Pressure and Power
Rev. Toh Nee Lim | On 21, Dec 2017
12 / 10 / 17
2 Corinthians 1:8-10
‘For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us;’
In 2 Corinthians 1:8 we note the verb ‘pressed’ which comes from the noun, pressure. It is to compress or squeeze. It is to weigh heavily or to compel. There is a physical relationship between pressure and power. Have you ever seen how water is boiled on the stove? Just assume that you have a metal pot filled with water and you put it on top of a clay stove. You build up a fire below the pot, using charcoal or wood. The water starts to boil and steam is released. The place is filled with steam but the steam is not very useful because it does not have much power. Supposed you cover the metal pot with a lid. After a while you only notice the water is boiled when the lid starts to vibrate. Well the steam is producing some power because it is contained. Let’s look at it in another way. I have a cooking stove in my house and we also have a kettle with a protruding arm. At the end of the protruding arm is a covered lid with only a small hole. We use that kettle to boil water especially for our cell group that drinks a lot of tea. After a while you hear a loud hissing sound coming from the kettle because as the water boils, steam is build up and the pressure of finding a release produce a power that comes through the small hole. This is the same principle with drive trains and ships. Because of the external pressure, and no steam is allowed to escape, the steam is pressurized to become a source of power. When the power of this steam is released, it can drive trains and ship forward with great speed. When the steam is compressed, it is not scattered, and when this compressed steam is released from one outlet, it becomes a source of great power. Brothers and sisters, this principle is not only true in physics; it is also true as a spiritual law. Whenever there is no pressure, there is no power. Only pressure can produce power. There is a spiritual relationship between pressure and power.
Paul tells us that ‘we do not want you to be ignorant’. There is information that needs to be reminded and that is we face pressure. The phrases used ‘pressed out of measure’, ‘above strength’, despaired even of life’, ‘having the sentence of death’ have all the qualities of the intensity of pressure. Paul goes at length to describe the pressure and all the Corinthian understand what he is talking about.
For Paul firstly there is the riot caused by Demetrius. Demetrius is the maker of silver idols and stirred an entire city to kill Paul because his business suffered as a result of Paul’s Gospel. Demetrius is quite a problem that even John the beloved mentioned him. The people that worshipped idols will be against you. Then there is the wild beast at Ephesus. This refers to the Gladiators who were used to kill the Christians. In Ephesus we have the famous coliseum. It is there the wild beast; the gladiators slaughter the Christians. It is referring to Christian persecution. Next there is the imprisonment. Paul says we have the death sentence in us. Paul does not seem to be referring to a judicial decree by the court to sentence him to death but to a personal sense of his impending death. Have you ever have this sense of heaviness inside you that you felt a death is coming upon you: a social death, excommunication from people; a physical death through maybe a suspected illness; even an emotional death; you felt emotionally ostracized by people you once loved and are close with. Well I once felt that. Finally it could also be some type of physical illness. When you are preaching the Gospel and intend to do the will of God, you will face pressure. Recently Donald Trump declared that they will move their embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, I just couldn’t believe the opposition of the entire UN nations opposing it. The move indicates the Jerusalem will be the eternal capital of Israel which is God’s will. The backlash is unbelievable. Even Singapore opposed it. Recently I have issues with my country. The problem I have with Singapore is the hypocrisy in the leadership. Nikki Haley, the US secretary to UN says the UN has been one of the world’s foremost centers of hostility towards Israel. Why? Because someone wants to do the will of God. Why did Paul face all the pressure? Because of preaching the Gospel.
If a Christian wants to understand what power is, he must first understand what pressure is. Pressure or stress is always upon a true child of God. Look at Joseph, Moses, David, Daniel, and the Apostles. They were pressed daily, were under tension daily and bore heavy burden daily. I must honestly admit that since the day I became a Christian, I face pressure constantly. We need to understand the relationship between pressure and power. Pressure and power are directly proportional one to the other. Where there is pressure, there is power. If a Christian does not know pressure, he does not know power. Only those who have experienced the stress of pressure can understand power. The more pressure one experiences, the more power he has, and the more he understands power.
Brothers and Sisters, how much pressure is upon you? You can only measure your power by your pressure. There has never been a believer whose power was greater than the pressure he experienced. If a believer wants to measure how much power he has before God, he should know that his power is only equal to the pressure he experiences. This law is never violated. Many times believers pray, ‘God, please give me power.’ Do they know what they are praying for? If God responds to their prayer, He will cause him to be pressed, because God knows that the power of life can only be produced by the pressure of life. A life that is pressured is a life that has power. A life without pressure is a life without power. Let’s look at the few pressures in life
1. The Pressure of Environment
God wants the believers to go through pressure on earth so that they may lead a proper life. There are many adverse events that happen from time to time in a believer’s environment. Sometimes difficulties come from within the family. I like what Winston shared last Sunday. The people that pain you the most are the closest to you: your family. At other times they come from friends outside the family, even those in the church. I can say that the person that hurts me the most is the church people. Then there is a business that has gone bankrupt. I will say that the bankruptcy of Pastor Lily’s family business has impacted her that even until today she mentions it at times. At other times one may suffer a loss in business, discrimination from colleagues, oppositions and misunderstandings from others or financial difficulties. I look at my life; I love my family but constantly we have to deal with a problematic person in my family and that person pains us. In this church, there was more than once that I would just cry bitterly to God over a member in this church that hurts me. Oh we did go through a period of financial difficulties when we were without salaries. Then there is a burden of overcoming floods and Typhoon and earthquakes in the City of Iloilo. You and I ask? Why do these things happen? Well only when we are pressured that we realize that this regenerated life in us, this new life we received from Christ is able to overcome all of the environment. Every pressure in the outside environment is for the purpose of proving the reality and power of the New Life in us. I think Pastor Lily and I overcome them; all these external environment one by one. As the bible says, we overcome from faith to faith. As I grow older in my faith, I just realize the beauty that the Lord put me in adverse circumstances in order to show me that I cannot stand without His life. The power of Life or I can the power of this New life is manifested through outward pressure. I give you an example. I have encountered something that pierces my heart with heart searing pains, causing me to weep silently with no way to comfort myself or to get through the matter that I am forced to trust God at these moments and then suddenly I experience victory. I have to be honest with you. I am amazed at the great power we have which enables us to overcome. This is because the outward pressure causes me to spontaneously trust in God, which results in a demonstration of the reality of the power of His life. Jan had her scholarship to France for 5 years. Whenever people ask about my children’s education and when I mentioned Jan’s scholarship to France, there is always a wow factor. At times Jan will become very proud and superior over her scholarship and we have to bring her down to earth and told her in no uncertain term that it is simple the demonstration of the power of God that she obtained her scholarship. Because her result slips doesn’t qualify her for the scholarship. It is simply a demonstration of the reality of the power of the New Life in Pastor Lily’s life. I always thank God for the last 5 years. It is so true that when there is pressure, there is power. The power we have is proportional to the pressure we encounter.
This is not true for an unbeliever in Christ. Instead when they are pressured down by this outward pressure, they fell badly to the point of giving up life. That is why people commit suicide. It is a very common thing for Singaporeans to go to the more than 10 reservoirs in Singapore and drown themselves there. It is also common for Singapore to jump from the high rise flat when pressure mounts on them. Because they don’t have a regenerated life. I ask you today? Is someone here thinking of committing suicide? Maybe you don’t have a regenerated life. You need to come to Jesus to ask for a New life. Then you will have the power to face whatever pressure that is pressing you now.
There is the beauty of the Christian life. Because a Christian is a regenerated person, within there is a life which is stronger than the outward pressure. He knows that the times when he is pressed are also the times when he overcomes. The pressure in the environment only manifests the regenerated life within him.
2. The Pressure of Need
Sometimes we ask? Why is my prayer not answered? A pastor answered that it was because there was no pressure. This is the common behavior. Most will say, ‘After I pray for something three or five times’, I forget about it. Why do they forget? They forget because they do not feel the pressure of the need. It is amazing that most people are like this. I am included. Well, if you forget, you cannot blame God for also forgetting. I am very convicted by this statement. Because there are many visions that God has promised me that has not come to pass yet. Because I don’t feel the pressure of the need.
If you just pray a few words half heartedly, God will surely not accomplish it for you. Many prayers are like a composition; with nice phrases. Just recently Pastor Lily and I were having dinner at one of the restaurant at South Point in SM. We were seated beside a couple with two grown up children both daughters. As we were waiting for our food, suddenly I saw this man, the head of the family, raise one of his arms and started praying for the food. He was loud enough for me to hear. I turned to see that his wife’s eyes were opened when her husband was praying. I think one of the daughters was looking at her Smartphone. His prayer was flowery but no impact and no respect from the family. Prayer is not a compositor. It would be better if we don’t pray at all. Many prayers have broken the first principle of prayer? What is the first principle of prayer? It is not faith. It is not promise. It is need. Where there is no need, there is no prayer. Therefore in order for God to answer your prayer, the first thing is to put a need within you. I am asking myself. Has my vision become my need? The first thing God will give you is pressure. By this you will feel a need and realize that you have to go to God.
John Knox was a person who prayed effectively. Queen Mary of England once said, ‘I do not fear the whole army of Scotland, but I fear John Knox’s prayer.’ How did John Knox pray? He said, ‘O God! Give me Scotland or I die? Sound familiar. Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go until you bless me.’ You may not understand why Moses prayed, ‘Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I prayed thee out of thy book which thou has written. Moses prayed this way because he had a need. He was pressured by this need to such an extent that if God would not save Israel, he would rather be blotted out. That is why God listened to his prayer. How about Hannah? Her need for a child was so great that her lips were moving and she was speaking from her heart that Eli thought she was drunk. I think she was weeping uncontrollably; her body moment seems to show she was drunk. That is why God listened to her prayer. Why did John Knox pray this way? It is because of the pressure in him was great. The pressure was so great that he could no longer bear it. He had such a pressure in his heart that he had to utter such a prayer. I have to go to God until the pressure of the Need of the fulfilled Vision becomes so great that I will not let go until I see the fulfillment of the vision.
3. The Pressure of the Enemy
Several brothers were passing out Gospel tracts on the train one day, and they met a Christian. They began to converse with him. Seeing that his face was filled with sorrow, they asked him why he was so sorrowful. He said, ‘I am a businessman and have encountered many misfortunes during these years. Either something happened to my family or something happened to my business. I am really in a terrible state. My situation has gone from bad to worse. I have no way out. So I am prepared to commit suicide. I am taking the train to another place to kill myself. The brothers knew that this was the work of the enemy and said to him; ‘Do you think all the things that happened to you during these few years happened accidently? Or is there someone who secretly arranged all these things for you? He thought and then said, ‘It seems that someone has secretly arranged all these things behind my back. It seems that there is a hand behind the chessboard moving the pieces step by step.’ The brothers told him that this was the work of the enemy. They told him to resist the enemy, and they prayed together with him. Then he went home peacefully. Later he wrote to the brothers a letter saying, ‘After I went home, I resisted the enemy daily. I rejected and resisted any work that was from the enemy. Now the situation is being recovered little by little. Thank God that even though I have not obtained complete victory, I have obtained deliverance.’
I ask you? All that has happened to Paul that I have just described in 2 Corinthians 1:8-10, is there someone that has secretly arranged all these things behind his back. Did all the things happened to Paul during those years happen accidently? No. There is a hand that is moving the pieces step by step. Now I ask you. Did all the bad things that happened to your family and to you accidental. Think about it.
Concerning sicknesses, we have to admit that many sicknesses result from breaking the natural laws. However, there are some sicknesses that are from the enemy. Job’s sore boils were from the enemy; they did not come because Job neglected hygiene or because he was infected by some uncleanness. I do not mean all sicknesses come from the enemy but I am saying that some sicknesses do come from the enemy.
Some people consider everything that a man encounters as from the natural realm. But when Job’s house fell upon his children and they were crushed to death, when the oxen and the asses were taken away by someone, and when the sheep were consumed by fire from heaven, were these accidents? They were all the works of the enemy. Therefore there are many things in our daily life which are oppressions from the enemy. Unfortunately there are people who foolishly live with these things and never place a question mark on them.
Many of us do not resist the enemy. At first the enemy gives us one or two thoughts, but in the end, our whole being, our family, our environment will be destroyed by Satan. It is wrong for us to be oppressed and not to resist. We should turn our oppression into a kind of power of resistance. Whenever we find we can bear it no longer, we should resist then and there, and soon there will be a way out. Many times we find that we have no strength to resist. When we are so pressed that we cannot bear it any longer, a power wells within us to resist. Therefore, when we are oppressed, we should never consider such a position to be useless. On the contrary we should utilize the pressure, knowing that pressure releases power. Let us keep in mind that if we know how to utilize pressure, it will not become an obstacle. In fact the stronger the pressure, the greater will be the power of resistance.
Right now for many of you, the enemy has done many works in our living, our environment and even your life. You do not realize why you have so many confused thoughts and turmoil in your environment. Actually many of these are the work of the enemy. You must never be nice when dealing with the enemy. The first one in the world that was nice to the enemy was Eve, the one who brought sin into this world. Some Christens think that we should reason with the enemy. When the Lord Jesus was on this earth, the enemy even testified for Him and said, ‘Jesus, Son of the Most High God.’ Why did Jesus do? He shut the enemy’s mouth. He resisted the enemy and commands the enemy to flee and stop the oppression.
I feel today that there are many sicknesses today, many turmoil in the family and adverse circumstances in the environment that are the works of the enemy. The Lord wants you to take up authority and resist the enemy and command him to leave and proclaim peace, blessings and victory over whatever you are facing. Is the pressure of the enemy building up, release the power of the New Life into the situation and see the victory.
I conclude. What is the nature of your affliction? To what degree are you pressed by this pressure? Are you pressed beyond your power to the point that you despaired of life. This is the outward condition. And what was the inward feeling? It is the same. The final outcome is this, ‘You should not based your confidence on yourselves but on God, who raises the death; who has delivered you out of so great a death and will deliver you in whom you have hoped that He will yet deliver you.