Christ [sent me] to preach the gospel — not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. (1 Corinthians 1:17)
That seems like a crazy title for a note of encouragement, doesn’t it? First of all, no child of God would ever want to render Omnipotence powerless. Second, how could that even be possible? To be omnipotent means to have absolute, unlimited authority and power. So could you or I possibly render the All-Powerful . . . powerless? Here’s how we do it: through self-effort—living our lives and serving our God in our own strength rather than in His strength.
In today’s passage we see that the apostle Paul refused to render Omnipotence powerless. If Paul decided to preach in his strength, using his natural gifts, talents, and abilities, the cross would be emptied of its power. Natural wisdom and eloquence and rhetorical devices were not the means for Paul to preach the message of Christ; if they were, his audience would still be in their sin. Paul knew that the only way to serve God was to serve in God’s strength. When the preacher thinks it is his own preaching that persuades, he robs the cross of its power. And this is true for all the saints of God in all that we do. When we do anything in our own strength, we render Omnipotence powerless.
Our God has no interest in working through self-sufficient vessels. When we close ourselves off to God’s leading and unwilling to live and serve in His strength, we doom ourselves to failure, leaving a wake of disappoint, disillusionment, and destruction behind us.
Peter tried to serve Jesus in his own strength on the night our Lord was betrayed. When Jesus told Peter he would deny Him three times before the cock crowed, Peter proudly protested, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you” (Matthew 26:35). Peter’s spirit was willing, but his flesh was far too weak to fulfill his vow. In his own strength, Peter denied Jesus, just as Jesus had said. And the same thing will happen every time you and I choose to work in our own strength; we will find that our confidence in our own abilities is greatly misplaced!
What Peter should have said was, “Lord, apart from You I can do nothing. Apart from you, I am weak, helpless, and foolish. If you strengthen me and hold me up, I will never disown You.” This is the key to seeing Omnipotence displayed in our lives. We must look away from self and our self-effort and look to our Savior. When we do, no weapon formed can come up against us and defeat us.
Living and serving in the strength of our Savior allows the power of God to be put on display in and through the lives we live. At that level of living, we can echo Paul in saying, “May it never be that I should boast, expect in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!