Overcoming Spiritual Impotency: Accepting Personal Responsibility

Overcoming Spiritual Impotency

Overcoming spiritual impotency starts by recognizing and accepting personal responsibility for both gains and losses. Impotent means “unable to take effective action—to be helpless or powerless.”

Before you get any wrong ideas, I’m talking in the broadest sense of living the Christian life at half-throttle, never reaching God’s full potential. Jesus set a high standard of ministry for His disciples,

“Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.”
Matthew 10:1

How wonderful to be called and given full authority to do the impossible! With opportunity comes responsibility.

Our Commission

Just a few verses later, Jesus spells out their mission more clearly,

Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”
Matthew 10:6-8

Colt

As Christ’s followers, we are all called to “go” and “proclaim” the Good News of the Gospel. Each of us will carry out that mandate a little differently, depending on our situation and spiritual gift mix. We are all called to share God’s love with a world in need, however.

As well intentioned as I may be, I have been unable to reach the high mark Jesus has established. Although there’s a faint smattering of a few of these victories, I fall far short. I’ve been honestly seeking God and asking why. The lives of others depend on my overcoming spiritual impotency.

Pinpointing the Cause

Rather than focusing on the symptoms, we must go deeper to the cause of our powerlessness. God makes it clear, He desire us to freely give away all that we have received.

One day, Jesus invited His inner circle, Peter, James and John, up the mountain for an out of this world encounter with Moses and Elijah. Though the supernatural occurrence left them confused and questioning, they witnessed unbelievable things. Meanwhile, the other nine disciples weren’t idly waiting below. They were ministering — or rather they were unsuccessfully trying to!

” ‘You unbelieving and perverse generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.’ ”
Matthew 17:17

Rodeo Horse

Ouch! How’s that for a scathing performance evaluation that no one desires to hear from their Superior? I feel the sting from this side of two thousand years!

It’s not just you and me working on overcoming spiritual impotency; the best of the best struggled too.

Matthew, who records the account, witnessed the suffering of this poor father and son. He felt the failure of his inability to set this young lad free from demonic possession and heal his troubled body and mind. Matthew knew that every Christ follower would face these same hurdles to effective ministry.

The First Problem

Signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit become a visible testimony of our salvation (Hebrews 2:3-4). God delegated these things for us all, not just those in “ordained” ministry. So what keeps us from fulfilling our calling? What’s the problem?

Jesus spells it out in two words: “unbelieving and perverse.” We tend to emphasize the former and ignore the latter. Both are critical if we are going to be effective at overcoming spiritual impotence.

Unbelieving” goes beyond a littleness of faith. It also contains the aspect of not being worthy of confidence or being untrustworthy. Perhaps we have all experienced, either in our own lives or in the lives of others, a powerful sense of divine potential or excellence of calling. Yet, practically, we fall far short.

Wild Horses

I have to be bold in my self-evaluation, if I desire to overcome this malady of spirit. Can Jesus depend on me? Am I trustworthy with the gifts, abilities and opportunities He offers? Do broken, hurting people come to me and leave just as broken and hurting, or does Jesus pour out from me with healing and deliverance? Do I make excuses for my failures?

I can fully believe in God and the inerrancy of His Word, yet without verbalizing it, justify why healing won’t work this time, deliverance isn’t for me to get involved in right now, and don’t even mention raising the dead. These things belong to super-gifted, anointed Christians! Right? Here lives unbelief at the core. Yes, we know Jesus is present to heal, deliver and restore to life, but we doubt His willingness to do it here — through us.

Jesus uses the opportunity to build up their faith.

” . . . Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Matthew 17:20

The Second Problem

The Bible tells us that God has already given to each of us a measure or quantity of faith. Beyond question, we possess at least a mustard seed sized amount (Romans 12:3).

Overcoming spiritual impotency depends on our willingness to deal with both problems Jesus addressed. He identified the second hindrance to vibrant ministry as being “perverse.”

Horse grazing

The dictionary says that “perverse” is

“showing a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave in a way that is unreasonable or unacceptable, often in spite of the consequences.”

The Greek word, διεστραμμένη (diestrammenē), means to distort, misinterpret, corrupt, or oppose. Literally, it means to be “wrong-headed, arising from stubbornness.”

I’m perhaps way more “wrong-headed” than I realize. Every time my thoughts don’t align with His thoughts, I’m wrong-headed. In every situation where I vainly think my ways will get it done, instead of leaning into Him, I’m wrong-headed.

I can’t sluff off my stubbornness to Irish genetics. Since the fall of mankind, wrong-headed thinking has led those whom God loves to “show a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave in a way that is unreasonable and unacceptable (to God and others), often in spite of the consequences.” No one can justly claim immunity in this regard.

The Solution

God never pinpoints a problem without offering the solution. The disciples recognized they hit a legitimate ministry wall of failure and limitation. They sought Jesus’ help in overcoming spiritual impotency.

“He replied, This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.”
Mark 9:29

Powerful Horse

Prayer and fasting align both our hearts and minds to God’s. These two disciplines draw our spirit, soul and body in surrender to the sovereignty of God. Prayer doesn’t just change things — it changes us!

“He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel.”
Psalm 103:7

During Moses’ daily times in the Tent of Meeting talking with God, he came to know God — His character, His attributes, and His nature. He saw clearly the ways of God.

The people who stood back and watched God from a distance only experienced God’s deeds. They saw His miracles, ate daily of His provision, and sat under the fire by night and the cloud by day. Still, they did not “know” God! They continued to walk in deliberate and obstinate disobedience, even while knowing what was right.

Be Free

When Jesus said, “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting,” was he referring just to a demon in a child? Could He also have been referring to our unbelief and perverse tendency?

It’s not just the demon possessed who suffer. We all do! Prayer and fasting is essential for us to overcome spiritual impotency. Only God can set us free from every “unbelieving and perverse” way. Prayer and fasting releases us from our boxes of little faith and wrong-headed thinking. Then what we have so freely received from Jesus will flow freely to others.

Horse portrait

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Romans 12:2

The first month of the year is an excellent time to designate for prayer and fasting, resetting priorities and giving God first place. I’m asking Him what He desires to set me free from. Undoubtedly, unbelief and wrong-headed thinking hold prominent position on His list.

Unbelief originates in the heart; perversion flows from the mind. With hearts faith-filled and fully devoted to God, let’s endeavor to live with minds “clear-headed” free from every perverse way. Then we will gain the power to live victorious, bringing freedom and hope to those around us.

“The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.”
1 Peter 4:7

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The Bible, Hardcopy or Digital – Sweeter than Honey on the Comb

Is your bible hardcopy or digital? Either way, it is sweeter than honey on the comb! The richness of the bible will never be exhausted. Its relevance stands the test of time, across cultural boundaries, remaining true for all generations in all circumstances.

Tonight I sat around the table with eight new friends. One woman, in her eighties, mentioned that she has never owned or read the bible. Others also said they have never read the bible, even in part. Only one woman was experiencing the wonder and pleasure of reading a bible regularly.

Books come and books go. But the Bible has remained the top selling publication of all time. Many similes describe the Word of God, each revealing a powerful attribute within its pages.

The Bible Reveals

The Word of God shines a soft but distinct light before us, guiding our feet along solid ground.

Your word is a lamp for my feet,
    a light on my path.”
Psalm 119:105

In an ever-shifting, unstable world, various “paths” flash with neon insistence and luring enticement, “Come here! Go there! Buy this! Choose me!” Only the bible grants steadfast principles to not only walk unhindered, but run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

The Bible is a light

I enjoy night walks in the country with only the stars and moon as my light. Withdrawing from the “visual noise” of city life, I find I “see” more clearly as I walk and meditate on God’s Word. Here God often gives wisdom for the days ahead, correction for today, and healing from the past.

The bible is also a mirror.

 “But whoever looks intently into the perfect law
that gives freedom, and continues in it—
not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—
they will be blessed in what they do.”
James 1:25

The Power of God’s Word

The bible reveals the hidden motivations of our hearts. His “perfect law … gives freedom!” For those prepared to “look” and “continue” in His Word, a blessing of obedience follows. The light and mirror of His Word brings visibility, but it is in the “doing” that His freedom is released into our lives.

Crafted into His Image - Hammer and Fire

When stubbornness and rebellion persist, The Word of God gently and firmly offers healthy discipline. Like a fire that refines or hammer that convicts, God’s Word removes what doesn’t belong and break strongholds of the enemy over us.

 “Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord,
“and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?”
Jeremiah 23:29

The Word of God forms a plumb line between right and wrong, good and evil (Hebrews 5:14). His love powerfully sets us free, while tenderly protecting us in the process. Faithfully God uses His Word to craft us into perfection.

The Bible Feeds

All of us have a spiritual hunger deeper and stronger than any natural hunger. A hunger only God supplies! The bible contains a banquet feast necessary for health and growth.

“Jesus answered, “It is written:
Man shall not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes
from the mouth of God.”
Matthew 4:4

The bible is food!

The Word of God is bread for the hungry, solid food for the mature, and milk the youngest in the faith can absorb. The format you choose is insignificant. Your bible, hardcopy or digital, will become

“… sweeter than honey,
    than honey from the honeycomb.”
Psalms 19:10

To be spiritual healthy, a continuous portion of the spiritual food is necessary. Corporate worship once a week won’t sustain us.

Most people have difficulty fasting from food for more than a few hours, yet many purposely ignore the hunger of the soul. Without a constant supply of spiritual nourishment, we will inevitably become gaunt, weak, and fail to reach maturity.

“Like newborn babies,
crave pure spiritual milk,
so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,
now that you have tasted
that the Lord is good.”
1 Peter 2:2-3

Cleanses and Purifies

The bible is also an instrument in God’s hands.

 “For the word of God is alive and active.
Sharper than any double-edged sword,
it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow;
it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Hebrews 4:12

The bible’s pin-point accuracy penetrates right to the heart. The living Word activated within us produces results. It exposes thoughts and attitudes that may or may not align with godly principles.

The bible cleanses

The cleansing power of the living Word continuously works in our lives!

“…Christ loved the church and
gave himself up for her
to make her holy,
cleansing her by the
washing with water through the word,
and to present her to himself as a radiant church,
without stain or wrinkle or
any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”
Ephesians 5: 25-27

The “water through the word” removes every stain, wrinkle and blemish. It is more precious … than much pure gold.(Psalms 19:10) The bible actively working in our lives is of immeasurable worth.

Refreshing

But there’s more! The water of the Word refreshes and nurtures.

“As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower
and bread for the eater.”
Isaiah 55:10

The bible produces

God’s Word brings life to those who hear and receive it. God has a purpose for each word He speaks. The seed of His Word encases future reproduction and growth. At the same time, it sustains the hungry. Like rain coming to earth, His Word nurtures and produces what He desires. Seed and bread!

“For you have been born again,
not of perishable seed,
but of imperishable,
through the living and enduring word of God.”
I Peter 1:23

The bible activates faith bringing forth eternal life in those who believe and receive it!

“…faith comes from hearing the message,
and the message is heard
through the word about Christ.”
Romans 10:17

More than a Book

The bible, hardcopy or digital, is incomparable to any other book — more than words, thoughts, philosophies, history or prophecy.

“The Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us.
We have seen his glory,
the glory of the one and only Son,
who came from the Father,
full of grace and truth.”
John 1:14

I cannot fathom this concept, “The Word became flesh!” The Old Testament presents Christ in a concealed manner. The New Testament reveals Christ so we can behold Him.

The Bible - Hardcopy or Digital

In scratching the bare surface of the power of God’s word, awe fills me, and so it should. God wants to not only know us, but make Himself fully known to us.  The psalmist said,

“I will bow down toward Your holy temple
And give thanks to Your name
for Your lovingkindness and Your truth;
For You have magnified Your word
according to all Your name.”
Psalm 138: 2

Yes! More precious than “thousands of pieces of silver and gold” (Psalm 119:72), it gives wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to the understanding. Maybe it’s time to take a new look at the bible, hardcopy or digital and begin to read. Meditate on its truths, letting them become ingrained into your life.

If you are not plugged into the bible yet, don’t put it off! You have so much to gain!

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