Perhaps you have heard it said that you are a “powerful person”. It is a very common phrase used lately in various spiritual settings. As with any word or phrase that becomes heavily used and popular, it is sometimes wise to stop and ask “What does that mean?” This is especially important when someone describes you that way. What are they trying to say?
Most times that I have heard this phrase, the person uttering it appears to be trying to say that their intended target is fully able to make decisions, act on them and impact the world around them as they do so. There is often an implication that said person has access to an external power source that if correctly plugged in will enable an even greater mark to be left by the “powerful person”. So far, so good. The tricky part comes next. Does the person need permission or approval of another (associate, leader, person in authority) before exercising their power? or perhaps more importantly, will the person exercising their power be recognized or validated by others or the person proclaiming them as “powerful”? Now the real meaning of the phrase and the intent of the person saying it begins to come into view.
While there are many examples of powerful people in scripture that we could explore as illustrations of this concept, there are few better than Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel and Stephen, the person stoned to death in the 1st century in the early days of the church. They both impacted the world in a profound way and give us an excellent picture of what a “powerful person” truly looks like.
Hannah (1 Samuel chapter 1 and 2)
Hannah was a childless Hebrew woman living in Israel during the time of Eli the High Priest. Things were not well in the nation at the time. The word of the Lord was rare and Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phineas, also priests, were corrupt and a hugely negative influence on all of the activity in the house of the Lord at Shiloh. Eli did nothing about this which likely had much to do with the rarity of the word of the Lord at the time. Enter Hannah.
Being a childless woman was humiliating in the Hebrew culture at that time. Hannah was mercilessly mocked by her rival wife Peninnah and was in great anguish about her situation. She went to Shiloh to pray (in private) and plead with the Lord to give her a son. Even her intercession was misunderstood by Eli as the babbling of a drunken woman which likely added to her anguish. In that state she vowed that if the Lord would open her womb that she would give her son back to God to serve him all the days of his life. She would not be denied. God gave her the son she asked for and once he was weaned she kept her word and brought the boy Samuel back to Eli. Samuel grew up to be possibly the most powerful prophet in Israel’s history, anointing Saul and David as kings. That is one powerful woman!
Stephen (Acts chapter 6 and 7)
Stephen was young man in the early church in Jerusalem who was appointed with 6 others to serve the Hellenistic Jewish believers (those of Greek descent) because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. What is interesting about Stephen is that it appears that his influence expanded much further than simply waiting on tables as he became someone known for performing many miracles signs and wonders. When he was challenged by members of a local Jewish synagogue, he eventually found himself in front of the Sanhedrin, the highest authority of the Jewish faith, and the High Priest, defending his actions and proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah. He went much further than this and delivered an awesome history lesson, summarizing Israel’s consistent rejection of God’s prophets and messengers finishing with this thunderous condemnation:
“Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him, you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.” – Act 7:52, 53
This message resulted in him being stoned to death, during which time Jesus stood in heaven to receive him. Jesus is normally seated at the right hand of the Father so this was significant. Following this incident, the local religious authorities were so threatened that persecution of the early Jerusalem church increased and the believers were scattered all over Judea and Samaria. A powerful man indeed!
What do Hannah and Stephen have in common?
- They were not content to remain in their current situation and pressed in for more.
- They did not seek approval from anyone to do so.
- They were willing to accept responsibility for the consequences of their actions.
- They saw the Lord as their ultimate source and validation and acted on that belief.
That is a truly powerful person.
Many of us have or are current living with a perspective that we need another person’s permission, approval or endorsement to step out and make an impact on our world. Hear the words of Jesus:
“You give them something to eat.” Matt 14:16
“You are the light of the world.” Matt 5:14
“Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.'” – Luke 10:9
“…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
What are you waiting for? Hannah and Stephen have shown you the way…