Summary: To know real and lasting power means admitting that we fail at what we do (repentance), giving over the control of our lives to Christ (faith), and obedience.
The speech choir has asked us a pointed question, "Were you there?" "Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?" They went on, "Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?" And finally, "Were you here when He rose up from the grave?" Were you there, they want to know.
You can say we were, because our issues are just like the issues of those who lived then. Our needs are just like theirs. In a sense we were there, as Christ died once for all people in every time and in every place.
But then, we weren’t there either. We didn’t literally see the crucifixion; we didn’t experience first-hand the pain and the shame. We were not there in the immediate sense. We didn’t stand in awe at the cross or stumble down the garden path to the empty tomb. That was all two thousand years ago, way back in history. And we weren’t there. We are here! We are here now! So what does His being raised have to do with you and me today? We are not there. We are here. What can we experience today?
I am carrying around a dirty little secret. Would you like to hear my dirty little secret? Believe me, I would not tell you my secret if I did not think it was yours too. I believe that what plagues me attacks you too. It happens to all of us.
That dirty little secret is ... that I cannot even begin to do what I want to do, and, more than that, I cannot honestly claim to have done half the things I’ve pretended to do! The story of my life, and, I suspect, of yours, is that there are so many things we think we want to be and to do, but we just cannot do them. We cannot. And, worse than that, there are so many things we pretend we have done, but they are a facade. They are not real. They are a sham.
A dirty little secret, isn’t it? I cannot even begin to do everything I want to do. I start out every day with a long list of tasks to be performed, I dutifully put them into my computer, which spits them back out at me. I prioritize. Twenty tasks to do today, in order. What happens? How does it go? I do the first two or three things, and then hit one that’s too hard. It looks boring. So I’ll skip it. Set it aside for another time. Procrastinate. I don’t ever get done all I think I ought to do. I feel powerless.
Worse than that, there are things I want you to think I have done, but I haven’t. There’s an image I want to project, but that’s all it is, an image. It’s not real. A Russian general named Potemkin wanted to make things pleasant for the Czar to see as he traveled, and so built villages that were just the facades of houses, nothing behind them. Too much of my life is like that. I bring you to my home and I tell you I have painted the woodwork at our house. But don’t pull out that couch, or you will see that I didn’t paint behind the couch. I show you bookshelves I constructed; you are supposed to be impressed with my handiwork. But don’t pull on that one over there, it was never anchored to the wall. It’s not really finished. It might tumble down.
Is your dirty little secret a lot like mine? Our lives are riddled with failures and tortured with half-truths. Our lives are propped-up versions of what we really want, shadows of what we really hope for. We feel powerless! Powerless!
Every day I see how fragile our accomplishments are. A sudden heart attack cripples a man, and he cannot work any more. Death steals up in the middle of a cold night and with its icy fingers snatches away a partner. Plans are suddenly shattered. That child for whom you had such dreams is slowly but surely sliding away, and all your brave efforts are going nowhere. That estate you built up with hard work and careful planning … there was a nosedive on Wall Street, and where is it now? That relationship into which you invested so much – she blew it away. She dismissed it like so many filthy rags. Our accomplishments are very fragile. We feel powerless.
We need power. We need to experience a source that will sustain us. We need power. We need it now. Not a relic of the past nor a vague hope for the future, but power, now.
I know of a man who wanted personal power. He wanted to feel on top of his game. He had worked at being the best that he could be. He had worked at his craft, and had lived an honest, decent life. He came from a good family; he was well regarded in his circle of friends. In fact, I’d guess that most of them thought that here was the one truly successful guy. They would point him out as an example of what you could do if you really worked at it. They even hired him as a kind of consultant to go on the road and show other people how the job should be done. Man, he was at the top of his game! Everybody felt that this guy really had it together.