Is it my power, or God’s power, that brings the impact?
Ah, camp. I don’t know about you, but I love being at camp. This summer I was again blessed with the opportunity to volunteer at a Christian summer camp. I thoroughly enjoy such times, though, boy, can they be busy!
Each morning, with the knowledge that I’ll be hardpressed to find downtime during the day, I try to get up fifteen minutes early in order to slip out for a brief walk in the woods.
As I slipped out for my early morning walk with Jesus on the first morning, I wandered into the woods. How wonderful to be out of the city and surrounded by God’s creation.
I found a log to sit on while I stopped to read a short Psalm. Glancing at my watch, I knew I had to get moving, so I put my Bible back in my bag, and strolled toward camp singing a song of praise.
Then I heard it. I stood still and listened. Tap, tap, tap. A woodpecker must be nearby.
Slowly I turned in a circle, eyeing the trees. Could I spot the bird?
It sounded rather distant, so I started walking toward the sound. Five steps later the sound appeared to be coming from the opposite direction. I turned and walked toward the sound again. This time I only took one step before the sound seemed to switch direction again. I was confused for a moment. Then, looking straight up the nearest tree, I smiled.
There it was. A little woodpecker.
He wasn’t a fancy woodpecker – no red crest or orange wings. He was a small brown and white bird.
He was hard at work, far overhead, pecking away at the tree.
I dared only stay a minute or two, as I couldn’t be late for staff devotions, but what a lovely way to start the day. I spoke a prayer of thanks as I moved away.
Seeing the woodpecker brought to memory an allegory I’ve heard before. I don’t know who first used this allegory, but Corrie ten Boom and Jonathan Goforth are among those who’ve included it in their messages. It is a powerful reminder.
The allegory goes like this: Once there was a woodpecker. He went about his business of tapping on trees, whether looking for bugs to eat or building himself a home.
One stormy day, as he pecked at a large sturdy tree, a bolt of lightning struck the very tree he was tapping on. The tree split in half.
The little woodpecker blinked. Then lifted his head proudly. “I didn’t know I had such power!”
Of course, I know it was not the woodpecker’s power that split the tree. The power belonged to the lightning.
The little woodpecker was helpless to take down the tree by himself. Likewise, I am helpless to bring people closer to God in my own power. God’s power must be at work.
Keeping that in mind, I appreciate how this allegory goes a little further. Allow me to explain.
God has instructed me to work with all my heart, on whatever has been placed in front of me, as working for Him. (Colossians 3:23)
The woodpecker exemplified this in that he was pecking away at that tree. He wasn’t sitting lazily on the branch. He was doing the job he was given to do with all his heart.
It was as he laboured at his job, that the lightning struck.
Do you see it? I am to put my heart into what God has given me to do, but the real impact happens through God’s power.
As Paul said:
“I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” 1 Corinthians 15:10b ESV
Or as the New Living Translation puts it: “For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by His grace.”
Oh, that I would never forget what the woodpecker forgot, that even as I work for the Lord with all my heart, it is God’s power that brings the impact, not mine.