The Holy Spirit and Power
I somehow feel we all find that there is one need which surpasses others in our Christian experience, and it is expressed in the one word “Power”—power to conquer temptation; power to pray; power to witness; power to live. Is it not because of a lack of this that so much of our Christian experience is marked by a sense of appalling failure? How often we have gone to God and asked Him for a release of power, and yet somehow we have never entered into the experience of it.
I want to remind you of two verses from the New Testament, and to put them together—Luke 24:49, “Tarry ye in the city till ye be clothed with power from on high;” Acts 1:8, “…ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses.”
Here is the promise of our risen Lord touching the need of each one of us—a divine power for the divine work of being witnesses to a crucified and risen Lord Jesus. Waste of power is always a tragedy in any realm. The economy of power is one of the great moving springs in all industry. Concentration of power at the right place and time turns the tide of war. The Holy Spirit is the great power of God; as He comes down from the throne of Him to whom all power has been given. Can we imagine that God would waste this power on those who seek it only for their own sake, with the desire of using that power for some selfish enjoyment? Of course not.
The Holy Spirit is the power from on high for carrying on the work for which the Lord Jesus sacrificed His throne and His life. Power to witness for Christ and to do effective service in conquering lives for Him. “Ye shall be My witnesses,” said the Lord Jesus. In those two words there is a perfect description of the Holy Spirit’s work in us—the work for which nothing less than His power is needed; the work for which our weakness is fitted. There is nothing so effective as honest witness. There is nothing so simple, just telling what we have seen or heard, perhaps, most of all, not simply with our lips but by our lives witnessing to His transforming power.
It is only as the Holy Spirit becomes in us a divine power, that our witness to what the Lord Jesus is, is really effective. We may know all that the Gospels teach concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. We may even speak from past experience of what we once knew of His power, but this is not what is promised by the Master and it will have precisely no effect upon men.
The presence of the Spirit of Christ at this present moment; it is this that gives our witness that breath of life from heaven; that makes it mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. You can only witness to as much of the Lord Jesus as the Holy Spirit Himself makes real to you in life and truth. Only in the measure in which He is real to you now can He be made real to others through your witness.
The Method of Power
Now as we pray for that power in our lives today, we need to be clear, first of all, about the method of His working. There is one mistake we must especially beware of—it is that of expecting always to feel the power when He works. Scripture links power and weakness in a wonderful way: not in succeeding each other, but in existing together. Paul said, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”
The power is the power of God given to faith, and faith grows strong in the dark. The Holy Spirit hides Himself in the weak things that God hath chosen, that no flesh may glory in His presence. Spiritual power can only be known by the Spirit of faith. The more distinctly we see and confess our weakness, and believe in His power dwelling within us ready to work as the need may arise, the more consciously may we expect His divine work even when we feel nothing.
The Condition of Power
Then again, we must make no mistake about the condition of the working of this power. It does not need much grace to long for, and to ask God for power. We would all be glad to have it, for many pray earnestly for power but never receive it because they do not accept the only condition in which power can work. We want to get possession of the power of the Spirit in order to use Him. God wants the Spirit to get possession of us that He might use us. If we give ourselves up unconditionally to His power to rule in us, then He will give Himself to us, to rule through us.
Unconditional submission and obedience to His power in our inner life is the one condition of our being clothed with power from on high. God gives the Spirit in full measure to the obedient. Power belongs unto God and remains His forever. If you would have His power work in you, you will need to bow very low in reverence before Him, to walk very humbly in holy fear lest in anything you should fail in knowing or doing His will; to live as one given up to a power that has the entire possession and mastery over you. Then you will know His power working in you.
The Object of Power
Again, we need to be clear as to the object of this power. I repeat that God does not give the Holy Spirit for our own enjoyment, just to save us from trouble or effort. He gives Him for one purpose—to glorify His Son; to transform us into His likeness; to impart the risen life of Christ to dwell within us. He will not anoint the flesh with power.
He will give you the Lord Jesus Christ, all the fullness of His Spirit, and in Him is all power. Power is not a thing but a Person. God seeks for men and women who will be clothed with power. The church looks round for them everywhere, wondering at the feebleness of so much of our ministry and worship. The world waits for a demonstration of it to be convinced that God is indeed in the midst of His people, and that God does live and that He is not dead.
Perishing millions cry out for deliverance, and the power of God is waiting to work deliverance. Everyone of us, who in our weakness, is prepared to be faithful to this one supreme objective of glorifying the Lord Jesus in everything in our lives, who in obedience and testimony prove to God that we are ready at any cost to glorify Him, will receive power from on high.
There is a Presence in the life of every Christian as omnipotent as was Christ Himself when He was on Earth. Yes, indeed, as omnipotent as He is now on the throne. As we wake up to believe this, and rise out of the dust to put on Christ; as we wait on our Lord to be clothed with power from on high, then our witness will be in living power.
But just a moment, the other verse I mentioned said, “Tarry ye in the city till you be clothed with power from on high.” I am sure you have often heard it said from pulpit and platform that since the day of Pentecost we do not have to wait for the Holy Spirit; He is waiting for us. Yes, that’s true in one sense, but it’s dangerous in another, at least in so far as it suggests that all the great experiences of Old Testament saints are now finished, and that their language is no longer applicable. Let me recall that language to you: “Truly my soul waiteth upon God. Wait on the Lord. Wait, I say, on the Lord. Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him. Blessed are they that wait upon Him. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” Is that experience cancelled out since Pentecost? A thousand times no. The tragedy is that it is almost unknown in the lives of Christian people today.
It may be asked whether these words have no exclusive reference to the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, and whether now that the Spirit has been given to the church, the charge to wait still holds good. It may be objected that for the believer who has the Holy Spirit within Him, waiting for the promise of the Father is hardly consistent with the faith and joy of the consciousness that the Spirit has been received and is dwelling within. But listen; the Holy Spirit is not given to us as a possession of which we have the charge and mastery, and which we can use at our discretion. No, the Holy Spirit is given to us to be our Master and to have charge of us.
Again I say, it is not we who are to use Him; He must use us. He is indeed ours, but ours, as God and our position toward Him is that of deep and entire dependence upon One Who giveth to everyone as He will.
When God gives His Spirit, He gives His inmost self—a giving which is continuous, uninterrupted, and never ceasing. As God’s child you have received the Holy Spirit. That fact has to be acknowledged in faith. Each time you enter your room to speak to God be still and remember and believe that the Spirit is within you, that your body is His temple. Ask God very simply and quietly, there and then, to grant to you to know the working of His Spirit, and the ground of His promises, or of some special promise that He has given to you. Believe that He hears and that He does it.
You have not to look within you if you feel anything in your heart—indeed sometimes you may go to Him in prayer feeling cold and dead and dull. The thing is to go! If we only prayed when we felt like it, some of us wouldn’t do much praying.
You are to believe, that is, to rest in what God is going to do, indeed, is doing, even though you feel nothing. Wait on the Lord. Wait for the Spirit. In quietness and confidence shall be your strength. Set your soul still, silent unto God, and give the Holy Spirit time to quicken and deepen in you the assurance that God will grant Him to work mightily in you. As you wait before God in that silence, He sees in it the confession that you have nothing, no wisdom to pray aright, no strength to work aright, no power of your own to live aright.
Waiting before God is the expression of need and of emptiness. All along through the Christian life these go together. The sense of poverty and weakness, and the joy of His all sufficient riches and strength.
It is in waiting before God that the soul sinks down into its own nothingness and is lifted up into the divine assurance that God is and will fulfill our every desire. Multitude of words and fervency of feeling in prayer have often been more of a hindrance in prayer than a help. God’s working in you must become deeper than that.
Wait for the promise in all its fullness. Count not the time lost that you thus give to that expression of your emptiness of your faith, and expectation of full and real surrender to the dominion of the Holy Spirit. The ten days waiting of those disciples before Pentecost is meant to be for all time, what our part before the throne of God should be. The trouble is we are too busy, therefore we are barren of fruit. Noise is not a symbol of Power! It is the shallow stream which babbles! The deep water is still and powerful.
Beloved Christians, learn to wait before God, for that waiting means the denial of your own wisdom and your own strength, your separation from everything, your surrender and preparedness for all the Spirit will do in you, then go out to claim the fullness of His power and blessing.
Drop thy still dews of quietness
Till all our strivings cease;
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.
Breathe through the heats of our desire,
Thy coolness and Thy balm.
Speak through the earthquake, wind and fire
O still, small voice of calm.