“You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss . . .” – James 4:3
In The Way to Pentecost Samuel Chadwick asks the provocative question, "Is it not possible to be more anxious for the achievements of power than for the Spirit of Power?” He continues, “We want visible results, dramatic wonders, mighty works; and it is not always for these that the Spirit of Power is given. Power may be as necessary for silence as for speech, and as mighty in obscurity as in high places. He comes to make us effective in all the will of God. In the one Spirit there are diversities both of function and manifestation. . . . The work of the Spirit depends upon the power of the Spirit. . . . Carnal resources are no asset in spiritual enterprise. The weapons of this warfare are not carnal. Prayer brings power, for the Spirit of Power is given to them that pray. . . . 'It is not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord.'" (Page 90).
I read that and the Spirit whispered in my ear, why do you want My power? That is an important question. Our motive in wanting the power of the Spirit in our lives can be a determining factor in whether or not God grants it. The heart is deceitful. Without God’s help we can’t know it (Jer. 17:9-10). That is true even after we become Christians and are indwelled by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we need to pray, “Search me O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
When I read Chadwick’s question I had to honestly ask myself, why do I want the power of the Spirit? Then I had to repent for wanting His power for achievements more than simply wanting His presence dwelling powerfully within me. That's an easy thing to get sidetracked on. In ministry numbers are important otherwise we'd have none mentioned by God in scripture. But they are not all-important. We find true spiritual satisfaction when our top priority is having the Spirit dwell in us in His fullness. That is true in ministry. That is true in life.
What do we really want the power of the Spirit for, our own purposes? A revived church? A rekindled or mended relationship? A job? Health? These desires all have their place, but they can also be out of place if they are our top priority. God must be the priority. What about wanting the Lord simply for the Lord’s sake? What about just wanting Him and only Him? Aren’t we supposed to love God supremely? “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Mat. 22:37-40; Deut. 6:4-5). Perhaps the reason we ask and aren’t empowered by the Spirit is because, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures”? (James 4:3).
The heart is so deceitful that even holy ambitions can be polluted with selfish underlying motives. We need to come clean with God. Have we offended Him with a duplicitous motive? We need to walk in His light as He is in the light and be cleansed by the blood of Jesus from impure motives if we are to fellowship with Him (1 John 1:7). Then, when fully enveloped in fellowship with Him, whatever He calls us to will be satisfying and completing. That will be true whether together with others or alone, in obscurity or celebrity, in a quiet closeted prayer ministry or overseeing the outward manifestations of His works.
I am constantly challenged by this as are others. The questions we ponder as we seek to be used by the Lord are, God have I done enough for you? Have I accomplished enough for You? As we get older we begin to ask the Lord, Has my life been meaningful enough for You? Have I followed You in all my ways? Those questions are all a smaller part of the bigger question, Lord, has Your will been done in and through me? If we have the Spirit, our Helper and Comforter, our Counselor dwelling in His fullness within us, then it is simply a matter of entrusting the answers to Him. Then obediently follow His lead. That is what Paul was talking about when he penned, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" (Rom. 8:14). He leads. We follow. We rest in Him. We enjoy Him. We can't always see what He is doing. That is when "we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7). We do our best, and trust Him for the rest. If we wander off course, He will tell us.
Someone has said, “Two natures struggle in my breast: The one is foul, the other blest. The ‘new’ I love – The ‘old’ I hate. The one I feed will dominate.” Our hearts are so deceitful and prone to self-serving that we can even corrupt the pursuit of the Holy Spirit with our sinful carnal motives. Romans 7 speaks of the war within the Christian between the old and new man; the sinful nature and the renewed spirit within. Paul describes the person in that struggle as a “wretched man” (Rom. 7:24). It’s not a pleasant place to be. It’s the difference between living with a constant sense of condemnation versus affirmation in the Spirit (Romans 8:1-2). It’s the difference between having peace with God versus having the peace of God (Romans 5:1 and Philippians 4:6-7). It’s the difference between partial surrender versus full surrender (Romans 12:1-2). It’s the difference between thinking like a child versus putting away childish things (1 Cor. 13:10-11).
We need the power of the Spirit to live abundantly and to minister successfully. One of the greatest lessons to learn is that we shouldn’t rely on human power or might but on the work of the Holy Spirit (Zech. 4:6; cf. also Psalm 20:7; 33:16; 44:3-7). Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but growth comes from God (1 Cor. 3:7). We serve the Lord in life. It is our honor and a privilege to serve Him (Luke 17:9-10). Serving Him is our reward. We are not our own but belong to Him who died for us (1 Cor. 6:19-20; 2 Cor. 5:14-21). The bottom line is He must increase and we must decrease (John 3:30). When we totally surrender to Him, including all our ambitions, dreams, hopes and plans, then we are ready for the fullness of the Spirit. The Spirit does not force His way in; He is a perfect Gentleman. When we yield our will to His, when we abandon ourselves to Him, no matter what, that’s when the Spirit comes in His fullness. Relinquish control. Give Him control.
Why do you want His power? Are you ready and willing to, "Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret - it only causes harm." (Psalm 37:3-8)? I pray the Spirit gives us the grace and faith to come to Him in full surrender. When we do that, the work has just begun.