The secret of God’s power in man consists in the union of the Holy Ghost with the purified faculties and natural energies of the human soul, and, on the human side, it consists in the utter abandonment of the soul to and a hearty cooperation with the Holy Spirit. However holy a man is, there must be joined on to him a divine current, a supernatural energy which is emphatically divine, and of which he is the vehicle and conductor.
This divine power is a secret unknown to the world, uncomprehending by the most learned sinners, misunderstood by carnal professors, utterly beyond the grasp of philosophers or scientists. Let us notice some Scripture proofs. Jesus had a pure soul; from the very initial of His being He was perfectly free from the fallen nature of Adam, and as a mere man, He was superior in moral strength to all the men of the world. And yet it was not by His holy creature strength that He did the works of His Father. The power that Jesus used in working miracles, in preaching sermons, in healing diseases, in casting out demons, in saving souls was not the power of His sinless soul, but it was the power flowing from the baptism of the Spirit upon His pure humanity.
This is distinctly marked in the two periods of His life. From His infancy to His baptism in Jordan He was entirely holy, but wrought no miracles, but when the Holy Ghost descended on Him, from that time on, He was the Anointed One, and worked under the perpetual unction that flowed through Him from the Holy Spirit. So that in addition to His holy creature faculties, God poured into Him the fullness of the Spirit. We are told that when Jesus had gotten through the temptation of the wilderness, He returned to Galilee in the power of the Holy Ghost (Luke 4:14). This expression of returning in the “power of the Holy Ghost,” implies that there was added unto Him a power which He did not possess as a mere pure man.
Now, if Jesus needed the Holy Ghost united with His holy creature nature in order to give Him the peculiar secret of power in His mission, and if He is our example, how much more do we need that we should have our sanctified hearts and our mental faculties in vital union with the Holy Spirit, that by that union we may do the work of God. We cannot depend on the natural energies even of our saved souls. We cannot depend on ourselves in any form, nor on any creature, or number of creatures however holy they may be.
When the sanctified soul and the Holy Ghost are united, from that ineffable union there goes forth what is scriptural called the power of God. Thus the secret of power is in having the Holy Ghost unite Himself to our souls, cleansing, filling, inspiring us, supplying us according to each emergency with supernatural light, energy, wisdom, courage, tact and zeal, to do the will and work of God. This power is something that God puts within the soul, which the soul itself does not comprehend, so that a person under its power does not break down with discouragement, does not break down under a thousand things that would break down the human soul if it were left by itself.
Crucifixion of Self
A condition essential to the fullness of spiritual power is the crucifixion of self in order that we may be united with the Holy Ghost. God cannot fill us with His Spirit, illuminate us, empower us with courage and boldness, and that intuitive and divine insight and energy until we are first crucified. We must first die before we live; we must reach the point of our own utter inherent foolishness in order to receive the wisdom from above; we must reach the consciousness of our own indescribable weakness in order to join on to God’s power. His strength is made perfect at the point where our weakness is perfect.
How often this is illustrated in our experience. God comes to us in disguise, and seeks to conquer us at unexpected points and in unexpected ways, wrestling with us in the humble armor of some petty circumstance or person, hiding His infinite majesty under such ordinary cheap apparel that we never dream it is God till we are conquered and the mist falls from our vision, and, like Jacob, we are amazed to find ourselves “face to face with God.” The Lord wrestled with Jacob in order to perfectly break down all the hidden resistance within him to the Holy Ghost, all the latent resistance to God’s will and love. And when he found that the wrestling was hard and delayed, he touched the hollow of his thigh and put it out of joint.
Now, the same thing takes place in us. In order that we may receive the strength of God, the secret of power, God wrestles with us, and the wrestling must go on until He breaks down in us all resistance to His will, not only all open resistance, or known and conscious resistance, but all the hidden and unsuspected resistance that lies in our heritage or feelings, or faculties; that subtle stubbornness of nature which the delicate nature of God can see and feel, but which we do not perceive. And He must break us down at the very point where we are strongest, where our energy is lodged, be that in head or hand or heart, be that in our mind or management or money, be that in our education or prejudice or desires or affections, in whatever point of our being we may fancy we are the best, in whatever locality there is stored up the most of self, there is where the finger of God must put the knife, there is where the last resistance must expire in order that the Holy Spirit may unite us with Himself and make us partakers with the Holy Ghost.
Paul says, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live” (Gal. 2:20). All through the Word of God we find that crucifixion precedes deep spiritual power. Not only must God break down the sins of a sinner in order to convert him, but in those who are truly regenerated He must break down their wisdom, learning, prudence, their churchly training and prejudice, their narrow-mindedness, their knowledge, their righteousness. It takes the Lord just about as long to break down a Christian man’s righteousness as to break down a sinner’s unrighteousness. Do not understand me that God ever breaks down His own wisdom or righteousness or strength, but He breaks down that form of wisdom, righteousness and strength which sprouts and grows out of human nature. Whatever originates in self, in the creature nature, must be crucified in order that the creature may be wedded to Christ through the Holy Ghost, and from that sacred union derive other wisdom, righteousness and strength infinitely superior to that of any creature. We are to let go not only our wicked selves, but, also, our seemingly pious selves in order that we may take hold of God.
Another secret of spiritual power lies in the perpetual ignoring of our creature ability. I do not say a perpetual denying of our ability. Telling an untruth never helps God any, whether it be against ourselves or against Satan, and if we represent ourselves as being nothing in the absolute sense of that word it is unscriptural.
Let me give you a sample. Joseph was wonderfully sanctified in prison. We are told in Psalm 105:19 that while he was in prison “the Word of the Lord tried him,” it so tried, proved, tested him as to lead him through a perfect crucifixion. When Pharaoh sent for him they made haste and shaved him and changed his prison raiment and rushed him in speedily before the king. The king said, “I have heard you have wisdom and can interpret dreams.” In Joseph’s reply to the king there is brought out this secret of power. He said to the king, “It is not in me” (Gen. 41:16). While his natural faculties and talents were far above the majority of his fellows, yet he knew that the interpretation of the king’s dream was a divine secret for a divine purpose, and lay beyond the region of any uninspired human mind. Hence the perfect renunciation of his own ability. Then he said, “But God shall give Pharaoh an answer.” What a world of meaning there is in that expression, “But God!” And then leaning back on the Holy Spirit in self-renunciation, in utter abandonment to the divine will, God put into his heart and mind the interpretation. And so he gave the interpretation as God gave it to him. He did not know the interpretation of it in prison, but he got the interpretation right there on the spot, and God poured a stream of light and discernment through that man because he had died to creature wisdom, and his whole being was in such an attitude of dependence that God could prompt him to speak. He was not a battery, but the wire that conveyed the current. And when he finished the interpretation the king said, “The Spirit of God is in Joseph.” That heathen king saw a divine light and power in that poor prisoner which surpassed all the wise men of Egypt.
There you have the secret power, a power that convinced a heathen king, a power that so pierced through his heathen nature and caused him to adopt the plans of an ex-convict, and thereby immortalize his name forever.
We may also take the case of the apostles, when through them was healed the lame man at the Beautiful Gate of the temple. The people looked upon Peter and John as demigods, and Peter essentially said, “Why do you look upon us, as if by our holiness we had made this man well? It is by the name of Jesus, through faith in His Name, this man has been made whole as you see” (see Acts 3).
All through the Word of God, the secret of power is to “trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not to your own understanding” (Prov. 3:5). Mark that it is not merely not to depend on our understanding, but not even to lean or incline towards it. We are so apt to lean on our experience as if wisdom and anointing were accumulated forces stored up in our faculties. Because a man has been preaching several years he is apt to lean upon his old sermons and old plans, and because we have been in the Lord’s work for some time, we are apt to lean upon our methods.
True, there is a sense in which we acquire wisdom and facility and fluency. The man who is constantly at work for God, preaching, exhorting and teaching, does acquire experience, and becomes skilled in the exercise of his gifts, and in discriminating the fitness of times and things, and even from the creature standpoint the skillful use of gifts and doctrine amounts to a good deal.
But I am now talking about the secret of divine power, not the secret of creature power. The secret of divine power is, that with all our learning and skill and experience, we are never to bank on it, never draw a check on it for success, but view it all about in the same way as the dust out of which God made man’s body.
If we desire to be workers for God and keep in the power, we must walk along this path of ignoring creature ability, and depending every time, as at the beginning, on the gift of the Spirit.
Oh, if we could only recollect ourselves. Recollect we are nothing, that we are empty and weak; recollect our attitude toward God and His work. God gives us anointing not as a reservoir, but as a stream; not as a fountain, but as a current; not as a battery, but as a transmission. In a reservoir the water is dammed up, but in a channel the water is in perpetual flow. And so fully sanctified souls, acting under the power of the Holy Ghost, are more like a wire along which the lightning can flash at any time, and not like a battery of stored-up electricity. Many a Christian worker has lost the power by unintentionally regarding himself as a reservoir.
We are to keep at the point of self-nothingness and at the same time look to God alone for sufficiency just as truly as we take the sunshine from the sun today and do not think of using the sunshine of yesterday.
Commit the Work to God
In order to have the abiding secret of power, we must consent to seeming failure for Jesus. I do not know how that thought may strike you, but if you will look at the great crisis events in the Bible and into the lives of people of great faith, you will find over and over again that the sweep of power turned on the pivot of a perfect willingness to fail utterly in the eye of the world. Those who work with God cannot be failures, but there are times when from our standpoint and feeling everything seems to fail utterly, and our quiet acquiescence in such apparent failure for Jesus’ sake, while it closes the valve on the creature side, it opens the divine side for the inflow of the energy that moves the universe. It is very easy for even sanctified souls to become attached to their work and to want it to succeed as their work. It is so easy for devoted persons running camp meetings, conventions, faith homes, missions, or any kind of philanthropic or spiritual enterprise, to become greatly attached to the enterprise itself, and to have an overweening desire for success. But a close analysis of the heart will often reveal the fact that the craving for success is because we are putting ourselves into the affair, and the Holy Ghost who searches all things, finds out the terrible secret that after all it is self that wants success. Now, in order that God may get all the glory, He must blister the fair face of seeming success, make us die to ourselves in our work, and then He can accomplish results greater than we dream. Jesus does not want us to get wedded to His work instead of to Him.
The man that never feels he has anything to boast of in his work, but always looks at the work as being nothing to his credit, is the one who is always at the point where he is willing to be counted a failure in the eyes of men. Read the record of great faith enterprises, such as under Luther, or George Müller’s Orphanage, or Bishop Taylor’s work in India and Africa, and see how thousands of times in these men’s lives they had to consent to eternal failure in the eyes not only of the world but in the eyes of philosophers, churches, ministers and renowned ecclesiastics. Note their solitary struggles in prayer, their solitary mountain-peak convictions, the lofty possibilities they saw that no one else could see. See how they surpassed all the lawmakers in their law, outstripped college professors in their teaching, eclipsed earthly bankers in their handling of money, how they put to shame the idleness, shiftlessness and unbelief of the majority of nominal Christians around them, and in order to achieve such great results, they had constantly to lie in the dust, to bear criticism, coldness and contempt from those from whom they expected help.
Let me give you a Scripture sample or two. Esther was told by Mordecai to do a certain daring thing to save the Jews. She said in other words, “If I do this it may involve my death,” but sent back word that she would comply with his terms, hazard her life, “and if I perish, I perish” (Esth. 4:16). That heart agreement to perish, to die and be buried in disgrace, was the key that unlocked the prison door that let a whole nation out into liberty. There was the secret of power. When the great monarch of Babylon rebuked the three Hebrews for not worshiping his image, they responded in effect, “Be it known unto you that we shall not bow down to your image; the God that we serve is able to deliver us from the fiery furnace, but if not, we will not bow down to your image” (Dan. 3:17-18). The secret of power lay in that expression “but if not.” If we live by faith and walk with God, there will be many times in our lives when similar tests will confront us, and similar furnaces blaze for our destruction, and to go through unscorched, we must carry that great “but if not” in our hearts. The real value of any work we do for God can often be measured by the amount of difficulties in the way of doing it, or else by the effort Satan makes to destroy it after it is done.
In the book of Revelation, Satan stood ready to devour the man child as soon as he was born. This is true of every work of God. If you receive a great blessing from the Holy Ghost, Satan will soon try to destroy or pervert it. If there be a glorious camp meeting or convention or revival, Satan will find human tools, oftentimes within the church, to blast or check the gracious work if possible. In such seasons, the true servant of God must consent to the seeming failure of his labors, and at the same time go right on working, and commit the work to the absolute care of God.
Recognize the Presence of the Holy Spirit
The concluding thought in connection with the secret of power is we must constantly recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit. There is a marvelous secret of strength in recollecting the divine presence in us and in the work God calls us to. “[Moses] endured as seeing Him who is invisible” (Heb. 11:27). “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest”(Ex. 33:14). Every time we go into a meeting or speak to a soul or pray or sing or work for God, if then and there we recognize the Holy Spirit as in us and with us, it will not only be the source of our inspiration, but it will be the act of faith which God honors with success. I do not say we are not to pray for the presence of the Holy Ghost, or for Him to fall upon us and the Word, but that, having prayed in the name of Jesus, we are to recognize the prayer as answered.
To forget the presence of God, to regard Him as at a distance, is to detach ourselves from the source of power, and our souls droop. But the moment we intelligently and clearly apprehend, God is here; the Spirit, the Comforter is in this place; He is ready and willing to work through me to the pulling down of strongholds, what a difference it will make in our words, prayers and songs.
There will be a freedom, an anointing, a gladness, which nothing else can inspire. “Lo, I am with you alway” (Matt. 28:20). I do not care how poor or infirm or weak you are, the moment your soul clearly apprehends the eternal verity of that fact, “I am with you alway,” there will be kept open in your soul the secret spring of a power that is above all eloquence, for it makes eloquence; magnetism, for it creates magnetism; the power which alone is sufficient for Gospel purposes.
It is passing wonderful what utterly frail and weak things God can use for His glory, especially when we work, not for our wages or fame, but for the glory of the name of Jesus, perfectly willing to be loved and prized by God alone. When the Lord has been pleased to use us in any work, the best thing we can do is to give the work up to God the moment we are done with it, and drop back into our native littleness and nothingness, and rest in God.