The Progressive Life – By Elmer Shelhamer

Chapter 5

The Experience of Power

“He that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations. ” — Rev. 2:26 Here we find a convert, who has now developed into a powerful saint. He is the same one who was formerly a baby on a pillow, in a little crib, but now he has grown until he can be trusted with power. Power is a glorious, yet dangerous thing. Put a child, or even an untrained man at the head of a long passenger train, or in charge of a great ocean liner, and he would wreck and ruin things. But after careful and severe discipline, he comes to the place where it is easy and natural to handle complicated machinery.

We all like to look at powerful things. I like to get out of a train and walk up to the great iron horse pulsating with energy, and say to it: “You certainly are a monster! You pulled fifteen large Pullman cars over the steep grade, and down the other side of the mountain in safety.” When I was a boy, I worked in the iron mills where we had a great hammer which could be operated so accurately that it would crack a hazel nut without smashing it. The very next moment enough power could be turned on so it would strike sixty tons! It had a cement foundation thirty feet deep, and jarred the earth for some distance every time it came down.

But we are speaking now of a different kind of power. The disciples looked forward to the time when the ruling power would be taken from the Romans and handed back to the Kingdom of Israel. But Jesus told them that this was not the kind of power He wanted them to have. He said: “Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” — Acts 1:8

How sad that we poor mortals put a premium on wrong kinds of power — for instance, money power. We think it a great thing to make and possess money. If one has enough of it he can very nearly control city councils, state officials, and even Congress itself. One young schoolma’am in London received a prize when she gave the best and shortest definition of “Money”. Here it is: “Money is that commodity in life which will purchase everything but happiness, and give a passport to every place but Heaven.” Yes, if you have enough money, you can buy yourself out of nearly all kinds of trouble, and buy yourself into nearly every office in the United States!

There is another kind of power — political power. A man who is a shrewd politician can pull wires and get special privileges that few others enjoy.

Then, there is brute power, or physical force. A man who is a great athlete or pugilist can knock another man “stiff”, can draw immense crowds and make a million dollars in an hour. But this is not the power we want.

Again, there is intellectual power. If a man has a great mind, he can sway audiences, write books and become a great factor in the molding of men, but this is simply mind power.

Then, there is a higher grade of power, namely, that of a good name. “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches …” He may be a very poor man, a very feeble man; but yet if he has lived in a community a long time and is recognized as a good citizen, his influence is worth a great deal.

But the ideal power is Divine power — holy unction. Mr. Finney has a great sermon on “Power from on High.” Where he got the idea, I do not know, but I have stood at the Niagara Falls many times and watched with awe that great phenomenon of nature. Here both Canada and the United States have large dynamos where they generate power that runs machinery, lights the cities, and blesses the people — also sends men into eternity in the electric chair! How do they make it? Lake Erie is one hundred sixty-nine (169) feet higher than Lake Ontario. Were these lakes on a level we could not make power from “on high”.

In like manner, if we would have Divine unction and anointing we must humble ourselves and go down, down, down in self-abnegation and humility until the gates of heaven are opened and the mighty power of the Holy Ghost is poured upon us. Mark the language! — To him “that overcometh will I give power over the nations.” Not power over simply one man or a neighborhood, or even a city, but over the “nations”! Is this too strong? Yes, if your faith does not claim it, but “all things are possible to him that believeth!” That is, if you can get on believing ground you are almost omnipotent.

Has not God Almighty said: “Concerning the work of my hands command ye me”? Think of it! God is waiting for a feeble man who will believe him, then stand in the gap and in the name of Jesus demand supernatural things! We get feeble answers because we have feeble faith and a small vision. George Muller said that perhaps there never lived a man who fully proved all the possibilities of prayer. He might have demanded greater things and seen greater victories had he only insisted upon it.

Yes, “according to your faith,” or lack of faith, “be it unto you.” Perhaps we will not know until the books are opened, to what heights and lengths we might have attained had we not “limited the Holy One of Israel.” Who would reject such power? Who would not have it for the asking?

But such power cannot be had in a moment. You remember the young, enthusiastic prophet, Elisha, requested of his master, Elijah, that “he might have a double portion of his spirit.” And do you remember the answer? “Thou hast asked a hard thing!” Yes, it meant a hard thing to the flesh, a hard thing to finery, a hard thing to popularity. And, dear friend, if you have ever gotten a sight of your carnal heart and died the death to the “old man” of sin, you know by experience that it was no child’s play. When I see preachers and instructors talk and sing seekers of heart purity through in a hurry; then giggle and laugh if they can provoke a smile on that distressed face, I say to myself: “You know little about spiritual crucifixion.” We all want resurrection power, but, remember, it must be preceded by crucifixion suffering!

How may we obtain power over the nations? First, by getting power over ourselves. No one is fit to rule over others until he can rule over old self. No one is fit to teach others until he can sit and patiently be taught. Friend, have you ever received a stinging letter? If so, did you have power to hold still and not answer sarcastically? Were you ever crossed or contradicted, and did you have power to hold still and answer never a word? This is the power that the Holiness people need.

John Wesley said there were five things that convinced him that but few in his day had the baptism of the Spirit I would not dare give all of them here but just one. He said. “When you are reproved or contradicted harshly you answer with harshness in a coarse and surly manner. When you are reproved, though mildly, you behave with more distance and reserve toward that individual than you did before. And why? Because your carnal nature pulls off in spirit from perhaps the best friend you have — one who had the courage to prune you, that you might bring forth more fruit unto God. You have not what I call Christian perfection. If others will call it so, they may. Nevertheless, hold on to all you have and earnestly press forward for what you do not have.”

Yes, this power from on high will affect kings and rulers. They may not be aware of it, they may not acknowledge it; but, friend, you can so prevail with God that sooner or later things will come to pass that never would have happened had it not been for your prevailing prayer. I remember hearing wife tell how that when she and her sister were but fifteen or seventeen years of age, while assorting clothes in the attic in the wicked city of Chicago, all at once they were drawn out in intercessory prayer for President McKinley. They stopped their work and both knelt together and wrestled with God in behalf of this great man, who had never heard of them. The very next day he was assassinated. Perhaps God could not find great preachers to pray at that crucial time, but these two, pure, clean channels could be used by the Holy Ghost to prepare a great President for the sudden change that so soon awaited him!

Let us, then, resort to this mighty arm that moves the world; but remember that purity and power are inseparable. Do not try to seek for power until you are purified, for if God granted it upon an unsanctified heart, you would be ruined. This is why so many great and good men have crippled or killed their usefulness. They had the power of eloquence; they had the power to understand, and unravel prophecies; they had power to lay hands upon the sick and they recovered. Sad to say, as a result they became lifted up and later were ruined by their own gifts! They had power without purity. Again I repeat — purity first, then holy unction!

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Master, Thou knowest what I need:

Not fame, nor friends, nor foes to bleed,

Not pelf, [money] nor pleasure, — and the rest,

But, oh, I need my soul well blest!
Others may pray for great success,

And — ’tis a proper thing, I guess;

But, Lord, here is my heart-request:

Please daily keep my soul well blest!
Without Thy presence I am poor,

And trivial trials can not endure;

But I can weather every test

If Thou wilt only keep me blest!
Then let the criticisms come;

Let friends deprive me of my home;

And let me be nobody’s guest:–

But, Spirit, kindly keep me blest!
— Everette Shelhamer