God’s power can be lost!
One of the saddest stories in the Old Testament is the story of Sampson. He was the most remarkable man of his day. Great opportunities of service were open to him. He began his ministry and service for God in the power of the Holy Spirit, yet because of his reckless behaviour and disobedience ended his life in tragic failure. At the end of his life God had mercy on him but he died with his enemies. When we look at his life we can see the great potential he had for God. Time and time again we read where the Spirit came mightily upon him. In the Spirit’s power he brought about great and marvellous things that astonished his people and brought great discomfort to their enemies. But at the end of his life we see him rendered powerless by his enemy Delilah and not even aware of it. (Judges 16:19-20) His strength was gone and he went into captivity to those over whom he should have had the victory.
Put on the shelf
Unfortunately He isn’t the only man in the history of God’s people who once knew the power of God upon their lives but are now “on the shelf” and shorn of that power and unable to be used any longer. There have been many a Sampson and there will be many more to come. These are men and women that God used mightily at one time but who He has been forced to lay aside. One of the saddest sights is such a person. We need to see when it is that the Lord departs from a man or woman or withdraws his power from them. In other words how is spiritual power lost?
1. God’s Power is lost when a person turns away from their separation to God.
Sampson’s long hair was a sign of his separation to God from the world. The shearing of his hair by the deceiver Delilah was the surrender of that separation. Because he had stopped being faithful to his commitment to the Lord he had been stripped of his spiritual power and effectiveness. At the beginning of his ministry God had honoured his separation anointed him with the Holy Spirit and had used him in a mighty way. Delilah had come to him; the charms and pleasures of the world had captivated his affections. His loyalty to God had been compromised. He had yielded to the pressure of the world, the flesh and the devil and they had shorn him of his power. The power of the Holy Spirit departed from him because of his disobedience to God’s word.
Is this describing you right now? Maybe you were used mightily by God at one time but now He does not use you, you may still be in Christian work but there is no longer the old time liberty and power in it. The reason is that you have gone back on your separation to God. You have not been faithful to do everything that He has asked you to do. You are now listening to the voice of the world with its lures; its passions and desires. In your heart you have allowed Satan and the world to squeeze you into their mould. The charms of the world, the flesh and the devil have captivated your affections and desires. Satan has obscured the work of the cross in your life. You have laid aside your cross and are now listening to your flesh. Do you want your power back again? Well, there’s only one thing you can do. Let your hair grow again as Sampson did. Renew your full commitment to the Lord.
2. God’s power is lost through the entrance of sin.
King Saul was once anointed with the Spirit of God and achieved great victories in that power. He brought God’s people forward to a place of victory over their enemies who had subdued and harassed them for years. But Saul lost his power. On two separate occasions because he chose to ignore the Word of God and the Lord Himself withdrew his power from his life and ministry. (1 Samuel 13 & 15) Saul ended his life in complete defeat and failure and took many down with him including his own son.
This is the life history of many people that God used in a mighty way at one time but sin has crept in. They’ve done what God told them not to do and he has withdrawn his power from them. The one who knows God’s power in his Christian life and service must walk very carefully and closely with him. That person must constantly be listening to hear God’s voice and to do whatever God tells them to do or not to do. They must respond quickly to the slightest whisper of God, yet if they allow sin into their life the power will be lost. Are you passing through the dreadful experience of the absence of God’s power upon your life and ministry and service for Him? Is it because you have allowed sin to creep into your life in some way?
Are you doing something, perhaps a little thing that God has told you plainly from His word not to do? Are you leaving something undone that God has asked you to do in His word? Set the matter right with the Lord and the old time power will come back again! King David was guilty of a great sin, but when he confessed his sin and thoroughly repented of it before the Lord he came to know once again the power of the Spirit in his life and ministry. (Psalm 32:1-5) (Psalm 51:11-13) If we want to know God’s power continuously operating through us and upon us then we need to spend a lot of time in His presence. At the close of each day we should go to Him and ask Him to show us any sin or anything at all that displeases Him that has crept in during the day. If He shows us something then we should confess it and put it away right there and then.
3. God’s Power is lost through self-indulgence .
If we would have the real power of God in our Christian life and service we must lead a life of self-denial. There are many things in this life that in them selves are not sin but which can rob us of spiritual power. No Christian can lead a luxurious and self- indulgent life, overindulging natural appetites, spending money indiscriminately, accumulating unnecessary things and enjoying the fullness of God’s power at the same time. The gratification of the flesh with its desires and appetites and the fullness of the Spirit do not go hand in hand. They run in opposite directions.
Paul tells us this; “You, my brothers, were called to be free but do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature… So I say live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit and the Spirit to what is contrary to the sinful nature” (Galatians 4:13, 16-17)… “I keep my body under and bring it into subjection so that after I have preached to others I will not be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27).
In themselves prosperity and riches are not wrong but if we have these things and are not careful the devil will use these things to rob us of spiritual power and effectiveness. We live in a self indulgent, self-gratifying and self-centred age. The temptation to over indulge our selfish desires and our fleshly appetites is very great and the luxuries of this life are easy to get. Having riches isn’t wrong but it has been said, “Piety and riches seldom go hand in hand.” In fact the book of proverbs gives us a very appropriate way to pray concerning riches. “Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty or riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonour the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:7-9).
When we read about the heroes of faith in the book of Hebrews chapter eleven it doesn’t say anything about money except that Moses “regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” These saints of God were looking for their reward in Heaven and not down here in this world.
It is very easy for a minister of power to become popular and in demand and with that increasing popularity has come an increase in money and the comforts of life, consequently luxurious living has come in and the power of the Spirit has gone out. Most of the wealth and health money preachers infiltrating the Church today were at one time honest servants of the Lord. What a tragedy to see where they are today!
They are just like Sampson, King Saul and King Solomon and many others in the Bible who “let their power go to their heads!” If we would know the constant supply of the Spirit’s power upon our lives and ministry then we need to live as simply as we can. Not lives of poverty of course but lives that are free from the indulgence and gratification of our fleshly appetites and desires. Luxury can be a very subtle enemy of spiritual power. Sometimes Satan cannot make a man sin but he can so influence his life with riches that in the end he succeeds in turning him from the path of spiritual power and effectiveness.
4. God’s power is lost through greed for money.
(1Timothy 6:8-10) “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evil.”
Judas Iscariot loved money! He was the treasurer of the group but always had his hand in the till. In the end it was his love of money that led him to betray the Lord. How many Christians, especially preachers, once knew spiritual power, but money started to come in and they soon began to feel its strange fascination; the love for more began to captivate them little by little. They may have accumulated it honestly at first but it has absorbed their minds and hearts and the Spirit’s power has been effectively shut down. Today the Church is infested with money preachers who are in reality preaching covetousness not holiness! If we would be filled with the Spirit continuously, we need to have these words engraved deeply onto the tablets of our hearts “Take heed and beware of the greed for money!” A person does not need to be rich to covet money. A very poor person may be very absorbed in the desire for wealth just as much as any greedy millionaire.
5. God’s power is lost through pride.
(1 Peter 5:5) “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
The person puffed up with pride and self-importance cannot be filled up with the Holy Spirit. How many there has been who have seen great results in their ministries but have become proud of their success and lost the Spirit’s power. The more God uses us the humbler we should be before him, being very careful to give him all the praise and the honour. May the Word of God keep ringing in our ears “Be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble,” (1 Peter 5:5).
- God’s power is lost through neglecting prayer.
(James 4:2) “You do not have because you do not ask God.”
God charges us up spiritually in prayer! God’s power flows a lot into the person who prays a lot. John Livingston a famous preacher spent a whole night with some believers in conference and in prayer. The next day he preached at the Kirk of Schotts church in such a way that the Spirit fell upon his hearers. From that day forward 500 could either date their conversion or some remarkable confirmation. Just as an airplane needs to be constantly refuelled to stay in the air so we as Christians need to be constantly filled up with the Spirit’s power to keep ourselves in the flight path of God’s will. The power of the Holy Spirit can only be maintained through persistent and consistent prayer. Power failures are prayer failures. Maybe you have lost your power because you no longer spend the time with God that you once did.
6. God’s power is lost through neglecting the Word of God.
God’s power comes through prayer but also through heart knowledge of God’s word. Paul tells us this when he said; “So then faith comes from hearing and hearing from the word of God” (Romans 10:17). David also said “Your word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against you” and again he said “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” God Himself tells us about the man whom He blesses when he says “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not whither. Whatever he does prospers”(Psalm 1:2-3). God also confirmed this when he spoke through Moses to Joshua who was about to succeed him. “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful”(Joshua 1: 7-8).
Many Christians once knew the power that comes from regular, thoughtful, prayerful meditation and study of God’s Word but the pressures of business or ministry or extra study has squeezed out the Word to a great degree and the power has gone. Some today are still popular speakers at conventions and so on but they only have limited success because somehow they have lost “The Fire of Heaven.” So then, spiritual power is lost through. Surrendering our commitment to God, Incoming sin, Self-indulgence, Love for money, Pride, Neglecting prayer and by Neglecting God’s Word.
Always be on your guard!
May we always constantly guard against these things, relying always and constantly upon God’s grace for our spiritual power. At the end of our life may we be able to say with Paul “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Therefore there is laid up for me a crown or righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge shall give me at that day” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). Or better still may we say with the Lord Jesus “I have glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work which You have given me to do.”