By Alistair Begg
Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.
At one point or another, when we’re facing trouble in life, we’re all tempted to ask, What’s the point of all of this? Why make the effort to keep going? Why do I face all this difficulty or opposition? Sometimes it looks as if some 21st-century churches and Christians live and operate primarily out of discouragement rather than being glad and rejoicing in the day the Lord has made (Psalm 118:24).
Some despondency is understandable. But we certainly don’t want to live there all the time—nor do we need to. Our discouragement should never lead us to disbelieve that God is still at work. The fact of the matter is that sometimes God’s work looks less impressive from a worldly viewpoint than we’d like. But while “some trust in chariots and some in horses,” we are to “trust in the name of the LORD our God” (Psalm 20:7). In the heat of battle, combat equipment like chariots and horses sure was intimidating. Yet while it may seem that the side with the most firepower always wins, we must never forget that God is always at work among His people, and He will give victory—not by might nor by power, but by His Spirit.
Nothing—no wealth, no influence, no strategy, no ability—can be a substitute for the work of the Spirit in our lives and in the church. Think back to the leadership of the New Testament church, for example. Its leaders were some bold, proactive men, if for no other reason than because they had had so much facetime with Jesus. And yet, when it came time for the gospel to spread, what did Jesus do? “He ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4)—that promise, of course, being the Holy Spirit. Without the power of the Spirit, the apostles, however capable or determined they may have been, were going nowhere fast. With the Spirit, they began a movement that changed the world.
In our day, we need to remember that true gains for the kingdom will never come merely from a higher position in society, larger bank accounts, or more power. Instead, we wait on God’s Spirit to move where He wills and to work however He chooses. After all, God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are our ways His ways. His wisdom is as high above us as the heavens are above the earth (Isaiah 55:8-9). If deep down you are self-reliant, remember this: the kingdom will not advance, in your own life or through your witness and ministry, except by the work of the Spirit. If deep down you are discouraged, remember this: the kingdom will advance, even in your own life and through your witness and ministry, because the Spirit is at work. Do not trust in chariots or in horses, but in the Lord your God.