked disciples wake him up screaming – “Don’t you care that we are going to die.”
What he does next is a massive learning curve for the disciples – it is like Job hearing that God was now going to question him and educate him – here the disciples are about to get educated because Jesus tells the wind and the storm to be silent – and they were!
Does that not send a shiver up your spine? Jesus Christ proved beyond doubt on this occasion exactly who he is – he is the one who has POWER over nature – over the storms, over tornados and hurricanes.
If that’s not enough for the disciples they then get educated on the fact that Jesus’ power is not limited to just nature. His power is over the spiritual world. They arrive in a gentile territory and a demon-possessed man runs to him and kneels before Jesus. The demon has no choice but to bow the knee before the creator of all things – and he knows his destination – torment. And there is absolutely nothing the demon can do about it – no one to call on to help him. At Jesus’ word he must obey.
The demons MUST do what Jesus commands and simply by Jesus’ word he shows he has POWER over the spiritual realm. And, most importantly for us, he shows he has POWER that stops the demons from destroying this man.
Is this the Jesus you and I know? Is this the Jesus whom we have invited into our lives? Is this the Jesus that walks with us everyday – the one who has the power to command nature – the one who has the power to command the spiritual realm – the one who stops the enemy from destroying us – the one who protects through the storm.
Is this the Jesus you and I know?
This is the Jesus the apostle knew. Paul embodies for us what happens when the knowledge that Jesus is all-powerful becomes a reality in our life.
Paul has been talking to the Corinthians in the previous verses about the fact that we have a heavenly body to come and that we groan for that perfect heavenly place. But before that, all people will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. All people will face what Job faced – being questioned by the God and creator of all things. It is THIS FACT, that ALLL people will face judgment, and that Paul KNOWS the power of Jesus Christ and FEARS the Lord, that drives him to persuade people to believe in Jesus Christ.
For Paul – the driving force of his life is Christ’s love. The Love of Christ controls him, he says, BECAUSE he knows that Jesus Christ DIED for all.
Paul’s message is rooted in the truth that the ALL POWERFUL GOD OF THE UNIVERSE is SO POWERFUL that by becoming a human being he has defeated death through his own death, and demonstrated his power to EVERYONE by rising from the dead in order TO GIVE LIFE AND BE RECONCILED TO ALL WHO BELIEVE IN HIM.
This is how powerful Jesus is for Paul – the one who transforms us into a new creation, the old has gone and the new has come.
We must come to know Jesus ourselves in this powerful way.
We must come to know and understand, accept and embrace that Jesus Christ, through his Holy Spirit, who dwells in all believers has power and authority over all creation; over all the spiritual realm; over all disease, over all situations; over all circumstances; over all time and over all space.
As his followers we are ambassadors of this God and of this message -– pleading to the world the power of the gospel.
And here’s the point – we have no power in ourselves. Jesus tells Pilate, the governor of that area in John 19:11 – you would have no power over me unless it had been to you from above. Pilates position and power came from God – God ALLOWED him to have that position.
We must therefore learn to enter the model of POWER that Jesus sets – the model of LETTING GO. The paradox is that Jesus willingly gave up his authority in heaven to become a human being – he went from power to powerlessness, entrusting himself completely to the Father for ALL things, SO THAT, as Paul writes in Romans 1:4, by the resurrection, Jesus was declared to the Son of God in power.
When Jesus walked the earth, he never boasted to people “just wait – you have NO idea just HOW powerful I am”. He gave everything to the Father and did not grasp onto anything himself. The model of Christ is that he did not consider equality with God something to be used for his own advantage. Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men.
The great wisdom of knowing Christ – of being his ambassador, of exercising authority in the positions he places us in is to know that it is not our power but his. That we must relinquish back to him whatever power or position, or place of authority we might be given in this world, so that when he calls us to let go of it – we can – obeying him and not our own desires – just as Jesus obeyed the Father.
We must not delude ourselves that we have power – there is only ONE WHO IS TRULY AND COMPLETELY ALL POWERFUL. All authority comes from him – any position we may have comes FROM him and we have it because of HIM. And in whatever position God has given us we are his ambassadors – a representive of Christ. We must obey HIS will – we must do HIS bidding – in church, in our work, in our homes. When we realize this – and know God to be all-powerful – we can stop grasping onto things – we can have peace; we can stop worrying or fretting over power struggles, or who has the authority, or whether we have any authority or not. God does. God gives it and he takes it away. Let’s rest in the powerful God we worship and allow him to be powerful in our lives, so that in the storms of our life, when things are tough, we can allow Jesus and his power to calm the storm. As our Psalmist says this morning – Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
29 He made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
Imagine the impact to the Kingdom of God here in Mount Vernon, Ft Belvoir, Alexandria, America, around the world if we truly lived this way.