A gracEmail subscriber writes concerning a relative who has “discovered the amazing power of the Spirit,” and is now eager to share this miracle-and-wonder power with everyone else. The subscriber admits that she would like to have more direct displays of supernatural power in her own life, but she thinks that this relative is stressing power to the neglect of love. She asks if I have any advice.
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Like you, I want and need all the power God sees fit to channel through me — for my own character development (fruit of the Spirit) and for ministry to others (gifts of the Spirit). God is still at work in his world, and he does whatever he pleases (Ps. 115:3). Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8). We certainly do not want to be in the category of those who maintain an appearance of godliness but who deny its power (2 Tim. 3:5). The kingdom of God is known for supernatural power as well as words (1 Cor. 4:20). It is right for us to strongly desire spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 14:1, 39). We are told not to forbid tongues, for example, and not to make little of prophecy (1 Thes. 5:19-20).
Scripture also teaches us not to be gullible. We act wisely when we test prophets, prophecies, spirits and anything else claiming to come from God (2 Pet. 2:1; 1 John 4:1; 1 Thes. 5:21). God’s final enemy, a satanic character whom Paul calls “the lawless one,” will come with power and signs and false wonders (2 Thes. 2:8-9). Human weakness is not inconsistent with God’s power, but is rather its frequent venue. What looks like human defeat is often the setting for divine victory (2 Cor. 12:9-10). The Savior died abandoned and tortured on a cross, but God raised him from the dead. Our trust is not in ourselves but in God (2 Cor. 1:9).
The first-century church which excelled most in power and phenomenal gifts was the one at Corinth (1 Cor. 1:7; ch. 12). Paul instructed them not to boast in visible symbols of success and power, but to trust in God who gives life to people surrounded by death and who is glorified in human weakness (2 Cor. 1, 10-13). Paul had earlier pointed the Corinthians to “a more excellent way” or “road.” That was the pathway of love. Without it, all miracles, gifts and manifestations of supernatural power finally amount to no more than a little child banging on a tin can (1 Cor. 12:31; 13:1, 11).