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Sermon 3-8-09
Isaiah 40:29 - The Power

Audio Sermon

The Power

He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength” (Isaiah 40:29)

Have you wondered about power? Where does it come from? What's it all about? Why do some people seem to have it, but others don’t? Down inside for many, there is a subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) resentment that they have little power. In the first chapter of the Book of Romans, we find the interesting statement that in mankind, we tend to “…suppress the truth (of God) in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest... for God has shown it to them” (Romans 1:18-19). The Lord is revealing Himself and is willing to share real power with us, but are we willing to trust in Him?

Behind the rejection of God that is so common, EVERYONE knows that He is our Creator, but many pretend He's not real.  We catch a glimpse of His might in places like Isaiah 40, where we see that He is "on high," above us all.  The Creator of everything is all-powerful, but "not one (part of creation) is missing" (Isaiah 40:26), revealing that He never forgets those He has created. The atheists know the truth of all this, but they simply don't want Him. The power of God’s love seems like weakness to them. And down inside, we all subconsciously know that if we lack anything, it is because our Good Lord has closed certain of life's “doors” to protect us. The power we lack might destroy us if we had it, but all too many try to force those “doors” open anyway.

John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, the first Baron Acton, lived from 1834 to 1902. He was a historian and moralist who was otherwise known simply as Lord Acton. Here’s what he said in a letter written to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." Another English politician with a lot of titles - William Pitt, the Elder, The Earl of Chatham and British Prime Minister from 1766 to 1778, is sometimes wrongly attributed as the source of Acton’s words. He did say something similar in a speech to the United Kingdom House of Lords in 1770: “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it.”  God cannot be corrupted by power, but we can be.

Abraham Lincoln, the great American leader of the mid-nineteenth century, became well aware of the dangers associated with power and here’s what he said about it: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France, who was a conqueror, military genius and a man well acquainted with power, got it right when he said, “There are in the world two powers, the sword and the Spirit. And the Spirit has always vanquished the sword.

Yet Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). What on earth did He mean by statements like that? Is He saying that the power of human weaponry is mightier than the peace offered by the Spirit of God? Certainly, many in the world would like to believe that it is. In college, I remember being annoyed by the idea, “Might is Right,” in an essay by H. G. Wells. But that concept is much older than our modern essays. Plato in writing “The Republic,” thousands of years ago, used those words a number of times. And Jesus, when He spoke of a “sword,” did not refer to a physical weapon. His words were in parable form, for He was actually speaking of the “Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:17).

It’s always best to examine God’s Word in its context. In the verses that surround Ephesians 6:17, Paul the Apostle, the author of that letter, was comparing the Roman army uniform, so often seen by his readers of that time, to the way the Lord prepares us for service. Paul's readers all knew that Roman soldiers were well trained and had better equipment than the armies they fought against. And God is similarly equipping and training those who are in the Lord in a better way than the preparation of any “army” that has ever existed (Ephesians 6:10-18).

Roman soldiers were given metal armor and helmets, shields made from the latest metal alloys, and powerful swords that often broke the swords and spears of opponents, giving Romans the victory, time-and-time again. Paul noted though, that the “whole armor of God” for us is not physical in the sense that we understand it. As he said, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” This speaks of a much bigger, more terrible enemy than anything ever faced by the Roman Empire.

And if you haven’t heard these words before, you might be astonished at the weaponry, both defensive and offensive, with which we are to be equipped. We are given “…truthrighteousnessthe preparation of the gospel of peacefaithsalvation…” and for a “sword,” we are given the “Word of God.” And he urges us to be in “prayer” for all those other soldiers who march with us toward the enemy (Ephesians 6:10-18).

Scripture teaches us in innumerable places and ways to “seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14). A key name of the Messiah, the Christ who was to come, would be “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Jesus called us to be “peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9) and “He Himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). And yet we see that we are in a war in which we must defend and attack as the Spirit equips us and the Lord leads us.

The context of Jesus’ words that He did not come to “bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34), goes to our decision as to whether we will retreat in battle or continue to trust in the Lord, our Commander-in-Chief. Jesus continued, “I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law” (Matthew 10:35). When we trust in our Savior, the ones we love may become like “swords” that attack us. You will need to become skilled in “…truthrighteousnessthe preparation of the gospel of peacefaithsalvation… and the "Word of God” in order to survive and know the victory in our Lord Christ.

The prophet Isaiah observed that if you are a reasonable person, you will “Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might, and the strength of His power; not one is missing” (Isaiah 40:26). God is the Creator of all that is.  He had just said, in Isaiah 40:22, that the earth is not “flat” as scientists in the early Middle Ages would later teach, but instead it is round, a “circle.” Incredibly, the church of the Middle Ages wanted to be “modern” and accepted the “flat-earth” idea, even continuing to believe the lie when some of the scientists changed their minds. We need God’s “truth," His might and His love.  He will equip us and we will share in His victory.

All power is of God, and He shares like no one else ever could or would. “He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength” (Isaiah 40:29). God is immensely, utterly powerful, with no limit. Real power in life and for all eternity is found through trusting in our mighty Lord.

Father, I’ve tried so hard and failed so often. I need YOUR strength, Your power, Lord, for the weapons of this world are not enough. I confess my sins and trust in You. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries

Write to: Letters@FridayStudy.org

"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)

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