“Life is 440 horsepower in a 2-cylinder engine.” Henry Miller
We have all heard of “horsepower,” and if you live near Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (like we once did), you can still see horses (with power) mowing hay and performing other tasks. Working horses were a common sight when I was young. Based on the work of horses, “horsepower” became a word that is now applied to the strength of engines, and here is why:
The steam engine provided a reason to compare the power of horses with that of the engines that could replace them. Thomas Savery wrote (In 1702):
So that an engine which will raise as much water as two horses, working together at one time in such a work, can do, and for which there must be constantly kept ten or twelve horses for doing the same. Then I say, such an engine may be made large enough to do the work required in employing eight, ten, fifteen, or twenty horses to be constantly maintained and kept for doing such a work...
Of course. the basic notion of “power” is used in many other contexts. For example, the amount of electricity that a power plant generates is typically measured in kilowatt hours (kWh). One kWh is one kilowatt generated or consumed for one hour.
We also hear about solar power, wind power, geothermal power, etc., even muscle power (also in vehicles). Two French psychologists listed 7 types of power in leadership: Legitimate Power, Reward Power, Coercive Power, Informational Power, Expert Power, Referent Power, and Charismatic Power. So “power” seems to be everywhere!
A few weeks ago, my furnace stopped working, and then, the refrigerator. It happened because we had a “power outage,” lasting 8 hours in my area. A transformer had “blown,” and I had no power. “A transformer is a device that transfers electric energy from one alternating-current circuit to one or more other circuits, either increasing (stepping up) or reducing (stepping down) the voltage.” More to the point in my case, the transformer did not transfer any “power” to my utilities, and everything I had that depended upon electrical power was dead.
After 8 hours and several failed attempts, the “power” came back on. Although the refrigerator did not work, I had heat or A/C again. I was reminded (once again) of how vital electricity is for “power’” in our culture.
I grew up on a small farm in a rural area of Pennsylvania and we did not have electricity in our house until I was in 8th grade. We used wick lamps to see and study by and were kept warm with a coal stove. The “power” for light and heat came from burning kerosene and coal.
The word for “power” occurs 335 times in the NIV and one basic notion is that “the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” (1 Corinthians 4.20). As Christians we are in the kingdom of God, and where does its power come from? It is not like the power of kings, magicians, armies, or rich people, which is measured by deception and accumulated goods. Rather, the power offered to us is that of the Spirit of God. The promise of the spirit to the disciples by Jesus was clear: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1.8).
This power continues for those who trust in Jesus: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
The power of the Holy Spirit is what enables us to be faithful and true in our Christian walk. Without it, we become powerless: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5.6).
The world is begging for power: economic power, political power, military power, religious power, and personal power. Give us… give me… power and we will rule.
John the Baptist recognized that someone would come after him who would be so powerful that He would baptize believers with the Holy Spirit, which would be like fire (Matthew 3.11)—an intense burning in the heart with the heat of the power of God. “That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms…” (Ephesians 1.19-20).
You can’t get horsepower like that!