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Sermon Illustrations: Authority


An office manager was complaining in their staff meeting that he wasn't getting any respect. The next day, he attached a small sign to his office door: I'm The Boss! Later that day, he returned from lunch to find that somebody had taken note over his sign. It read, "Your wife called. She wants her sign back."

Security guards have no power and no authority - all they can do is tell on you.

The enemy can have power without authority. For instance, the Taliban had no authority, but they had power. Cf. Luke 10:18-20

Delegated authority is where I pass on some of my authority to someone else for a specific purpose. I have the key to our church auditorium and the code to turn off the alarm. Anytime we're away, I give the keys and the code to someone else. If they look carefully, they might see that when they enter the code into the alarm system, it says, "Good morning, Tony Llewellyn." That's because they are doing something on my behalf. They have authority to enter the building and disable the alarm, but it's a delegated authority.

According to Webster's Dictionary, power is "the ability to act". In other words, it's the ability to come up with the goods. Around 1970, when my mother was going to remarry, my Uncle Bill, on the phone to Australia from Wales, said to my prospective step-father, "If you ever hurt her, I'll come out there and stretch your guts from Brisbane to Melbourne." (I kind of figured his intestines weren't really that long, but that was the threat.) But when he did hurt her, nothing happened. My Uncle Bill was completely unable to do what he'd threatened. That's the difference between threats and power. It's the same difference between authority and power. You may have the authority, but power is the ability to act.

In India, early Salvationists were told they were not allowed to conduct open-air meetings or street processions, even though they were completely legal. Major Frederick Tucker was determined they would exercise their rights and he and his party of Salvationists marched down the streets of Bombay, singing and playing enthusiastically, they were met by a phalanx of police. Deputy Commissioner John Godfrey Smith dismounted and called, "In the name of Her Majesty, Queen of England and Queen Empress of India, I order you to disperse." Tucker was undeterred, stepped forwards with his hand raised for silence, and commanded, "In the name of His Majesty, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, I command you to stand aside." They were promptly arrested and cautioned. They eventually won the day, but not before imprisonment, threats and confiscation of their goods.

My Collection of Jokes, Quotes & Anecdotes

Imagine you're speeding down the road, doing 90 in a 60 zone. You're pulled over by the cops. A polite policeman says, "Would you mind showing me your licence, sir?" You say, "Yup." "Excuse me?" says the cop. You're feeling pretty tough, so you say, "I said yup." The policeman shows his badge, and repeats, "Your licence please, sir." You blow him a raspberry. "Okay, out of the car pal," demands the officer. "I don't think so," you say stubbornly. " I like it here." Out comes the gun. He sticks it straight up your right nostril, drags you out of the car, cuffs you, throws you into the squad car, and drives you off to the watch house. When he showed you his badge, that was a demonstration of authority. When he stuck his revolver in your nose and carted you off to jail, he was demonstrating power - the ability back up that authority. The words that God speaks not only have authority, they have power.

Just imagine you're in a store buying something. Just as you hand over your money, a guy in a balaclava bursts in, pulls out a gun, and screams for the attendant to empty the cash register. Two policemen enter, see the hold-up, and draw their guns. Who is threatened by that? You? Of course not! The attendant? No way. It's the bad guy. It's always the guy that's wrong that's threatened by authority.

An old lady returned home from a church service to find an intruder in the process of ransacking her house. "Stop!" she yelled. "Acts 2:38!" (which says, "Repent!") The burglar stopped dead while the old lady called the police. As he handcuffed the burglar, the officer asked, "How come you just stood there? All the old lady did was quote a Bible verse." "A Bible verse?" the thief replied. "She said she had an axe and two .38s!"


Mediocre men want authority without accountability. Ed Cole

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