Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite (Psalm 147:5)
I have really been thinking a great deal about the concept of power lately. And when I think of the word, I tend to first think of military power or political power.
America has been the dominant power in the world’s military and economic scene for all of my adult life. Maybe that’s why I automatically think in that realm when I hear the word power mentioned.
I also think of power in reference to certain people or positions. Our president is powerful; so are our governors and other elected officials. Policemen, judges, and lawyers have positions of power and authority too.
Even doctors make daily decisions of life and death, yielding them a certain power. The movers and shakers of our economy certainly have power – sometimes way too much power.
And now, more than ever before, the media and all the news anchors, as well as Hollywood stars and aspiring internet stars, have demonstrated their powerful sway and influence over viewers.
Closer to home, our bosses have definite power over us, while our families and friends exert lots of power in our day-to-day lives. Our pastors and church leaders tend to influence us in powerful ways, as well.
And of course, we know that whether we admit it or not, God has the most power over us of all. Sometimes we rage against His power and suffer the consequences of our own choices and our fruitless bid for control.
But when it’s all said and done though, that is really the only true power we have –the power of choice given to us by God. In fact, throughout the Bible, God gave all of His children the gift of choice.
First, Adam and Eve were given a choice. Through obedience, they were offered the gift of living freely in an intimate relationship with their Maker in paradise. Instead, they chose to eat the Garden of Eden’s only forbidden fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. After thousands of years of hindsight, we know the continual negative consequences of their choice.
But the first man and woman in creation were not the only Bible characters offered the freedom and power of choice. Like our original ancestors, God’s children seem to be plagued with making foolish decisions.
Literally, pick any book of the Bible and see the folly of bad choices:
- Joseph’s brothers chose to put an end to their brother’s bothersome dreams by selling him into captivity.
- David chose the immediate lustful gratification of adultery, and on top of that, he then chose to cover up his sin with murder.
- Jonah chose to turn and run from God’s instructions and call on his life.
- And in the New Testament, Peter chose to take his eyes off of the Master of the waves rather than continuing to walk on water. He also chose to deny the very Savior of his soul – three times in one night.
And the list goes on and on. But there is good news in the midst of all those bad choices, and it is the overwhelming mercy and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Yes, each of these people suffered from the weight of their self-centered, sinful choices.
Despite their choices, the sins of hate, jealousy, and pride did not keep the sons of Jacob from the truth of their brother’s dreams. God allowed them to humbly receive deliverance from famine and certain death from Joseph, their long-lost brother, the very one they sold into slavery.
And regardless of David’s initial sins of adultery and murder, the lineage of Jesus would eventually be traced back to David and Bathsheba. In fact, the record of that lineage written in the first chapter of the New Testament demonstrates that their sin of adultery was not forgotten, but it also shows us that it did not perpetually disqualify them either.
Likewise, Jonah was mercifully given a second chance to preach to the city of Nineveh when the whale belched Jonah from its belly onto a nearby beach. And preach Jonah did, for the whole city repented and was saved.
But perhaps the sweetest story of the Bible was recorded after the resurrection of Christ when Peter was offered not once but three times to mercifully express His love for Jesus.
Of course, Peter humbly accepted that mercy from Jesus with a broken, contrite heart. Better still, Peter made another choice at that same time when he chose to obey the call to feed the Lord’s sheep. (Honestly, we might not be standing here as Christians today if Peter had not obeyed that call.)
And the truth is, if we follow these Bible stories, we see that each character came to a place of humility and brokenness, a place where another choice was offered –the choice to obey God in spite of pride, ambition, hatred, jealousy, lust, envy, or even fear of failure.
Thankfully, God is the same today as He was back then. We can still bring the shattered pieces, the fragmented products of our willfully wrong choices, to Him. We can lay them at His feet, and ask for His forgiveness, mercy, and grace. We can recognize and acknowledge our absolute powerlessness, our utter dependence on Him.
Granted, making that choice to yield fully to God may not be the easiest choice, but it is the best choice we will ever make. For in that one choice of humble, broken obedience, we will not just receive His forgiveness, mercy, and grace; we will receive the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.
And in our yielding, perhaps we will finally become truly powerful instruments in the Hand of our mighty God.