Power is Good

You need more power. Much, much more.

Here’s why this statement may have made you bristle: power is misunderstood in our culture. We pejoratively speak of power with terms such as “power hungry” and “power plays”, because we know that power can do irreparable damage in our world. But this is only one side of the coin and is really speaking about having power over others. I’m talking about power “for” rather than power “over”.

We could describe power as “the ability or capacity to do something or act in a particular way.” Without power you would die. Your brain uses power now as you read this. Your sight, nervous system, digestive system, joints, muscles, cells and bones all require power to work. Power is life.

The life of faith is no different: without power your faith will die. You need power to love your enemies, power to be humble, power to be generous, power to forgive others, power to serve others, power to resist temptation, power over spiritual evil, and power to even have faith in the first place. And the good news is that God is the gracious source of the power you need. You are doomed if you seek to live the life Jesus calls us to by trusting in your own finite and limited power. Don’t do it!

In the New Testament, Jesus is described as being “powerful,” as having “power,” and giving his followers “power.” These followers are described as preaching about Jesus with “great power,” being filled with “power,” and preaching Jesus with the Spirit’s “power.” And the apostle Paul repeatedly affirms and prays in the letter to the Ephesians that we may know God’s “incomparably great power for us who believe,” that God would “strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,” that we would “have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people,” and that we would be “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” The Greek word often used for power is dunamis, which is where we get our word “dynamite.”

Jesus showed us what power guided by grace and love looks like. It is always power for, not power over. Jesus was the most powerful human to ever walk the planet and yet he served, welcomed, opposed unjust power, forgave, healed and loved. And in the apparent ultimate expression of powerlessness gave his life in sacrifice for us. This is power fused with divine love. It’s what you and I desperately need.

The message and grace of Jesus was not to load us up with heavy burdens to try and be good people or achieve a level of spiritual purity and grace that is frustratingly unattainable. The message of Jesus is the offer of a peaceful transfer of power: your wilful, self-sufficient and sinful life for his powerful love and grace.

Relying on God’s power to us in Jesus does not mean we will not suffer or face challenges; we will. But God eternally and graciously offers us His power through trusting Jesus and through prayer. It’s power for life and power to love. 

Nicholas Tuohy

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