POWER & AUTHORITY
Several years ago I was startled to hear Dallas Willard talk about how we should want spiritual power. Wasn’t that the opposite of humility? But then I thought about how I frequently prayed the Ephesians 3 prayer for myself and others because of its emphasis on spiritual formation but it also talks about spiritual power:
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with POWER through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have POWER, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 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, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (vv. 16-21).
So we want:
- power for Christ to dwell in our hearts by faith
- power to grasp the greatness of God’s love
- conscious of God’s power at work within me (think how different I’d be with these three things!)
Spiritual power is a good thing. If I had the power described above, I’d:
- trust God more in situations that now make me crazy (computer glitches, people who don’t want to grow spiritually);
- love people more (instead of tolerating them);
- be aware that God was working within me in exciting ways even when life seems ho-hum.
Dallas also explained that seeking power is different from seeking position. We don’t seek position: places of honor, important seats, wanting people to look up to us, trying to be in charge (Mt. 23:6). We’re OK in the lowest seat (Luke 14:8-11).
Holding a position is not wrong, but that we don’t set our hearts on it. Holding hopes for position crowds out hopes of simply loving God today and living my life in the kingdom today. Besides, positional power/authority is the weakest of the 4 levels of power/authority:
- Positional power/authority: people must do what you say because you hold an office, position or role. (They may or may not respect you, but they’re required to obey you.)
- Expert power/authority: knowing more than others. (People listen to you because you have information they want. When you stop giving information, they may stop listening to you.)
- Relational power/authority: those you deeply love will sway you. (If my husband or daughter or son ask me to do something, I’m likely to do it because I love them.)
- Spiritual power/authority: people look up to you because you know God. (This is the strongest kind of power or authority. Nobody has to listen to you, respect you or follow what you say. They do it because they see God in you.)
So spiritual power is not about me. We may not even know we have it. God gives it in greater measure as we abide in Christ.
Grace and peace,
© Jan Johnson – For permission to reprint, Click Here