How to live “Not by Might Nor by Power”

Cortney Whiting

iBelieve Contributor
Updated May 07, 2021
How to live “Not by Might Nor by Power”

Have you ever tried to accomplish the task God had for you, only to feel as if you’ve gotten nowhere? Sometimes God calls us to tasks greater than anything we could ever accomplish by our own power.

So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.Zephaniah 4:6

Have you ever tried to accomplish the task God had for you, only to feel as if you’ve gotten nowhere? 

Sometimes God calls us to tasks greater than anything we could ever accomplish by our own power. For Moses, his task was to lead the Israelites out of Egypt back to the Promised land. For David, he was to slay Goliath and then become king. The prophet Elijah was to go against 450 prophets of Baal to prove he served the one true God. And Zerubbabel was to lead the exiled remnant from Babylonian captivity back to Jerusalem and lay the foundation for the temple.

In 589 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem, burned Solomon’s temple, and sent the Jewish people into exile for seventy years. When the Jewish people returned to Jerusalem from captivity in Babylon, they came home to a destroyed temple. Their mission was to rebuild God’s holy place. The people initially began their purpose with fervor but abandoned the project after suffering opposition, discouragement, and indifference. God uses the words of Zechariah to encourage His people to complete His given task.

In Zechariah 4:6, the prophet states, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘You will not succeed by your own strength or by your own power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord All-Powerful.” These commanding words remind Zerubbabel of how to accomplish what seems impossible.

This reminder is echoed throughout Scripture. God reminds David to be strong and courageous because the Lord is the one fighting for him (2 Chronicles 32:7-8). It is through this promise that the people took confidence in battle. Paul recognized the Spirit’s effect on his ministry. In 2 Corinthians 2:4-5, he writes that it is not his eloquent speech that persuaded them, but rather the work of the Spirit. In these verses, human power is not sufficient in accomplishing God’s task. Instead, believers need the empowerment and enablement of the Holy Spirit.

What Does it Mean to Rely on the Holy Spirit and Not Our Own Might and Power?

Before we can know what it means to rely on the Holy Spirit, it helps to have a basic understanding of the role of the Spirit. For a New Testament believer, the Holy Spirit is the indwelling person and agent promised by Christ. The Spirit empowers, regenerates, sanctifies, teaches, and convicts believers. Through the Spirit, believers are gifted and bear fruit. Someone receives the Holy Spirit when they come to faith in Christ (Ephesians 1:13-14).

1. To trust in the Lord and allow Him to work

When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, he reminded them of the importance for them to stand firm, be still, and allow the Lord to work (Exodus 14:13-14). This command occurred as Pharaoh’s army approached. Yet Moses knew that the Lord was the Deliverer of the nation. Therefore, the people were to wait for Him to move. When we rely on the Holy Spirit, we are to wait for the Spirit to move in our lives.

2. Stop acting apart from the Spirit in self-effort

The effects of self-effort are fruitless. One of Jesus’ final commands to His disciples is to remain in Him. He stated that apart from Him, they could do nothing (John 15:4-5). When we allow God’s Spirit to work in us, we understand that He is the one enabling our success (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Therefore, it is God who receives all praise and glory.

3. To walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-1725)

When we rely on the Spirit, we live a life that is guided by the Spirit. One of the roles of the Spirit is to remind us of the teachings of Christ. When we walk in the Spirit, we live out the teachings of Jesus. It is in this way we are able to recognize and refrain from sin. However, we must choose to follow the leading of the Spirit. Hebrews 3:7-8 says, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in rebellion.”

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Shadow of a strong man

What Happens When We Work by Might or Power Only?

Just as we see examples of people in Scripture who rely on God and His Spirit to accomplish His mission, there are also many examples where people trust only in their own ability. One example is King Saul. While he was given everything he needed to be a successful king, he refused to rely on God’s Spirit to lead him. Instead, he based his decisions on his own power. Because of his lack of trust, the Lord rejected him as King and anointed David as king in his place.

An example in the New Testament is the story of Ananias and Sapphira. This couple sold a piece of land and gave the money to the apostles. However, in their own power and greed, they withheld some of the earnings. The Lord struck down the couple for their deceit and their lack of trust in His provision. The couple tried to dictate the terms of their obedience rather than submitting completely to God.

How Do I Know if I Am Relying on My Own Might or Power?

It is sometimes difficult to know whether we are relying on our own strength or trusting in the Spirit to lead us. Looking at several biblical characters, here are some red flags of those who rely on their own power and strength.

1.  Those who rely on their own strength or power easily grow fearful tough in circumstances – King Saul often was paranoid about his position on the throne because he did not trust in the Lord’s plan and purpose. The Jews who were rebuilding the temple were easily discouraged by the opposition because they were trusting in their own ability to do the work. However, after the prophets Zechariah and Haggai spoke the words of the Lord to them, they were able to realign their thoughts with His purpose.

2.  Those who rely on their own strength and power struggle with greed and lack generosity – King Solomon, in his old age, turned from trusting the Lord and turned to foreign gods. In his old age, he acquired a vast amount of wealth that went against the Mosaic law (Deuteronomy 17:16-17).

3.  Those who rely on their own strength and power lack humility. Often, those who trust only in themselves have a heightened view of themselves. The Bible illustrates how God humbled Nebuchadnezzar’s pride (Daniel 4:33). His restoration comes when he acknowledges the sovereignty of God (Daniel 4:34-35). His example shows how destructive pride can be for those who rely on their own strength.

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Verses to Encourage Trust in the Spirit instead of Trust in Might or Power

Psalm 20:7 – Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.

Psalm 84:5 – Blessed is the man whose strength is in You.

Psalm 105:4 – Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face evermore!

2 Corinthians 3:4–5 – And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.

Ephesians 6:10 – Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

John 15:4–5 – "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”

2 Chronicles 20:17 – ‘You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the LORD, who is with you.

Isaiah 40:31 – But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.

Psalm 73:26 – My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

2 Corinthians 12:9–10 – And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

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Cortney Whiting is a wife and mom of two preteens. She received her Master of Theology Degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. After serving in the church for nearly 15 years, Cortney currently teaches at a Christian school and writes for various Christian ministries. You can find her at her blog,

This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture's context. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in relation to your life today.

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