May 3-4, 2008

UnGoogleable

Part 5: The unsearchable riches of God’s power

 

Opening:

          In this year of the unending winter, how many of you are hoping for another inch and a half of snow so we break the record?  If we’re this close, we just break the stinking record!  When we had the big snow in January, how many of you lost power?  Ours went out on Sunday night.  Monday was kind of fun-an adventure, burning candles, going to bed early, flushing the toilets with hot tub water.  But by Tuesday, the adventure was over.  No lights, no heat, no water…it was a drag!  We were so glad to get our power back on Tuesday night!  I love power!

          Today we’re going to talk about power-God’s power-the riches of His power!  J. B. Phillips wrote a book about 50 years ago entitled Your God is Too Small.  Some of us need a fresh vision of God, how huge He is, and how powerful!  Today, I want to inspire you to a deeper faith by helping you explore the unsearchable riches of His power.

 

Introduction:  God’s incomparably great power is expressed in many ways.

Ephesians 1:18-19 “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.”

The apostle Paul prayed that we would know these three things:

          1.  The hope to which God has called us.

          2.  The riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints. (We’ll talk about that next week.)

          3.  His incomparably great power for us who believe. 

I pray that you will know His incomparably great power-nothing compares to His power.  It is unsearchable. Paul prays again:

Ephesians 3:16 “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” 

He prays that we would be strengthened inside with power, and that power comes out of His glorious riches-the unsearchable riches of God’s power.  God never has a power shortage-or a power outage!  He wants to strengthen you with the riches of His power.

          Let’s look at just 5 of the ways that God’s power is expressed.

 

1.  In creation.

          First, God expressed His power in creation.  Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  God created everything there is.  How did He do it?  The Bible says that He made it all out of nothing.  He spoke it into existence. 

Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

God spoke, and the universe came into being.

ILL:  You and I make something out of something else.  We build a house out of wood and bricks and sheet-rock.  We make cookies out of flour and sugar and oatmeal and chocolate chips.  But God made the universe out of nothing.  He spoke the worlds into existence!  Imagine walking into an empty kitchen and just saying, “let there be cookies”, and boom!  There are cookies!  That’s power! 

God created the heavens and the earth…out of nothing. 

          Perhaps you’ve had an experience where you’ve come face to face with the awesome power of nature. 

ILL:  One summer I was whitewater rafting with 3 friends on the McKensie River in Oregon.  As we approached the Martin Rapids, a famous class-4 rapids, we navigated to the shore, got out, walked downstream, and looked the rapids over.  It was awesome!  The main swell was about six feet high and dropped straight down into a deep trough.  We got back in our boat, launched, squared our 6-man raft for our approach, and hit the big swell perfectly.  And that rapid took our boat, flipped it like a pancake, and sent all our equipment and us downriver underwater. What power!  We lost some gear, but we all lived to tell about it.

ILL:  May 18, 1980, a date that will live in infamy for all of us here in the Inland NW.  Mt. St. Helens erupted in volcanic fury, killing more than 60 people, pulverizing the top third of the mountain, blackening the Sunday afternoon sky, and raining volcanic ash on us.  Awesome! 

          I received a phone call at 4 PM when it was dark as midnight.  It was a woman in our church who hadn’t heard that the mountain had exploded.  She was afraid it was the end of time, and she wasn’t ready to face the Lord!      For over a week, life ground to a halt around here as we struggled to clean up the ash that covered everything, including the streets, making driving impossible.  It was a vivid reminder of how small we are, and how powerful are the forces of nature.

As powerful as these earthly forces are, God is more powerful.  In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  God is the power behind the power of nature.  As powerful as these earthly forces are, they are as nothing compared to the heavens.  Consider the heavens with me for a moment.

ILL:  The universe is so immense that we don’t measure it with miles or meters, but with the speed of light.  In one second, a beam of light travels 186,000 miles-that’s roughly 7 times around the earth.  In one year, light travels nearly 6 trillion miles; that distance is called a light year. 

          Our sun, the star nearest our little planet, is 8 light-minutes away; that is it takes the light from the sun 8 minutes to travel the 93 million miles to earth.

          The closest star to us after our sun is Proxima Centauri, 4.23 light years away, roughly 24 trillion miles, give or take a mile or two.  The two Voyager interstellar spacecraft are now traveling at 1/18,000th of the speed of light; they would need 72,000 years to reach Proxima Centauri; by then the data won’t be of much use to us.  That’s the star that is nearest to us.

          From our sun to the center of our galaxy is 30,000 light years.  Our galaxy, the Milky Way, contains some 400 billion stars. 

          From our galaxy to the nearest spiral galaxy, M31, is 2 million light years.  When you see the constellation Andromeda, you are seeing light from the M31 galaxy that has traveled 2 million years to reach your eye!  And that is the galaxy nearest our own!

          There are 100 billion galaxies, each with an average of 100 billion stars and perhaps as many planets as stars: 10 billion trillion or 10 to the 22nd power.  Mind-boggling!

Now listen to Psalm 8:3-4 “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”

The universe is so huge that it is mind-boggling!  Even more mind-boggling is that God cares for us!  The only thing greater than God’s power is His love! 

Jeremiah 32:17 “Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” 

Nothing is too hard for God.  Would you say that with me?  Nothing is too hard for God.  Next, God displayed the riches of His power…

 

2.  In salvation.

          A second way that the riches of God’s power are expressed is in our salvation.  The word “salvation” means “rescue”.  The Bible is the story of a rescue operation: God’s rescue of the human race. 

          Adam and Eve made a bad decision-they disobeyed God.  That’s called sin.  And the whole human race went south, followed Adam and Eve’s rebellion into sin, and it’s been downhill ever since.  But God didn’t just walk away; He went to work.  He had a plan-a salvage plan, a daring rescue operation. 

          He started with a man, Abraham.  Out of that man’s descendants, He built a nation that would be His people, to know Him and represent Him to the rest of the world.  Before long, His nation was trapped in slavery in a foreign land.  Time for phase one of the rescue operation.

          The story is told in Exodus 1-14.  Israel was enslaved in Egypt and Pharaoh wouldn’t let them go, so God did a series of ten astonishing miracles to change Pharaoh’s mind.  The miracles were like show-downs, power encounters between God and the gods of Egypt.

  • The Egyptians worshipped the sun, so God sent a plague of darkness.
  • The Egyptians worshipped the Nile River, so God turned the water to blood.
  • The Egyptians worshipped frogs, so God said, “You like frogs?” and covered the land with them.

Ten plagues, one after another, until finally Pharaoh relented and let the people go.  Then when Pharaoh changed his mind and pursued and trapped them, God split open the Red Sea, and Israel walked to freedom on dry land.  When the Egyptian army followed them through the sea, God closed it on top of them and drowned the entire army.  Imagine being there and seeing all that, and you understand why Exodus 14:31 says, “And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.” 

          Phase One of the rescue operation: God rescued Israel from Egypt.  But all that was only preparation for Phase Two, when God would take His operation global!  Out of Israel, God brought a Savior, a Rescuer for the whole human race, which was still trapped in slavery-not slavery in Egypt, but slavery to sin.  Jesus-His name means “God to the rescue”-came to set us free from the sin that enslaves us, and restore us to God.

ILL:  In the warm weather, there are often some really cherry old cars parked in our lot.  They’re gorgeous.  What happened?  There was an old rusted car in someone’s barn or back forty-a piece of junk.  It didn’t run and was headed for the scrap yard.  But someone noticed that it was an old classic.  They saw the value beneath the rust, and they took it home and began to restore it.  They had to replace just about everything, and it took years of work.  But now, it’s a show-piece, and you’ll see some of those cars at our Father’s Day Car Show.  That’s salvation.

          We were not running, rusted out, beat up, and headed for the junk yard.  We were sinners, judged by a holy God and found wanting, headed for hell.  But God saw something valuable in you and me, something worth saving beneath all the rust, and He began restoring us, making us what we should have been from the beginning.  He did it by taking us home, bringing us into a relationship with Himself.  That’s salvation.

It’s rescue, and it happens by God’s power.

Romans 1:16 “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.”

The good news of Jesus-the gospel-is the power of God.  How rich is that power?  It is power to save everyone…everyone who believes.  It is power to restore you, to remake you, and to set you free. 

          No matter what has enslaved you, Jesus can set you free.  I’ve seen just about every type of bondage you can imagine broken by the power of Jesus: drug, alcohol and sexual addictions; emotional problems; life-long habits; compulsions and obsessions; hurt, anger, bitterness, and loneliness.  Jesus can set you free. 

          Please don’t think that I’m saying, “just come to Jesus and your problems are over.”  I know that human bondages are often deep and complex, and are not easily escaped.  But I am saying that no matter how deep or complex your problem, God’s power is greater still.  Your problem is not too big for Him!  Nothing is too hard for God.  You can discover the riches of His power for the salvation of everyone who believes. 

 

3.  In miracles.

          A third way that the riches of God’s power are expressed is in miracles. Psalm 77:14  “You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.”  All through the Bible, God displayed the riches of His power through miracles, and He still does today. 

          What is a miracle?  It is something that is supernatural, an event that cannot be explained naturally.  A miracle is something that only God can do.  Sometimes we call things miracles that really aren’t miracles.  They may be wonderful things, but they’re not miracles.  For example, when a baby is born, we often talk about the miracle of childbirth.  It’s a nice sentiment, but in reality, two human beings can conceive and give birth to a child without any help from God.  It’s amazing, it’s awesome, but it’s not a miracle.

          On the other hand, Jesus’ conception and birth was miraculous.  It was the result of God’s intervention, completely apart from any human sexual union.  When the angel told Mary that she would have a baby, Mary wondered how that could be since she was still a virgin.  

Luke 1:35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”

How would Mary, a virgin, conceive?  The power of God would overshadow her.  It would be a miracle! 

Luke 1:37 “For nothing is impossible with God.”

A miracle is something impossible for you and me, but possible for God.  Laina and I conceived children, but we don’t do virgin births-that’s all I’m going to say about that.  A miracle is something only God can do, like a virgin birth, or a supernatural healing. 

          Mark 5 tells a wonderful story about Jesus.  One day, at the height of his popularity, crowds of people were thronging Him, pushing from every direction to get close to Him.  Into this crowd slipped a woman who had been sick for 12 years.  She suffered from a bleeding disorder, some form of hemorrhaging, a condition that made her ritually unclean, and excluded her from most social contact, including worship services at the Jewish synagogue.  She was not only very lonely, but also very discouraged, for she had spent all she had visiting doctors trying to get well, and had only gotten worse instead of better.  She must have been at the end of her rope. 

          And then she heard about Jesus, this miracle-worker who had opened the eyes of the blind and healed lepers.  The more she heard, the more convinced she became that Jesus was her answer.  In fact, she was so convinced that she told herself, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”  As far as she was concerned, Jesus needn’t bother with her.  She would just slip up behind him, touch his clothes and be well without ever troubling Jesus.  Just a touch…that’s all it would take. 

          There was a large crowd jostling Jesus, so that He would never notice her small touch.  Slowly, she inched her way through the crowd, closer, closer, until finally, stretching out as far as she could, she just barely touched Him.  Instantly, her bleeding stopped and she felt the change inside her and knew that she was well!  Suddenly Jesus stopped.

Mark 5:30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

The disciples were incredulous.  “What do you mean, who touched you?  Everyone’s touching you!  Everyone’s pushing and shoving to get close to you.  And frankly, we’re sick of it!”  But Jesus kept looking around scanning the crowd.  He knew that someone had touched Him on purpose because had felt power go out from Him. 

          I’ve always been fascinated by that.  How did that feel?  I’ve heard other people describe a feeling like electricity or heat flowing down their arm and out their hand when they laid hands on someone to pray for them.  Was it like that?  Bzzzt!  Bzzzt!  I don’t know.  All I know is that Jesus knew power had gone out from Him to heal someone.

          This woman came and fell at His feet and told Him the whole story, and Jesus, with a smile on His lips, said, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”  Cool!

          God’s power to do miracles is just as strong today as it was then. 

          Here’s my disclaimer.  I don’t pretend to have all the answers on this miracle deal.  Sometimes they happen and sometimes they don’t.  Sometimes people are healed, and sometimes they die.  Sometimes God intervenes miraculously and sometimes He doesn’t.  And I can’t seem to control Him.  He doesn’t jump on my command.  Or yours.  God seems to do miracles on His time and for His own reasons, and I often don’t understand it.  Miracles are His business. 

          But He’s still in business.  He still does miracles.  And some of you here need a miracle.  Let me encourage you to do what this woman did: reach out to Him.  How can you do that?  One way is through prayer.  I’m going to ask you to do that right now.  Just like that woman, you’re in the middle of a crowd.  And just like her, you can slip up to Jesus, privately, quietly, and touch him.  He’s here.  Let’s bow our heads, and why don’t you just ask Him, “Lord, I need a miracle.  Please help me.” 

Prayer time with some music.

          If Jesus does a miracle for you, would you be sure to share that with me?  Call me, write me, talk to me after a service-but let me know!

 

4.  In resurrection.

          A fourth way that the riches of God’s power are expressed is in resurrection.  God’s power raised Jesus from the dead.

Romans 1:4 says that Jesus “was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead.”

That is some kind of power!  Many of us are so used to the story of Jesus’ resurrection that it doesn’t shock us any more.  We’re inoculated.  But imagine if someone you loved died, and then three days later, came back to life! 

ILL:  In Bucharest, a Romanian woman fainted a few years ago when she opened her front door and found her husband standing there. The Romanian weekly Tinerama says it all started when a man named Neagu choked on a fish bone, stopped breathing and collapsed. The family doctor, knowing Neagu’s heart condition, didn’t think twice about proclaiming the 71-year-old dead of a heart attack.  But three days later, grave-diggers at the cemetery heard someone knock on wood.  They opened Neagu’s coffin to find him surrounded by wilted flowers but very much alive.  When Neagu arrived home his wife, fearing he was a ghost, barred him from spending nights at home.  It took Neagu three weeks to convince the authorities to cancel his death certificate from their registers.

Can you see why that wife fainted?  Mind-blowing! 

          Jesus wasn’t just partly dead.  He was totally dead.  They murdered and buried Him and thought the story was over.  But three days later, God raised Him from the dead and the story goes on. 

          Jesus’ resurrection displayed God’s power over death.  Death is the final and ultimate enemy of mankind.  Jesus conquered death in His resurrection, not only for Him, but for us.  God’s power not only raised Jesus, but will raise us too.

1 Corinthians 6:14 “By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.”

We have hope…a hope that is based on the power of God.  I believe that death is not the end of life, because Jesus died and rose again, and He promised to raise us as well by His power. 

          When I was younger, the threat of death seemed remote and unreal.  One of the besetting sins of youth is feeling invulnerable.  “Death can’t touch me.”  But the older you get, the closer death creeps, and more real your own mortality becomes.  My brush with cancer in 2006 made my mortality very real, and every time I go back for a check-up, it reminds me again: I’m mortal.  I’m going to die.  By the way, I just had my 2 year check up and my PSA was 0.00, which means I’m cancer-free! 

          When I was younger, the promise of heaven didn’t mean much.  Heaven was for old folks.  But as I’ve gotten older, and more of my friends, and my son, have gone to heaven, it’s become more real, and more important to me. 

Some people say, “Religion is just a crutch.  People have created religion to give them comfort, to ease their fear of death.  There’s no heaven.  When you die, you die, and you’re done.  End of story.” 

          End of story.  That’s what they said when they buried Jesus, too.  But He rose from the dead and conquered death by God’s power.  And that same unsearchable power of God will raise us too.  I’m banking on the power of God!

 

5.  In us.

          Finally, God’s power is at work in us. 

Ephesians 3:20-21  “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, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Did you catch it?  Where is God’s power at work?  Within us. 

  • The same power that created the universe is at work in you.
  • The same power that rescues fallen people is at work in you.
  • The same power that does miracles is at work in you.
  • The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in you.

God’s power is at work in you, and you need to know it: nothing is impossible for Him.  Nothing is too hard for the Lord.  Not even you!  Sometimes we doubt that. 

ILL:  One evening when the kids were younger, I lost my temper with my son.  He hurt his sister’s feelings, so what did I do?  I lost my temper and said things that hurt his feelings.  Now that’s really mature!  Afterwards, I felt like such a failure, such a terrible father.  I told God, “How can I be a pastor?  I’m not even a good dad.”  I felt so miserable, and in that moment, I doubted that God could do anything with me.  “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”  Yes!  Me!

Have you ever felt that way?  I’m here to tell you that God can do anything.  God can change anybody.  Nothing is too hard for Him, including you!  His power, the same power that created the universe and raised Jesus from the dead, is at work in you.

          Here’s a little exercise to catch the greatness of His power.  Look again at Ephesians 3:20.  Notice what it says about the Lord and His power.

  • God is able. “Now to Him who is able.” God is able. Think about your biggest problem, difficulty or challenge. Think about where you need to change. Now say those 3 words with me. God is able. God is able. God can do anything. Nothing is too hard for Him. God is able.
  • God is able to do more. It’s not just that God is able, but He is able to do more. How much more?
  • God is able to do immeasurably more. Not just a little more, but immeasurably more. More than what?
  • God is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask. It doesn’t matter how much you ask-and some of us can ask a lot!-He is able to do more. That’s not all…
  • God is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine. Not just what you can ask for, but even what you can imagine. Go ahead. Let your imagination run wild. God can do immeasurably more than all you imagine.

God is able!  Nothing is too hard for Him!  One great way to picture this: can you imagine, can you wrap your mind around the enormous size of the universe?  I can’t.  It’s too big.  But God created that.  And the same power that created a universe I can’t imagine is at work in me, doing immeasurably more than all I can ask or imagine.

 

What do we do with all these riches?  Share it!

          How do you share the riches of God’s power with people?  Let me make one simple, practical suggestion: Pray with people.  This week, when someone tells you his problem, offer to pray for him.  “Can I pray for you?”  I’ve asked that of thousands of people over the years and I can’t ever remember someone turning me down.  “Can I pray for you?”  Say that with me.  “Can I pray for you?” Then pray for them.  Right then and there. 

          “But what if we’re in public?”  God will still hear you!  Obviously, don’t make a big show of it-that’s not good-but just quietly and simply pray.  Ask God to help this person.  And when you’re done, ask them to let you know how God answers the prayer.  Share the riches by praying with people.

          Let’s practice right now.  In twos and threes, share what you need, and pray for each other.  Remember, you don’t have to sound spiritual or holy; it’s better if you’re just authentic.  Talk to God like a friend, simple and direct.  And when you’re done, you’re dismissed…but don’t chicken out!!