A documentary style TV series recently reminded me about the cartoon He-Man. As you may remember, prince Adam would proclaim the words, “By the power of grayskull” while holding his sword aloft. Lightning would energize him, transforming him into He-man as he cried out, “I have the power.”
Apparently the creators of He-man were trying to appeal to the typical 10 year old boy whose sociological position had left him powerless longing for more. The He-man fantasy invited youths to fill this void by imagining their own powerfulness in shaping their world.
For me, the clash between He-man’s mantra versus Peter’s and John’s answer to the question, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” (Acts 4:7) could not be more stark. Jesus’ way is so counter-intuitive to our world.
What preceded this interrogation of Peter and John? On the previous day they had walked into the Temple as a lame beggar asked them for some mercy, meaning some money (Acts 3:1-3). Peter informed him that they carried neither gold nor silver, but they would give him what they had. “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, stand up and walk!” At once his feet and ankles became strong. He began to jump and praise God.
To the amazed onlookers, Peter quickly retorted, “Why are you amazed at this? Why do you stare at us as if we had made this man walk by our own power or piety?” (Acts 3:12). Peter proceeded to credit this healing to God glorifying his servant Jesus, namely it was based upon the faith of Jesus’ name.
Later when Peter and John were dragged before the religious authorities in order that they might inquire how the lame man was healed, Peter proclaimed, “this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth” (Acts 4:10).
While we might not be transformed into larger-than-life muscle ripped superhuman beings nor with a word instantly heal life-long diseases or physical maladies, yet as disciples, who do we credit for what we are able to do? The mindset of He-man versus that of Peter and John create two very different ways of viewing our lives in this world.
One centers our lives upon our own self-worth and power. Life is whatever we are able to make of it. If we are powerful enough, we can bend life to become what we regard as good. You’ll need your own bootstraps for this mindset.
The other lifestyle relies upon God to provide what we need for today, while seeking to wisely fulfill our responsibilities as his people. Through easy times or difficult, God’s grace and love are understood as strengthening and providing what is needed.
How should disciples live? Even Israel before entering the promised land was cautioned: “Be careful not to say, ‘My own ability and skill have gotten me this wealth.’ You must remember the LORD your God, for he is the one who gives ability to get wealth” (Deut. 8:17-18). Similarly, when warning against a sense of self-sufficiency, pride and empowerment, James 4:13-14 echoed Proverbs 27:1 in reminding us about our limitations.
There is One who has the power. It is not us.
Living life dependent upon God is freeing – if we believe God is the Creator, cares for us and seeks what is ultimately good for us, even when we might find ourselves upon a difficult road. So, who do we credit for the good that is achieved in our lives?