The dictionary defines power as the ability to do or act or the capability to accomplish something. I love the way the KJV dictionary described power, “ In a philosophical sense, the faculty of doing or performing any thing; the faculty of moving or of producing a change in something; ability or strength”.

 It goes on to categorise power as either active or speculative. Active power is that which moves the body, for instance when a man raises his hand, while speculative power is that by which we see, remember or think. For instance, power may exist without exertion where for example, we have power to speak when we are silent.

One of the reasons why power is attractive to man is the ability to exercise authority over others. This could be political, spiritual or economic. In the process of seeking power, many have failed to understand the real purpose of the power that they are so eager to attain or the responsibility that comes with it but focus more on the trappings and perks that come with exercising that power.

I recently studied the story of the sons of Sceva in Acts 19. They had been travelling from town to town casting out evil spirits. I have read this part of the scripture many times but I had thought that this was the first time these men had been engaged in this activity. We are not told whether they succeeded in their previous attempts but on this particular recorded instance, a group referred to as the Seven sons of Sceva, who had been doing this before and probably had achieved some measure of success, decided to cast out an evil spirit from a man. 

One interesting thing to note here is that these men were trying to do something that they had not been empowered to do. They had seen Paul preach and cast out evil spirits and thought, “surely we can do the same, after all, we are sons of a leading priest”. From the way they commanded the evil spirit, it showed that they were trying to exercise power by proxy. “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!” (Acts 19:13)

Things didn’t turn out the way they expected. The evil sprit actually spoke to them! “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?” (Verse 14) The evil spirit was saying in essence, “I know Paul has been empowered by Jesus, who is the power of God, to exert dominion and authority over me but I have no idea who you are” What happened next caught them unawares, the man who was possessed, attacked them ferociously and they ran away from the house naked and battered. 

When Jesus finished his ministry here on earth and was about to return to heaven, He gave the disciples a specific promise, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) The manifestation of this power occurred on the day of Pentecost while the disciples gathered in an upper room to pray (Acts 2:1-4)

Real power is the one that God gives. The people who exercise this power do not seek to lord it over others or to revel in the trappings of the power but rather use that power to serve others. Such people do not seek publicity but always ensure that God is given the glory for whatever extraordinary thing they accomplish.

In Acts 14, while Paul and Barnabas were in Greece, they came across a man who had been crippled from birth. While he preached, Paul realised that the man had faith to be healed and called out to him with a loud voice, “Stand up!” (Verse 10) Immediately the people saw this, they shouted, “These men are gods in human form!” And subsequently named Barnabas Zeus and Paul Hermes. Immediately Barnabas and Paul heard this, they were disturbed, they tore their clothes and began to shout to the people to stop, and letting them know that what they saw in display was the power of God and that they were merely human channels.

Every one who has given their lives to Jesus have access to the power of the Holy Spirit. It is real and it is active. God chooses which gift to give us and empowers us to exercise those gifts. The gifts are meant to help us to serve and not to be served. 

People seek economic, financial and political power and while these in themselves are not wrong, they are capable of building up and tearing down, sparing lives and taking lives. The only power that saves eternally is the power of the Holy Spirit and God desires that everyone of us should desire it and exercise it but we must be willing to humble ourselves and be willing to serve rather than be served.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)