Doug Britton Books
Practical • Biblical • Cross-Cultural
Part two of two-part series on “Living in God’s Power”
Your life can be transformed when you realize the Holy Spirit lives in you. Being a Christian is very different from simply joining a religion. It is entering into an intimate relationship with God, with God’s Holy Spirit actually living in you.
As you open yourself up to God, his Spirit transforms you, helping you grow in your love for God and for other people—and helping you learn how to live in God’s power, not your own.
God has an amazing plan for your life.
1. How is being a Christian different from simply joining a religion?
Pray to become aware of God’s power
When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, one of his goals was to help them grasp what it means to be a Christian. That’s why he wrote this prayer for them:
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1:17-21)
Make Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1:17-21 your personal prayer. Ask God to help you:
- Know him better through the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.
- Know his incomparably great power for us who believe.
2. Paul could have just prayed that the Ephesians would know his power. Why do you think he also prayed that they would know him better through the Spirit of wisdom and revelation?
3. Along the same lines, why do you think he also prayed that they would know the hope of his glorious inheritance in the saints?
Let’s read another prayer Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians:
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:16-21)
Make Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:16-21 your personal prayer. Ask God to help you:
- Be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your heart through faith.
- Have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.
- Be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
4. Paul prayed that the Ephesians would be strengthened with power through his Spirit (Ephesians 3:16). Why do you think they needed power?
5. Do you think you need his power? Why or why not?
6. Why do you think the Ephesians needed power to grasp “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18)?
Related: Understanding God’s power
Depend on God’s power, not your own
I once heard a famous preacher say he never felt adequate before giving a sermon. I was shocked. How could someone so gifted lack confidence?
Many of us are like that preacher, feeling inadequate. Unlike the preacher, however, we often stop there, feeling defeated, worthless, and powerless.
But the preacher didn’t stop there. Each time he gave a sermon, he confessed his inadequacy to God, then he asked God for help and preached in God’s strength, not his own. He knew that no one is ever adequate to do anything God calls us to do in his or her own strength.
Pray for God’s help in whatever you do.
Although I am not a preacher, I have learned similar lessons. Sometimes I am invited to speak to a congregation, a group, or an individual. At these times, I often ask God to help me:
- Set aside my insecurities.
- Love the people I am speaking to.
- Get out of the way, and let the Holy Spirit direct me.
- Remember that they (usually) are my brothers and sisters in Christ, not my enemies.
- Share from my real life and not pretend I am perfect.
- Offer practical, Bible-based suggestions.
- Offer encouragement and hope.
7. What does it mean to depend on God’s power, not your own?
8. Review the suggestions in “Pray for God’s help in whatever you do.” Which of these ideas spoke to you personally? Which ones will help you depend on God’s power?
God works through “weak” people.
It’s easy to feel self-important or prideful. When we feel that way, we fail to see that everything good in us comes from God. The key is to remember that we are inadequate in ourselves, but we are strong in Christ. When God works through a weak vessel, he is glorified—not the vessel.
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things … so that no one may boast before him. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)
That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)
Most Christians would agree that Paul was one of the most powerful and successful apostles in the Bible. In spite of his success, he boasted in his weakness “so that Christ’ power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 9).
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
9. Why did Paul “delight in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, in difficulties” (2 Corinthians 12:10)?
10. How can understanding this passage change the way you think about (a) yourself and (b) how God could use you
Recognize your own weakness—but also recognize God’s power.
You have many gifts and talents—probably some you aren’t aware of yet. (Read Romans 12:4-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:1-27.) It’s good to be aware of your strengths, but it also can be a trap since it’s so easy to slip into pride and self-confidence.
Paul knew he was an apostle (1 Corinthians 15:9), and I’m sure he knew he had many abilities, but his strength didn’t come from self-confidence. Instead, it came from knowing his weaknesses and allowing Christ’s power to work through him.
When you recognize your own weaknesses, God can use you to do amazing things. For an example of this, read about Jonathan, a man who succeeded against impossible odds because he battled in the power of God (1 Samuel 14:1-15).
Bathe your life and your activities in prayer. Stay close to God. Remember that you are a soldier in Jesus’ army, not the general of your own army.
11. Is it wrong to recognize that you have talents or gifts? Why or why not?
12. What is the potential danger in recognizing that you have talents or gifts?
You have a part to play
Although it’s important to humble yourself and to recognize that God’s power is made perfect in weakness, don’t simply sit around waiting for God to perform miracles. Study, prepare, and work hard at whatever tasks you want to accomplish.
Grow in Christ so you are ready for opportunities to represent Jesus when you are with people. If you are a pastor, plan your sermon. If you are a musician, practice.
Related: You are a temple of the Holy Spirit
Stay close to God
It’s easy to get so caught up in our activities that we neglect to spend time in prayer and reading the Bible. That’s dangerous. We can’t live in God’s power when we neglect the source of power.
- Make Bible study part of your daily routine.
- Ask God to help you pray throughout the day.
- Ask God to help you see every interaction as a way to represent Jesus’ love.
- Ask God to help you love everyone you see, talk to, or think about.
- Ask God to help you walk in the power of his Spirit.
13. Review the bulleted points under “Stay close to God.” Do you need to put more attention into any of these areas? If so, which ones?
14. How can you remember to stay close to God in the midst of a busy life?
Related: Let the Holy Spirit change you
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being. (Ephesians 3:16)
Make it personal
1. How is being a Christian different from being religious?
2. Why did Paul devote so much space in his letter to the Ephesians to praying that they would be aware of God’s power?
3. What does it mean to depend on God’s power, not your own?
4. Describe a typical situation in your life in which you would like to practice depending on God’s power more than you do now:
5. Why does the Bible say that God works through weak people?
6. Does being weak mean we shouldn’t develop our gifts and abilities? Explain your answer:
7. Do you tend to do things in your own strength instead of relying on God’s power? Explain your answer:
8. Review the section titled “Stay close to God.” Choose one of the five bulleted points that you will work on for the next twenty-four hours:
Why did you choose this one?
Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God's truths in your daily life.
Copyright © 2019 Doug Britton. Permission granted to print for personal use. (Scripture verses are from the New International Version, copyright © 1984.)
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