By My Spirit
Not by flight, nor by cell tower

The Work of God’s true Church in the end time is truly impressive.

You can see that in living color when witnessing the exploits of the Church you now attend—how so much is being accomplished worldwide with so little manpower. You can also read about a similarly impressive but different kind of accomplishment in the previous era: The Work under Herbert W. Armstrong reached more people with God’s message than any work in the previous two millennia.

God promised the Philadelphia era of His Church massive open doors (Revelation 3:7-8). So it shouldn’t be surprising that this era witnessed the most dramatic technological advancements in human history. The man God used to lead this operation had living memory of a time when horse and buggy was the common mode of transportation to the time when manned rockets were being sent into outer space!

God’s Work has used a variety of technology to its advantage. And since Mr. Armstrong’s death in 1986, even more advancements have made certain “open doors” possible for the Philadelphia Church of God.

But consider how Mr. Armstrong described those open doors in his February 1983 Good News article, “Christians Have Lost Their Power!” He mentioned how the “open door” in Revelation 3:8 is given to those with “little strength,” which Mr. Armstrong used to declare: “[W]e do not have within ourselves … anywhere near the power of God that activated that original first-century Church! For that very reason, the living Christ says (verse 8), He has opened to us the gigantic door of mass communication! … Yet that is only physical, mechanical power! The real power that makes God’s Work vital and alive is the Holy Spirit of God!”

How easy it is to look at open doors and attribute the strength of God’s Work to “physical, mechanical power”—to technological advancements. Look at what we’re able to do because of _________! And fill in the blank with things like: electricity, air travel, satellites, desktop publishing, the Internet, etc.­­­­­

But the words of Zechariah 4:6 ring true for God’s Work still today: “… Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.”

Do you realize that technology—“physical, mechanical power”—is not the might or power getting the Work done? It is the Holy Spirit of God!

This is proved throughout the Holy Bible—written long before any of our modern advancements came on the scene.

As we go through this journey, consider the ways God’s present-day Work is performed through “physical, mechanical power.” This covers two broad categories: 1) transportation, and 2) communication. So let’s examine the Scriptures to see how God used the power of the Holy Spirit to handle these things long before any developments of modern travel and communication were available. And consider what this means for a youth attending this Church today.

Faster Than a Speeding Chariot

At the end of 1 Kings 18, we read about the end of a 31/2-year drought in Israel, at which point the Prophet Elijah told King Ahab: “Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not. … And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel” (verses 44-45).

Elijah and Ahab were at Mount Carmel, about 20 to 30 miles from Jezreel. A chariot’s speed would depend on the number of horses, but top speed would only be 30-to-40 miles an hour, and horses couldn’t sustain that for this distance, even if the one holding their reins was trying to outrun a thunderstorm. So a rough, conservative estimate puts this distance as a 2-hour chariot drive away.

This makes verse 46 all the more remarkable: “And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.” Elijah was on foot, and he got there in less time than Ahab’s chariot!

A similar but even more impressive feat of transportation is found in the first century of God’s Church. In Acts 8:26, an angel sent a message to the deacon Philip to go south from Jerusalem to Gaza.

There Philip found a eunuch sitting in a chariot studying the Prophet Isaiah. Not long after, Philip baptized him: “And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing” (verses 38-39). The newly baptized came out of the water only to notice that the man who dunked him had vanished! Where did he go?

Verse 40 tells us: “But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.” Azotus is the ancient Philistine city of Ashdod—20 miles north of Gaza!

Imagine vanishing from where you are right now and immediately being found 20 miles away. In terms of ancient travel time, 20 miles was a good day’s journey. So imagine showing up a 6-hour drive away from where you are currently sitting.

Of Boats and Bridges

Yes, God’s Work covers a lot of ground using mechanical methods of transportation today. Those are blessings! Revelation 12:14 says the Church will “fly” to a place of safety. God inspired the Apostle John to write that word long before airplanes were invented, and John didn’t question it. On a more regular basis, God’s representatives get to various places quickly, traversing multiple time zones. God miraculously blessed the Church with a plane to be used at the pastor general’s discretion.

But what is really getting the ministry to all these places? It’s the Spirit of God! If God didn’t want us there, no machine could bust through a divinely closed door. And if God does want us somewhere, it doesn’t matter if the physical machine doesn’t work. We will get there. Church members may recall a recent trip where the G450 wouldn’t start, and after some prayer, Mr. Flurry told the pilots to try again, and it worked!

That “physical, mechanical power” is impressive, but never lose sight of the God providing it. We must pray for those physical tools. God has us give offerings to help offset the costs, but we see God multiplying our support beyond anything we could do of ourselves.

Those living in biblical times had the “technology” to traverse water by boat. Bridges were used to get people across bodies of water. But does the Work need boats and bridges if a body of water is in the way? 2 Kings 2 contains the account of Elijah, and later Elisha, parting the Jordan River! No boat or bridge was needed.

John 6 gives the famous example of the disciples in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, and Christ walking toward them on the water. Adding to the grandeur of this miracle, it was also stormy that night. You can read this in verses 15-20. Verse 19 says they rowed over 3 miles in this large body or water before they noticed Jesus just walking to them. Notice the next verse: “Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went” (verse 21).

The Sea of Galilee is about 8 miles across west-to-east. Consider how just being in a boat didn’t guarantee they’d get across the body of water. This storm seemed prohibitive, but Christ miraculously brought them to their desired shore!

Ancient Instant Messaging

In Acts 8, we already read how God used an angel to get a message to the deacon Philip. A few chapters later, God did this with a man named Cornelius—who was not an apostle, deacon or even a member, but a potential convert.

In still another case, Matthew 1 tells how God got a message to Joseph, whose virgin fiancé, Mary, had become miraculously pregnant. “But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy [Spirit]. … Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife” (verses 20, 24). The way God chose to convince Joseph of this strange occurrence was by sending a messenger to him.

A similar method of communication occurs in the next chapter. The context is that King Herod is troubled by the news that a prophesied king of the Jews has been born. By verse 13, he hadn’t yet revealed his homicidal intentions. But God again informed Joseph through angelic messaging, this time in a dream.

“And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt” (verses 12-14).

Not long after this, Herod made the deadly decree to kill all children in Bethlehem under age 2. Later, “when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life” (verses 19-20).

Herbert W. Armstrong related a similar kind of angelic communication that occurred in his home: “When our elder daughter was a baby, Mrs. Armstrong was sleeping with the child beside her on the inside of the bed against a bedroom wall. She heard a voice calling out, ‘Move Beverly.’ She thought it was a dream and without waking continued in sleep. She then heard the same voice again, a little louder. She half awakened, saw nothing, again thought it was a dream, turned over and was once again going to sleep, when the voice a third time was heard, this time loud and emphatic: ‘Move Beverly.’ Bewildered, she moved the child to the other side of her, and a second or two later, a heavy framed picture that hung on the wall immediately over where the child had been lying crashed down on the bed. It might have crushed the child’s head or severely injured her. The only explanation was that God sent an angel to save Beverly’s life” (Mystery of the Ages).

Sure, God could have simply protected baby Beverly by having the frame not fall at all, but then we wouldn’t have known about it! Even if the frame fell at a miraculously unusual angle and missed her, then we wouldn’t have this relatively modern example of this supernatural voice.

This isn’t to suggest that God will necessarily speak audibly to us through angels or dreams. The point is, as “miraculous” and “immediate” as some of our means of communication are today, even more impressive communication predates our modern technology. We are not reliant on those to “get the Work done,” because it’s done “by my Spirit,” God says.

Leveling Mountains

Right after proclaiming, “by my spirit,” God asks: “Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain …” (Zechariah 4:7). With God’s Spirit, seemingly immovable impediments just disappear.

If we attribute the accomplishments of God’s Work to physical, mechanical things, then we can start to look at the lack of those things as obstacles. We can easily fixate on the physical ways God’s Work might be prohibited, to where we only see the mountains rather than the power to move mountains.

Consider various physical limitations or obstacles for the Work: language barriers, too few people or resources, jail or exile, health issues or death.

Pentecost in a.d. 31 is a prime example of God hurdling language barriers. This is how God began the first-century Church! Filled with the Holy Spirit, the saints “began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. … Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?” (Acts 2:4, 6-8).

Today God has blessed His Church with skilled translators, but they will tell you He also provides supernatural help, given their workload compared to their time constraints.

Later in Acts 2, we read how the Church grew from 120 disciples to 3,000 in a day—all receiving that same gift of the Spirit (verses 37-41). We can fixate on small numbers, and yet here was a time when God gave a 2,500 percent increase in membership within hours!

It’s so easy to look at the low numbers. In 2 Kings 6, only two of God’s representatives were surrounded by the Syrian army (see verses 13-23). The lives of Elisha and his servant appeared to be in real peril, yet God revealed a fiery angelic army surrounding the Syrians! As Elisha told the young man: “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them” (verse 16).

Judah’s King Hezekiah said the same words in comforting Jerusalem in the face of the surrounding Assyrian forces (2 Chronicles 32:7-8).

An event in Elijah’s life beautifully illustrates God’s ability to overcome limited resources. In 1 Kings 17, he visited a widow in an area that was in a drought. He asked her: “Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand” (verse 11). The widow replied that she had only enough food to feed her son one last time before they would die: “an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse” (verse 12).

Elijah told her: “Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth” (verse 13-14).

He prophesied that she’d continue to have enough food to survive the famine. Verse 15 states the wondrous outcome: “And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah.” Her lack of food was not a limiting factor, was it?

It’s no wonder that in Zechariah 4, after discussing the power of His Spirit, God talks about not despising the day of small things. Support God’s man, go back to the cupboard, and continuously find more!

Even God’s representatives being imprisoned is another mountain God’s power can flatten. Acts 12:4-12 describes an angel going right into a prison where Peter was chained and supernaturally bailing him out. In Acts 16:23-31, when Paul and Silas sang hymns from an inner dungeon at midnight, the chains just fell off of them and the doors opened!

One instance of imprisonment for Paul didn’t involve a miraculous release; he served his full term. But God still performed mighty miracles while he was under house arrest a full two years—probably chained to a soldier. This might seem prohibitive to a work that relied at that time on personal appearance. Yet the Work grew tremendously anyway! Acts 28:31 says Paul’s preaching was “unhindered” long before FaceTime, Skype or Zoom! (Revised Standard Version).

He wrote to the Philippians about the Work’s stunning growth: “But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel” (Philippians 1:12). Verses 13-15 show that this even helped other brethren to grow in faith and boldness. Prison didn’t stop Paul, nor did it discourage the people of Philippi.

Death or Infirmity

What about death? Can that stop the Work of God? Carnal human beings would think so! Some think they can stop God’s servants by killing them.

Matthew 27:62-66 describe some who tried to seal Jesus’s tomb with a massive stone and human guards—because they remembered Him prophesying about His resurrection. In their minds, this was not to prevent any resurrection—they didn’t believe that would happen—rather they wanted to prevent anyone from stealing His body to fake a resurrection. But you can see from Matthew 28:2-4 that the stone didn’t prevent a being from the spirit world from getting to the grave! A brilliant angel appearing in the form of a young man (Mark 16:5; Luke 24:4 says there were two) met some women at the tomb where the stone had been rolled away. Of course, Jesus Christ had been resurrected by this point and He could appear anywhere He wanted—even if the doors were already shut (and presumably locked) to the room where He would appear (John 20:19, 26).

Truly, even if doors are shut, that doesn’t stop the resurrected Christ! Men can kill someone and even make his tomb inaccessible, and what good is that if God has more planned for him? Jesus Christ now sits at the right hand of God!

In Acts 14:19-20, the Apostle Paul was stoned and left for dead. Of course, a flesh-and-blood minister doesn’t need to stay alive forever in the flesh. But Paul wasn’t done yet. That’s why, after getting up from being stoned, he went back into the same city where his murderers were!

Yes, Paul would eventually die. As our Paul musical stresses, his work outlived him through his 14 epistles now in the biblical canon. But at the time of his stoning in Acts 14, not a single one of those letters were yet written.

For this reason, God’s people look at death much differently than others do. We should look at health issues differently too. They are not necessarily obstacles to God’s Work. The Apostle Paul is again our example.

Yes, God wants us to obey and respect His health laws. And yes, God wants us to be healthy, though He may delay a healing to develop a stronger faith and patience in us. But notice how Christ spoke to Paul about a particular infirmity. Paul writes: “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Christ said His strength was made perfect in Paul’s physical weakness. Paul agreed that he would glory in his infirmities “that the power of Christ may rest on me.” There was strength and power in that physical limitation!

Power Up

Think of God’s power to outdo any form of transportation or communication our world can devise. Think of God’s power to override any obstacle—from jail to infirmity even to death.

Have you ever said or heard the statement, “All we can do is pray”? Be honest. We often say this statement in a spirit of resignation and defeat. But in reality, everything we can do is pray! Of course, there are things we do, but beyond human strength, we can go to God for the kind of power we’ve studied about here—claiming that power on behalf of God’s representative, His Work and even in our own personal lives.

Even as youth, you must claim that power regularly. Daily, we go to our prayer closet—our spiritual “cupboard,” to use the Elijah-widow terminology. We say, I don’t have much here, but give me what I need for today. And then we go back the next day, and there’s more to be had, and we claim it and must use it.

The Apostle Paul told the Corinthians that whatever their contributions were to God’s Work, God would multiply them: “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever. Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness)” (2 Corinthians 9:8-10).

God can increase the seeds—the initial effort we put forth—and multiply the harvest or yield from those efforts.

Who wouldn’t want access to this kind of power?

That Spirit is working with you as youth. God’s intent is that you, upon sufficient maturity, become baptized so you can receive that very Spirit dwelling in you. The Spirit that accomplishes this Work is empowering God’s Church collectively, and He wants it empowering you!