CHAPTER THREE

Does God Have The Clout To Do What We Ask?

 

††††††††††† Remember the story of Daniel in the lions' den?

††††††††††† Political enemies observed that Daniel prayed three times daily and engineered a trap, tricking King Darius into making such prayer illegal.

††††††††††† Darius liked Daniel and was distressed at being forced to feed him to the lions. While Daniel was in the pit, the King spent a sleepless night.

††††††††††† "At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions' den. When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, 'Daniel, servant of the Living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?'

††††††††††† "Daniel answered, 'O King, live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me...'"

††††††††††† The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den; he then threw Daniel's enemies in "And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones."

††††††††††† Now Daniel in the lions' den is a neat little Sunday School story for kids but the question King Darius asked is one that has been asked over and over again for generations:

††††††††††† "Is God able to _____ _____ _____?"

††††††††††† You fill in the blanks.

††††††††††† If God is able, then why doesn't He?

Smashing cinder blocks

†††††††††† David, the giant killer, said, "Praise be to the Lord, my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle. He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer..."-- Psalm 144:1-2.

††††††††††† I get a kick out of that verse because twenty-five years and 50 pounds ago I was able break cinder blocks with my bare hands.

††††††††††† For several years I studied karate and akido at Kim's Studio of Tae Kwon Do in Silver Spring, Maryland. I could kick opponents in the head, ribs and groin in a single rapid motion. I fought in matches, won trophies and learned how to throw people across the room, to take knives away from attackers, to split boards and crack slabs of marble.

††††††††††† The secret to breaking things hides largely in practice and utilizing principles of physics, but it is also a matter of concentration. You focus your energy on hitting a spot beyond the object you are striking.

††††††††††† This technique worked for me in numerous karate demonstrations and tournaments. I liked smashing hostile cinder blocks; it gave me a real sense of power, security and being in control.

††††††††††† But one time my strong-man technique did not work.

††††††††††† I brought my new girlfriend to the do-jo to show her another fascinating element in my mystique. I intended to thrill and impress her.

††††††††††† Setting up the cinder blocks, I made her stand back so she wouldn't get hit by flying fragments. I assumed my stance, focused and whacked the thing expecting it to disintegrate -- It didn't.

††††††††††† I hit it again.

††††††††††† Same result but this time I think I heard a muffled giggle.

††††††††††† I really whalloped that stupid grey block.

††††††††††† Nothing.

††††††††††† By now I was getting annoyed.

††††††††††† I hit that target several more times.

††††††††††† The obstinate thing still sat there as solid as a cinder block.

††††††††††† A fellow karate student came over and with one blow punched his way completely though the block shattering it into a dozen jagged chunks.

††††††††††† I think God set me up for that one.

††††††††††† It's a shame that we can't learn humility without being humiliated.

††††††††††† Anyhow, the young lady must have been more impressed with my soft head than with my hard hands because she eventually did marry me. (And, to Ginny's everlasting credit, the other day while cleaning out a dusty storage box she discovered one of my old karate trophies and put it out for display without even mentioning the cinder block I could not break.)

Jesus never smashed a cinder block.

††††††††††† He never resorted to amateur theatrics to demonstrate his strength.

††††††††††† The one time he wanted to get through a stone, his living presence rolled it from the mouth of his tomb.

††††††††††† The scriptures give us virtually no picture of the physical condition of Jesus. He may have been tall; he may have been short. He may have been a 98-pound weakling; he may have weighted 300 pounds.

††††††††††† Whether he was unable to carry the wooden beam of his cross as the result of the beating he received before the crucifixion or because it would have been just too heavy for his physical strength in the first place is a matter of pure conjecture.

††††††††††† Speaking prophetically Isaiah says, "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him."

-- Isaiah 53:2 NIV

††††††††††† In the Gospels, some people referred to him as a "carpenter" indicating that he followed Joseph's trade for a time; but whether he was a cabinetmaker kind of carpenter or a construction worker kind of carpenter, we have no idea.

††††††††††† I'm inclined to think Jesus was a bit on the hefty side because his enemies accused him, without refute, of being a winebibber and a glutton. Being a fat guy myself, I take some comfort in that idea.

††††††††††† The word portrait John paints in the beginning of Revelation shows a person of pulsating strength and power; this is the Resurrected Lord and may not much resemble the Man Of Sorrows Acquainted With Grief who was seen bythe people of New Testament times in Galilee.

††††††††††† But the fact is that the strength and power of Jesus lies beyond the physical realm.

The Power of God declared in Scripture

††††††††††† Keeping in mind that the word strength means the power and abilityto perform effectively, let's look at a few things the Scripture says concerning the strength of God, especially as it relates to prayer:

††††††††††† When the waters of the Red Sea closed over the chariots of Pharaoh, Moses sang the song recorded in Exodus 15. He rejoiced that God's power had thrown the horses and riders of the mightiest army on earth into the sea -- gone in a puff.

††††††††††† "Your right hand, O Lord, was majestic in power," he said, " By the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up".

††††††††††† In the midst of his troubles, Job said, "He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing... The pillars of the heavens quake, aghast at his rebuke. By his power he churned up the sea... And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?"

-- Job 26:6-14 NIV

††††††††††† The Prophet Isaiah declared that the earth is like a grasshopper before God and that he gives kings and princes their energy to rule. "He brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing... The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak." -- Isaiah 40:22-28 NIV

††††††††††† St. Paul told the Ephesiansthat when we pray, God's power works in us and heis able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.

††††††††††† And the Apostle John spoke for all Bible writers and said it all:

"Alleluia: for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth!"

God's power is the source of all other power

††††††††††† God, by definition, is infinite; if he had limits, he would be something less than God. Each of his characteristics, because they belong to him, are also without limit. If God has any power at all, he has all power without limit.

††††††††††† The Scriptures tell us again and again that God is the source of all power; that indeed he has the clout to do what he says he will.

God gives energy, we use it.

††††††††††† He is the source of power not just for ocean waves, storm clouds, lightening bolts and earthquakes, but He also supplies power to people.

††††††††††† Every person chooses how to use the energy God makes available to them. The electric company sees that the power is in the wires, we choose how to use it. We can heat our home, run a life-support system, microwave a pizza or watch MTV.

††††††††††† Remember, we use the power of electricity in the wires -- but we do not own it.

††††††††††† The source of all human strength is God. He formed the muscles and tendons in the womb. Hector, Alexander, Hercules, Samson, Rambo, all derive their physical prowess from their Creator. The individual person decides how to use the strength we have been given but that strength comes from God.

††††††††††† Porno star John Holmes claimed to have had intercourse with over a thousand different women before he died of AIDS in 1988. Now, I certainly hope he found mercy and peace in Christ before his death, but I doubt that Mr. Holmes used his tremendous energy in the wisest possible manner while alive.

Water, Living Water, Power

††††††††††† Thinking about God as the source of all power reminds me that once in a riot, I saw authorities use the power of water under pressure to disperse hundreds of people who did not want to be dispersed. I've seen zoo workers use that same water power to separate two fighting tigers. And I've seen fire fighters tame the flames of a fully engaged building with a stream of water.

††††††††††† The point I want to make is that there is no more water at the nozzle end of the hose than there is at the faucet end. All the manifestations of power we see in nature -- strong people, hurricanes, floods, erupting volcanos -- all these outlets of power are drips at the nozzles of creation, the outer fringe of God's power. The Hydrant for all hoses is God.

††††††††††† He is the Living Water.

The Power of Light

†††††††††† If I remember my physics correctly the amount of energy/matter in the universe is constant; it changes form, but neither increases nor decreases itself.

††††††††††† A leaf transforms light energy into wood which you can burn in your fireplace to generate heat.

††††††††††† We ourselves are photo-dependent in that our energy originally comes from light. Blades of grass grow in sunlight to be eaten by the cows which become our burgers. No sunlight = no grass = no cows = no Big Macs!

††††††††††† And the Scripture says, "God is light. In him is no darkness at all!"

††††††††††† Right off the bat in the order of things He created light and separated it from darkness.

††††††††††† Jesus said, "I am the Light of the World."

††††††††††† He is the source of all energy. In him we live and move and have our very beings.

††††††††††† Making stars and critters and strong men in the past is very impressive. God is to be commended.

††††††††††† But what about me and my prayer?

††††††††††† If God has the ability to answer me and grant my request, why doesn't he?


 

You have been reading Chapter Threeof the book Why Donít I Get What I Pray For? by John W. Cowart (IVP, 1993)

Click here for Chapter Four

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