It has been said that if we took the Holy Spirit out of many of our churches today, 90% of what we do would be left unchanged. That might be an exagerration, but it does speak to the fact that so much of what we do in our Christian lives are only the things that we do in our own power. As I studied for the Baptist Conference on the Holy Spirit last month, I became more and more convinced that God wants to work in powerful ways in our lives and ministries. People tend to get hung up on "tongues," but that is just a minor gift that needs to be seen in its proper context. The bigger issue for me is, "Does my life and ministry require God’s power, or am I able to handle everything in my own strength?" Jesus said that the disciples were to wait in Jerusalem until they were "clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49), and Acts 1:8 reports Jesus as saying that we would receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon us to be witnesses all over the world. Do we have that power?
How much are we doing, that if God did not show up, it would completely fail? How much are we doing that we have to have faith to believe God for? When you hear stories of miracles and God’s intervention, do you praise Him, or are you unmoved and filled with skepticism? How often do you pray for God to do what you cannot do? Do we think that we can see people come to Christ and see our churches grow apart from the work and power of the Holy Spirit? When is the last time that you prayed for God’s power to be upon your church or yourself so that you could be a witness for Him (Acts 4:29-31)? I think that we are often depending more upon ourselves than we do upon the Lord for victory in our lives and fruit in our ministry.
I remember when I was a youth minister in a rural church years ago. We were having revival meetings and the pastor and evangelist were in the pastor’s office. I asked if we could pray before the meeting and they were a little surprised. "Sure," they said awkwardly. We then prayed a stiff prayer that God would bless the meeting. It was over before it started. I was shocked. We were having "Revival" and we didn’t even ask God to show up! I have seen this attitude repeated over and over again in our Southern Baptist Churches. Perhaps this is why our member to baptism ratio is 44:1. In our church it was 9:1 last year, and I truly believe that it is simply attributable to the fact that we consistently ask God to work through us and empower us for life and ministry. It is His work, not ours. We should do it in His power and give Him glory for what He does. No one is coming to Christ unless he is drawn by the power of God. No one. So, why don’t we pray and live that way more often?
I am starting a sermon series this month on the power of the Holy Spirit as shown through the Book of Acts. We are going to look at what God did in the early church and ask Him to do it in our lives as well. We are not going to explain things away or say that God doesn’t work that way anymore. We are going to preach, hear, and read the Scripture and actually try and live it out by faith. We are also going to reach out all summer and pray that God will empower us and work through us. I am believing God for great things and I’ll let you know how it goes!
What are you believing God for this summer beyond what you can do in your own strength?