“But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.” (1 Corinthians 4:19–20, AV)
I used to have an expression in the pastoral ministry. “If talk could fix it, we would be a mega-church.” It is not that I believed the best churches were large churches or mega-churches. In fact, some of the best churches I have encountered were small congregations. I made this rhetorical statement in order to drive home a point. All the big talk would not solve one thing. Talking would not build a healthy church.
Generally, when we speak of ineffectual talking, we jump to the conclusion that instead of talking we need to do something. We need to start a new program or ministry, upgrade a facility, etc. However, this is not the point either.
I knew a minister who took a call to a small fledgling church. It was a typical story. It was an old church that had dwindled down in size slowly to its projected closure. He came in with all kinds of big ideas. He professed to be a church growth expert. He talked a lot about what was needed to grow a church. He even implemented many of his ideas. However, in three years’ time it had not grown one iota. In fact, it had declined a little. What was missing? Could it have been the element of spiritual power?
Paul made a very poignant statement, “For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.” He was speaking of the arrogant people in the church at Corinth that seemed to be the instigators of the divisions in the church. The church is not built by the smooth talkers or even those who come up with grandiose schemes.
In the Old Testament as Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah oversaw the work of rebuilding the Temple, the word of the Lord to him was, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6, AV). The universal principle here is that the work of the Lord is not accomplished by vain human effort or ingenuity. We can accomplish nothing on our own. Jesus told his disciples, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5, AV).
All the arrogant talk in the world will not accomplish one thing in the kingdom. Without God working by His Spirit in us, through us and in our midst, nothing happens of any eternal significance. Too often we fall into the trap of talking and doing without praying. I have been guilty of the same. We can easily fall into the trap of talk and do because it is our easy fallback position. In our culture, we have been trained to just do it. Fervent effectual prayer is not something that is easy. Yet, it is essential if we are to accomplish anything of significance.
I had a man in our church who felt led to begin a men’s ministry. He gathered a group of men to pray. They prayed about this ministry for direction and power for over a year before doing anything. Then they were led by the Lord to a men’s Bible study and ministry to the widows of the church. God blessed both of these aspects of the men’s ministry in the church. Let us spend more time seeking the power of God to move by His Spirit than we do in talking and doing. He is faithful and He will build His church (Matt 16:18).
2 thoughts on “Talk or Power (1 Cor 4:18-21)”
Amen. The Lord put on my heart as I meditated on your devotion 1Pt4:7-11. A call to prayer, to love and be hospitable to one another, and to minister in the power of God, the Fathers promise, The Holy Spirit. On a personal note I wanted to share with you Steve. My grandson and I took your advice to cast our net on the other side ( walking down the beach to the steeper area). We didn’t catch a 153 big fish but he did catch over a dozen and I caught a flounder. Thanks again. Heading back to California Saturday but looking forward to reading your book and devotions. God bless in Christ love. Dave
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Dave, Have a good trip back. I really enjoyed meeting you and am glad you all had a great vacation here. We’ll stay in touch. Chris and I have been praying for your church and ministry there.