Chapter 5

God's Power

The fourth truth we know is that God’s power is at work in our difficulty. I have a friend who h as a wonderfully engineered car. When we come to a light and wait for it to change, I feel like telling him, “Start the car.” It sits there with no vibration or noise from the engine. If I had that car, I’d probably break 10 dozen starters thinking it had gone dead. If it weren’t for the tachometer sitting at idling RPMs, you’d think the power was gone.

Much of the time, we don’t notice that God’s power is engineering our trouble toward resolution. Sometimes we see very little evidence of His work. Yet His power is busy at work in at least three dimensions.

God’s Power To Bring Good Out Of Bad. Dimension number one is the claim of Romans 8:28, where we are assured of God’s power to bring that which is bad to that which is good. It’s His phenomenal ability to take the worst possible circumstances and transform them and ultimately bring good out of that which is terrible.

If you ever get really disappointed or discouraged, read the story of Joseph in Genesis 37–50. Betrayed by the people closest to him, his own family, he was sold into Egypt as a slave. Rising to a place of influence in Potiphar’s house, Joseph daily faced Potiphar’s wife’s efforts to seduce him.

The Egyptians prided themselves on having beautiful, sensual wives. Potiphar, being one of the leading bureaucrats in the land, no doubt had a wife who was rather spectacular. He was off on business much of the time, so she was probably lonely. Joseph, who was young and strong, was running the household every day. One day she grabs him, and he runs. God looks down on Joseph and says, “Joseph, nice going. You’re My kind of man!” But he gets 3 years in the slammer. For 3 years nobody remembers him. (In those years God may have been extracting the arrogance from his life.) Then, in His time, God delivers Joseph and elevates him to the second highest position in the empire.

There was a famine in the land and his treacherous brothers came to him for food. Now their lives were in his hands. In time, Joseph’s father, who had moved to Egypt, dies, and the brothers were fearful that Joseph was going to kill them in revenge (Gen. 50:15). They came cowering before Joseph, only to hear him say, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (vv.19-20). God had used His power to turn the very worst moments of Joseph’s life into that which was good.

This capacity of God to bring good out of evil was demonstrated in the cross. Was there ever a moment in the history of humanity that was so brutal, unfair, and personally agonizing than the moment when the Son of God was hung as a criminal? All of hell rejoiced for 3 days. Satan had won the day. He had exterminated the conquering Son. Then God turned that which was incredibly bad into that which was wonderfully good. Redemption from sin. Hell canceled and heaven gained.

Unfortunately, unwilling to wait patiently, we often get in the way by attempting to take the project into our own hands. And while God is trying to do His good work, we’re down here messing up His project with vengeance, bitterness, and other counterproductive responses. We need to walk in Christ’s footsteps, who “ ‘committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth.’ When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly” (1 Pet. 2:22-23).

God’s Power To Deal With Our Enemies. The second kind of power at work in the midst of trouble is God’s power to deal with our enemies. Joseph said to his brothers, “Am I in the place of God?” (Gen. 50:19). That’s a very important question. Romans 12:17 instructs, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.” The wonderful truth of this was demonstrated when Joseph admitted he had no business getting back at his brothers, because God is the one who carries out justice. We experience emotional liberation from our enemies when we say, “God, they are Your business. You deal with them.” We are then released to be like God and love our enemies in return. Romans 12:19-21 reads:

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is Mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

It’s liberating to know that God will deal with those who cause trouble in my life. That releases me to love them. Jesus said:

You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Mt. 5:43-48).

Again, our problem is that we get in the way. God has not equipped us or given us the capacity to deal justice and vengeance to our enemies. That’s why it always gets messed up when we try. He is the only one who has that right and the power and wisdom to do it well.

I’ll never forget an older woman who came to my office and heatedly dumped on me a long list of objections about her husband. I asked how long she had been married. It had been more than 40 years. I have never in my life, nor would I ever, counsel anyone to break up a home. But as she went on and on about how miserable he was, I finally said, “Why have you lived with him so long if he’s so bad? Did you ever think about just checking out? I’m not advising it, but I’d like to know what you think.” She said, “Oh, no! I’d never walk out of this marriage.”

I thought that was an honorable attitude until she continued. It was evident that she hated him so much that walking out of the marriage would have meant that she couldn’t torment him anymore. For her, that was a reason for staying. Why would she want to give up the opportunity to shred her enemy at every turn?

God has called us to a better way. In the midst of trouble, we can count on the power of God to deal with those who are against us. And we are then free to be like our Father in heaven— free to bless those who curse us, to pray for those who spitefully use us, and to love our enemies, because the power of God will ultimately deal justly with them.

God’s Power To Hold On To Us. The third kind of power we can count on is found in 2 Corinthians 4:7-9: “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this allsurpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

I love knowing that God values the preciousness of my being. Though I may go to the edge, in His wonderful, sovereign power He will always keep me sane and safe as I respond properly to Him and to the trial.

The psalmist often says that God holds us with His right hand. The “right hand of God” is an Old Testament metaphor for strength. Think about holding a child’s hand while you are walking. I don’t know what it is, but somehow a child can be walking along beside you, and all of a sudden her legs just fly out from under her— for no reason at all. But even though she& rsquo;s off ba lance and in danger of falling, your power keeps her from “destruction.”

What a wonderful picture! God holds me with His powerful right hand as I walk the sidewalk of life. If I trip and both feet go out from under me, it’s okay because He’s holding me. We can count on His power to ultimately and finally protect us and keep us from complete destruction.