A small plant shoot pushing through asphalt

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. – (Ephesians 3:20-21. Emphasis mine.)

One of the most challenging messages in the New Testament is that those who trust in Jesus Christ are given the gift of supernatural power.

Jesus’ apostles were the first people to receive this gift from God and Jesus had specifically asked them to wait and not to leave Jerusalem until they had received it. His promise to them was:

You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me … – (Acts 1:8)

Now, did the apostles of Jesus seem to be the most suitable recipients of Holy Spirit- bestowed power? Of the very same power that created the universe and raised Jesus from the dead? Probably not! We’re speaking of a group of men who (except for John) – some 40 days earlier – had very rapidly turned tail and abandoned their Master and friend whose life they had shared, day and night, for three whole years.

Not only had they been chosen to receive cosmic power, but Jesus also told them: “you shall me witnesses to Me…” Really? The same men who had ended up locking themselves into a room, cowering for fear of the Jews?

Yes, really.

The apostles of Jesus were the first to receive the gift of supernatural power from God

And yet … those same men were part of a small group of ordinary men and women who went on to live in an extraordinarily bold way. Witnessing to Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit they “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) in the space of just 30 years.

It is the very same Holy Spirit who empowers ordinary men, women and children today. And our access to that power is the same as it was for the apostles: the exercise of faith combined with absolute weakness. And the apostles had certainly experienced the demonstration of absolute weakness in their own lives.

For us who, unlike the apostles, have the benefit of Paul’s letters, we learn that absolute weakness means identifying with Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection (Gal. 2:20). To use a domestic metaphor, it means keeping the “hose pipe” of spiritual power as free of “kinks” as possible. Kinks, such as pride in all its forms and any unwillingness to forgive and to bless unconditionally, tend to block the flow of God’s power. It is not withdrawn – it is always waiting to flow – but it is up to us to keep our hose pipes clear. The more we choose to “die daily” (1 Cor. 15:31) and to live consciously in our new-born identity in Christ, the more the Holy Spirit is free to flow in power within us and through us.

Lest we are tempted to grow discouraged in times when the flow seems blocked, it is helpful to remember that the power of God can never be separated from the love of God. Mercy always triumphs over judgement. It is striking – and deeply moving – that Jesus came looking for those who had abandoned Him in His greatest time of need. Their fearfully locked doors certainly did not prevent Him from appearing in their midst. He came not to confront His apostles – nor ourselves – with our failures but to grant us shalom, the peace that the world cannot give. Then He equips us and asks us lovingly to go and share that same peace with others.

Ann Shakespeare

Welcome to the Ann Shakespeare blog. Ann, a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Time magazine, BBC World Service and The Daily Journal, is currently involved in editing and writing on Christian themes. She also ministers in a local ecumenical centre which provides prayer and pastoral support.

All author posts