Physical strength, beauty, wealth, and charisma—these are just a few of the most obvious sources of power we chase. We suspect that those who possess them are the recipients of divine favor, and that those who lack them are the objects of divine displeasure. It should be significant to us that during his earthly ministry, Jesus impressed or overpowered no one with his physical strength. Not one description of what he looked like is found in Scripture, other than that “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (Isa. 53:2). He did not possess personal wealth, nor did he use money to gain privilege. And though his ministry and message convinced many, he chose silence rather than persuasive speech when facing his accusers.
Jesus was rejected by the Jews in large part because he did not use power as they had expected. Or as they had hoped. Rather, knowing that all power belonged to his Father, he walked humbly among us, demonstrating divine power only as it served the greater purpose of his ministry, leaving for us an example of how that power is nowhere more clearly understood than through the filter of human weakness. Jesus demonstrated perfect trust in the strength of his Father.
And yet, those miracles. What must it have been like to see Jesus speak peace to the storm? We pray that we might see miracles like that. We tell ourselves, “If I could witness a miracle like that, I would be able to lay to rest any doubt. If I could see the power of God calming the storm or raising Lazarus, belief would be simple.” We crave the spectacle of it, the assurance of it. Like the Jews of Jesus’s day, we want Messiah to use power according to our expectations.
It is not wrong to ask for a miracle. I have asked for a few myself. But we must remember that Jesus demonstrated power over the physical realm to point us to his power over the spiritual realm. Every visible miracle Jesus performed during his earthly ministry was a whisper. It was an outer fringe. As his parables murmured of a message deeper than harvests or homecomings, so his miracles murmured of a transformation deeper than the calming of tempest or the healing of disease. They pointed to the most dumbfounding miracle of all: the display of his power to transform the human heart from stone to flesh.
Deconstructing the Fallacy
That our hearts could be made a dwelling place more suitable for the Spirit of the Lord than a tabernacle or a temple is miraculous on a scale we cannot fathom. That the seat of utter depravity could become the seat of utter purity boggles the mind. God Almighty places his Spirit in us, working in great power through us to accomplish his purposes. Paul prays for the saints to live in the strength of this power:
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen. (Eph. 3:16–21)
His power is at work within us. It is at work helping us to overcome sin and to grasp the extent of his love for us. We are literally thunderstruck by the display of God’s power in the elements. But are we adequately amazed at the deeper truth it points to? Sometimes I need my eyes reopened to the greatest display of God’s power I have ever witnessed: the transformation of my heart into his dwelling place. His power shines in my weakness, conquering the power of sin in my life. His power shines in my strength, turning it from selfish gain toward humble service. Samson may have missed the source of his strength and the purpose for which it was given, but we can heed his example and act as those who acknowledge the limitless power of our God.
The truth of God’s limitless power would be absolutely terrifying were it not paired with the truth of his limitless goodness. He is no evil dictator. He who holds all power is benevolent to his core. This is why we can trust that he is able to work all things for our good. We daily witness the devastating effects of power misused by humans, and of power in natural disasters and disease wreaking havoc in a fallen world. But one day, Jesus will split the sky in power, uttering a final, “Peace, be still.” Until that day, may we be strong in the Lord, armed and ready to use every ounce of our God-given strength for good.
How long will we be dealing with COVID-19? How long will these government restrictions last?