Endless Energy, Boundless Strength
Endless Energy, Boundless Strength
We often tell the story of when John Wimber first visited our church. We saw a remarkable outpouring of the Holy Spirit and several healings. One incident, which occurred on the second night, is indelibly printed in my memory. One of our closest friends was eight months pregnant at the time. The Holy Spirit came upon her with great power. She started to whirl around at great speed. As she did so, she exclaimed over and over again, ‘I feel so strong!’
A few weeks later she gave birth to a son who, from his earliest days, showed not only spiritual and emotional strength but also extraordinary physical strength. He became an outstanding rugby player, a superb athlete and is now a successful model.
To some (like Samson, who we read about in today’s Old Testament passage), the Holy Spirit gives extraordinary physical strength. To all of us, the Holy Spirit gives spiritual strength.
The apostle Paul describes God’s ‘incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead’ (Ephesians 1:19–20).
It was the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11a). The Holy Spirit is ‘his mighty strength’. That same strength now lives in you and ‘will give life to your mortal body through his Spirit, who lives in you’ (v.11b).
I love Eugene Peterson’s translation of the Ephesians passage where he speaks of God giving ‘endless energy, boundless strength’!
1. O my strengthPsalm 59:9-17
Are you struggling with some issue in your life? Do you feel deeply troubled?
Like David, who was in deep trouble, call out to God today: ‘O my Strength, I watch for you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God’ (vv.9–10a).
The psalm ends in triumph: ‘But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. O my Strength, I sing praise to you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God’ (vv.16–17).
Lord, thank you that you are my ‘Strength’, my loving God. Please give me your endless energy and boundless strength.
2. A tough callJohn 6:60-7:13
Do you ever find the teaching of Jesus very hard to live out? Do you sometimes find it difficult to be a Christian, in the workplace, for example? Do you sometimes find people seem to dislike you for no good reason? Do you ever feel like giving up following Jesus?
If you want an easy life I don’t recommend following Jesus. It was not easy then. It’s not easy now. Alice Cooper, the rock singer said, ‘Drinking beer is easy. Trashing your hotel is easy. But being a Christian, that’s a tough call. That’s real rebellion.’
Following Jesus is a tough call. And yet, at the same time, it is the way to life in all its fullness. This fullness of life comes, Jesus explains, from the Holy Spirit.
The teaching of Jesus is not easy. The disciples said, ‘This is a hard and difficult and strange saying... Who can stand to hear it?’ (6:60, AMP). In fact, some of the teaching of Jesus was so hard that ‘many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him’ (v.66). The chapter begins with many people following Jesus. It ends with many people turning away from him.
It is not so much that the hearers found Jesus’ teaching difficult to understand, but that they did not like its content. They actually found his teaching offensive (v.61). It seems that they were particularly offended by Jesus’ huge claims on their lives. He claimed to be ‘the bread of life’, he called them to believe in him and he offered eternal life.
Not only was this teaching ‘hard’, it was ‘hated’. Jesus says, ‘The world... hates me because I testify that what it does is evil’ (7:7). He was accused of being a deceiver (v.12). There was a very high cost in following someone who was hated in this way.
When many turned back and no longer followed him, apparently, deeply wounded in his heart, Jesus asked the Twelve, ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Simon Peter, the spokesperson for the group, answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God’ (6:67–69).
This is such a powerful truth. Jesus has the words of eternal life. He is the Holy One of God. He is the only one to go to.
In this passage we see the whole Trinity. Peter recognises Jesus as ‘the Holy One of God’ (v.69). Jesus is unique. He embodies the holiness of God. He is divine. He speaks about the Father (v.65). He also speaks of the Holy Spirit (v.63).
He says, ‘The Spirit gives life’ (v.63a). Just as physical flesh gives birth to physical life, so the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. He says, ‘The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life’ (v.63b).
All this takes place just before the ‘Festival of Tents’ (7:2, ISV). Families would leave their homes and live in tents for eight days of joyful celebrations (rather like our Focus church holiday!). They would give thanks to God for water that brings life – this was the setting Jesus chose to teach them about his life-giving Holy Spirit.
When Jesus speaks of eternal life, he is speaking of a quality of life that starts now and goes on forever: ‘life in all its fullness’ (10:10). This is the kind of life that the Holy Spirit brings. That is why, although there is a cost in following Jesus, the benefits far outweigh the cost. In fact, there is no real alternative. Only Jesus can give you the Holy Spirit. Only Jesus can give you fullness of life.
Lord, I need your Holy Spirit to give me life. Please fill me with your Holy Spirit so that the words I speak today may be ‘spirit’ and ‘life’ to those who hear (6:63).
3. His extraordinary powerJudges 12:1-13:25
Do you ever get frustrated by the length of time God seems to take to answer your prayers? God is never in a hurry, but he is always on time.
We see in this passage God’s elaborate preparation for the birth of Samson, whose extraordinary power was to save the people of his day. But this only prefigured something that would take even longer. Hundreds of years later, John the Baptist arose (who was in many ways like Samson) to prepare for the ultimate Saviour of the world.
God often specially blesses the children of those who have waited a long time to have children and have thought it was an impossibility, for example Sarah with Isaac and Elizabeth with John the Baptist.
Samson was like John the Baptist in many ways:
- In both cases, it was thought that the mother could not have children and something of a miracle was required (Judges 13:3; Luke 1:7)
- In both cases, the angel of the Lord spoke clearly to the parents (Judges 13:7; Luke 1:13)
- Both children were set apart for God from birth (Judges 13:7; Luke 1:14–17)
- Neither of them was allowed to touch any alcohol (Judges 13:7; Luke 1:15)
- The Spirit of the Lord came upon both of them from a very early moment in their lives (Judges 13:25; Luke 1:15).
Again, we see a hint of the whole Trinity in this passage. We read of ‘the Lord’ (Judges 13:1), but we also hear about the awesome ‘angel of the Lord’ who appeared to Samson’s parents (vv.3,6) and who then ascended towards heaven in a flame (v.19).
Seeing this, Manoah and his wife fell with their faces to the ground… Manoah realised that it was the angel of the Lord: ‘“We are doomed to die!” he said to his wife. “We have seen God!”’ (vv.19–22). (Thankfully he had a ‘sensible wife’!, v.23, AMP.)
Could ‘the angel of the Lord’ be the second person of the Trinity? Jesus uses the language of the Son of Man ascending (John 6:62). Earlier in John’s Gospel we read of ‘the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man’ (John 1:51).
The third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, is clearly at work here at the birth of Samson: ‘The woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson. He grew and the Lord blessed him, and the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him…’ (Judges 13:24–25). The Holy Spirit gave Samson extraordinary and unusual strength and power.
Lord, thank you for the extraordinary strength you gave to Samson. Please fill me with your Spirit today. Give me spiritual strength and power to resist the enemy and power to live a holy life.
‘After him, Ibzan of Bethlehem led Israel. He had thirty sons and thirty daughters.’
Wow! He was busy!
Alice Cooper quote from http://www.godscare.net/witness/alice_cooper.htm 3 May 2012
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