Power When You’re Powerless
James C. Denison
When I enrolled in college as a freshman, music was my second major. I was told that I needed to take a voice class. You may have heard about the farmer who got his pig singing lessons–all they did was cost the farmer money and made the pig mad. Well, I was that pig.
They put me in a tenor class. I have no tenor range whatsoever. They made me learn Italian arias. I worked as hard as I’ve ever worked at anything. I learned the Italian songs so well that I remember their words still today: “La cha te me morire . . .; Danza, danza, fanchula . . .” I never missed a class or lesson. I prepared for my vocal jury for weeks. I made an F in the class. All A’s my first semester, and an F. The scars are still with me today.
Have you ever felt powerless? Do you know what it is to fight a battle you can’t win, to face a problem you cannot solve?
Some of you are struggling with a problem at work which your supervisors won’t admit or solve. Or you’re watching the housing market fall and wondering what it’s doing to your house’s value. Or you’ve seen the stock market gyrations and wonder about your retirement. McDonald’s reported that December was its worst financial month in five years; you’re worried about a possible recession but don’t know what you can do about it. Or you’re struggling with problems in your health or family, with no end in sight.
The most debilitating kind of stress is the stress which comes from feeling powerless, from fighting a battle you don’t think you can win. We’ve all been there; we’ll all be there; and some of us are there today.
So far in Romans 8 we’ve learned that we are not condemned by God but “free from the law of sin and death” (v. 2). We can live according to the Spirit (vs. 3-4) when we give our mind to God (vs. 5-8). Now we learn that when we live according to the Spirit, we are empowered by the God of the universe. Where do you feel powerless and need the power of God? Let’s learn how to find his help wherever you need it most.
Do you have the Spirit?
One of my favorite illustrations about the power of God’s Spirit has to do with a father and his two small girls. He came home from work one day, and they ran from the house to greet him. The five-year-old got there first, just as he was standing on the sidewalk between two hedges, threw her arms around his legs and hugged him.
Her three-year-old little sister arrived, but couldn’t get to her father. Her sister was in front, hedges on either side. Tears welled up in her eyes as her sister taunted her, “I’ve got all of Daddy there is.” Her wise father, seeing the situation, reached down and picked up his little girl and held her in his arms. She looked down at her sister and said, “Daddy’s got all of me there is.”
Do you have all of God there is? Does he have all of you there is?
Take the questions in order. First: do you have the Spirit? You must be possessed by the Spirit of God to be a Christian. Believing in God is not enough. Going to church is not enough. You must ask Jesus Christ to forgive your sins and failures, and turn your life over to his Lordship. You must ask him to come and dwell in your life by faith. When you do, his Holy Spirit takes up residence in your life and makes you the child of God.
God’s word is clear on this reality. Our text begins: “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (v. 9).
Paul asked the Corinthian Christians, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).
We sometimes say that we “ask Jesus to come into our heart,” but it’s actually the Holy Spirit who moves into us and transforms us. If we don’t have the Spirit, we don’t have God. When we have the Spirit, we have God.
There is no proof that this happens–it is an experience we receive and trust by faith.
Speaking in tongues is not necessary. Miracles and signs are not necessary or necessarily proof. Nowhere does the Bible say how it feels to become a Christian, to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit. It takes just as much faith to believe that the Spirit lives in your life as it did to invite him to come in. Faith in a relationship; like all relationships, it cannot be proven, only experienced.
Do you remember the time you asked Jesus to forgive your mistakes and become your Lord? That was when you received the Spirit. If you haven’t made that decision, your next step is to do so today. If you have, you have the Spirit. If you haven’t, you don’t.
Does the Spirit have you?
Now we come to our second question: does the Spirit have you? The Bible says that you can be controlled by the Holy Spirit. You can decide to be “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), to yield control of every part of your life to him. You can begin the day by submitting it to his leadership. You can give every temptation and worry to him. You can ask him to direct your steps and guide your life. You can be controlled by the Spirit. Why should you? For three reasons.
First, when you are controlled by the Spirit, you have his power over sin.