Apart from God’s miraculous intervention, my teaching will only go so far. Our methods alone are dead ends. We’ve got to pray for this power.
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” – 2 Corinthians 10:4
Jesus fame wasn’t the result of teaching alone. It was the bi-product of power. Forgetting this part of the discipleship equation equals a religion of interesting talk, but lacks divine experience (1 Cor. 4:20). Those who gravitate toward a new teaching or method without God’s power will only see incremental fruit at best. But those who discover God’s miraculous power, will see something altogether different.
Last month I wrote about Jesus being led by the Spirit into the wilderness. Mark 1:12-13 shows what happens after as Jesus emerged from the wilderness place with a message accompanied by power. Mark calls it “the gospel of God.” And Jesus explains it by saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15).
There’s an old Larry Normal lyric that highlights how Jesus was from another place. He’s an “unidentified flying object…” was Norman’s way of saying what Jesus already said about himself. Proclaiming, “The kingdom of God has come near” was Jesus way of saying, “I’ve brought my world with me.”
Do people watch me and describe what they see as otherworldly? That’s how they described Jesus life, because he wasn’t just a good teacher, he was a healer. Later in his ministry, Jesus called others who doubted to believe by looking at the evidence of the miracles (John 10:38). Here, at the beginning of Jesus ministry, his first field trip with his disciples involved letting them experience his power (Mark 1:21-28).
As Jesus taught in the synagogue, a man with an unclean spirit shouted “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked the man and commanded the unclean spirit to come out. Convulsions with screams followed as the unclean spirit submitted to Jesus authority and left the man. Suddenly, Jesus teaching sunk in. We know this because those in attendance said “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands evil spirits, and they obey him.” And his fame spread everywhere.
What’s interesting is that before this healing, there’s no record of Jesus listeners being very convicted. Yet after the miracle, they couldn’t get enough. This makes me wonder if much of our work in present day feels so slow because many of us have teaching with no power. A new teaching or method makes sense because it’s controllable. But God’s way is different. He wants all the credit, so he allows our methods to come up short if they lack his presence and power. Yet, when God’s power is present, we find people hungry to learn more.
“I was healed”
A short time ago, I was traveling with the Saturate team in Canada for a training event. Between sessions, a woman approached me and thanked us for the work we were doing. “I’d like to share something with you,” she said. “I was healed three weeks ago. I haven’t yet told many people because I’m not sure how to do it without them thinking I’m crazy.”
Months earlier, Laura and her husband had been invited over to a holiday dinner. A church planting couple were beginning a missional community in Laura’s neighborhood and opened their home for anyone who didn’t have a place to go. Laura and her husband went and that began a relationship.
Sometime later they were invited to a healing service at another church. The speaker said, “if anyone here wants to be healed, put your hand over your heart and tell God. He will heal you.” Laura did so and immediately felt compelled to stand and sing. “I felt a hand on my shoulder and heard a voice say, ‘don’t be afraid. Everything is going to be all right.’ But instead of my voice going out, it seemed to go inward and fill my body,” she said. “Then I felt compelled to kneel and pray.” Laura did so and then stood back up.
Laura’s husband was fearful because, up until this point, Laura had had a degenerative disease in her spine and the doctors told her she was only a few weeks away from paralysis from the waist down. Laura came in a wheelchair but departed walking on strong legs.
“I feel like we’ve been given our lives back,” her husband said. “I just retired and had accepted that my retirement years would be spent taking care of her. But now, we just want to serve the Lord.”
Laura and her husband were at every session taking copious notes. “We are learning so much,” they said. “God has been so good to us.”
Hungry for More
On the front end of the miracle, Laura and her husband were casually observing what their church planting neighbors were doing. On the back end of the miracle, they were all in and hungry to learn more. My conviction since, is that I’ve got to recover this pattern if my work is going to have any staying power. Apart from God’s miraculous intervention, my teaching will only go so far. Our methods alone are dead ends. We’ve got to pray for this power.
Whether it’s the miracle of a changed person or the tangible miracle of healing, miraculous things still happen today. And, in a way, we are all actually living in the shadow of the biggest miracle of all, the resurrection of Jesus. Paul even goes so far as to say that if this miracle isn’t true, our entire faith is in vain (1 Cor. 15:17). If our work only contains front end teaching and no back end explanation after an experience of God’s power, we’re only half the way there.
Jesus call to follow him is not only a call to teach a new ways of living. It’s to join with him in his power. Each time I’ve shared Laura’s story over the past weeks, I’ve noticed a pattern. Those who hear it respond by giving God glory. Wasn’t this the pattern in scripture too? As Jesus healed a paralyzed man, Matthew records that “When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men” (Matt. 9:1-8).
Take time today to read Psalm 145 and be amazed. As David meditates on God’s works, his Psalm lifts our spirits and reminds us that God is still working. “All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your saints shall bless you. They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds… throughout all generations” (Psalm 145:10-13).
I want this experience personally. I want it for others. And I’m praying it for you too. Whatever your state of mind today, be encouraged. God is working. We are living on the back end of a miracle. Don’t simply give a new teaching. Ask God to bring fresh expressions of his power. Do you not have this gift? Find someone who does and learn from them. And as we watch God work people will marvel and say, “we’ve never seen anything like this!”
How have you seen God’s power produce fruit on mission?
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