Persuasion or Power

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The saying goes “talk is cheap.” The underlying meaning is that anyone can do it. It does not require action or even truth to be exercised. The unspoken assumption is that since it is cheap, it is not persuasive or influential. However, though it is cheap it is also very persuasive and influential. That is why people engage in so much of it.

We are in an election cycle which reminds us how much talk is out there and how truly cheap it is. Claims are unsubstantiated; promises unkept; baseless attacks fly; skepticism and criticism bellows. Such talk continues regardless. Why? Because it works- or it at least accomplish the simple aim of getting a person in a place of office. In other words, it is persuasive. If it were not persuasive, it would not be used as much as it is.

However, just because talk is persuasive and often influential it does not have implicit power. It may claim to have power since so many are persuaded by it. But, as influential as it is, the words themselves do not accomplish anything. It is faux power at best. God is the only one who ever spoke and things happened without influencing others to do His bidding. He did it in the creation, speaking the world into existence. We speak and nothing at all happens beyond the sphere of creating hope, exposing, inspiring, threatening, motivating, revealing, deceiving or manipulating others. Again, words influence action- a boss demanding results from employees who actually do the work even though the words are attributed as working. Words do not have implicit power to do anything. Perhaps that is why another expression exists that says, “actions speak louder than words.” Why? Because actions are explicitly powerful- something happens in them. Words, on the other hand, attempt to move us to do something which is not explicit at all.

In the same vein, the Bible says and we often repeat, “Faith without works is dead.” Of course, we all know faith to be indispensable to our salvation (Ephesians 1:8) and without it we cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6). But, there must be corollary action stemming from that critical faith (Ephesians 1:9-10 and Hebrews 11:7-38).   Why? Because the faith that saves must have expression in action or it can be legitimately be mistaken as credulity. Faith needs action for expression. Words need action for power.

Paul said it simply in 1 Corinthians 4:20, “For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” The very basis of the Kingdom of God is not based upon speech or inspiring messaging. The Good News is not just good advice or good encouragement. Good News has action to it. There was a death and a resurrection. The Holy Spirit came and lives changed. Miracles abounded and transformation took place. Those actions have remarkable implications for humanity. Jesus’ words were and are true and impactful. However, none of them are attributed as having saved us. The apostles speak over and over again about what Jesus did far more than what he said. Those who have red letters in their Bible will see scant appearance of those words in Acts through Jude. Instead, they will see what the Kingdom of God was based upon- power in action.

Paul was a man of eloquence and education. His logic and reasoning were impressive to say the least. Even so, he said of himself earlier in his letter (1 Corinthians 2:1-5) to prepare them for the point, “When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.  I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God.” His testimony was the same as this theology, that God’s Kingdom is not a matter of talk but power. His words were weak. Christ’s power in and through him was the matter worthy of note.

Please do not misunderstand this message. Words matter greatly. As I noted, they are persuasive and can stir people to act. But God’s power is wholly different. Whether it is the power of God to save the worst sinner, perform miracles, alter or suspend the laws of nature he created, instill peace that transcends understanding, remove hate and replacing it with love, enable a person to persevere under the weight of unthinkable persecution and abuse, or serve as an agent of God for all of the above, power trumps talk. That is good news.

As a person who has spent a lifetime talking as a significant part of my calling, I yearn to experience and exercise the power given by God far more than improve my verbal prowess. Perhaps that is why this election season has exhausted me. The talk is incessant. It is persuasive, but it is devoid of real power- the Kingdom of God kind. Sadly, I don’t see the talk letting up anytime soon and I don’t see the real power coming through these channels.

What is needed in this world filled with blogs, sermons, books, speeches, talk shows (radio and television) and rallies is a heavy outpouring of power that can only come from God. Every Christian and every church has access to that power, making the Christian and church much more prone to be agents of change than any government ever can be. May it be. Pray with me that God’s Kingdom comes and His will is done on earth as it is in heaven.

By Matthew Thomas

In my sixth decade of seeing God work simply increases my faith. Born in California, raised in Washington, ministered in Washington, Oregon, Canada, Philippines, Idaho and now all over the world has given me reason to believe and praise. My wife, Marlene and four children (Luke, Mitch, Samuel and Charese) give me reason to give deep thanks. My eight beautiful grandchildren (Jalen, Jordan, Katelin, Andrew, Eli, Callia, Asher and Mikaela) give me reason to see that grace reaches beyond our immediate present into our un-conceived future. Serving with a great team in the Free Methodist Church makes me a blessed person in a blessed place, serving with blessed people.

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