I love the hashtag and movement in social media “Empowered Women Empower Women.” It’s so wonderful that the world itself is recognising and rectifying the influence that we can have on one another to uplift, strengthen, encourage and inspire. While I embrace this sentiment and have even used it a few times myself, God revealed a much deeper level of significance of this quote to me recently (and not just for us sisters!) – a depth defined only in him and his truths. While there is definitely potency in this phrase as it is being used around the world today, I believe God has a more powerful call for us within this area.
TRUTH 1: WE CANNOT EMPOWER OTHERS IF WE OURSELVES ARE NOT FIRST EMPOWERED
To an extent, this is was the saying is really saying. It’s a lovely little thought to think that we want to be positive towards one another and to build one another up with a ‘got-your-back’ kind of friendship and sisterhood tribe that pans cross-continentally throughout the world. But we can’t truly empower other people unless we are first empowered ourselves, because we can only give away what we already possess. The sentiments may be there as well as a pure and genuine heart, and that’s wonderful! But if we ourselves don’t feel empowered, or haven’t experienced deep and significant empowerment in the depths of our soul and being, then we aren’t really giving anything away apart from pretty words and well-intentioned anecdotes.
We can only give away what we already possess
We cannot truly empower one another if we are not truly empowered ourselves. Before we discover where this lasting power comes from, let’s see where it doesn’t come from.
TRUTH 2: EMPOWERMENT IS NOT OBTAINED BY DISEMPOWERING OTHERS
I believe this truth is most likely where the hashtag revolution sprouted from. Although we still aren’t there yet, social media has comes a long way in the past few years in attempts to turn from the nastiness, bullying, judgment, criticism, name calling, accusation, slandering, vicious and volatile battlefield that it once was (and still is, but hopefully and in my perfect-little-ideal-world, becoming less so). Unfortunately I know you know exactly what I’m talking about. Without focusing on all of this online (or real life!) negativity, just let me say that disempowering other people will never, ever make us powerful. Sure, it may feel like it does in the heat of the moment. But that feeling will be fleeting, and at the end of the day, the deep wounds, brokenness and insecurities that those words or thoughts came from are still lingering there with us.
Disempowering others will never, ever make us powerful. At the end of the day, the deep wounds, brokenness and insecurities that those words or thoughts came from are still lingering there with us
We know we are disempowered when we feel insecure, like a failure, compare our lives with others and come off feeling so far short, feeling worthless, invaluable, unloved, insignificant and basically feel absolutely terrible about ourselves. Can I just say…nobody else and no one else’s words or actions, can actually make us feel like that. These feelings burst forth when we look at others lives (or highlight reels) and we process what we perceive through the filter of our own insecurities, wounds and brokenness. (I’ve written a post on this a few years ago here). All of these feelings I just described can be summarised in one word – disempowerment. When we are disempowered we feel like we don’t possess the ability to be any different, to change, to transform, to have the life we want or to be the person we want to be. We feel powerless. So we either intentionally – or most likely, unintentionally – try to disempower others. And when we remain disempowered we remain disillusioned and continue to discredit those around us who seem to have what we desperately desire.
When we remain disempowered we remain disillusioned and continue to discredit those around us who seem to have what we desperately desire
The thing with empowerment is that it’s not a limited commodity where there isn’t enough to go around. If we think it’s limited then we have to ensure we take some from someone else to guarantee that we have enough. But power is limitless. Therefore empowerment is limitless. We can ALL be empowered, without having to steal from someone else. We can be fully empowered without worrying that someone will come to take ours away. Pulling others down doesn’t lift ourselves up. Criticising, judging, slandering, gossiping doesn’t make us any more powerful. Disempowered people disempower people. And then all we are left with is an even greater number of disempowered people feeling powerless, which in turn, disempowers us even more.
Pulling others down doesn’t lift ourselves up. We both end up at the bottom of the pit
When we disempower others through our words, thoughts or feelings, our insecurities and brokenness are fed and fuelled. As you can see, the cycle goes on – the more insecure we feel, the more we attack others (whether externally to their face/screen or internally in our innermost thoughts and heart), and the more we criticise, judge, compare and compete, the more insecure we end up. It’s a vicious, vicious cycle that can only be broken by one thing.
TRUTH 3: EMPOWERMENT CAN ONLY COME FROM THE ONE TRUE SOURCE OF POWER
Although the world may have us believe that we can conjure up ‘empowerment’ through our own self-confidence, positivity, good attitudes, motivational quotes and happy loving vibes (which are all great things!), that kind of empowerment isn’t lasting, because it relies on the self, or worse, others. Both are unreliable in the long run. For real empowerment we have to turn to the only source of power in this life – God himself. Jesus holds all authority and all power and he is bestowing it upon us if we choose to believe not just in him, but through him, that all things he purchased on the cross are available to us as the children of God. Power is one of them, and God’s power is one of the unlimited resources of heaven, because God is omnipotent- his power knows no end.
When we look to God as our true source of power, we are empowered with love, worth, significance, purpose and value beyond human or worldly standards. We are validated by the God of the universe, the King himself, our very own loving Father. True power from God is a gift – something we cannot earn or strive for or desperately try harder and harder to obtain. It is a gift, given by his grace. Only he can legitimately empower us, because he is the only source of true power. Not this world, not self-confidence, not even patting each other on the back with inspiring encouragement or screaming motivating cheers from the sidelines to one another in the race of life. That’s all good and well meaning, but if we are not deeply rooted in the one true source of empowerment, what do we have left when those voices turn to silence and the self-belief crumbles to doubt and disappointment?
If we are not deeply rooted in the one true source of empowerment, what do we have left when those cheering voices turn to silence and the self-belief crumbles to doubt and disappointment?
As we are empowered by his grace and love our insecurities gradually turn to security in him. Our deep heart wounds and brokenness are healed through his process of revelation as he awakens our souls and spirits to his love and truth. The illuminating light of the Holy Spirit shines deep into the darkest places of our heart and soul, bringing to light the lies we believe, the bitterness we are living out of, the unforgiveness we are holding onto, the hurt and pain we experienced and the ugliness that all of this festering within us produces out of us. But he doesn’t condemn us for holding onto these – he illuminates to reveal so that we can go forth and deal with and heal from in order to be released into freedom (for more on this, read here!) It is only then that we can be truly empowered.
TRUTH 4: WE ARE TRULY EMPOWERED THROUGH HIM WHEN OUR IDENTITY IS SECURE IN HIM
We know our identity is secure in him when we know exactly who we are, who’s we are, and how we are uniquely created with our own purpose, call and destiny. Our insecurities arise when we look at others and want what they have, or want to be who they appear to be. If we look to the left or to the right we will only come away falling short and feeling lack. But when we look flint faced towards our future, our call, our purpose, our vision and who God has created and called us to be, our identity will be strongly and firmly planted in his truth and our roots will go down deep into the soil of his great love, producing growth and lasting fruit in our lives.
As I was reading through the book of John in my morning devotions this week, the Holy Spirit kept highlighting to me how deeply secure Jesus was in his identity. In fact, this revelation is probably what originally birthed this blog post within me. How many times do we read in the gospels Jesus saying over and over again “I only do what I see my Father doing,” “I only say what my Father has said,” “The Son of Man does nothing of his own initiative,” etc. Jesus was so secure in himself, secure in who sent him, secure in his message, secure in his purpose, his call that nothing or no one could shake him. When we embrace our call and purpose, when we know our message and vision, when we are confident in who sent us into this world for our destiny, we can truly begin to live what we are created to do. Then we are walking in our true identity, not living from insecurity.
When we embrace our call and purpose and live what we are created to do, then we are walking in our true identity and no longer living from insecurity
But how do we discover this in the first place? How do we find our identity in him?
TRUTH 5: IDENTITY IS NOT FOUND WITHIN US, BUT WHEN WE ARE FOUND WITHIN HIM
It may sound counterintuitive, but we cannot look inwardly to discover our identity. Although it is individually ours, it didn’t originate within us, but it originated within him. His heart cried out for our very own unique being – heart, mind, body, spirit and soul. Us. You. Me. Every single one of us. Our identity can only be found in him, because he is the one who created it and who holds it within his heart. We are his, and we can only find ourselves in him.
Jesus was able to walk in such security and confidence in his identity because he knew who he was in God – he was the Son of God and he knew perfectly well, and much to the offence of the religious, who his Father was. He knew where he came from and where he was going. He knew what he had in his possession and at his disposal. He knew what he was capable of and what he was called to. He knew who he was.
We cannot look inwardly to discover our identity. We have to look to him
We too are called to the same level of security in our identity, through unity! Ephesians 2:6 tells us that we are united into the very life of Christ for “we ascended with him into the glorious perfection and authority of the heavenly realm, for we are now co-seated as one with Christ!” (TPT) As we grow deeper and deeper in this unity with our Creator, Lover and Helper, we too can discover what his perfect will and purpose for our life is and we can be so secure and confident in this that we only do and say what we see our Father doing in heaven. Wow! What a vision to hold onto and run toward!
We are invited into unity with the God of the universe. We are called to be co-labourers with Christ. But how do we get to this place of knowing exactly what the Father is doing in heaven?
TRUTH 6: IDENTITY IS DISCOVERED THROUGH INTIMACY
In chapter 5 of the book of John the religious critics were questioning who Jesus was saying he was (the Son of God) and by who’s power he was wielding as he performed all his amazing miracles and healings (the source of his true power). His response to them was simply, “You have never heard his voice, nor seen his face.” (John 5:37 TPT) Jesus knew perfectly well who he was, because at his recent baptism the audible, booming voice of the God of the universe had spoken directly upon his arising from the water “This is the Son I love, and my greatest delight is in him.” (Matt3:17 TPT) If Jesus himself got to hear God’s affirmation of who he was and who’s he was, then how much more do we! How differently would we live our life if we heard the booming, thundering voice of God declare over us in front of all our friends, family, followers and critics,“This is my child, who I love and who I greatly delight in”?
How differently would we live our life if we heard the thundering voice of God declare over us in front of our friends, family, followers and critics “This is my child, who I love and who I greatly delight in”?
Jesus didn’t have time for the religious scoffers who were trying to discredit and dismantle him, because he knew that although it was available to them, they had never heard God’s voice, never seen his face and certainly didn’t know his heart. They didn’t know him. He wasn’t wasting time or energy on the haters.
When we live a life of intimacy with him we can become so secure in our identity that the scoffers, critics, self-appointed judges, gossipers, slanderers will not shake us, because we know full well who we are and who’s we are. Furthermore, we wont have the insecure desire to critique others lives or to compare or compete out of jealously or judgment, because we know perfectly well the good, pleasing will of God and his plan and purpose for us. My friend, know that you are a child of God! You are loved, created, valued, worthy, fathered, uniquely destined. And if you are a child of God, then know who your Father is, what inheritance is yours and what he calls you to do with that very power and authority that Jesus paid for on the cross and made available through his resurrection!
We can only know our true identity when we live in intimacy with him. Not religion, not striving, not pretending
We can only know our true identity when we live in intimacy with him. Not religion, not striving, not pretending. Only when we encounter and experience him, when we see him, feel him, know him, live face-to-face with him in the throne room of heaven, can we truly see what the Father is doing and can hear his voice for ourselves and know his perfect will for our lives.
TRUTH 7: OUR IDENTITY IS WRAPPED IN OUR DESTINY
Jesus was able to brush off the scoffers and critics because he knew full well what his purpose was. He knew what he was called to do and he knew what he wasn’t called to do. He didn’t have time for anything that was peripheral to the very plan God had for him. And he didn’t give a hoot about anyone who had a problem with that.
“Nothing I do is from my own initiative” John 5:30
“I have no need to be validated by men” John 5:34
“I am not moved by the approval of others “ John 5:41
“For you live for the praises of others and not for the praise that comes for the only true God” John 5:44
The list goes on! Can you imagine what the world would look like if we were all so completely consumed by what God thought of us, who he says we are, and what he has planned for us to do? When we know the call of God upon our lives, we are further secured in our identity. We’re not fumbling through life, we’re not trying to be someone we’re not, we’re not comparing ourselves to those greater than us and feeling like failures and were not pridefully comparing ourselves to those ‘below’ us and puffing ourselves up, we’re not competing to be better or best. We’re not concerned with what other people think – we wont do things of our own initiative and agenda to seek the approval of mere humans, and we won’t NOT do what God has already told us to do, for fear of what others will think! True freedom and security! We can get busy LIVING what God has called us to do! Our influence, purpose and significance is not determined by the approval of others (or ‘likes’, follows, views, numbers, quantities, public accolades), but only by lasting fruitfulness, which is what our life and works will be judged on for eternity. Hear that? ETERNITY. This is where all will be revealed and the works of our hands throughout our life are tested for everlasting fruit. This is what we need to be living for, today.
Our influence, purpose and significance is not determined by the approval of others, but by eternal fruitfulness
So what now? What if we are so ready to stop disempowering others through our own insecurity and brokenness and we long to become so firmly secure in our identity in him through intimacy and our own individual destiny?
TRUTH 8: EMPOWERMENT BEGINS ON THE INSIDE
“Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the world around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.” Romans 12:2 (TPT)
The Amplified version says it like this: “And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in his plan for you].”
When we lift our eyes and hearts off the earthly, cultural, popular, worldly values we discover the lasting eternal, meaningful, significance for which we are to live from and for. Then all those opinions, hurts, wounds, doubts, disbeliefs fade away and pale in comparison to the glorious future and way of living he has for us – the way he wants us to live. The way he created us to live. We no longer need to feed the fire of insecurity bellowing within us telling us to compare or compete, to criticise or judge. And we certainly don’t need to disempower others to attempt to make ourselves feel powerful – or more truthfully, to cover up the deep woundings and brokenness in the depth of our soul. We will no longer live from a place of feeling out of control, powerless and feeling like we are a failure. The deep chasm of emptiness that we once pulled others down into in order to try and climb our way out will be filled with love, purpose, security, identity, worth, value, healing, forgiveness, redemption, grace and mercy that we will be overflowing in these very love-gifts that we can then bestow upon others. This is truly empowering others. We can give and overflow, because we possess the very power to do so. We possess the fruit, we possess the love, we possess the grace, the healing, the security, the identity, the unlimited resources, the power, strength and victory! We can finally give of what we have and we can give freely – without expectation, without reciprocation – because it was freely given to us.
The deep chasm of emptiness that we once pulled others down into in order to try and climb our way out will be filled with love, purpose, security, identity, worth, value, healing, forgiveness, redemption, grace and mercy that we will be overflowing in these very love-gifts that we can then bestow upon others
Empowered people empower people – because the most powerful being in the entire universe has first empowered us. We can truly empower others because we ourselves have been filled to the brim with the real, lasting, fruitful, overflowing power of God.
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We need to be living the lifestyle where we see and hear what the Father is doing and saying in the heavenly realms. We need to know his perfect will for our lives, to ensure we are walking steadfastly in his purpose and not looking at what everyone else is doing, saying, being or living. We need to live in the intimacy of experience and encounter in his presence that he is calling us to, because we need to hear his voice! We need to delve daily, in the Word, into worship, in prayer and be still. When we chase after this lifestyle and crave his face, heart and presence more than anything else, we will be liberated from the desire to disempower others and catapulted into the community where it overflows to those all around.
It’s the internal transformation in the depths of our hearts that eventually emancipates the empowerment from within us to externally fly freely to the souls of others who desperately need us to come along side them and give a bit…or a lot…of all that we’ve got.