Summary: The sermon examines the suprising and often overlooked work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.

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Holy Spirit Series 2000

The Surprising Power of the Holy Spirit

Ephesians 3:14-21

Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister

First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO

On August 6, 1945, at precisely 8:15 AM, a uranium bomb exploded over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Within seconds, the entire city lay in ruins. Seventy thousand people were dead and another seventy thousand seriously injured. That one bomb had exploded with a force greater than twenty thousand tons of TNT. That is power!

But that is not the only power. For five years, I could look out my office window and view a small nuclear reactor adjacent to our university’s research facility. The very same principles of physics that made possible the atomic bomb are at work in that reactor and in its larger counter parts used, to generate electricity. When the reactor is in operation, there is no explosion, no mushroom cloud, and hopefully no danger. But there is power! A reactor’s power may be quiet and not nearly as spectacular as a bomb, but it is power nonetheless. In fact, the silent energy of that reactor can be far more powerful and certainly more significant than the force of a thousand bombs.

To believe that a reactor is less powerful than a bomb simply because its power is less obvious would be a mistake, Clearly, real power need not be spectacular, violent, or even visible. Understanding this valuable truth can shed much needed light on our understanding of the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said this his disciples would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts 1:8). They would be "clothed with power from high," he promised (Luke 24:49). Paul echoed the same thought when he prayed that his readers might know and experience the mighty resurrection power of Jesus in their lives (Eph. 1:18-20). For Paul the message of the Gospel itself contained power, the very power of God (Rom. 1:16).

But one important question must be asked: what kind of power? The awesome force of the bomb or the quiet energy of the reactor? The biblical answer is perhaps—both! The Spirit does manifest his power in spectacular ways at times. At Pentecost, he came with a sound of a mighty wind and cloven tongues as of fire. In Acts, the power of the Spirit shook buildings, healed the sick, raised the dead, and cast out demons. But to limit his power to the spectacular and that alone would be just as great a mistake as denying the power of the reactor simply because it does not explode.

Yet this is precisely the attitude of many in our times. Sometimes we talk about and seek the promised power of the Spirit in our lives yet refuse to acknowledge it except as some overwhelming force. "Surely, we think, "if the Spirit is truly present our lives should be filled with one spectacular miracle after another." Given such a dispositions the slightest problem becomes the occasion for frustration or even doubt. We are forced to conclude that either the Spirit isn’t present in our lives or God doesn’t keep his word. It seldom occurs to us that we may have created our own problem by limiting the Spirit to our idea of "power."

The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of power! He IS quite capable of doing "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us" (Eph. 3:20). Yet perhaps the most amazing thing of all is his ability to demonstrate quiet power in ways often unnoticed by man.


One such amazing aspect of the Spirit’s work is his ability to give power in suffering. Several years ago, the well-known German pastor and theologian Helmut Thielicke was asked during a visit to America what he considered the greatest problem in the US. He surprised many with his unexpected reply. "The biggest problem," he said, "is an inadequate view of suffering." He went on to explain that, in his view, the American dream of perpetual progress had led many to believe that any and all problems could be solved with a minimum of effort or discomfort. Unfortunately, he insisted, this is simply not the case. There are, and always will be, certain burdens in life that cannot be eliminated. In Thielicke’s words, "These burdens obviously pitch the American into such helpless embarrassment that he either capitulates, to them or represses them or glosses them.

Unfortunately, the German pastor’s words have as much relevance for many Christian’s view of life as for society at large. In the popular mind of our age, it is assumed by many that power always leads to pleasure. Adversity and suffering are certain signs of weakness. Given this attitude, the Holy Spirit’s power is measured by his ability to make life easy for the believer. Health, wealth and success are the true signs of the Spirit’s blessings. Adversity and suffering, on the other hand are the companions of spiritual weakness. For many the Holy Spirit is powerful enough to enable a believer to escape adversity, but not strong enough to sustain him in it.

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