With the recent resurgence of a certain superhero franchise, the question has been repopularized: “If you could have any superpower, which one would you choose?” Maybe you’d choose to be able to fly like Superman, have the strength of the incredible hulk, or the ability to see into the future!
In Judges 16, we see a man given incredible strength by God. But it’s important to remember the last two words of that sentence: “by God.” We see the beginning of his demise at the very outset of the chapter when he goes to a pagan culture for immoral reasons and ends up in a forbidden relationship. Delilah manipulated his emotions for the enemy’s benefit and ended up costing Samson not just his strength, but his sight and dignity as well. He had the power but it was taken away from him. At the end of the story, we see his heart being turned back to God and God allows his strength to return for one last act of God’s judgment on the wicked.
In Acts 20, Paul gathers the leaders of the church of Asia (modern day Turkey) and gives them some final instructions before departing. He instructs them to lead the church well, and gives practical lessons on how to accomplish that, but then he makes a statement that seems a bit odd: “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up…” The only way we have any power is by God and through His Word. Although they had long looked to Paul for guidance, he relinquished his position of leadership saying, “You don’t need me anymore. Follow God and His Word. You have all the power you need right there!” But in knowing that God is the only source of true power, some try to take that and use it for their own gain. Paul says as much in Acts 20:29-30.
We also see this illustrated in Jeremiah 29. There were so called prophets of God in Babylon while the children of Israel were in captivity who would give “messages from God” to their own advantage. Verse 9 is quite direct when the Lord says, “I have not sent them.” All their credibility is gone! They don’t have God’s power in their message. But verse 10 prophesies that at the end of 70 years, God will return and will accomplish His plan for them. God never forgot about them as evidenced by verse 11. God had a specific plan that He was going to accomplish. It could have seemed in the meantime that God was angry at them, but all the while he desired to give them peace, not evil. In spite of their failures as a nation, God always wanted what was best for them. Sometimes that meant allowing them to endure difficulties like captivity, but He always kept His promises.
But perhaps the best display of power came from a man who didn’t look like he could do much of anything for himself. On the cross, Christ, bloodied, wearied, mocked, and scorned made one of the greatest displays of power ever witnessed by mankind. As He hung there, bystanders mocked saying, “You claim to have all this power, but you can’t even get down from there.” But in verse 37, He gave up His life so that we could live. His death gave power over sin’s power and its penalty. What no one else ever could or ever will be able to do, Christ did. And in so doing, He gave power to all who would trust in Him (John 1:12).
Maybe you’d still like to be able to fly, or have some other superpower, but remember that in God, we have ultimate power. Samson forgot that, the false prophets in Babylon abused it, Paul reminded leaders of it, and Christ gives it freely.