Pursuing His Power

WARNING: This blog contains two prayers which could radically alter your life. If you’d rather things stay as they are, then please stop here.

This is the fourth talk in the ‘Hot Pursuit’ series, delivered at Lee Abbey in August.

You can listen here:

Pursuing His Power – Lee Abbey 2023

Some notes/quotes/illustrations from the talk:

Some years ago a young man looking for work approached a foreman of a logging crew and asked him for a job.  “It depends,” replied the foreman “lets see you take this one down”.

The young man stepped forward, and skillfully felled a great tree. The foreman was impressed and explained, “you can start on Monday!”.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday rolled by. Thursday afternoon the foreman approached the young man and said, “You can pick up your paycheck on the way out today”.  

Startled, the young man asked, “I thought you paid on Fridays.”, “Normally we do”, answered the foreman, “but we are letting you go today because you have fallen behind. Our daily charts show that you have dropped from first place on Monday to last place on Wednesday”.  “But I’m a hard worker”, the young man objected, “I arrive first, leave last, and I’ve even worked through my coffee breaks!” The foreman sensing the boy’s integrity, thought for a minute and then asked, “Have you been sharpening your axe?”, the young man replied, “Well, no, Sir.  I have been working too hard to take the time.” 

Application: How about you? Too busy to sharpen your axe?  Prayer is the hone that gives you the sharp edge.  Without prayer, the more work you do the duller you will get.  We need to take time to stay sharp as we go about the work of Christ’s kingdom!

We’re too busy to pray, and so we’re too busy to have power. We have a great deal of activity, but we accomplish little; many services but few conversions; much machinery but few results.” (R. A. Torrey)

Recognised as one of Britain’s greatest ever preachers, Spurgeon once wrote, “Give me twelve men, importunate men, lovers of souls, who fear nothing but sin and love nothing but God, and I’ll shake London from end to end.” The power of a surrendered life is immense, because those who have laid their all on the altar are pure vessels for the ministering of God’s Spirit into any given situation. I no longer just possess a faith, but more than that, my faith possesses me.

Walter Lewis Wilson was an American doctor born towards the end of the nineteenth century. He was a faithful Christian who often hosted visiting missionaries to his church. One visitor from France didn’t mince words, asking him, “Who is the Holy Spirit to you?” Wilson’s answer was doctrinally correct, “One of the Persons of the Godhead… Teacher, Guide, Third Person of the Trinity.” But it was an empty and rehearsed response. His friend pushed him harder, challenging him, “You haven’t answered my question.” Wilson opened up with real candour, “He’s nothing to me. I have no contact with him and could get along without him.” 

The following year, Wilson listened to a sermon at church from Romans 12 on the challenge to offer his body as a living sacrifice. The preacher called out from the pulpit, “Have you noticed that this verse doesn’t tell us to Whom we should give our bodies? It’s not the Lord Jesus. He has his own body. It’s not the Father. He remains on his throne. Another has come to earth without a body. God gives you the indescribable honour of presenting your bodies to the Holy Spirit, to be his dwelling place on earth.”

Wilson was struck to the core and rushed home to seek the Lord. He fell on his face and pleaded with the Lord, “My Lord, I’ve treated you like a servant. When I wanted you, I called for you. Now I give you this body from my head to my feet. I give you my hands, my limbs, my eyes and lips, my brain. You may send this body to Africa, or lay it on a bed with cancer. It’s your body from this moment on.”

The next morning, Wilson was working in his office when two ladies arrived, trying to sell him advertising. He immediately led them to Christ. The previous night’s surrender had enabled him to access new power from on high. From that day onwards, his life entered a new dimension of evangelistic fruitfulness. He went on to pioneer a church plant, a mission organisation, and a Bible College, as well as becoming a best-selling author.

Do you want to be entrusted with that same power from the Holy Spirit? Well, who is the Holy Spirit to you? Like the early Wilson, can you get along perfectly well without him? Or are you truly willing to offer him your body as a living sacrifice, without conditions or caveats? There’s so much more power that I want to plug into for God’s glory. But will I trust him for every aspect of my life? Will I “consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3v8)? These are big, big questions.

Here’s inviting you to total surrender. If you’re ready for it, then how about taking a few minutes and reflecting on John Wesley’s ‘Covenant Prayer’, and then making it your own:

“I am no longer my own, but yours.

Put me to what you will,
Rank me with whoever you will.

Put me to suffering.

Let me be employed for you,
Or laid aside for you.

Exalted for you, or brought low for you.

Let me be full
Let me be empty.
Let me have all things,
Let me have nothing!

And now, O Father,
You are mine and I am yours.  So be it.  

And the covenant I am making on earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven.  Amen.”

To do that we’re given the power of the Holy Spirit. So we call on him to turn the world upside down, starting with you and me. We embrace whatever and however he chooses to operate, even if it’s not how we would have envisaged it. Catherine Fox wrote, “The Biblical images to describe the work of the Spirit – fire, mighty rushing wind, flood etc – are exactly the sorts of things we pay to insure ourselves against.” It’s perhaps a daunting prospect, as we accept his leadership and authority over our lives. But William Temple warned us that “if we invoke the Holy Spirit, we must be ready for the glorious pain of being caught by his power (and taken) out of our petty orbit into the eternal purposes of the Almighty.”

Annie Dillard in Teaching a Stone to Talk, describes the church: “On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or as I suspect, does no-one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning.

It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offence, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.” 

Moody’s encounter with the Holy Spirit in New York transformed his ministry. After one service, two old ladies called Mrs Sarah Cooke and Mrs Hawkhurst approached him and told him, “You are good, but you haven’t got it… we have been praying for you… you need power!” Moody, an already well-respected minister, was unimpressed. “I need power?” asked Moody. “Why, I thought I had power!” The ladies poured out their hearts that he might receive the anointing of the Holy Ghost and soon there grew a great hunger in his soul. “I felt I did not want to live any longer if I had not this power for service.” There began a period of six months’ pleading with God for more. Then God visited him as he walked down Wall Street in New York; he was never the same again. Although his sermons and doctrine had not changed, his effectiveness in winning thousands to Christ was evidence of this new power. 

Foster writes, “In our day heaven and earth are on tiptoe waiting for the emerging of a Spirit-led, Spirit-intoxicated, Spirit-empowered people. All of creation watches expectantly for the springing up of a disciplined, freely gathered, martyr people who know in this life the life and power of the kingdom of God. It has happened before. It can happen again… Such a people will not emerge until there is among us a deeper, more profound experience of an Emmanuel of the Spirit – God with us, a knowledge that in the power of the Spirit Jesus has come to guide his people himself, an experience of his leading that is as definite and as immediate as the cloud by day and fire by night.”

Tozer penned the following last century. It’s meaty. The consequences of such praying, when heartfelt, are quite simply earth-shaking. Families, communities, regions and nations have been and still can be changed by people who’ve surrendered their right to themselves and have been willing to give their all for the glory of Jesus Christ. Maybe check that you’re willing to pray it wholeheartedly, and take time to grapple with the implications that each line will have for your relationships, career, family and future…

Here goes:

“I come to you today, O Lord, 
To give up my rights, 
To lay down my life,

To offer my future,

To give my devotion, my skills, my energies.

I shall not waste time

Deploring my weaknesses

Nor my unfittedness for the work.

I acknowledge your choice with my life

To make your Christ attractive and intelligible

To those around me.

I come to you for spiritual preparation.

Put your hand upon me,

Anoint me with the oil of the One with Good News. 

Save me from compromise,

Heal my soul from small ambitions,

Deliver me from the itch to always be right,

Save me from wasting time.

I accept hard work, I ask for no easy place,

Help me not to judge others who walk a smoother path.

Show me those things that diminish spiritual power in a soul.

I now consecrate my days to you,

Make your will more precious than anybody or anything.

Fill me with your power

And when at the end of life’s journey I see you face to face

May I hear those undeserving words

“Well done you good and faithful servant”.

I ask this not for myself

But for the glory of the name of your Son.”

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