The power of the Spirit

And the disciples were filled by the Holy Spirit, and they went forth to boldly proclaim the gospel, and many came to believe.

I heard this sermon today at church. I wondered what it would look like. I mean, the book of Acts tells us that the disciples boldly went forth.. and we also know that the disciples were actually quite a raggedy bunch; a few fishermen who probably werent very well educated.. and so on. And in all likelihood, would have liked to continue leading peaceful lives. But when God gives you the Holy Spirit, a quiet life is no longer a possibility.

But I am not good with words.. like Moses once said to God, Lord, who am I that you have chosen me? I am clumsy with words at best, and not the most eloquent… and yet, by Moses, the Lord God shook the Egyptian society to its very foundations, the disciples took the word to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and all through history where Martin Luther, Hudson Taylor and so on til today.. through the world.

It was amazing to be reminded that the gospel cannot be hindered.. but one cannot help but continue to doubt whether it is still true today. Sure, some churches are flourishing.. but other churches spread convincing lies and half truths.. that Jesus will bless you.if you follow him turned into, you will be healthy and rich if you follow Jesus. And people flock to these churches. How can the gospel spread unhindered if people prefer something else? We find it so hard to imagine multitudes believing today because we struggle to do the work of a disciple- to spread the gospel. We were reminded that it was really all God’s work by the Spirit, that made people do amazing things that they would not normally do, that they would be bold and clear instead of stuttering, cowering cowards. And all this even in the face of persecution and perhaps even death.

Which made me wonder whether I had ever experienced something of the sort before. Does the Holy Spirit really make you brave? Does the Spirit really change you like that? I don’t think if myself as brave.. nor do I remember being really brave at all… aside from some times when I was in uni.. and I had many christian friends around me.. we could be brave, in our safe little pairs and crowds or bubbles. But what about alone in the workplace?

What about when proclaiming has some painful risks? Losing friends, losing jobs, losing the respect of family? Sometimes I worry that despite their Christian beliefs, my mum and some family might think that I am foolish. And that cuts pretty bad. I really want to know what being filled by the Spirit feels like… I am sure that when it has happened before, I just kinda forget about it.. and go back to being cowardly and tired and anti social and seek the easy path of less resistance from all sides.

We were encouraged to ask for opportunities to share the gospel, to be brave and for the words to say. I thought about this.. and wondered.. that it was highly likely that the words to say.. the words we really wanted, would not be what we expected. Because it would result in God being glorified, it might make us feel silly or useless. It would make us doubt if God really had given us the right words… or even if he had given us the words at all. And then when God’s power worked in these people.. we would see who really is the one at work.

Its funny that despite knowing it, we humans are always surprised by how God rarely gives us exactly what we want, and how rarely it turns out the way we want.

As I  remembered my time at my uni’s christian union, I felt a bit of a pang as I remembered my feeble efforts to kickstart some sort of international student ministry. The first problem was that people were not getting behind he idea, but I do not think it was my fault. I think I merely had a perspective that the others had not seen just yet. I think God must have said to me, “not yet.” And yet.. was I less brave to try? Were my friends and I less brave because of the apparent lack of conversions? Was our so called failure to convert a sign that we were not filled with the Holy Spirit? I don’t think so. Because of this.. in a world where people my age were seeking the next thrill in clubs and drinking and in other excesses.. there were others who would sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to the bible being taught. If nothing else, we were the converted ones! We had been in the dark as well, but someone who had been filled with the Spirit was brave enough or was given the right words.. such that we could have the spirit too. Were we not proof that we too would be doing the work that saved us?

I suppose being filled with the Spirit does not always mean bravery. I suppose it will also mean being filled with the compassion of Christ for he lost. I still remember a friend of mine, where when we almost gave up on flyering to an empty campus.. we stayed a bit longer, and instead of ignoring the next couple who walked by and packed up, we spoke to them. Now the girl is a christian (rather than roman catholic) and is active in telling others about the Christ. I often think to myself… it mught have been that one less soul was saved that day if we had chosen to pack up and give up. Praise the Lord for that one soul!

Thinking about all this has made me see that the results we see today might be highly variable from the results we saw in Acts where thousands of people came to know the Lord. I suspect that because of my personality, I might always be a little bit.. or very scared.. because I always have the Holy Spirit in me. So I guess we don’t have to wait to be filled.. more like we should go forth, go forth after asking for opportunities and the words to say. Because wanting to evangelise is already a pretty brave thing.. it’s also kinda crazy I think.. the crazy kinda thing that non Christian me would not have done at all. So I am filled with the Spirit…

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God's words have power. We do not speak our own words, but the words that the Spirit gives us

That’s pretty cool.

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