Empowered by the Holy Spirit
Since Easter, we have looked to the first four chapters of Acts to answer the question, “What does a church truly empowered by the Holy Spirit look like?” Can what was experienced by the earliest followers of Jesus be experienced by his followers today?
Last Sunday we read in Acts 4:31, “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” This description both inspires and challenges me.
Journalist Germany Kent writes, “When God is ready for you to move, he will make your situation uncomfortable.” One midwestern pastor believes that Christians must experience a “holy discontent,” or a “firestorm of frustration with the status quo” before God will ever move mightily. When we envision how things could be we find it hard to continue to settle for what has always been.
I closed my message Sunday with three questions to prompt honest reflection about our desire to see God work in us the way he worked in those first followers of Jesus.
- Are we willing to ask God to shake things up all over again here and now?
Every documented move of the Spirit has been preceded by prayer. Not random, sporadic prayer meetings, but the “continuous prayer” of Acts 1:14. They prayed, “enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness (Acts 4:29).” As a result, God shook the place where they gathered.
Where there is no prayer there is no power. If we are unwilling to ask God continuously – praying until he answers – for a great move of the Spirit of God we should not expect anything to change.
Are we willing to our time to prayer, asking God to shake things up all over again? Will we make the necessary personal sacrifice to engage in prayer? It is unlikely we will see God move mightily if we are unwilling to engage alongside one another in prayer.
- Are we prepared to give up control as God shakes things up all over again?
The first followers of Jesus were determined to obey Jesus’ command to “be my witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).” No traditions were at risk. No change to their way of doing things was required. That can’t be said about us. Every aspect of our ministry may change as we determine to follow the commands of Jesus.
Change is uncomfortable. Most of us resist change if life as we know it will be dramatically altered. Avoidance of change, however, should not hold more value than witnessing a mighty move of God.
We simply can’t say, “We want God to move but we don’t want things to change.”
- Are we ready for what can only be explained by, “God showed up?”
This is the easiest of the three questions for me to answer. Yes, without a doubt, I am ready. I long for God to do within us, the people of Alsbury, what only he can. I hope the work he does leaves us with no explanation other than, “God showed up!”
We have long known that we do not possess the strength, power, insight, or resources to bring about a radical transformation in our lives much less within our culture. Only God is able to bring about authentic and lasting change.
Before God will “shake this place” we must be fully and irrevocably prepared to give him all the credit. We must desire to put God on display before he will act in the manner described in Acts 1-4. If we are not ready for our eyes to be fixed upon him and him alone we should not expect to see him move.
Please reflect on these three questions. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any reluctance or hesitation you may have to answer each with a resounding, “Yes, I am ready!” Join me, please, in praying continuously for God to shake Alsbury as he shook those earliest followers of Jesus.