Introductory Note:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. —2 Corinthians 12:9-10

An always timely reflection from Richard Foster on the immense power hidden in the seeming weakness of those who remain faithful to God.

Renovaré Team

Excerpt from The Challenge of the Disciplined Life

There is a pow­er that destroys. There is also a pow­er that cre­ates. The pow­er that cre­ates gives life and joy and peace. It is free­dom and not bondage, life and not death, trans­for­ma­tion and not coer­cion. The pow­er that cre­ates restores rela­tion­ship and gives the gift of whole­ness to all. The pow­er that cre­ates is spir­i­tu­al pow­er, the pow­er that pro­ceeds from God.

Cre­ative Pow­er Restores Relationships

What does the pow­er that cre­ates look like? Think of Joseph sold into slav­ery, thrown into prison with­out hope but lat­er ris­ing to a posi­tion of great pow­er and influ­ence in the might­i­est nation of the time. What a pil­grim­age! In this posi­tion Joseph was able to com­bine spir­i­tu­al dis­cern­ment with polit­i­cal clout to avert a dis­as­trous famine. Then the fate­ful day arrived when his broth­ers — the very ones who had sold him into slav­ery — came seek­ing famine relief. Joseph was faced with the great test of pow­er. It would have been a per­fect oppor­tu­ni­ty for revenge, but instead he chose to use his pow­er for rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. Scrip­ture tells us that Joseph was over­come with emo­tion and com­pas­sion for his broth­ers. Joseph could not con­trol him­self” and wept aloud,” and final­ly he fell upon his broth­er Benjamin’s neck and wept; and Ben­jamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his broth­ers and wept upon them” (Gen­e­sis 45:1 – 15 NRSV). This is a beau­ti­ful sto­ry of rela­tion­ships restored by the exer­cise of cre­ative power.

The pow­er that cre­ates is the pow­er that restores rela­tion­ships. William Wilber­force was a Chris­t­ian politi­cian who used the pow­er of his posi­tion to help abol­ish the slave trade in the British Empire. The good of his pro­longed efforts is beyond cal­cu­la­tion. Fam­i­lies through­out Africa remained togeth­er because the grue­some British slave trade had been stopped. Talk about pre­serv­ing rela­tion­ships! And this is a sto­ry that could be repeat­ed many times over as faith­ful believ­ers have sought to apply God-giv­en pow­er cre­ative­ly in the are­na of pol­i­tics and business.

The use of pow­er to restore rela­tion­ships is also a part of our per­son­al, every­day world. The moth­er who rights a wrong between chil­dren is using her author­i­ty to restore bro­ken rela­tion­ships. The school prin­ci­pal who changes soul-destroy­ing rules in the school sys­tem is breath­ing life into the hearts of stu­dents. The pas­tor who helps feud­ing com­mit­tee mem­bers set­tle their dif­fer­ences is using pow­er for heal­ing in the com­mu­ni­ty of faith. The com­pa­ny pres­i­dent who cor­rects the cost over­runs of the project man­ag­er is using pow­er to restore integri­ty and whole­ness to the world of busi­ness. All of us in dai­ly life encounter thou­sands of oppor­tu­ni­ties to enlist pow­er in the ser­vice of reconciliation.

Cre­ative Pow­er Sets Peo­ple Free

What does the pow­er that cre­ates look like? Think of Moses, who under­stood as few did the might and pow­er of Egypt and who was forced to flee that pow­er. In the desert he came to expe­ri­ence a new kind of pow­er, the pow­er of Yah­weh. By the time Moses returned to face down the pow­er of Egypt, he was a dif­fer­ent per­son. Gone was the old arro­gance; in its place was a new com­bi­na­tion of meek­ness and con­fi­dence. The strong imper­a­tive Let my peo­ple go” was backed up by the mighty acts of God, which brought even mighty Pharaoh to his knees. The result was the most dra­mat­ic release of cap­tives ever known in human history.

Cre­ative pow­er sets peo­ple free. When Mar­tin Luther King, Jr., stood firm against America’s racism, mil­lions were set free. When teach­ers unlock the joy of dis­cov­ery in the minds of stu­dents, they are using the pow­er of their posi­tion to lib­er­ate. When an old­er broth­er uses his supe­ri­or sta­tus to build the self-esteem of younger sib­lings, he is using pow­er to set them free. When the old destruc­tive habit pat­terns of depres­sion or fear are trans­formed by the pow­er of God, the result is liberation.

What does the pow­er that cre­ates look like? Think of Jere­mi­ah, who remained true to the word of God in the most dis­cour­ag­ing of cir­cum­stances. We call him the weep­ing prophet and for good rea­son. In a day when the reli­gious lead­ers were cater­ing their mes­sage to fit the pre­vail­ing polit­i­cal winds, Jere­mi­ah spoke the Dabar Yah­weh, the word of the Lord. That word was a dis­cour­ag­ing one at best, a word of defeat and not of vic­to­ry. And the peo­ple reject­ed Jeremiah’s word of warn­ing and even per­se­cut­ed him. At one point he was thrown down a cis­tern and left to die. We are told that Jere­mi­ah sank in the mire” (Jere­mi­ah 38:6 NRSV). In many ways this sim­ple state­ment is a good descrip­tion of Jeremiah’s entire min­istry. He had to watch his beloved coun­try over­thrown and rav­aged and his own peo­ple deport­ed as spoils of war.

But it was the teach­ing of Jere­mi­ah — the very teach­ing that the peo­ple had reject­ed — that enabled Judah to hold onto faith in Yah­weh through­out the long years of exile. You see, the peo­ple had ele­vat­ed their belief in the invin­ci­bil­i­ty of Zion into a car­di­nal doc­trine of their faith. And when Zion was destroyed, their whole belief sys­tem came crash­ing down. Hadn’t God promised them Jerusalem would not fall? Where was God when the Baby­lon­ian hoards rav­aged their land?

But Jere­mi­ah had insist­ed over and over that Zion’s invin­ci­bil­i­ty was pred­i­cat­ed upon obe­di­ence to the Mosa­ic Covenant, and because they had dis­obeyed the covenant, Zion would fall. God had not failed them by allow­ing Jerusalem to fall; they had failed God by dis­obey­ing his covenant. Final­ly, Jere­mi­ah spoke the words of hope and restora­tion and point­ed to a new covenant, a covenant writ­ten not on tablets of stone but on the fleshy tablets of their hearts. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law with­in them, and I will write it upon their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my peo­ple” (Jere­mi­ah 31:33 NRSV). It was Jeremiah’s tenac­i­ty to the truth of Yah­weh that enabled the peo­ple of Judah to keep faith in God when all the con­fi­dent words of the false prophets were revealed as spurious.

Jere­mi­ah reminds us that spir­i­tu­al pow­er some­times looks like weak­ness. Faith­ful­ness is more impor­tant than suc­cess, and the pow­er to remain faith­ful is a great trea­sure indeed. Per­haps Jeremiah’s word to his ser­vant Baruch is good coun­sel for us today, And do you seek great things for your­self? Seek them not” (Jere­mi­ah 45:5 NRSV).

Diet­rich Bon­ho­ef­fer knew the pow­er of God that looks like weak­ness to the world. When Christ calls a man,” he said, he bids him come and die.” Bon­ho­ef­fer knew what it meant to die; he died to self, he died to all his hopes and dreams, and he died at the hands of Hitler’s SS Black Guards. But as the Scrip­ture reminds us, a grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies bears much fruit (John 12:24 NRSV). The fruit of Bonhoeffer’s life and death is beyond cal­cu­la­tion. We are all in his debt. As G. Leib­holz has said, Bonhoeffer’s life and death has giv­en us great hope for the future… The vic­to­ry which he has won was a vic­to­ry for us all, a con­quest nev­er to be undone, of love, light and liberty.”

Cre­ative Pow­er Unites and Heals

What does the pow­er that cre­ates look like? Think of the ear­ly church gath­ered at the Jerusalem Coun­cil (Acts 15 NRSV). They had gath­ered to answer a momen­tous ques­tion: Can Gen­tiles have gen­uine faith in Christ with­out con­for­mi­ty to Jew­ish reli­gious cul­ture? It was an issue that could have eas­i­ly split the Chris­t­ian fel­low­ship right down the mid­dle. Yet as they gath­ered, as they talked, as they lis­tened, the pow­er of God broke through in a Spir­it-led uni­ty of heart and mind. Mirac­u­lous­ly they saw that Gen­tiles could live faith­ful­ly before God with­in the con­text of their own cul­ture and that Jews could do like­wise. So the cul­tur­al cap­tiv­i­ty of the Church was bro­ken, and believ­ers every­where could receive one anoth­er with­out need­ing to pros­e­ly­tize for their own cul­ture. They expe­ri­enced the pow­er of uni­ty in the Holy Spirit.

The pow­er that cre­ates pro­duces uni­ty. When John Wool­man stood before the annu­al con­fer­ence of the Quak­ers in 1758 and deliv­ered his mov­ing plea against slav­ery, the entire body, with­out spo­ken dis­sent, agreed to remove slav­ery from its midst. This uni­ty of heart and mind is not easy to come by, but it is worth the effort. If we would learn to lis­ten to the Lord togeth­er in our homes, in our church­es, and in our busi­ness­es, we would see more of this uni­ty of the Spir­it. The fam­i­ly is the best place to begin. Father and moth­er can do much by lead­ing the way in these matters.

What does the pow­er that cre­ates look like? Think of Jesus and his min­istry of teach­ing and heal­ing. Here we find the per­fect dis­play of per­fect pow­er. Every­where he went, the pow­ers of dark­ness were defeat­ed, peo­ple were healed, rela­tion­ships were restored. Peo­ple came alive to God and alive to each oth­er through the life-giv­ing min­istry of Jesus.

In the cru­ci­fix­ion the pow­er that cre­ates reached its apex. At the cross Satan sought to use all the pow­er at his dis­pos­al to destroy Christ, but God turned it into the ulti­mate act of cre­ative pow­er. The penal­ty for sin was paid; the jus­tice of God was sat­is­fied. Through the cross of Christ, you and I can receive for­give­ness and know the restor­ing of our rela­tion­ship to God. Christ died for our sins, and in that death we see the pow­er that creates.

Our response to this supreme act of pow­er is grat­i­tude. It is love divine, all loves excelling.” We can nev­er hope or want to dupli­cate this act of pow­er. We sim­ply thank God for what he has done. Real for­give­ness brings dox­ol­o­gy. To know that God tru­ly for­gives all our sins and wel­comes us into his pres­ence is joy unspeak­able and full of glo­ry.” Dox­ol­o­gy itself is pow­er. As we live thank­ful­ly for God’s great gift, oth­ers are drawn to know this joy of the Lord that over­comes all things.

Excerpt­ed from Chap­ter 11 of The Chal­lenge of the Dis­ci­plined Life, Cre­ative Pow­er,” pp. 198 – 199.

Fos­ter, Richard J. 1985. The Chal­lenge of the Dis­ci­plined Life: Chris­t­ian Reflec­tions on Mon­ey, Sex, and Pow­er. New York: HarperOne. 

Image Cred­it: By Michelan­ge­lo — Web Gallery of Art: Image Info about art­work, Pub­lic Domain, https://​com​mons​.wiki​me​dia​.org/…

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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