And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
– 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
“The feebleness of the church is being criticized today, and the criticism is justified. One reason for the feebleness is that there has not been this focus on the true center of spiritual power. We have not dwelt enough on the tragedy of Calvary or on the meaning of redemption.”
– Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
One of the things that we want more than anything is power. Those who desire money are really desiring the power that money can purchase. Those who desire fame mistakenly feel that their fame can wield influence. It can, but they become powerless to the paparazzi.
The church is no different, but the church has been misled by eloquent speakers. You hear a sermon that moves you greatly. You think that these words are golden morsels from Heaven. You begin to revere the person speaking them, rather than the God the person is speaking about. He is a ‘good preacher’. Sometimes good preachers are hard to find, but all preachers are still sinners, just like those listening to them. When the good preacher moves on, the church goes after the next eloquent speaker, not necessarily the steady man of God. Thus, there is a downfall in the church. Now compound that scenario over an entire denomination.
That’s what the Apostle Paul is saying here. I doubt that Paul mumbled and bumbled his way through his sermons, but he got his message across. His message was that he was a messenger from Jesus and the power was in God, not in the messenger. Our power comes from Jesus and Jesus crucified.
I was a ruling elder at one time when the church that I attended had money issues. I suggested that an outpouring of the Holy Spirit would solve the problem. Prayer and revival might be the best solution. My comment was not welcome. This was a business meeting after all. Why bring up faith? Exactly. Why bring up the source of power that can cure all ills in the church? When the leaders have no faith, faith is never a solution. If you were offended by Chambers’ use of the word ‘feebleness,’ I could say he needed to use a stronger word to show how inept many of our churches are today.
We just had a holiday where we were encouraged to be thankful, not that we should not be thankful the other days of the year. The day after Thanksgiving in the USA, is called “Black Friday”, even in places outside the US. I never learned the origin of the term until now. “Black Friday” dates back to the 17th century when examinations were most often given on Friday, a day to dread. Referring to the modern craze of consumerism, the “black” of Black Friday refers to stores getting their ledgers into the ‘black’ (making a profit) as opposed to the ‘red’ (losing money). That is so odd when everyone advertises saving money on Black Friday. The name ‘Black Friday’ should let you know that you may not be saving that much money. Sure, the prices are artificially increased in early November without people noticing so that the price can be reduced on Black Friday – allegedly. Some experts say that if you are willing to risk availability of the dream gift, the better sales are the days right before Christmas. I have shopped on those days. Many of the shelves are empty.
But there are two other concerns that I have had with Black Friday from the beginning, far worse than ‘sales’ that do not save you any money. Do not get angry with that comment. There are some sales items (limited supply, of course) that do save you money.
I saw tweets from two close relatives who tweeted the same comment. It dealt with an up-to-date definition of Black Friday. It is the day where people trample other people to get to bargains to buy stuff the day after they have given thanks for having all that they need. The tweet brings up both concerns.
First, there were 12 deaths and 116 injuries this year, according to one website (117, but one was in South Africa), in North America on Black Friday, associated with the frenzy of shopping. Some honorable mentions might be related but could not be confirmed. One death was an employee in Long Island, trampled by the stampede of incoming shoppers. So, the tweet was not an exaggeration. The one that touched me the most was a man in San Antonio who was shot to death, coming to the aid of a woman being brutally beaten in a parking lot. I suppose the woman had been successful at getting the last of the item that was on sale (1 dead, 2 in the hospital). Only one death seemed accidental when a teenager stayed up all night to get the bargain item, just to wreck the car on the way home, falling asleep at the wheel. Satan is alive and well within many people to have them get that crazy over a sale.
My wife woke up early once on Black Friday. She stood in line. When the doors were opened, the crowd from behind her stampeded, shoving people aside, while she and her other line dwellers had not moved yet. She walked to the sale item. People were pushing, shoving, and pulling hair. No friendly words, although God’s name was mentioned, a lot. The pallet was almost empty, and the store had just opened seconds before. Then an employee whispered that the other pallet was right behind her. My wife turned around, got the first item off the second, ignored pallet and was checking out while the fight over the first of two pallets was escalating to dangerous proportions. While employees were rushing to stop the fight, my wife stood in line at the checkout. My wife swore, “Never again.” She has even learned that you don’t go grocery shopping on Black Friday either. Once the crazed shoppers have been to the department store, they get hungry. Still in a frenzied craze, they continue their pushing and shoving at the grocery store even though there are no exceptional bargains there. By this time, the shoppers are totally out of their minds. They say that demon possession does not exist in the modern civilized world, but is this behavior civilized? Who were these demonic people on Wednesday? School teachers? Church secretaries? Your boss?
My concern is WHY?! The item that my wife purchased was electronic and the ‘new thing’. Within six months, as I predicted at the time, the item was normally priced for less than what my wife paid, which was half the retail price on Black Friday. Yes, no one wants to wait six months, but killing someone to get something half off? You saved two hours’ wages so that you could spend more than that being bailed out of jail? Again, for those getting upset, not everyone goes to jail. For one reason, some do not get caught. For another, the jails would overflow within the first hour that the stores are open.
Then the other concern that I have with Black Friday mania is that non-believers are watching what we do. Almost all the shoppers are shopping for Christmas presents. Most of those shoppers would say that they are Christian, but most never attend a church. Of those who attend church, less than half are true believers, according to polls, and that is being generous. All of that will be sorted out by God on Judgment Day but going from Thanksgiving to a day of maniacal shopping, proving that you are not satisfied with what God has provided, is sending the wrong message.
Well, the post started with ignoring the power of the Holy Spirit that is freely available through faith and I seem to have detoured, but have I? The faith that we demonstrate on Thanksgiving Day, giving God the credit for all that we have and all that we need, MUST be demonstrated the next day as well. If your child needs the latest toy (which he does not), God will see to it that you are able to purchase it. That is living by faith. Demonstrating everything that is the opposite of Jesus’ behavior on earth to save a few phantom dollars is the opposite of living by faith. You are living by fear. Is that not why our churches seek the wrong leaders? They like the flashy sermon and smooth-talking preacher. They are really afraid boredom will cause church numbers to drop. They like the business acumen of the layman that they make a lay-leader in the church. They fear others would not spend wisely, but what of faith? Does faith in God and demonstration of the gifts of the Holy Spirit enter people’s thinking at all?
No wonder our churches are feeble, or should we look for a wimpier word. Are we totally impotent in the house built to honor the One who is omnipotent? If we are, it is not God’s fault. That power that we crave comes from the Holy Spirit to those who live by faith.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.