Ever wonder about the purpose of God’s power? Whether looking out on a world where daily headlines are not for the faint of heart or on a personal level regarding all the broken things in our day to day lives, I suppose most of us have. Christian theology teaches that God isn’t just powerful, but that He is omnipotent — all powerful. He is unlimited in power — He can do anything and all things. But to what end? And to what end in my life?
These are questions worth asking. They frame the broad picture we are passionate to explore here at Readplenish — knowing God. Woven throughout Scripture, God’s power is on grand display in two broad categories: in creation and in redemption. Cover to cover we needn’t look far to see examples from the small to the immeasurable. It’s possible we’ve heard these stories told or watched the beauty of a sunset so many times they no longer amaze us. G.K. Chesterton said: “We are perishing for lack of wonder, not for lack of wonders.” However, with fresh eyes, we’re reminded we have been created, redeemed, and daily cared for by an all powerful God who loves us and only desires the best for us. For most of us, the real question becomes “How does the power God possesses relate to my need, my situation?” Don Meeks* asks the question like this:
“If we understand power as the capacity
or ability to get things done, to
accomplish a desired goal or purpose,
we need to ask a simple question:
For whose purposes does God’s
In other words, does God’s power primarily exist to serve our goals and purposes, to meet our needs and fulfill our desires; or is His power possessed and expressed for His own purposes, goals, and ends and do they have anything to do with me?
For some answers, Meeks looks at the rich language of Psalm 66 which “paints for us a portrait of the tension that exists between the powerful works of an all powerful God acting on behalf of His people and the times when, for a deeper good, He allows His children to be tested and their faith proven.”
As we read this Psalm, things begin with a narrative that is full of Gods mighty hand providing for, protecting, and delivering His children: so great is His power, enemies cringe before Him; all the earth bows down to You; You turned the sea into dry ground and they passed through the waters on foot; You preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping. Good stuff, right? And then this:
“You, God, tested us
You refined us like silver.
You brought us into prison
and laid burdens on our backs
You let people ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water.”
Wait, what? Is this the same omnipotent God?
“When we encounter hardship and suffering, we naturally want relief, and as believing people, we understandably cry out to our powerful God for help. But what if the trial doesn’t end quickly? What if the disappointment, sadness or sense of brokenness doesn’t lift?
It can feel like fumbling in the dark, looking for the ‘outlet’ to plug into God’s power. But what if He doesn’t fix it or make it go away? What then? Do we conclude that God isn’t all powerful? Perhaps trials and hardships are given as an opportunity to learn something else and to encounter a deeper reality about God’s power. What if He doesn’t exist just to make me happy and comfortable?” (D. Meeks)
What if God’s power
to make me happy
but to make me holy?
Let’s press pause right there — not to make me happy but to make me holy. If we look at the language of the Psalm once again, we see this truth reflected in a distinct and meaningful way — refine me, test me, deepen me, humble me. Never capriciously, rather with intent and design.
And then Psalm 66 says:
“But, You brought us to a place
And this, friends, is a holy abundance. Often times this abundance doesn’t look like so much at first blush — it isn’t consistently the comforts of green grass and luxuriant sunshine. It’s the flourishing that follows pruning — the holy work He does in our lives. Revisiting those familiar stories, from cover to cover, it becomes clear God’s power is applied to a great and beautiful end — to restore us into a right relationship with Himself and to transform His people into the character and likeness of Jesus Christ. His power is primarily directed at restoration and transformation. What a good, good Father. He’s constantly about providing for our highest good. Even His loving kindnesses — gifts of mercy we enjoy everyday — are to draw us to Himself and lead us to repentance. (Jeremiah 31:3, Romans 2:4) And in a restored relationship, all that comes our way, both blessing and the maturing that results from testing, is a holy abundance.
*Don Meeks is pastor of Greenwich Presbyterian Church in Nokesville, VA