|Empowerment/Authority. Talk given Sunday Morning, Dresden 2007|
This message is about three things:
• Being prepared
• Using what God gives us.
There is much in the Gospels about the authority that Jesus had, (even though certain dead-from-the-feet-up Pharisees challenged it). Jesus had authority to lay His life down as well as to help and heal others, all in preparation for the consummation of the ages when He will bring all things in heaven and on earth together in according to His will when the times will have reached their fulfilment (Eph. 1:10)
1. Because He has received authority from the Father, He can bestow it to His followers. ‘He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.’ (Matt. 10:1)
2. On Jesus rests the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, of counsel and of power. (Is. 11:2) In Him authority and power go hand in hand. (Do a Bible study on power in Scripture)
3. The end will come, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For He must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
Some of you like the idea of having more power, but are secretly afraid of what you might have to go through or to give up in order to get there.
It does not matter that for so much of the time we would feel helpless so long as we ally our helplessness to the power of the Lord. All this means stepping out in faith, letting ourselves be vulnerable but not holding back in fear.
• To experience the power of God we need to be willing to make the most of opportunities, but without jumping at every opportunity that comes our way. Goliath loves to shout but we are called to go into action when the Lord directs us to.
• Then we can expect God to work deeply. There need be no arrogance in this, but rather a quiet and grateful and growing awareness that God really does use us into those particular areas. Deep ministries often take time to develop rather than emerging suddenly.
• The first thing that happens when God calls us, is that we begin to see things in a different way. The ordinary is endued with extraordinary clarity and insight; the weak become strong in the Lord, and things that were previously ‘out of reach’ now become part of our daily experience.
• God may choose to use us across a wide spectrum, or our gifting may be very specialised. For me it has long been in areas of intercession, and of drawing groups into the stillness of God’ s presence, or coming alongside people who are grieving. As Scripture says, but tell it not to certain Pentecostal praise leaders, It is better to be in a house of mourning It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting (Ecc. 7:2)
How do we receive?
It requires humility – and faith, because we are afraid deep down that He does not want to use us. As I said earlier, we have to make ourselves vulnerable before we receive the power that counteracts our powerlessness.
Immediately after receiving the Holy Spirit. Jesus was led by the Spirit, (another translation says driven), into the wilderness (Luke 4:1 and 14) He then returned from the wilderness in the power of the Spirit. It was the extreme testing of the wilderness which transformed fullness into full blown power. For us too there will be many proving grounds. How will the Lord know whether we can handle adversity and the potential trap of real power unless it is put to the test? The fires of sanctification are hot. (God’s purposes in sanctification are designed to last a lifetime/lunchtime)
It’s easy to want to get to the third stage of wanting to be used and bypassing this phase. God doesn’t want to entrust power without purity.
Either way, you will need good character to advance in it – and that will be put to the test in all sorts of unexpected ways.
It’s worth noting that Billy Graham survived at the top year after year when others faltered and fell.
He has important things to say on the subject:
• The devil gets an incredibly high percentage of God’s finest servants through sexual stuff. Be prepared. If you resolve to always act in the presence of others you are feeling attracted to as if both God and your closest friend was present, adultery simply won’t happen.
There is still more we can do here. Try and have soul friends that you are accountable to – people we feel we can trust implicitly to speak to about personal things, and who we might be happy to confess how we are feeling to without fear of being betrayed.
I have a message to husbands. It is a deep and challenging one: love your wives!
When you feel the grass looking greener elsewhere, beware, you’ve got green coloured spectacles on. Wrench them off. It is a chimera. A mirage.
Preparing ourselves means moving on beyond things that are doing us no good. Some things will never change unless you make the effort take steps and change them.
Certain relationship dynamics may have got completely stuck and will never change by themselves; other things will never happen unless we take steps to do something about it.
God’s times of preparation are often deeper and more thorough than we had expected. Be patient with God and with yourself:
It is worth saying that God is more long suffering than we are. Our generation concentrates to a dangerous extent on short term planning. God wants us to see the long term consequences of things. This requires both vision and perseverance, as well as the opportunity to be flexible and spontaneous. I looked at this in great detail at how God is looking to develop much more participatory levels of worship. It means learning to draw people in and develop themes as they come up. It means recognising the people who can be the eyes in the Church.
Eyes are the most sensitive part of the body; they need to be particularly protected.
Now Moses said to Hobab son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses' father-in-law, "We are setting out for the place about which the LORD said, `I will give it to you.' Come with us and we will treat you well, for the LORD has promised good things to Israel."
NUM 10:30 He answered, "No, I will not go; I am going back to my own land and my own people."
NUM 10:31 But Moses said, "Please do not leave us. You know where we should camp in the desert, and you can be our eyes. 32 If you come with us, we will share with you whatever good things the LORD gives us."
Our generation tends to give in when more prayer and faithfulness could have brought about breakthrough BUT there are times to get out of certain groups or relationships; other times when we have to persevere through; there are no formulas – only the need to listen and to follow where He leads; to see as it were out of the corner of our eyes where the Spirit is leading.
What is God getting you ready for?
Using what God has given us:
How do people respond when God calls them? Sometimes with great joy, because the sense of His presence is so strong. But we can also notice that it not always with wild acclaim. Moses, Jeremiah and Gideon were but three who immediately began protesting that they could not possibly do what God was asking of them. Their initial reaction was very much along the lines of, ‘Oh Lord, you must have got it wrong; you can’t mean me; that’s not at all what I’m good at. What they meant, of course, was that it wasn’t what they particularly wanted to do, not least because it might make them highly unpopular.
When we have seen God move in power, it’s hard to settle for anything less. But it is easy to start trying to reproduce it by making formulas. On the face of it the Gospel formula is simple: Authority + Power = God breaking through. I would add to that Authority + Power + God’s specific leading. Formulas can’t substitute for God’s specific calling. We went to a Bill Johnson meeting the other night at which 78 people were healed on the first night; but the person I had brought along with me wasn’t – and that was my wife (who had been having severe seizures – over a hundred of them). It says in Corinthians that to SOME are given the gift of miracles, and that is definitely his gift.
He has faith to have declared a cancer free zone around his church; he is greatly used. For most people to say this that would be mere presumption – he obviously knows what he is talking about. Three times groups of anointed people prayed for Ros; each time she got worse! Finally, we mobilised 800 people to pray: and God did something extraordinary. She promptly had the worst one yet! How discouraging was that. If your favourite dolphin stops eating fish, you can’t give him steak and chips? If prayer does not appear to work what do you do? Soaking prayer heals more than miracles - A picture of an angel sowing up the nerve endings that had come loose, like a cable coming away from the wall. Praise God, she has not had another attack since that moment and strength and freedom are flowing back in. Praise God.
We cannot make a formula, which is why there is so much confusion and debate about healing in the Church. Have you noticed that God often heals those outside the Church? He wants to give them a touch to encourage them, to let them know that He is there; when a Christian is not healed there may be all sorts of other reasons. I will be returning to the subject of healing later on in this talk.
The only certain formula is that if you try to please everybody you will fail!
A man can receive only what is given to him from heaven (John 3:27)
It is good to know where your calling and giftings lie
Constance’s bad back – let God speak to you about this – she had 80 years to find out. Gifts of healing.
Heidi Baker Mozambique goes into villages and begins by asking for all the deaf people to come together. She prays for them; a staggering number of them are healed. It is her gifting.
Not only ears; there was a man who had acute MS in England, in a wheelchair. He has asked for prayer hundreds of times but he believed that the time had come for his healing. After half an hour foot moved. After another half an hour he was pushing people around in their wheelchairs! Heidi said that this was a wakeup call and a sign to the paralysed church in the UK. Even then, there had to be extensive soaking prayer before the healing happened.
Few miracles happen instantaneously compared with the number that can happen as we persevere in prayer.
Does that make prayer sound interesting? If you have ever been to a prayer meeting that was so dull that you needed a prayer meeting to get over it you will get an idea of what I am saying. I wrote Praying Together (Sovereign World) to explore some of the spiritual principles and the practical dynamics that are associated with the subject. They can make all the difference between a Spirit-led encounter and a turgid drudge. Understand these principles and it will go a long way to reduce the ‘theory/practice gap.’
Jesus taught more about perseverance than any other one quality in relation to prayer.
God tells us to ‘Go’ and He gives us enough fuel for the journey; He doesn’t overload our tank when He knows He can fill us up at the next stop. Likewise, we all pause three times a day to eat? Besides, God likes us to stop and ask for more.
Being inventive with our gifts:
• Let me introduce you to a group that in all probability you will not have heard about. They are called ARTISANS. They have three mottos: prayer humility, and unity. These may not sound the most outwardly dynamic, but they are such precious qualities. This group reaches out to influential figures, particularly who are still in their twenties, in the centres of power New York, Los Angeles, Hollywood, Paris and London, in order to influence a generation for the Lord. And my goodness they are really doing it.
• A charity called Charity. Donate 100 % of its water bottle profits to Africa. The big names have followed their example and are doing the same, - except that they are only donating 5%.
• Let me tell you about my friend Terry Charlton. A most unexpected person to go as a missionary.
Huge fruit he is bearing.
The command is to heal.
A word about healing:
Does God heal everyone?
• There were times when the power of the Lord was particularly present to heal.
• There were times when all were healed.
• There were times when He stopped because particular people called on him to do so (Bartimaeus)
• There were times when he must have walked past people and not stopped at all.
• We read that He sometimes prayed twice for people – but not that they were never healed.
• We probably don’t have the stories about less successful attempts to heal.
There are bound to be disappointments. Glynys.
The glory would stick to us if everyone was healed.
Some have the gift of miracles – not all.
When people are in dark places, there is often a reason. It’s hard for us to see our fellow believers in this condition because it raises doubts in our minds about God’s goodness. It’s worth remembering that in dark places caterpillars develop strength in their wings to enable the butterfly to fly by its struggle to come out of the chrysalis.
Tunnels are actually designed to get you through a difficulty to a new place, and they are a means of crossing through very difficult terrain!
Faith or Presumption?
It is not always easy to know whether we are moving in faith or in presumption. Faith takes you to the top of the page; hyperfaith, faith in faith, superfaith, wrong faith, takes you into the unusable margins at the very top of the page. We must not lower our standard from top faith because of those who push too far. It is easy to come back too far down in reaction.
Genuine: To hope against hope (Romans 4:18) Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead--since he was about a hundred years old--and that Sarah's womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.
Counterfeit: To hope against hope – when the sensible thing would be to lay it all down.
When you make a mistake, don’t let condemnation finish you off. Let God pick you up again.
A person can be genuine but still get things wrong in certain areas, even quite badly. At the end of the day, God called David a man of God and he wasn’t so hot in more than one way.
But I’ll tell you what: the Lord has shown me that there are people here who are carrying resentments in their spirit, and that is something that is enough to keep the power of God from flowing freely through you. In English there is only one letter difference between the words resent and repent. Let’s get it dealt with.
Counterfeit: I’m going to stick to my prepared notes and the order of service, come what may!
• Let His Spirit instruct and balance you. Being spiritual doesn’t mean you have to lay down all your notes; God wants study and He wants spontaneity, as we have been exploring this weekend.
• Learn to sense where His Spirit is leading. This is living in the light of John 5:19 : ‘I only do what I see my Father doing.’
• Following His leading may not be an attractive option for everyone:
We follow it because that is where the Spirit is leading and we’re putting aside our own wishes. For whatever reason; whether it blesses the majority of people, or just the one person whom God wants to bless
No prophets ‘graduate’ without making many mistakes along the way.
There is a time to fight through – and a time to lay things down. (We’re back to the idea of knowing when to nestle and when to wrestle).
Remember: 1 Cor. 15:36 - What you sow does not come to life until it dies.
Complementariness is vital.
Power comes from the name of the Lord: He is the only One who can truly help us.
David’s remedy for intense pressure was not always to come against it hammer and tongs, but to ‘dwell in the house of the Lord,’ literally, to sit in it. This is the normal biblical position for meditative prayer: relaxed, but attentive. It was by taking time out to discover God’s perspective that David was able to be secure in his faith despite all the troubles that were assailing him.
Power is entrusted to those who have moved beyond the need to exercise it. Your parents may have let you down (only too likely in today’s dysfunctional world) but the Lord is our father and mother and He will gather you in His arms and never let you go. There are false witnesses at your throat in every direction, and you don't know what to do; some of your problems are of your own making, but there are others which have come as the result of pressing circumstances or other people’s malice. Let’s affirm together with the Psalmist, ‘I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.’ Isn’t that better than growing old and cynical? Waiting for the Lord leads to His glory breaking through, and to the enforcement of His victory.
Some more notes on knowing how to exercise the power of God
Times to pray with authority rather than just praying covering prayers about situations:
Bad back: Ros praying for me (SM weekend)
It is so important to know when to wrestle and when to nestle.
Angels are important – God sends them to those who are going to inherit salvation, those He trusts. ‘Lead such lives’ as I shared on a previous visit.
Go= Stepping out with what you’ve got. (A hand – Ludlow; an abdomen. No answer. Limp on! Afterwards came up!)
But here are some certainties:
One of the kindest things we can do is on a regular basis is to pray regularly and as comprehensively as possible for each other. Time after time I have known the difference in my body as well as in my spirit. God answers united specific prayer. In addition, we must do our very best to heed any specific nudges that He gives. Turn the nudges and reminders that come our way as quickly as possible into prayer. You never know how much God will do even through the quickest of arrow prayers.
Every encounter with people is a chance to bring them a touch from the Lord. Before God moves in power He sets His people praying. Before God moves in power, the enemy also does His best to discourage and distract us.
Last week in the Lake District we had three wonderful walks. Each time we experienced the temptation to stop and turn round just before we reached the place where God met us in great power. It is as though the enemy senses what is going on, gets desperate and rattles his chains. Gnash, gnash. Clink, clink.
When we are looking the other way he shoots sharp invisible darts, to oppress or distract us. Or he stirs up other Christians to speak against us. Christians can be like dredgers when the devil gets hold of them – we still resent what our brother did to us twelve years ago against him. The Pharisees were watching Jesus, doing all they could to stop Him from moving in faith. That is a picture of condemnation on legs.
So long as we do not short-circuit His power by our sinfulness or unforgiveness, so much is possible. The Lord is completely committed to us as individuals, and to the circles He knew that we would relate to. The Lord has put His mark of ownership on us, and when it says in Scripture that He put His seal on us (2 Cor. 1:22) it virtually means ‘He endued us with power from on high.’ (Cf Jn 6:27)
Now we have a chance to ask the Spirit to come to empower afresh. We’re going to divide into groups: if you feel you want to sit this out that’s fine, but this is chance to receive – and to pray for what we have already received to fine new forms of expression.
2) Inner healing
3) Spiritual gifts including developing your musical skills, or skills in some entirely different areas such as intercession.
4) Leadership. Actual and potential. In both the spiritual and secular world; they share many of the same broad principles.
Have faith therefore in the face of life’s many obstacles:
Thank You Lord that You can bring blessing even out of this difficult situation. Nothing is too hard for You. Your goodness never fails!
Help us to perceive what You are doing, Lord, may we walk in newness of life.