Power comes when we admit we are powerless

There is an interesting line in the preamble to the movie of J.R.R. Tolkien’s book, The Lord of the Rings.

There is an interesting line in the preamble to the movie of J.R.R. Tolkien’s book, The Lord of the Rings.

“Nine rings were gifted to the race of men who, above all else, desire power . . .”

Tolkien had an insight into the workings of the human heart: we desire power not only over our own destiny, but over the destiny of others too. There is something twisted in this.

In sharp contrast, Zechariah 4:6 reads: “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.”

An echo of this is found in steps one and two of Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, a publication of Alcoholics Anonymous which states:

“We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable . . . that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

It’s not just alcoholics that are powerless; there is a “ring of power” that holds all humanity in bondage.

The Word of God tells us that only by God’s Spirit can the welfare of humanity be advanced. A choice presents itself to us: our way, or God’s way. We are a “get ’er done!” culture. It’s hard to admit that with all our technology and know how, we have not yet been able to bring peace and justice to the Earth, though we have laboured for centuries.

Let’s face it; if humanity could have saved itself, we’d have done it already. Who are we? We are the mortal gods who must fiercely and stubbornly do it our way or die in the trying.

The season of Pentecost is a call to yield to God’s Spirit, to quit forging ahead with our own power and agendas.

In Luke’s Gospel, the Apostles were told to remain in Jerusalem until they were “. . . clothed with power from on high . . . ” (Luke 24:49). Jesus was warning the disciples that their own power would get in the way and even frustrate God’s plan of salvation. Christianity is not a religion nor a system of ethics; it is a revealed faith that yields to the power of God in Jesus Christ to work salvation in the heart of humanity. God sent His Spirit upon the Apostles to give them the power to speak and to live the Gospel.

I recognized an example of this played out a number of years ago in the Philippines. The repressive regime of Ferdinand Marcos was not defeated by another coup, but by a peaceful protest where lines of ordinary, unarmed people courageously and prayerfully faced down tanks and guns.

This made way for the more moderate administration at the time of Corazon Aquino. I saw in this event the power of God’s Spirit changing a society where the spirit of man could well have made matters much worse.

In this season where we have experienced a faltering economy and the threat of a pandemic, may I suggest that we turn to the Holy Spirit of God. There is an ancient hymn in Latin, “Veni Creator Spiritus” that used to be sung at this time in that hauntingly beautiful melody of the Gregorian chant:

“Come, Holy Spirit, Creator blest,

And in our souls take up Your rest;

Come with your grace and heavenly aid

To fill the hearts which you have made.Tony Hilling is pastor at Trinity Christian Fellowship Church. He and other members of the Red Deer Ministerial Association share their personal views on Sundays and Mondays in Red Deer LIFE and Central Alberta LIFE, and encourage comments and questions from readers.

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