Today’s New Testament lesson tells the story of “Simon the Great” — a sorcerer who managed to impress both himself and others, until Peter and John showed up and demonstrated what real power looks like (see Acts 8:9-25). Simon, however, apparently figured that there had to be some sure-fire way to access this power. And so, he offered Peter and John payment in exchange for the Holy Spirit. Peter’s response, therefore, doesn’t come as much of a surprise:
“May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart.” (Acts 8:20-22)
Of course, it’s easy for us to read Simon’s story and wonder how anyone could be so misguided. But I wonder: How often do we yearn for “shortcuts” to spiritual power, and what steps do we take in order to acquire it? Do we read that book or Bible study that everyone’s been talking about? Do we adopt the latest project or copy that ministry method that has been so effective elsewhere? Can even our well-intentioned piety — our prayers and giving and church attendance — be a subtle attempt to buy the Gift that we can only receive, because only God can give it?
Let me rush to add, of course, that reading books and Bible studies, doing ministry, praying, giving, and attending church can all be excellent things! These are the tools that God often uses to remake us and to use us for His purpose. But as Peter perceived, it all has to do with the heart: Is our real motivation to bring honor to ourselves? Or is our goal to glorify God and to deepen our relationship with Him who alone can unleash true power in our lives?
Sometimes, I do long to see more tangible manifestations of God’s power in my life and ministry. But I think that in my better moments, I long for God — and for a deeper trust that whatever He sends my way will become the soil for growing the heart of Christ within me.
May our hearts be right before God today. And as we desire His glory alone, may we discover that His power is available in just the way He wants it to be.