by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” -- Mother Teresa

November, 2002

About a month ago, a Ukrainian ironworker was cutting up an old World War II vintage howitzer. Unfortunately, the ironworker didn't know that there was a shell in the old cannon. After a while, the heat from the man's torch detonated the shell, causing the big gun to fire. The worker suffered minor burns on his face and the shell destroyed the roofs of two buildings. The shell traveled 800 meters or about half a mile!

The ironworker had no idea of the power that was contained within the cannon he was cutting up for scrap. In the same way, we often don't realize the power of God.

After Jesus began his earthly ministry, the people said to each other, "'What kind of utterance is this? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits and out they come!'" (Luke 4:36b NRSV). They soon realized that he was no ordinary man. Jesus gave power and authority to his disciples as well (Luke 9:1). He said to them, "'See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you.'" (Luke 10:19 NRSV). And that power wasn't reserved just for them. John wrote, "But all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become the children of God," (John 1:12 NRSV). And that includes us!

But any power that we might possess comes from God. When we say the Lord's Prayer, we pray, "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen." (Matt. 6:13b KJV). We acknowledge that God is the source of all that we have, are, and can do. Paul wrote, "But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us." (2 Cor. 4:7 NRSV). He recognized that, by himself, he was nothing, just as we are nothing. He attributed everything that he was ". . . to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine," (Eph. 3:20b NRSV).  But this is not power as the world understands the term. It is not power for selfish gain or self-gratification. Rather, the power God gives is power for service. Peter understood that we must use this empowerment to glorify God: "Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God. Whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ." (1 Pet. 4:11a NRSV).

The source of this power is God's word. Paul wrote, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for the salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." (Rom. 1:16 NRSV). Jesus told the Sadducees, "'You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God.'" (Matt. 22:29b NRSV). But if we have accepted the truth of the gospel, it is accompanied by God's power for salvation in our lives. "For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (1 Cor. 1:18 NRSV).

If you have a Bible handy, look at it. Pick it up and hold it. Does it seem like something powerful, or just another book? The Ukrainian ironworker didn't perceive the power contained within that old cannon. To him, it was just another hunk of metal. He made the mistake of looking at the "clay jar" instead of the explosive potential within it. But for those of us who believe, the Bible is the word of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17), "so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." (Rom.15:4 NRSV).

But we can't simply believe, we have to put our faith into practice: "But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves." (James 1:22 NRSV). If we truly believe that the Bible is not just another book, we will behave as if we were not just another people. If we will act on what we believe, we can be empowered to transform our world and the lives of everyone around us.

"For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Rom. 15:4-6 NRSV.)


Copyright © 2002 by David Phelps