In Acts 1:8, the Lord promises his disciples that “you shall receive power, after the Holy Ghost is come upon you.” In Luke’s earlier account of this promise (Luke 24:49), the idea of “waiting” is prominent. Undertake nothing until you are empowered. What I have for you to do is beyond your capacity without the outpouring and indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Do not think of “power” primarily in terms of miracles: healing, raising the dead, etc. The apostles had these powerful “signs” attached to their office as foundation layers of Christ’s church (Acts 2:43; 5:12; 2 Cor. 12:12). All believers have the Holy Spirit indwelling (Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 3:17; 12:13) and therefore all share in the Lord’s promise of “power” from on high. Thoughts and attitudes of powerlessness in a believer are a serious sin and denial of Christ’s resurrection power at work in us.
But we must live and pray in his fellowship to partake of his strength. The apostle prayed that the Ephesians would have their eyes opened to know “the exceeding greatness of his power to us who believe” (1:19). This power is tied, first, to the “Spirit of wisdom and revelation” for which we are to pray (Eph. 1:17), and then compared to the Father’s power when he raised his Son from the dead (Eph. 1:20).
We are to pray to know this power that is at work in us. In some respects, it is a far greater expression of power than healing sick folk and raising the dead. This power enables us to see and hold fast to God’s truth when the world lies in blindness and hates God’s word. This is the power that led Joseph to flee sexual sin, Daniel to reject the king’s food, and the three Hebrew children to face down Nebuchadnezzar’s statist audacity. It is a power that gives patience under suffering, self-control in plenty, and thankfulness in lean times. We have a moral and spiritual power in union with Christ. His power in us is so great that when we resist the devil in faith, he must flee (Jam. 4:7).
Consider also Ephesians 3:16, a prayer that the Lord would “strengthen us with might by his Spirit in our inner man, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith.” Again, our power or strength is from the Holy Spirit. We can do nothing without his presence and power in our lives. Second, this power is so that Christ may dwell in us. He is too full of grace and truth and love for us to have him walking with us and living in us (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 3:10). He has unsearchable riches; we are fragile vessels. We need the Spirit’s strength for Christ to dwell in us!
Since our power is inseparable from the Holy Spirit’s presence and working in us, we must ask for the Spirit. Our Lord directed us to do so. “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him” (Luke 11:13). We must ask for the Spirit – regularly and believingly. He is a gift from our risen Savior. Our power depends upon his presence, so we must walk in the Spirit. Dabbling with sin, living with one eye cocked on the world, not living by Scripture, worry and fretfulness, or following our sinful cravings grieves and quenches the Spirit (Eph. 4:30; 1 Thess. 5:19) – and therefore makes us powerless.
Consider the apparent powerlessness of many against sexual sins. Is it really powerlessness or grieving the Spirit by unbelief and prayerlessness in not asking for the Spirit’s strength and living in fellowship with him through the Word? Satan is a real and deadly enemy. He will eat you alive – not pluck you away from Christ – but make your life miserable and obscure the beauty and privileges of Christ and his grace – if you are not walking in the power of the Spirit.
Why cannot the church as a whole now, at this eleventh hour, see through the lies of political polytheism? Why can she not confess as our fathers and mothers did that the first commandment applies to nations also – no other gods before me? That Christ, not man, is King, and therefore all must bow before him? We lose faith’s sight and boldness when we grieved the Spirit by not walking in his fellowship. Our worldliness has quenched his light and power in our lives. If we ask for the Spirit, it is for spiritual highs and personal betterment rather than pleasing our Father and glorifying our Savior.
There is nothing happening in the world anywhere that is beyond the power of God in you, child of God. This is the age of Jesus Christ, in which the Father will glorify him by exalting his power at work in us, the “power by which he is able to subdue all things to himself” (Phil. 3:19). He will not share his glory with another. All other legitimate and necessary endeavors in the home, church, and society must be empowered by the Spirit and undertaken in union with Christ. Everything you do, believer, must begin and be bathed with prayer, then concluded with praise. God has made a tremendous difference in our lives. We shall prevail, whether in life or death, in suffering and hardship, now and in eternity, not by our might and wisdom, but by the might and wisdom of Jesus Christ, the only King and Savior. In him, we are powerful and will overcome the world. He has promised.
Therefore, ask. You have not because you ask not. Ask not for the Spirit so that you do not have to fight and life will be easier – ask for the Spirit so that you can honor Christ, resist sin unto death, keep the Sabbath holy, stop cursing and cussing, flee temptation, kill sin, master your fears, and stand fast for Christ. Ask for the Spirit, young mother, not so your children will comply when you snap your fingers but so that Jesus Christ may subdue your impatience and replace your frustration with faith and conviction that by raising children to fear the Lord, you are washing his feet and wiping them with your tears of thankfulness. Ask, Christian man, for the Lord to strengthen you by his Spirit so that you may be courageous, faithful, wise, a servant like Christ the Lamb who laid down his life and a warrior like Christ the Lion who fights sin unto death and gives Satan no quarter but crushes him by God’s word and prayer.
Our Father will answer this prayer. Our Lord said so. He will give us his Spirit. And when he does, complaining will be replaced with praise, discouragement with hope, bickering with love. Perhaps this is not what we think of when we read “power.” Our Lord does. He thinks of a glass of water given in his name, a word of kindness to an enemy, a flight from impurity when no one is watching, a refusal to bow to the beast of statism when he heats his furnaces. This is power. This is the reign of Christ and his victory extended over Satan’s dark kingdom. If these things seem unreal to us and far less significant than fleshly weapons and worldly contests, we may be or have become strangers to the true power of God and choked by worldly cares so that his word has become unfruitful in our lives. But he has power to raise us up again and make us stand. Let us ask him to strengthen us Who Is This That Comes From Edom (228 in Blue Trinity Hymnal by his Spirit.