Having fewer things to worry about is always a good thing, so let me suggest at least one. For most of us, having a flat tire on our car is less likely these days than it would have been a few decades ago. It’s one of the many blessings we enjoy but rarely think about. No doubt, multitudes of folks are zipping around our highways who have never changed a tire in their lives. Many of whom might be clueless about how to deal with it unless they could pull up a YouTube video on their phone. But knowing what to do is only part of solving the problem. A flat tire isn’t a complex problem, and it’s relatively easy to solve, but if you don’t have the tools you need, it’s another matter.
An Enlightening Picture ~
Picture, for instance, my wife and I having a flat on a lonely road with no tools available. After analyzing the situation, suppose I said to the sweetest, most ready-to-help person I ever knew, “Honey, would you give me a hand for a minute?” She’d say, “Sure. What can I do?” Then if I said, “We’re missing a tool, and I just need you to hold this side of the car up long enough for me to put the spare tire on.” She might smile and give me one of those special looks reserved for moments crying out for a response you can’t wait to tell your friends about. Then she might say something like, “Glad to, Honey–just hang on while I walk over to the woods and develop the upper body strength of a 900-pound gorilla. And while I’m working on that, take a look through my purse and get that bottle of extra-strength ‘Anti-Idiot’ pills I brought along in case you had another attack like this. You may wanna take about four of those.”
Power to do things we can’t do alone is as commonplace in our culture as the jack secured somewhere in our car. More people have more access to more power in America today than any nation on earth has ever enjoyed. In most cases, we’re so used to the availability of incredible power that we don’t consciously appreciate or even notice it until it’s gone and we’re confronted with our own weaknesses and limitations. Our vulnerability becomes real and personal, for instance, if the engine in our car suddenly dies on a lonely road far from home with no cell phone signal. Even in less threatening situations, it’s more often the absence of power, not the presence of it, that prompts us to consider its value.
A Compelling Contrast ~
But the issue that concerns me today is not our failure to recognize our vulnerability and dependence on power beyond ourselves in the physical world around us, it’s the contrast in our response when confronted with the same principle in the spiritual realm. If we readily recognize that we can be reduced to abject helplessness when power sources fail in this natural world, wouldn’t it make sense that the same rationale would apply in the spiritual realm as well? If we recognize that we can’t do a simple thing like lift a car to change a tire without a jack, shouldn’t the same principle be operative when we’re faced with moral failures and spiritual dilemmas weightier than human scales can measure?
We know to look in the trunk for a jack if a tire goes flat. If a receptacle in our house stops working, we know to check the breaker box. Why is it, then, that when policies and practices are forced upon us that violate basic spiritual principles and moral guidelines, we seem to think that human strength and ingenuity alone can fix it? If a light bulb burns out, we probably don’t anoint it with oil and pray for it to be healed. Neither do we tear out the page in the Bible where Jesus said we’re the “light of the world,” and then stuff it into the socket and command it to illuminate the room. Attempting to solve spiritual problems by applying human efforts alone is just that ridiculous, not to mention futile.
Welcomed with a Challenge ~
There’s an incident in Jesus’ ministry that highlights this simple but vital principle. When Jesus, along with James and John, returned from the high mountain where the “transfiguration” took place, there was a crowd waiting. Jesus was met by a distraught father who made an impassioned request and gave a troubling report:
“Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.”
Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. (Matthew 17:15–18 NKJV)
Jesus’ disciples were confronted with a situation where the symptoms were physical, but the source of the problem was not. There was clear evidence of demonic activity at work which made it a spiritual issue. In Jesus’ absence, the disciples endeavored to do what they could. No doubt they replicated what they had seen Him do, but their efforts were ineffective. But then Jesus showed up and everything changed. He asked that the boy be brought to Him. The demon was expelled, the boy was delivered, and the problem was solved. The story had a successful and happy ending, but Jesus wasn’t happy.
Hold the Applause ~
Rather than applaud their attempts, Jesus rebuked them. His reprimand had nothing to do with the procedures they used or any rituals they employed. Their failure was not due to poor performance on their part. It was because of their lack of faith,. The faith that was missing in them was the kind of faith that would have made His physical presence unnecessary. Without that kind of faith, their powerlessness would continue on after He was physically gone from them.
The key to that kind of faith begins by recognizing that the power to overcome spiritual obstacles does not originate in us. Jesus clearly stated that fact on another occasion when He said to them, Without Me you can do nothing (John 15:5). When confronted with problems that have spiritual causes, recognizing the truth of Jesus’ words is absolutely vital, but like many other spiritual truths, it’s easier to mentally acknowledge than to actively apply.
Impotence is hard for us arrogant humans to accept. Powerlessness is frightening. We recoil at feeling helpless and avoid it every way we can. But if we’re ever to see victory over the violence, hatred, and chaotic anarchy convulsing our nation, a power source greater than any of us must be applied. Even on a personal level, if we’re to be freed from some obsessive evil that might be gripping our own hearts, the same thing is true. The first step in engaging in spiritual warfare is to admit that we cannot defeat the enemy on our own. Spiritual victories are not won with human efforts, human devices, human political strategies, or by embracing some iconic human leader. The evil behind the paranoia, confusion, depression, rage, and grief confronting us is spiritual, and it will only respond to spiritual power that is greater than human anatomy and physiology can produce.
Don’t Get Confused ~
If we don’t act, the land we once knew won’t survive – but there are two realms in play, and we mustn’t get them confused. If we wouldn’t anoint a burned out light bulb with oil and pray for its healing, neither should we look at the crumbling moral framework of our nation and think we can fix it with a political monkey wrench or worn out religious platitudes.
We may not have been confronted with anguished fathers and their demon-possessed children like the disciples did back then, but we have faced an array of spiritual foes, and we have failed miserably in our efforts to deal with them. It might seem as though, like the disciples back then, we’ve been struggling on our own and that the One with the power has been missing. But the truth is that the power they thought was missing wasn’t missing at all. It was waiting on the other side of their own surrender.
Jesus had already proven through other situations that His power didn’t require His physical presence at all (cp. Luke 7:1-13). And the disciples didn’t need His physical presence to heal the demon-possessed boy. What they needed was the faith that abandons selfish pride and declares absolute dependence on Jesus. That would have brought His power into the situation even without His physical presence.
That’s the kind of faith Jesus wanted them to have, and it’s the kind that He wants us to have today. He said that a tiny bit of faith that surrenders totally to Him can move mountains, dispatch demons, restore broken lives, and rebuild crumbling nations. It isn’t complicated, but car jacks aren’t complicated either – and they can lift . . . a lot.
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “If we’re ever to see victory over the violence, hatred, and chaotic anarchy convulsing our nation, a power source greater than any of us must be applied.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “The first step in engaging in spiritual warfare is to admit that we cannot defeat the enemy on our own. Spiritual victories are not won with human efforts, human devices, human political strategies, or by embracing some iconic human leader.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “The evil behind the paranoia, confusion, depression, rage, and grief confronting us is spiritual, and it will only respond to spiritual power that is greater than human anatomy and physiology can produce.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “If we don’t act, the land we once knew won’t survive. We shouldn’t look at the crumbling moral framework of our nation and think we can fix it with a political monkey wrench or worn out religious platitudes.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “It may seem as though, like the disciples, we’ve been struggling on our own & that the One with the power is missing. But the power they thought was missing wasn’t missing at all. It was waiting on the other side of their own surrender.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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