by J. Grant Swank, Jr.
My friend Henry Groves was relating to a Lakes Region (N.H.) Bible discussion how he's tried to explain the Christian life to his adult daughters. They know that Henry is quite knowledgeable concerning the Bible, therefore, they frequently ask their father questions about practical matters of faith. As he related to the rest of us his definition of following Jesus, I reflected on this verse: ". . .for the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power."
I looked at Henry, pondering how he exhibits the humble power of a believer. His testimony is not in word only; his witness is breathed out with integrity.
Those into showmanship focus this verse upon their marvelous exploits in the name of religion. They yearn for center stage. They set up for the next performance. Their audiences exclaim over what power is set loose in their "coliseums".
When the disciples returned to Jesus to relate how marvelous were their village ministries, Jesus cautioned them not to concentrate on that kind of power. Instead, He told them to thank heaven that their names were written down in the Lamb's Book of Life. Now that's power. It's the power set loose at Calvary.
When Paul writes about power, he writes it in the context of those who have called too much attention to themselves. "I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power."
Paul was not impressed with fleshly power; he was impressed with integrity-the power of the holy interior.
"Shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?" Paul wrote those blunt words. In other words, he was ready to discipline those given to their own egocentric power displays. He was determined that the church would know only the interior power-lowliness, meekness, humility.
When Jesus walks alongside the cross carrier, Jesus instructs him on the power resources of heaven. They produce "poor in spirit" evidences. In other words, Jesus teaches the disciple how to let servanthood work out through human personality.
When Jesus abides within the human spirit, there can be no performance of conceit. Jesus is a jealous God. He will not stand alongside pride. Therefore, either pride must go or Jesus must go. If Jesus stays, then the power of humility comes through.
It does not take much to work up an audience or come upon carnal extravaganzas for attention. That can be seen through in a fleck of time. But it takes some doing to come upon Jesus' brokenness. It takes everything the disciple can muster to submit to the bent frame of Calvary, to live out that sacrifice in daily grind.
Do you evidence that kind of kingdom power? It is the only kind that God commends: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant. . ."
J. Grant Swank, Jr. pastors New Hope Church in Windham, Maine