Recognising the power of Godliness
Norwich street chaplain Carrie Sant considers what happens when we choose to live as if what God says in His word is true.
“Holding a form of Godliness but denying the power thereof”
Over the years I have often heard this verse used and levelled at traditional churches who follow a tradition liturgy. (where actually most churches have a liturgy of sorts!)
I have been meditating on what it would mean to not deny the power of God.
Last week I came across a wonderful verse in Ezra.
Ezra had received quite extraordinary favour from the King of Babylon who feared the God of Israel. Ezra had been given letters saying that he and many Israelites should be allowed to return to Jerusalem and should be given gold, silver and food provisions etc. He had also been given a mandate to govern that region. Now they faced a journey of approx 3-4 months through regions where people may not be too happy with the King’s decree! Who would protect them?
And there by the Ahava Canal, I gave orders for all of us to fast and humble ourselves before our God. We prayed that he would give us a safe journey and protect us, our children, and our goods as we traveled. For I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to accompany us and protect us from enemies along the way. After all, we had told the king, “Our God’s hand of protection is on all who worship him, but his fierce anger rages against those who abandon him.” So we fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us, and he heard our prayer.
This is a great example of holding a form of Godliness and NOT denying the power.
Ezra had spoken about God's provision and protection but his natural inclination and “the sensible thing” would be to ask the King for protection for their journey. Ezra acted as if he believed in the All Powerful God he had spoken about. How many situations do we face where we speak eloquently about God's love and provision but then when a crisis arises, we behave as if we do not really believe it!
Only when we truly believe that God is our provision, our protection, our all in all, and step out in faith putting our trust in Him, can He truly show himself to be all those things for us. I am not suggesting that we deliberately put ourselves in situations of need but I am suggesting that when we face the inevitable crises of life and when we feel that God is asking us to do things that feel risky and require dependence on Him, then we allow Him to show Himself to be dependable.
Paul said “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain” These are the words of a man who is putting all his trust in God. Faith is pleasing to God not just when we have it for the future but when we exercise it in the here and now. We do not exercise our faith by going to church, as if we are checking in to assure our seats on our eventual flight to heaven, we exercise it by living a daily life of trust in God.
Trusting Him for our provision, not giving just from our excess but giving sacrificially denying ourselves. Jesus sets the example when faced with seeing His followers in need, He and His disciples share the whole of their personal provision for that day.
“What do you have?”
Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, thanked God for them, and broke them into pieces. He gave them to the disciples, who distributed the food to the crowd. Matt 15:35-36
This is believing God, trusting that as we do what is right then He will work to provide for us too.
I am meeting more and more people who are feeling that God is asking them to downsize, to simplify their lives, to stop living lives of greed and excess, to free up money and goods to share with those in need, to care for the poor, to ditch the TV and pray. Some work less hours and live simper lives to give time to others.
These people are from all denominations and walks of life: individuals that God is touching in this way. Individuals that are choosing to live as if what God says in His word is true. Individuals whose focus is to extend the Kingdom of God here and now. Many are in their latter years; experience has taught them the vanity of riches, not many are prominent but they quietly do what God leads them to do behind closed doors and often in secret. God will honour them; they are not powerful individually, but an army is arising from the ground up; an army of people who live believing in the power and love of the True and Living God.