We all think we can do more than we really can.
I’m amused at reading the “little secrets” hiring managers and HR representatives reveal in articles like one in a recent Reader’s Digest. “For one thing”, they say, “you’re not as good as you think you are—and we know it”. “Second”, they continue, “you don’t deserve that much money for what you’re doing.” And “third”, they conclude, “we know you have no idea”.
That’ll break your paradigm of employment potential.
In the same way, Jesus has a way of breaking our paradigms. Most of our journey over the past three weeks of this series has been unpacking the mind-blowing statements Jesus made in these few verses. We turn a corner today as we look at the first part of verse eight. Here’s the context again:
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Jesus knew He was obliterating the expectations of His apostles (and probably the early church too!). The Apostle’s passion was still, at this point, resting on preconceived notions. Jesus needed to change this. Jesus HAD to change this. He also wanted them AND US to know the mission is possible when we focus on the right power.
The power was not physical or even emotional. It was unapologetically and unequivocally spiritual. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you…” Jesus said (verse 8a).
What Jesus tells them here has such promise and hope. There was not any doubt in Jesus’ mind of what was going to happen in the upper room on the Day of Pentecost just ten days later. It was going to radically transform this group. And it would be a power the world had never seen before.
This spiritual power was not in their abilities, ingenuity, or stick-to-it-ness. We tend to reduce the Kingdom of God, however, to these three attributes—as if God needs our ability, ingenuity, or stubbornness.
But our problem is the same as theirs: we actually limit ourselves by our ability.
Our limitations are our own abilities. Why? We tend to rely on them instead of relying on the power of the Holy Spirit. Our very gifts from the Holy Spirit end up being the potential of own undoing. By limiting ourselves by focusing on our own abilities, we limit our own usefulness to the Kingdom of God. Read that sentence again slowly. I’ll wait. 🙂
Imagine what would have happened if the heroes through Scripture had simply relied on their own abilities and not the Lord? Just look at the Apostles, for some examples:
- What if Matthew simply relied on being a tax collector and not Jesus?
- What if the sons of thunder, James and John, relied on their own abilities instead of allowing Jesus to transform them into the men we know them as?
- What about Saul who became Paul?
- What about James, the half-brother of our Lord? He didn’t believe in Jesus as the Messiah growing up, but after the resurrection he believed in Jesus, became the leader of the church at Jerusalem AND wrote a book of the New Testament? What if he had relied on what he knew before Jesus?
Our abilities can be our greatest limitations because they also prevent us from seeing beyond them. I know of a young worship leader who has a great amount of talent but is unable to grasp the use of the spiritual in the act of worship leading. He relies virtually exclusively on musicality, vocal prowess, and emotional confidence but is severely limited by those very abilities because he can’t see PAST them.
Jesus told the Apostles “you will receive”. The word translated “receive” is a form of the Greek word meaning this power is transferred to them from the divine. It will not be at the initiative of the Apostles but the initiative of God. This was not the ability to accomplish the mission by their own hard wiring, but the supernatural rewiring by God the Holy Spirit.
Receive His power as you’re going on your way today.
Rest in His power as you’re going on your way today.
Get rewired by His power today!