Do you ever feel called to responsibilities that are BIGGER than you? Do you ever cry out to God, “I can’t do this!” You’re not alone! Think Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others.
Much of my Christian life I’ve heard the word “anointing” presented in public contexts. Few Biblical words are so skewed and misappropriated than the word “anointing.”
Can we explore it for a minute? Go with me. (And thanks for giving me some time to speak into your life.) If you ever bounce between feeling completely self-sufficient and feeling utterly insufficient—these words will encourage you!
Jesus said to His followers in Acts 1 that they would receive “power.” In 1 John 2:20, we are told that we can have an “unction” from the Holy Spirit—another word for “anointing.”
One of my favorite stories in God’s Word of his “anointing” is in Exodus 31. Moses needs help! God has given him a massive calling, to which he feels completely incapable. But He’s not leaving him alone. God finds a faithful guy named Bezaleel and fills him with the unique abilities he needs to help Moses fulfill God’s will. You can see it below:
“1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2 See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: 3 And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, 4 To devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, 5 And in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship.” (Exodus 31:1-5)
Moses was broken. Bezaleel was broken. (As we all are.) There was nothing in these men, of themselves, that was worth “bragging about.” Yet, they were uniquely anointed by God to a specific purpose and ability. This was nothing of themselves—it was all of God and grace.
How often have I heard the word “anointing” used with an air of hubris and superiority—as though an “anointing” is something of self, something of validation, something of personal worth or power. It’s not. Hubris merely quenches whatever “anointing” there may have been. God resists pride and self-reaching power.
What is anointing? And why is it important?
First, anointing is about weakness. It’s about humility. It begins with brokenness. Anointing begins with a wounded, insufficient, weak individual. The very picture of anointing with oil in the Old Testament was symbolic of an insufficient being called to do a work beyond their ability. The oil pictured the need for God’s enabling power.
Think of a kid who fell off his bike and is laying on the ground skinned up and bruised. Then picture a loving parent picking up that wounded child, taking him to safety, and putting ointment in the wounds. Picture the parent graciously, compassionately helping to salve the hurt and bind up the brokenness.
Now picture God calling a broken human being to an eternal work. (This is you.) It’s a work we could never be deserving of, capable of, or worthy of. No man deserves to serve God. No human has intrinsic self-sufficiency to bring to God’s table—like we’re doing Him a favor. We don’t even deserve a seat at the table!
Yet, God, through grace, reaches into our brokenness, forgives our sinfulness, and heals our wounded-ness. He blows the lid off by actually inviting us into His work. He calls us to participate in kingdom labor. What?!? Messy ME??? Despicable ME?!? (No pun intended.)
How in the world could God ever expect to accomplish ANYTHING with this lump of decaying flesh? I have nothing to offer Him but brokenness. Why would He even want it?
Simple. His own glory. Self-sufficient people retain the glory for themselves. God-blessed brokenness intrinsically reflects the glory back to God. And there’s only one way messy me (and messy you) can, in any way, participate with God’s eternal purposes.
It isn’t mystical. It isn’t magical. It isn’t experiential, sensory, emotional. You don’t feel it. You can’t “know” you have it (except by faith.) You certainly wouldn’t relish it, presume it, flaunt it, glory in it, or in any way attempt to exploit it. Anointing isn’t something you declare upon yourself. It’s not something you “claim” or pursue or personally capitalize on. It’s not something you glory in or publicly leverage in leadership. You can’t measure it, sense it, control it, or mis-use it. It doesn’t work that way, and any attempt to make it work that way is simply fakery. (Eg: When an arrogant or angry man stands and declares himself “God’s anointed.” There isn’t a biblical model for this behavior.) If you have to defend anointing, that’s a sure sign that it’s gone.
Anointing is only possible from a state of weakness and need. Anointing is the will to do, in obedience to God, what you would not personally want to do. Anointing is the courage to act in faith when in reality you are a complete coward. Anointing is the ability to do what otherwise you would never attempt. Anointing is a God-sourced, God-driven, God-centered force that compels your forward in His will when, in yourself, you would run for your life.
Anointing is NOTHING of self. If nothing else, anointing begins with a self that is utterly incapable.
It’s one thing to have a job or a responsibility. It’s one thing to have a skill set, an education, and to know “how” to do something—by training, talent, or sheer determination and effort. It’s one thing to capitalize, with self-interest, on your God-given identity and gifts. It’s another to have God’s anointing.
Anointing is only possible and needful as a result of inability and weakness. This is when your ability, skill, or effort is yielded to a far greater work—a work so immense, that it dwarfs you. It drops you to your knees in desperation. In the shadow of God’s eternal plan, your best appears inconsequential—utterly insufficient. Against the backdrop of God’s call, all of our perceived strength is deplorably, massively, utterly anemic.
Anointing is when God takes your infinite smallness and upsizes its impact by His infinite power and grace alone. He does this in such a way that you can only marvel at Him, not self. You can only be speechless before Him. You can only yield credit and glory to Him. To do otherwise would be flagrantly foolish and glaringly presumptuous.
Anointing is what we were all made for—placing our petty efforts in God’s great hands to be multiplied (like the fish and loaves). It’s the dependent life. It’s the weak life. We are all up against incredible, impossible odds. And what we have to offer God is miniscule. But in His hands and with His anointing it’s redeemed—somehow useful, powerful, and impactful—and not in ways that we can calculate or take credit for.
Another thing about anointing—don’t try to see it or measure it in yourself. Bezaleel didn’t glory that God anointed Him. He just did God’s will. New Testament believers didn’t glory in God’s power upon them. Peter didn’t stand up and say, “Hey, look at me! I’m FULL OF GOD’S POWER right now!” God’s anointing caused His followers to exercise an uncommon courage and strength that changed the world—but guaranteed, nobody was more surprised than they were themselves!
Anointing is God magnifying Himself through you in ways that are obviously bigger than you. You don’t even know its happening. It just does. You can’t see it except in rare moments looking back. These are times when God gives you a little “glimpse” of how He was working—anointing your routines, your everyday details, your mundane life, your feeble attempts to speak truth—in ways you never knew. Anointing is God’s Spirit working in the background of your life and ministry in magnanimous ways that you might never see until eternity.
Anointing is for every Christian—not just a select few. It’s not a caste system or class structure. It’s not a secret-power for the super-spiritual. It’s a strengthening salve for the super-sick! Anointing is God’s “grace ointment” for every broken child who will choose to partner with Him in kingdom labor.
There are two basic outcomes of anointing. Saul is one. Paul is another.
King Saul was anointed, but the anointing made him arrogant, which killed the anointing. (1 Samuel 15:17 “17 And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the LORD anointed thee king over Israel?”)
Apostle Paul was anointed, and the anointing dropped him to his knees in humble confidence. (Ephesians 3:8 “8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;”)
Anointing can do two things. It can make you arrogant—which immediately kills anointing. In this case you are stuck attempting to do the impossible without God. Now you must try to fabricate or feign anointing. This is when you start asserting self in carnal ways while trying to appear spiritual. Arrogance swells you up in false confidence and over-assertion. It makes you presumptuous and full of self, which God resists.
On the other hand, anointing can make you humbly confident. Humble confidence gives you a real, self-lowering sense that God is present. You desire to engage with Him without grieving Him. Humble confidence is the knowledge that God has called you, He is with you, and by faith you accept that He will enable you and use your efforts to magnify Himself. It’s the faith that God will overwhelm your brokenness with His immense usefulness and grace.
However God has ordained for you to serve Him today, you can rest assured in His anointing. He always empowers you to do exactly what He desires for you to do.
If you refuse to believe it—that kills it. If you believe it and attempt to wrongfully exploit it—that kills it. If you glory in it, measure it, misuse it, or abuse it—that kills it. If you attempt to fake it—that really kills it. (See Simon in Acts 8.)
Anointing doesn’t raise your opinion of yourself. Anointing raises your opinion of Jesus. Anointing decreases your self-regard and replaces it with utter God-dependence.
God’s call is before you. In yourself, you’re broken and incapable. Miraculously, Jesus reaches down into your dust, picks you up, puts His ointment into your wounds, and accomplishes His purpose through you, in spite of you.
What a WONDERFUL, GRACIOUS, LOVING, AMAZING SAVIOUR!
Trust that with His calling also comes His anointing. But remember—it’s all about your weakness and His strength, not the other way around. God is not looking for strong people that He can make “super-strong.” He’s looking for broken, weak, hopeless people through whom He can show Himself super-strong!
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)