The Power of the Powerless (June 1992)

By Matt Dabbs

by Mike Cope
June, 1992

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us (2 Corinthians 4:7).

A strange kind of power – power that can hardly be communicated to our competition-fueled culture – flows out of Christopher de Vinck’s moving account of his blind, mute, crippled, retarded, helpless brother, Oliver. Henri Nouwen’s foreword captures some of the impact:

When I finished reading The Power of the Powerless I had a strange vision. I saw our crazy world, full of wars and conflicts, full of competition and ambition, full of heroes and stars, full of success stories, horror stories, love stories and death stories, full of newspapers, television, radios and computer screens, and millions of people believing that something was happening that they couldn’t miss without losing out on life, And then I saw a hand moving this heavy curtain of spectacles away and pointing to a handicapped child, a poor beggar, a chronically ill woman, an illiterate monk, a dying old man, a hungry child. I had not noticed them before. They seemed hidden so far away from were “it” seemed to be happening. But the hand pointed gently to these poor, humble, weak people and a voice said, “Because of them I won’t let this world be destroyed. They are my favored ones and with them I made my covenant and I will be faithful to it.”

The power of the powerless. Christian ministry begins by accepting the relationship God has created with his people through the giving of himself in Jesus Christ. It requires looking deep within to see that God’s mercy, God’s atoning, God’s Spirit have been the transforming powers.

This inward look will discover that the follower of Jesus, while certainly not worthless, is unworthy to carry the banner for him. “Jars of clay” describes well the fragile, weak, sinful life the disciple has to offer. It underscores the daily need for confession and renewal and the need to anchor faith in the faithfulness of God rather than in personal consistency. It pleads for deep reliance on God (the mark of spiritual maturity).

Since Wineskins‘ purpose is to contribute to church renewal in Churches of Christ, we must begin with this basic Christian conviction: ultimately, renewal comes from the Spirit of God. Our first steps in seeking revitalization are confession and prayer.

A friend of mine visited a church on an evening when an emergency “business meeting” was called. The person he was with asked him to stay, so he was there to witness the explosive emotions filling the room. The heated arguments grew; the air became thick with anger. At one point an older brother rose and suggested the group pause to pray. The minister – showing the deep spiritual sensitivity which we ministry-types sometimes offer – replied, “Has it come to that?”

Yes, it has come to that. Actually, “that” is where it begins. We start with our brokenness, our powerlessness. We begin by remembering that we follow the crucified Christ, not the victorious Apollo. We begin in Gethsemane with “Not our will but yours be done.”

Renewal is coming; we cannot constrain it. But it is being ushered in not by the insights of social observers or religious pundits but by our risen Savior, Jesus Christ.Wineskins Magazine

Mike is the preaching minister for the Highland Church of Christ in

Abilene, Texas. He and his wife Diane have two sons, Matt and Chris; their daughter Megan perished at age nine. Chris

survived an automobile accident, with serious injuries, in 2004. Mike has written a number of books, teaches Bible at

Abilene Christian University. and is a frequent speaker and guest lecturer. [Mike Cope’s Blog]

 

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1584 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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