Not by Might, but by My Spirit

October 23, 2005 / No. 3277

Dear radio friends,

     In the last two weeks we have considered the truth of God’s Word concerning the calling of every believer to be a witness of the gospel both in their word and in their life.  We will bring our series to a conclusion today by directing out attention to God’s Word in Zechariah 4:6.   There we read:  “Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.”  This, then, must be the motto of the child of God in every calling that God gives us, in every aspect of spiritual labor, in every task.  Let this truth guide you:  Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord.

     The application of this truth, of course, is endless.  It filters down to every aspect of our Christian calling and life.  It can be applied, pointedly, to the preacher of the gospel with respect to his sermons and catechism teaching and counseling and all of his other work.  When he has labored faithfully in the ministry of the gospel, then he must remember this motto:  Not by your might, not by your persuasion, not by your eloquence, not by anything of yourself, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord.

     This can be applied to parents.  The greatest burden of the heart sometimes for the parent is concerns over the spiritual life of our children and their safely abiding by faith in Jesus Christ.  This Word of God says that it will not be by the power of our love, the power of our money, the power of our persistence, all of which we are called to use, but by God’s Spirit.

     This is a word that could be applied profitably to us in marriage when we face great troubles.  The man to whom this Word of God was spoken, Zerubbabel, faced problems that were called as great as a mountain.  So in marriage we can face great troubles — hurt feelings, resentments, disappointments, year after year of frustration.

     God says, “Not by might…but by my spirit,” the Spirit of Christ Jesus.

     This word could be applied to young people who are looking for strength to resist temptations and are looking to find something to make themselves feel accepted and worthwhile.  Once again:  not by might, not by anything of yourself, but by that Spirit of Christ in you.

     And this Word of God could be applied to everyone who, as God’s child, is under a load of pain, depression.  Once again, hear the Word of the Lord of hosts:  “Not by might, not by power, but by My spirit.”

     But the application that we want to make today is to our series on personal evangelism.  We have seen, very briefly, that we, as children of God, are to embody and consistently display the transforming power of the gospel.  “Ye are the light of the world,” said Jesus.  “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”  We saw, further, that not only is our life, our manner of life, to be a reflection of the truth of the gospel, but we are also, as God gives us ability and opportunity, to speak.  As God gives, in His providence, men and women before us in the misery of their sin, we are to speak of the power of our God, the power of His Word, and the call to come under the hearing of God’s Word in the church, the preaching of the gospel.  And we are to give this verbal witness with confidence and compassion and out of reality of our own heart and life.

     We wish now today to conclude this series on personal evangelism with a motto for every effort and endeavor in the kingdom of God:  Not by might…but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.

     We ask, first of all, the question:  What is not by might or by power, but can only be accomplished by the Holy Spirit?  The answer is:  the calling that God gives us, specifically, the calling given to the church (Phil. 2) to hold forth the Word of truth.  For Zerubbabel, the man to whom God was speaking this word, the work that he was called to do was the rebuilding of the temple.  That rebuilding of the temple was the testimony to his day that Jehovah is God and that God is to be loved, worshiped, and served.  That calling that was before Zerubbabel in the service of his God was a calling that he could not accomplish in the way of his own might and power but could only accomplish through the Holy Spirit.

     The setting of this Word of God in the prophecy of Zechariah is most instructive.  Zechariah is giving encouragement to a man called Zerubbabel, who was the prince and leader of the people of God at that time, and to Joshua, who was the spiritual high priest (or the spiritual leader of God’s people) in that day.  The people had returned to Jerusalem from Babylon’s captivity.  They had returned with great expectations.  But all of these expectations were dashed on the hard rocks of the realities that they could not budge.  Jerusalem was a heap of rubble, a collection of burnt-out buildings.  They set out immediately to clear away the rubble and to rebuild the temple.  And they had managed to lay the foundation of the temple.  But no sooner had the foundation been laid than trouble set in.  The Samaritans, their neighbors, interfered by reporting to the king of Persia that the Jews were guilty of insurrection, that their efforts were part of a rebellion — a rabble-rousing against the king himself.  And the king put a kibosh on the building project for sixteen years.  They were, therefore, down.  They were in poverty.  They were in economic depression.  There was cynicism among them.  Many had drifted away from the work.  There was a feeling of hopelessness — “what’s the use?  We might just as well quit and move on.”

     It was then that God sent the prophet Zechariah to speak His word.  You will find that word very beautifully in chapter 4 of the prophecy of Zechariah.  I will not take the time today to go into all the details of the vision that was given to the prophet except to say that the vision, when it is all interpreted and understood correctly in the light of God’s Word, comes down to this:  The church is to emit the light of God, the truth of God.  That is the calling of the church.  And this can only be done in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Further, the Holy Spirit uses men in the office of pastor and teacher, preacher of the gospel.  Therefore, although the people of God felt weak and discouraged, they must go about their work (the work that God had given them to be a light of the truth of God in the world) relying upon the power of the Holy Spirit to equip them and to make their work fruitful.

     That is our calling.  Our calling as the church of Jesus Christ is that we are to show forth what we have both seen and heard.  The church of Jesus Christ is a candlestick.  The church is supplied by the Holy Spirit with an understanding of the Word of God.  And the church, then, is to hold forth the truth of God’s Word.  God has given to His church pastors and teachers, we read in Ephesians 4:11, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry.  And within the body of Christ, each one of us is given our place — as a husband, a wife, a child — our individual place in the body of the Lord Jesus Christ.  All of this means that we have a calling to evidence, to show forth, the truth of God in our life and in our words.

     That task is as difficult for us as it was for Zerubbabel in his day.  There are all kinds of obstacles.  The light that we are called to shed forth will always bring forth opposition.

     There shall be the misrepresentation of our motives.  They will say:  “You think you are better.”  They will say, “You are a legalist in going to church twice on Sunday.  You must think that you’re the only ones.”  There will be opposition.  We may not evangelize, perhaps, a Moslem.  We may not exclude people of other religious ideas from our churches, for this shall be called a “hate-crime.”  And then there are our own sins.  My life, we ask, is to be a consistent display of the gospel of the grace of God?  My life is to embody, give flesh and bones to, the truth of the gospel?  I am to say to my unbelieving neighbor:  “Be even as I am”?  How can that be?  I am a sinner!  We see our weaknesses.  We are so often timid.  We are so often ashamed.  We have reservations about speaking of our Savior.  We say, “I should have said something, but I just couldn’t get the words out.  What could I say, and what should I say, and I was deathly afraid to say anything.”  It would be very easy for us to say to Zerubbabel and to the people of God in his day, “Come on.  Don’t get so down about it.  It’s not so gloomy.  The Lord God is with you.  The obstacles will fade away as you hold fast, by faith, to God.”  But when we face the same obstacles and, perhaps, even smaller obstacles, we are ready to become discouraged and to say with the apostle Paul, “We cannot do these things.”

     That is when the word comes:  “Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.”  That is the word of God to Zerubbabel in his discouragement and in his inability and in his hopelessness.  And that is the same word to you and to me.  The might and power that are referred to in that verse of Scripture are not identical.  They have different shades of meaning.  “Might” refers to the combination of forces.  It looks at an army.  It looks at the resources called upon to accomplish a given task, what you would call to get a job done.  “Power” refers to vigor, stamina, resoluteness, persistence, the ability to see it through to completion.  The Word of God says, “Not by the pooling of your resources (not by might), not by the resolution of your own will or determination (not by power), not by bringing to bear all your forces at your disposal and then being resolved to ‘hang in there.’”

     Yes, God will use men and women.  And He will use men and women who are under the conviction of faith and who rely upon their God.  Yet God says, “Not on the basis of anything of yourself.  But by My Spirit, saith the Lord.”

     The imponderable, beyond investigation, irresistible power of the Spirit of God.  The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, the power of God beyond investigation, beyond our ability to analyze, by the Holy Spirit God works in us and through His Word to accomplish His purposes.  Understand that the power of the Holy Spirit always functions through the Word, the Word of God.  And the power of the Holy Spirit works through us through prayer — much prayer.  By the Word and by prayer the Holy Spirit works and brings forth the fruits that God has ordained.

     How shall we perform our calling?  How shall we be faithful as church of Jesus Christ?  How shall we be faithful in our own lives to live as a witness and to speak as a witness of the blessed gospel?  Here is the answer:  Not by anything within yourself.  Not by your resources.  Not, ultimately, by your organization.  Not even by your resolution.  But by My Spirit.

     That means, as far as evangelism is concerned, that we must depend, first of all, upon the Holy Spirit and, therefore, we will always brings the Word of God.  Our witness will be biblically based.  If we are to depend upon the Holy Spirit, then we must depend upon the Word that He has inspired.

     When we bring that Word of witness we must see to it that we seek to bring that Word in season to the weary, that is, we seek to apply the Word of God to the situation before us.  But we must bring the Word of God.  Always bring the Word of God.

     But more.  When we rely upon the Holy Spirit in our witnessing, we bring not only the Word of God but, secondly, we become conscious that the Holy Spirit is preparing the way ahead of us and behind us — that God is directing the steps that we are taking and that God is placing us before these opportunities and arranging the details of our life — that we might speak.  It may be that, yes, over the fence you are talking to your neighbor who is going through a messy divorce.  Or your neighbor has just gotten reports back from the doctor, of cancer.  Or, perhaps, your neighbor is boasting of some wickedness that he hopes to do on the weekend.  Now God, the Holy Spirit, is controlling your steps and has brought you before them and has prepared the Word in your soul that you are now to speak.

     Still more.  When we depend upon the Holy Spirit, then we shall also give our witness under the assurance and conviction that it is the Spirit alone who can transform them and make our words effective.  The Holy Spirit must open their eyes.  They cannot see of themselves.  They are blind.  Jesus says that unless a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.

     So, what needs to happen?  We go forth with the Word of God, believing that God has directed our steps, leaving a testimony of His Word, and dependent now for the Holy Spirit, if it be His will, to bring the Word to the heart.  The Holy Spirit must attach the spiritual optic nerve and implant a new retina and scrub away the cataracts of the eye in order that men might see and be convicted of the truth.  The Holy Spirit must do this.

     So, this means that we must depend upon the Holy Spirit to equip us with the appropriate words we are to speak.

     The Lord Jesus said (Matt. 10:19, 20), “It shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.  For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.”  We ask ourselves the question:  “What do I say?”  The answer of God’s Word is:  “Walk in the Spirit, walk in personal dependence upon your God.  Study the Word of God.  Know the Word of God.  Treasure the Word of God in your heart.  Speak the Word, then, that you need to hear.  Say to them the Word that God has given you to believe in the situations that you face.”  We are dependent upon God.

     But what a wonderful place to be:  dependent upon the Holy Spirit of God.  There is our confidence.  Our confidence is in the power and grace of the Holy Spirit.

     What a word, then, of hope and encouragement.  It was a wonderful word of hope and encouragement in the day of Zerubbabel.  It gave Zerubbabel true confidence.  We saw that Zerubbabel could easily have been discouraged.  The cause of God seemed so small and so unsuccessful to him.  And he appeared to himself to be so weak.  Yet, God promised Zerubbabel that the work of God would be accomplished through him.  And that that work would be realized.

     So also is the promise to us.  The promise is that God shall gather His church, that God shall build His house, that God will accomplish His purpose.  Therefore, dependent upon God we go forth in our lives, in our words.  And we desire to be faithful witnesses of Him who hath loved us and called us unto Himself by the power of His Word.

     Let us then be aroused to obedience.  Let us be aroused to obedience in our own life and our calling to be witnesses of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Let us not measure success as men measure success — in numbers.  But let us be faithful to the Word.  Let us communicate God’s Word to the lost in our own way of life.  As we live before them may they see in us the truth.  May we communicate that Word to them as we have opportunity to speak of the Word of God.

     Let us bring that Word of God to those whose faith is weak and whose faith needs to be buttressed and shored up to make it firmer and stronger.  Freely have we received the Word of God. Freely let us speak of that Word.  And let us depend upon the Holy Spirit, who alone is able to equip us, who alone is able to give us the right motive, who alone is able to give us words to speak, and who has promised that He shall accomplish His purpose through us.

     Let that be our goal, our motto.  And let our words be true to our heart.  To God be the glory.  May my life and my words be a fit witness of the truth that God is God and His Son Jesus Christ alone is Savior.

     Let us pray.

     Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word.  It is precious to us.  Grant, O Lord, that this series that we have had in the past weeks on our calling to be witnesses both in our deed and in our words may bring forth fruit in our lives.  May we be encouraged that Thou hast promised to us the Holy Spirit.  Now, O Lord, watch over us and care for us in this day and in the week that is before us, blotting out all of our sins in the precious blood of our Savior.  We pray in His name, Amen.