Lessons From Renewals: The River Can Be Dangerous!
One of my most surprising discoveries during times of renewal was that spiritual power, even when it’s from God can be dangerous. We’d be wise to read the warning labels carefully before haphazardly taking God’s power lightly.
John White in his book, When The Spirit Comes With Power wrote, “All power has dangers. The greater the power, the greater the danger… Power can always be wrongly used… Spiritual power is no exception to the rule.”
A river’s power can help light whole cities but if that same water runs out of control it can destroy that city. It’s the same with God’s power. Renewal experiences can be intoxicating. Because of this there’s potential danger in every move of the Spirit. Jesus cautioned his disciples after they had experienced God’s power, “Do not rejoice that the spirit’s submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” In other words, “Yes, being used by God to do miracles is great but don’t sit back patting each other on the back because of your new powers. What really matters is that God’s purpose is going forward and you have a part to play in it.”
God has yet to come up with dangerproof power. Spiritual power is heady stuff, almost addicting. Have you ever prayed for some one and they got healed! There’s no feeling in the world than can top that. It’s intoxicating. That’s why people can be ensnared by spiritual experiences and lured into the obsessive pursuit of power encounters and manifestations. Yet for some reason God only knows he still entrusts his power to imperfect people like us.
The Holy Spirit’s power is holy power. People entrusted to be his agents must reverence and respect it and realize the responsibility that comes with this privilege. People like Moses, Uzzah and Samson got themselves in big trouble by the way they treated his power. And apparently its possible to experience and do godly things with God’s power and not be accepted and approved by him: Many will say to me on that day,‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:22-23) This is a mystery to me, but it’s clear that God places lots of good things in our hands that can be misused.
This has caused misunderstanding. It’s commonly believed that people who are anointed and gifted are closer to God than others and that by exercising this power they must be pleasing God. But the Spirit’s power is never a reward for personal or doctrinal purity. This seems crazy but God in his grace entrusts it to sinners who take him seriously but whose personal lives and doctrinal understanding are lacking. All you have to do is take a look at Samson as proof. The truth is, power is delegated as God chooses.
We can abuse power that belongs to God. Delegated power is still God’s power. He has granted us “power of attorney” over it. We are trusted servants using the Spirit’s power according to his instructions. But because we are sinners we can use it incorrectly, for selfish or manipulative reasons. Again White writes, “Rather God gives them power just as he did to Samson. But fascinated with a very exciting game, they allow themselves to be deceived by believing they are still pleasing God and enjoying fellowship with him simply because they are surrounded by enthusiasm and results. Results prove only that the power is real.”
I know I’ve painted a pretty sobering picture but it’s nevertheless possible to have a relationship with God’s powerful Spirit that leads to a good, beautiful life full of meaning and purpose. I’ve come across a surefire safety tip when it comes to interacting with God’s power… character development. Here’s the simple rule: The greater the anointing the greater the need for character.
Power corrupts but good character protects. It’s the foundation upon which you can exercise God’s power safely in a God-honoring way. There’s no magic pill or shortcut you can take to have good character. The development of character cannot be rushed. It takes a full season for fruit to mature and ripen. The same is true for the fruit of the Spirit – Christ-like character. It’s a process that combines day-by-day, step-by-step dependency and trust upon the Lord fueled by his Word and prayer. It’s not easy. It involves self-sacrifice but what emerges is a person God can trust to use his power for his glory and for the benefit of others. Over the years I’ve found that to those who are faithful in this way with the little he gives at first, more is given…