“God’s way is not a matter of mere talk: it’s an empowered life”. 1 Corinthians 4:20 (Message)
I believe that each and every one of us wants to feel truly empowered in what we do and the way we live. The problem with being human is that we view our empowerment very differently than God intended. You see, too often we view our worth and value with a “world view,” where the outside world and its values, norms, standards, and pressures determine our self worth and value.
In your mind, picture a funnel. Imagine the world and all of its influences entering the funnel at the top, and your self worth/self concept as the “net” result at the bottom. Everything that pours in through the top defines who we are and ultimately what we will become. You can think of examples – body image, job performance, our relationships, how we define success, how we fit into various groups or the “church”, etc. You can probably recall the pressure you have felt in each of these areas when you have been under the world’s “yoke” so to speak.
This view of self disconnects us from God, and can lead to worshipping false idols where our focus becomes the world’s values as we attempt to measure up to the world’s standards, or the standards of others who are not God. We give way to people pleasing. When we fail, we feel less-than, guilt, shame, or self-loathing. Because we value the opinion of others so much, criticism crushes us. When we “measure up,” we may find that the approval of others inflates our opinion of ourselves or we start to think that we have accomplished these things on our own and we may even boast of our abilities. It is a very oppressive system by which we are completely limited in our abilities because it’s entirely based on whether we measure up or we don’t. Under this pressure, we feel compelled to wear a mask of perfection, not wanting others to think we make mistakes or fall short of what is expected of us. In Ecclesiastes 4:4, King Solomon writes, “And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” In Matthew 16:26 it says, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” Both verses illustrate an empty existence where we strive and toil to accomplish nothing of real eternal value. Heavy, limited, full of burdens where here is no freedom or joy.
The definition of the word “empower” as defined by the World English Dictionary is: to give or delegate power or authority to; to authorize; to give ability to; to enable or permit; to equip or supply with ability. Some synonyms include: sceptered, enabled, authorized, commissioned, qualified, entrusted, sanctioned.
As believers, we are inherently empowered by the spirit of God within us. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 says, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works in all of them in all men.” When we begin to recognize that God alone equips us with our gifts and talents, and places a calling on our lives, we can begin to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called” as Paul spoke about in Ephesians 4:1. It begins with moving from the “world view” discuss above to a “kingdom view” whereby our self concept and value comes from knowing our identity in Christ.
Turn the funnel upside down (we do live in an upside down kingdom!) and now imagine God at the top and His definition of who we are, our identity in Him flowing down from above with Him as the source. Look at the bottom of the funnel and see how broad and limitless the possibilities are and how light our burden becomes. With this view of ourselves, we have the freedom to live out our calling using our God-given gifts and talents. Fully connected to God, we are able to connect to others in a God-centered way where we are free to be authentic and transparent. Instead of people pleasers, we become God-pleasers, where we seek his approval and pleasure in what we do and how we live our lives. God gets the glory and we get affirmed in our calling. Exodus 9:16 says, “But I have raised you up for this purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name be proclaimed in all the earth.” World praise is filtered through a humble heart, and criticism is filtered through truth and provides opportunities for lessons and growth to occur. In this world-view, we are fully empowered to do ALL that God created us to do and more than we ever would be able to do on our own as Paul wrote in Phil 4:13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Light, unlimited, taking the “yoke” of Christ onto our shoulders. Fully free, full of his divine joy where the joy of the lord is our strength (Nehemiah).
In Exodus 3, we see the story of Moses being called to the burning bush. A man in his 80s who was simply going about his business of being a shepherd of sheep, God calls to him and speaks to him from a burning bush. There, tells Moses to lead God’s people out of Egypt. Moses lists off a bunch of excuses – world view excuses. “Who am I to do this?” he says. “I will be with you,” God replies. “They won’t believe me,” he rebuts. God performs two miracles. First, He turns his staff into a snake and then back into a staff. Second He turns his hand into a leperous hand and back again. He even tells Moses he will give him a third miracle if he needs it. “I am not eloquent in speech,” he rebuts to which God replies, “I will be in you mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” “Please send someone else,” he begs. God gives him Aaron to speak for him. Finally Moses, a man in his 80s, obeys and God’s will is done. He is transformed from a shepherd of sheep to a shepherd of people and He manifests God’s glory and power within him.
Like Moses, God fashioned you for a purpose. He has given you talents and gifts. Know that when He calls you to something, He will equip you like He did with Moses. In fact, He already has! And when you realize that He never fails and He does not make any mistakes, you will begin to soar with possibilities and you will begin to act as if you cannot fail. Open your heart and invite Him in and begin to allow Him to manifest all that He created you to be. Live a truly empowered life.
To close, I would like to share a quote taken from Marianne Williamson, from “A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”