Authority and the Power of the Servant-hearted 

In a world where many use authority for little more than selfish gain, the Bible encourages us to turn to the One who possesses ultimate power and authority and who reaches out with an amazing offer of life to the rebel. In this we see the heart of the gospel: a heavenly Father’s search for man and the offer of forgiveness and reconciliation through His Son.

In God we find the One who would rather forgive than condemn, who would rather uplift than crush and who would rather restore than destroy. He is the all-powerful One and He has authority over all life; but what exactly is authority?

As we go through this short booklet we are going to remind ourselves of the meaning of authority, note how God displays His authority in incredible grace and mercy and also look at Jesus – a man under authority and therefore in authority. We will then finish by looking at two parables and comment on “your kingdom come”, in order to cultivate a renewed attitude of heart as we continue to walk with Him.
 

What is authority?

Authority speaks of the power or right to perform certain acts without impediment. Whilst human authority can be elected or delegated, God’s authority arises from Himself alone. The authority of God as the only legitimate ruler is seen in that all security in the created order comes through Him, and that nothing can stand in His presence without His permission (Psalm 104:5).

“The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth.”
Psalm 97:5

God is the Creator, the First Judge and the all-powerful One whose authority is absolute and unconditional.  As a Father, God calls us to surrender our lives to His leading and guidance and thereby walk in His authority as we grow in grace, mercy, wisdom, knowledge, understanding, love and power.
 

God’s rule and reign.

The rule and reign of God’s kingdom is expressed through His Son’s sacrificial love. This love is offered in equal measure to all, yet only received in full measure by those who bow the knee and in doing so find forgiveness and reconciliation with God.

God’s love cannot be earned or achieved by us in any way whatsoever and can only be fully received through a second-birth made possible by the servant-hearted Shepherd-King. In being born again we are then able to experience the rule and reign of agape love through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit and then begin to live out our identity and destiny as sons and daughters in His kingdom.

In all of this we are uplifted by His outrageously extravagant grace as we (the graceless ones by way of our own thoughts and actions) become the recipients of everlasting grace through the work of the most holy life that has ever walked these earthy realms. As we have already said, God alone has all authority and power and is the one who can bestow kingdom authority on the lives of those who accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
 

God gives.

God’s desire to give power and ability to others has been present from the beginning of creation, as is seen in creating man in His image and instructing Him to rule over the earth (Gen 1:28).  

It is only because of His grace, mercy and love that we are able to walk in power and authority and a clear, but often missed, example of this is found in God’s provision of garments for Adam and Eve after they had transgressed God’s law and become sinners (Gen 3:21). The word ‘garment’ in this verse (‘kuttoenet’) speaks of clothing worn by one in authority.  When God is acknowledged as being present as the One who has legitimate claim to our lives, the believer can then walk in His authority in so far as he or she submits their lives to Him. From this we see that authority is always bestowed and not earned. We are able to receive this bestowal of authority insofar as we approach God on His terms and with a desire to help others.
Through God’s generosity believers are spoken of as clothed in the work of Christ (Gal 3:27), clothed in power from on high (Luke 24:49, 1 Cor 3:16), and clothed in the imperishable (1 Cor 15:54).
 

 “History is not our story – it is not the story of the progress of humankind. Rather, history is the narrative of God at work bringing creation to a divinely intended goal. And the unity of history lies ultimately in the activity of the one God.”  

                                                                              Dr S. J. Grenz in ‘Created for Community’, page 257.

The Messiah: a man under authority.

Jesus was born of a virgin and arrived through the natural process of childbirth, yet as the Pre-incarnate Son of God He was, in His essential nature, so much older than the stars that shone on the night of His arrival. In amazing grace the Son of God left the perfection, power and riches of heaven in order to be birthed into a rented stable with a borrowed manger as a crib. So if you really want to see grace, power, mercy, love and authority, then look to Jesus, the stooped-low One who came and took responsibility for your sin and mine as the sin-bearer.
 

An incredible exchange.

 “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”         

                                                     2 Cor 8:9.


In order to see how it is that this incredible exchange of rags for riches comes about we need only look to the words of Isaiah. At the beginning of Isaiah we have a graphic picture of a nation being battered and bruised through ignoring God’s commands and reaping the consequences. Isaiah writes…
 

“Why do you insist on being battered? Why do you continue to rebel? Your head has a massive wound, your whole body is weak. From the soles of your feet to your head, there is no spot that is unharmed. There are only bruises, cuts, and open wounds. They have not been cleansed or bandaged, nor have they been treated with olive oil.”

                                                                                                                                       Isaiah 1:5-6

In a very real sense this description depicts all of us in our sin, starting to reap the judgement that we are justifiably due through transgressing God’s law. Yet instead of this judgement falling on us we find it falling on the most powerful man that has every walked these earthly realms – Jesus Christ – who willingly took the penalty of our sin on His own shoulders. The law-giver, the One who has all power and authority, comes and stands in the place of the law-breaker and judgement falls on an innocent life with Isaiah prophesying this in the following words…
 

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”     

                                                                                                Isaiah 53:4-6 

The incredible truth is that Jesus took upon Himself not just the idea of sin and not just the inconvenience of sin or the hiccup of sin, but the full measure of our wrong-doing as He stood in our place.

At a mock trial demanded by a religious class who in their actions were breaking their own rules we find Pilate challenging Jesus and saying, “Don’t you realise I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” By way of a reply Jesus said, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.”(John 19:10-12)God spends His power on rescuing us.
Later, in the way Jesus was ostracised, battered, mocked, ridiculed and humiliated, we see the destructive nature of sin, as Satan has his hour and evil smashes into the One who offered nothing but love. He was a man under authority and so too a man who was in authority and at no time was there anything in or around His life that could make Him sin. Then, as the perfect sacrifice, judgement falls on the Lamb of God.

Something of this judgement is graphically captured in the following quote from the book, ‘When God Weeps’ by Joni Eareckson Tada and Steven Estes. We pick up the quote as the Father is depicted as looking at His sin-bearing Son and addressing all our sinful ways carried by a willing victim.


 “Son of Man! Why have you behaved so? You have cheated, lusted, stolen, gossiped, murdered, envied, hated and lied. You have cursed, robbed, overspent, overeaten, fornicated, disobeyed, embezzled, and blasphemed. Oh, the duties you have shirked, the children you have abandoned! Who has ever so ignored the poor, so played the coward, so belittled my name?....”

                                                                        J.Eareckson Tada, and S. Estes in, ‘When God weeps” page 50.

Religious people mocked Jesus as they watched Him die, Satan sought to triumph over Him, and those whose plans lay in ruins deserted the One who had shown nothing but grace and mercy. Yet in all things, whether facing the taunts and accusations of the crowd, the scorn of the religious leaders or the whip of the Roman soldiers and ignominious death on a cross, Jesus remained in complete control.

In the incarnation we see the incredible love, power and victory of the One who coped with life on the very terms that had been laid out for all mankind and in Jesus’ sacrificial death we see the highest expression of love from the Holy One who, though all-powerful, suffered at the hands of those He had created.

During Jesus’ earthly ministry lepers were healed (Mt 8:2f), paralytics were freed (Lk 5:24) and the deaf suddenly found they could hear (Mark 7:32-34).  The blind were able to see (Mt 20:30, Mk 8:23, Jn 9:2f) and demon-possessed men were set free (Luke 8:29) as covenant goodness was seen and proclaimed to all people in the words and actions of the Servant-King.
As redeemed sons and daughters we are called to surrender our lives to Jesus and then walk in authority which means being sure-footed, stable and strong in all situations and circumstances. As Colossians 2:9-10 clearly states, in Christ, the anointed One, all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form and we have been given fullness in Him. Jesus is the head over every power and authority and as Peter writes to those who are about to go through persecution…

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. ”                                                                                                                    2 Peter 1:3-4
 
As a man Jesus received power: anointed to serve.                                                                      
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and the regaining of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”        
                                                                                                                        Luke 4:18-19

Jesus began His earthly ministry by stating that He had been anointed (set apart and empowered) by His father to reach out to the fallen and downtrodden as freedom was proclaimed in the name of the Lord.

 In all ways we see, in Jesus, a man who was totally in control as He dealt with empty religion, ignorance, demonic oppression and sickness. In all ways and at all times He continually revealed what God was like as He birthed hope, meaning, purpose and significance into the lives of the oppressed and down-trodden. For example, look at how Jesus stilled the storm to the amazement of His disciples (Mark 4:41) and then read about how He raised Jarius’ daughter from the dead (Luke 8:50-56).

Now pause and think about how shocked those around a weeping mother must have been as He birthed life back into a corpse on its way to the burial ground (Mk 5:22ff). Then, in your mind’s eye, look at Jesus attending a tax collectors party or touching lepers, painting pictures through parables, or breathing life into Lazarus (John 11:17f) and recognise that as you look at these amazing interventions in history you are seeing exactly what God is like.

In all ways Jesus clearly reveals the power and authority of covenant-goodness as the One who had authority, the One who displays the reign of agape love that cannot be tainted or destroyed by man’s failure and rebellion.

In reading Isaiah 1:5-6 we read in graphic detail of the effect of personal sin in our lives and partial judgement upon sin, yet when we turn a few pages and read of the prophesied Messiah, we see that it is He who becomes the bruised and broken-One: our sin-bearer. Read the following verses slowly and really allow them to sink in.

”Why do you insist on being battered? Why do you continue to rebel? Your head has a massive wound, your whole body is weak. From the soles of your feet to your head, there is no spot that is unharmed. There are only bruises, cuts, and open wounds. They have not been cleansed or bandaged, nor have they been treated with olive oil.”
                                                                                                                                      Isaiah 1:5-6

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”
                                                                                                     
Isaiah 53:4-6 


Jesus took upon Himself not just the idea of sin or the inconvenience of sin, or the hiccup of sin; He took its full measure in all its perversity of truth as He stood in our place. At a mock trial pushed for by a religious class that broke their own rules we find Pilate challenging Him and saying, “Don’t you realise I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus simply replied, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.”(John 19:10-12).  In the way Jesus was beaten, ridiculed and torn with Satan being allowed to have his hour, we see the destructive nature of sin, as evil smashes into the One who had offered nothing but love. Yet He stood in our place, this being the outworking of a decision made before the world was formed as judgement falls on this innocent son.

The only man who need never have suffered from the effects of sin in any way whatsoever, took everything that evil could throw against Him and underwent judgement in our place only to rise victorious from the grave and that had always been His plan - now that is real power and authority.

In the incarnation we see the incredible authority, power and victory of the One who coped with life on the very terms that had been laid out for all mankind and in Jesus’ sacrificial death we see the highest expression of love from the Holy One who though all-powerful suffered at the hands of those He had created. It was an awesome sacrifice of love for the rebel, yet religious people mocked Jesus as they watched Him die, Satan sought to triumph over Him, and those whose plans lay in ruins ran away from the One who had shown nothing but grace and mercy. Yet in all things, whether facing the taunts and accusations of the crowd, the scorn of the religious leaders or the whip of the Roman soldiers and ignominious death on a cross, Jesus remained victorious. After Satan had done his very best to destroy His ministry and after Jesus had endured the wrath of God as the sin-bearer standing in our place, the Temple veil was torn in two, tombs burst open as some of the dead were raised to life (Mat 27:51-53) a crucified thief entered into eternity (Luke 23:42-3) and an experienced Roman executioner said, “surely this was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39). At every turn of the page and during every moment of His life on earth, whether preaching to the crowds, healing the sick or being smashed to a cross, Jesus always walked victoriously through all that came His way. Everything and everyone is important to God and that includes you and me and under His leading and guidance as the master of history we can overcome all things through Him (Rom 8:37-9).


“As the Lord of time he confers unique significance on each moment, fashioning time into history; as a participant in time he stands in relation to other moments in time as they stand in relation to each other and his moment”

                                                                                   Prof O’Donovan in ‘Resurrection and Moral Order’.  

During Jesus’ earthly ministry lepers were healed (Mt 8:2f), paralytics were freed (Lk 5:24) and the deaf suddenly found they could hear (Mark 7:32-34).  The blind were able to see (Mt 20:30, Mk 8:23, Jn 9:2f), demon-possessed men were set free (Luke 8:29) as covenant goodness was seen and proclaimed to all people. In all ways and at all times Jesus clearly displayed the rule and reign of God’s kingdom – the reign of agape love that cannot be tainted or destroyed by man’s failure and rebellion.  

As redeemed sons and daughters we are called to surrender our lives to Jesus and then walk in authority which, for us, will speak of being sure-footed, stable and strong in all situations and circumstances. As Colossians 2:9-10 clearly states, in Christ, the anointed One, all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form and we have been given fullness in Him – the head over every power and authority and as Peter writes to those who are about to go through persecution…


“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”                                                                                   2 Peter 1:3-4

 
Anointed to serve.                                                                       
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and the regaining of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
     
                                                                                        Luke 4:18-19
 
Jesus began His earthly ministry by stating that He had been anointed (set apart for a specific task and empowered to complete that task) by His father to reach out to the fallen, downtrodden and oppressed as He proclaimed good news in both word and deed.

In every way possible Jesus revealed the authority and power of God as He dealt with empty religion, ignorance, demonic oppression and sickness and sin. In all ways and at all times Jesus clearly revealed what God was like as He birthed light, freedom and significance into the lives of the oppressed and down-trodden. For example, look at how Jesus stilled the storm to the amazement of His disciples (Mark 4:41) and then think about how He raised Jarius’ daughter from the dead (Luke 8:50-55). Now pause and think about how shocked those around a weeping mother must have been as He birthed life back into the corpse of her son on its way to the burial ground (Mk 5:22ff). Then, in your mind’s eye, look at Jesus attending a tax collectors party, touching lepers,  painting pictures through parables and breathing life into Lazarus (John 11:17f) and, as you do so,  recognise afresh that in all these amazing interventions in history you are seeing exactly what God is like. God is the absolute master of all things and, as His anointed Son, Jesus was able to walk in His power and authority
At every turn of the page Jesus clearly reveals the power and authority of covenant-goodness as the Incarnate One who had authority to forgive sins (Luke 5:24) and whose words would never ever pass away (Mark 13:31).
 

How to walk in authority and power.

Many Christians seek to copy Jesus in praying for the sick, seeking to deliver the possessed and so on. Whilst in one sense this may seem very commendable, in reality it misses a very important point because whether we like it or not  we cannot simply take a picture from scripture, (such as Jesus healing a sick person), and copy it saying “I’ll have some of that.” Christianity is not about our well-meaning plans and agendas; it is about being grafted into His plan and in Jesus, the perfect man, we do not find someone who demonstrated the power of God whenever He liked. Jesus, as fully man, could do nothing apart from the Father (John 5:19; 8:28) and the same goes for us.
Everything Jesus did was the fruit of an intimate relationship with His Father (John 5:19, 6:38, 14:31) and submission to His will as the second Adam (1 Cor 15:45). It is precisely because Jesus lived a life of intimacy with the Father and completely relied on the presence and leading of the Spirit that He could operate with a power and authority that amazed those around Him (Matthew 7:28-29). It is this same intimacy of fellowship with God that we should be seeking before all else because the one who walks in power and authority is the one who spends time in God’s word and in prayer with a heart that is willing to reach out to others no matter the cost. Seeking God and submitting to His will leads to a renewed heart and mind.
 

“How does God advance his purpose? In God’s Kingdom glory proceeds from suffering, greatness from Servanthood and first place is arrived at by taking last place…to serve another in true humility is to wield the most irresistible authority know among men.”

                                                                                                   J.  A. Kitchen, In ‘Embracing Authority’, p 200 .          
Submission.
Sometimes believers are not able to walk in the power and authority of God because they shy away from scriptures speaking about submitting to God (e.g. James 4:7). This refusal to submit may be because the words ‘submit’ or ‘submission’ carry negative connotations for them.

For example, the word ‘submit’ could remind some people of painful childhood experiences where bullies asserted authority over their lives. Those bullied have now grown into adulthood and resolve never to let anyone ever take control of their lives again. To these people the words ‘submit’ or ‘surrender’ equate with suffering and weakness and a loss of identity. However surrendering to God is not about losing our identity, or being pressurised by others; it is part of the journey to finding ourselves. A simple example of this could be that of surrendering to a dentist in order to get back to being our old self through the removal of what troubles us.

In surrendering my life to God on a daily basis I am handing my life over to the only One who has all power and authority and the right blueprint concerning what my life should really be like. In surrendering I am not giving up – I am handing over to the One who loves me most and has my very best interest at heart. He alone knows exactly what has or has not affected my life knowing how I think and feel and why I think and feel the way that I do. As well as knowing all this He also knows how to peel off the layers that I have put in place as a means of protecting myself and in allowing Him to shape and mould my life I find healing and wholeness in the place where darkness and half-baked ideas once resided. No wonder David could write….
 

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

Psalm 51:10
 
Christianity: more than just an intellectual knowledge of God.
Many years ago my family went out horse riding with friends. None of us had ridden horses before so the rest of my family had a lesson whilst I watched intently in order to avoid the cost of my lesson. When their lesson was over I joined in and got on a horse and went into the field where everyone else was already waiting on their horses. That was when I learned that intellectually knowing how to ride a horse does not necessarily mean that you can ride one. After a few short steps my horse refused to move. A friend then whacked the back of my horse and it shot off down the field with me holding on as best I could and only just managing to keep in the saddle. There is, of course, a very big difference between intellectual knowledge and experience. 
 
Feeding correctly: coming under the authority of His word. The Parable of the Sower (Mat 13:3ff).
What is our attitude like when it comes to God’s word? Do we read it and digest it, or just scan over it and forget it. Do we seek to see what it says about God, or are we just looking for a comforting verse that will bolster up our day? How we approach God’s word has a serious impact on how well we will be able to walk in power and authority and looking at the parable of the sower is going to help us address this because it is a key to understanding scripture. This is why Jesus said, “If you don’t understand this parable, then how will you understand any parable?” (Mark 4:13).

Today the parable of the sower is often used at gospel meetings yet it was initially given to Jewish believers to encourage them to examine their hearts and see what they were really like when it came to understanding God’s word. As we shall see in looking at the parable, Jesus tells the parable of the sower as a means of holding up a mirror in front of those who were listening and saying, “What is your attitude really like towards the word of God – do you really allow it to take root in your life?”

In the parable the hard ground speaks of those who have no interest in the ways of God. Their own ideas, prejudices and opinions mean that although they hear the word they have already made up their minds and take no notice of it at all. They remain under the imprisoning authority of self and prey to an enemy who seeks to snatch away anything that might point them to the love of God.

The stony ground speaks of those who listen to the word of God or have heard a testimony concerning God’s goodness yet have areas in their hearts and minds that they don’t really want to deal with and so they are not really ready to start engaging with God. Hurts, past experiences, the wrong way of dealing with issues along with a wrong attitude towards life can be like huge boulders and rocks in the field of the mind which then prevent the seed from rooting. This type of person will often protect their own lives no matter the cost, and have many no-go areas which are carefully marked off. All too often they do not allow the word of God to challenge their hearts and start to drift and fall away from the truth. Their interest has been somewhat superficial and so the seeds of healing never really take root. In short, they remain under the authority of their jailor-self. But what about the thorny ground; what does that speak of?

The thorny ground speaks of those who are easily caught up with things that distract them from really feeding on the truth with thorny ground speaking of all that seeks to challenge true faith. It can also speak of those who don’t really make time for God; who have a basic intellectual knowledge, yet never really engage with the living word.  For example, there were many in Israel at the time of Jesus who thought they knew the word of God yet ended up coming against Him because they did not like Him eating with sinners or healing on the Sabbath.  In short, some of them had lost sight of God through using scripture to do no more than make them feel good. Their relationship, if we could call it that, was with the written word but not with the Living Word and was therefore superficial and powerless.

The good soil speaks of those who have the right attitude of heart and are therefore open to God. This sort of person accepts the word of God even if it makes them feel vulnerable in doing so. They trust God and make time for Him, allowing the word to penetrate their lives and deal with the issues they face along with attitudes in the power of the Holy Spirit as they grow in wisdom, knowledge and understanding.

Jesus says that the person who has this attitude of heart and mind will grow, no matter the circumstances and there is the promise of a massive, supernatural God-assisted, harvest (Matthew 13:23).  Therefore the simple yet profound question we need to be asking ourselves is, “How do I approach God’s word and who or what controls my life?” If we do not search God’s word with an open heart and allow it to impact our lives then we are not going to be able to change and won’t be able to walk in His authority and power.

“The wonderful fruit produced by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah continues to flood the world and because of him, to this very day, terrorists are laying down their weapons, serial killers in prison are finding a new way of life, idol worshipers are turning to the one true God, drug addicts and alcoholics are being set free from their addictions, child abusers are changing their ways, prostitutes are no longer plying their trade and broken families are being restored."
                                               M.Brown in, ‘Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus.’ p 115.
 
Power and authority is given to the servant-hearted.
On one occasion Jesus spoke to the religious rulers of His day (Matthew 23:1ff) and revealed the attitude of heart by which a person could walk in God’s authority in saying, “The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Mat 23:11-12). From His words we see that the kingdom-attitude enabling us to walk in the power and authority of Jesus Christ is that of a servant (Philippians 2:5-13).  Since this world is upheld through the sacrificial love of God (1 Pet 1:19-20) how could it be otherwise? We are called to serve the One who has given everything of Himself to us.

Life in its fullness is found in a relationship with God and we are called to give ourselves to God as indeed He has given Himself to us. We pick up on this truth throughout scripture and not least so from where Jesus likens the kingdom of heaven to a treasure (Mat 13:44-45) that we should sell everything we have (giving our very best) in order to gain. The reciprocative nature of this relationship of giving is then seen as the positions are reversed (v 44-45) with the Kingdom of god now being likened to a merchant (God) who gives the very best (His One and only Son) for the pearls He has found (you and I). Through grace and mercy we are safe in the Lord and through responding to His grace and mercy with an open heart we can grow in His power and authority as those who are truly His (Eph 2:19-21). 
 

 “Jesus often refers to his followers as “servants” and as “brothers,” encouraging them to think of themselves as those who were “under” and “among” rather than “over.” Jesus places far more emphasis in the development of his disciples on their following than on their leading. He warns his disciples against the rulers of the Gentiles, who lord it over their followers and exercise authority over them. Indeed, Jesus tells them: “Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.” (Luke 20:25-7).”                            

                                                                                                  The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, p 61
 
Let us now turn to a parable which clearly reveals that authority is not earned but bestowed on those who have the right attitude of heart.
 
Authority is not earned, it is bestowed: The parable of the ten minas (Luke 19:13-27). 
Those who were listening to the parable of the ten minas were probably struck by how similar it was to events that had occurred in their own history.  For example in 40BC Herod the Great went to Rome in order to get Rome to appoint him as King and in 4BC his son Archelaus made a similar journey to argue his case against his half-brother Antipas.
 
In the parable a Nobleman goes to have himself appointed as King and leaves ten servants with a mina each, instructing them to “make the money work.” Some of his subjects hated the nobleman and tried to prevent him from becoming king. From this we see that the servants would be working in a hostile environment and in verse fifteen we see that on his return the nobleman wants to see what his servants have done with his money. Yet in looking at the context of the parable we see that it is not about money or success; instead it is about faithfulness and servanthood.
 
The first servant comes before the returning King and says, “your mina has earned ten more.” In speaking this way we see that the servant recognised that the only reason he could do business was because of someone else’s provision, and therefore he does not draw attention to himself. In this world everything that we use belongs to someone else: our heavenly father.
 
This servant is then commended by his master for being faithful, and we would do well to note this; he is commended for being faithful, not for being successful. We are often caught up with ideas of success or failure, yet God does not ask us to win or to lose, He simply asks us to be faithful to Him in any given moment of time. He does not look at our qualifications or abilities or resources but our faithfulness wanting to know if we are available and willing. God sees the widow’s small coins and a glass of water given in His name, so serving God has nothing to do with big achievements – it is all about being faithful. No matter what we have faced, or continue to face the truth also remains that His divine power has given us everything we need (2 Peter 1:3ff) for life and godliness.

Both the first and the second servant in the parable of the minas are seen by way of their faith and corresponding actions (not their success) and are given ten cities and five cities respectively. At least this is how many people read it; yet this is not true! They are given authority over a group of ten cities and a group of five cities. In this we see a reward that far outweighs the work done. If God cannot trust us in the small things in our own lives then how can we expect Him to give us power and authority in other areas?
 
 The third servant in the parable of the minas totally misjudged the nobleman and tried to compliment him in a completely wrong way…”I know you are a hard tough man with an amazing reputation.”  Some of those who listened to Jesus had a wrong image of God and made Him out to be distant, harsh, and not really interested in people. This thinking may have come about, in part, because of the present state of Israel under the power of the Roman Empire, with its pantheon of gods and emperor worship. Many in Israel were keen to make everyone see that God was much higher and more powerful than any other God yet in doing so forgot God’s desire to be close to His people, He being the One who knows every hair on our heads (Matthew 10:30).
 
The nobleman’s response is to judge the man by his own words. He is going to be left with the fruit of his self-created image of the nobleman, and will end up worse off than when he started. The point here is that this servant never really knew what his master was like in the first place, which was also the case with many religious people around Jesus. They knew about God but some had never entered into a relationship with God.
 
God wants us to walk in power and authority and this power and authority can never be earnt – it is bestowed on those who are faithful in reading God’s word, honest about their lives at all times and willing to serve others in and with the blessings they have received. If I am invited to someone’s house for a meal and turn up at the right time, I have not earned the meal. My response to the invitation enables me to participate in what has already been lovingly prepared for me.
 
In the gospels we read of crowds being amazed at Jesus’ teaching because He taught as One who had authority (Matthew 7:28-29) and not like the teachers of the law. Plans, agendas, formulae’s, theories and so on may look good but it is only those who genuinely serve God that walk in power and authority. This power and authority is seen on one occasion when Jesus gave the disciples authority over evil spirits (Mark 6:7).  The word ‘power’ (exousia) speaks of power that comes from being given authority to do a certain task and in the gospels speaks of the power given to Jesus as well as, on occasion, the disciples. Ultimately all power is God’s but as a man Jesus relied totally on the leading of the Spirit and not the inherent power within Himself.
 
In the Book of Acts we read of the power (dunamis) of the Holy Spirit in the believer with this power not being a power like electricity, for example,  but the power and ability of another in and through believers. Interestingly, the stem of the Greek word ‘dunamis’ (power), speaks of being made capable in the strength and ability of another. This is how it is that ordinary everyday fishermen could stand firm in gospel power no matter what was going on around them. It is also the only way whereby you and I can stand today – in the gifting of another.
 
“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
“…..the new kingdom didn’t look like they had thought it would. Indeed, in some ways it went in exactly the other direction. No violence, no hatred of enemies, no anxious protection of land and property against the pagan hordes. In short, no frantic intensification of the ancestral codes of life. Rather, a glad and unworried trust in the creator God, whose kingdom is now at last starting to arrive, leading to a glad and generous heart toward other people, even those who are technically “enemies”. Faith, hope and love: here they are again. They are the language of life, the sign in the present of green shoots growing through the concrete of this sad old world, the indication that the creator God is on the move, and that Jesus’ hearers and followers can be part of what he’s now doing.”                                                             
                                                                                  Tom Right in ‘Virtue Reborn’, p 94

When we pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:10), we are acknowledging God’s power and authority over all life and our part in all He seeks to bring about. In heart and mind we are saying, “May you, in your grace and mercy, exercise power and authority over, in and through my life by your Spirit. I surrender to you and put you first as I seek your rule and reign so that I may live out in and through my life in the power and authority that is mine through Jesus Christ alone.” 

Be encouraged! Instead of being caught up with winning or losing, succeeding or failing, remember that God looks at the heart and can work through each and every situation we face, no matter how difficult it may be. Be encouraged:  the Christian walk is not all about feeling good and thinking everything should work perfectly! Instead it is about resting in His grace and growing through the simple reading of His word and relying on the Holy Spirit as we serve Him and reach out to others in ways that are often far beyond our natural abilities.
 
Written and produced by Pastor Jem Trehern 2017. Be blessed.
 

Jem Trehern, 09/05/2017