“So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, ‘Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?’
He replied, ‘The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’”
“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.”
1 Corinthians 3:4-7
On the eve of Pentecost, Craig reminds us that God wants to include us all in building his kingdom, and through his Spirit gives us all we need for the task:
Tomorrow is Pentecost, the day we celebrate that moment when God first poured out his Spirit on those first Christians. Before Jesus, the Spirit had only been given to particular people for special purposes – from craftsmen, like Bezalel (Exodus 31:2-5 – gifted to do much of the artwork relating to the Tabernacle) to kings and rulers like Saul and David (e.g. 1 Samuel 16:13).
But at Pentecost it all changed. This was a gift of God’s Spirit for all believers and for their whole lives. Special acts of service which once were preserved for the divinely chosen and blessed were now open to all. Why? Because all are chosen and blessed.
And if you’ve put your trust in Jesus, that means you! That means God’s Spirit is alive in you, in ways more wonderful than Old Testament craftsmen, prophets, poets and kings!
But why? Jesus said in Acts 1:8, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere.”
Why did God send the Spirit on all believers? It was to give us strength for the task of sharing in God’s mission to our world. Although it’s God’s mission, his work, it’s a mission which God chooses to include us in – he’s looking for active partners in his work.
So, although ‘the kingdom, power and glory are yours, now and forever’, we too are workers for the kingdom, empowered by God’s Spirit, shareholders in the glory won for God when another person comes to know and love their maker.
Throughout the last nine days, we’ve been reminded in different ways that the world is God’s, our lives are in his hands, our purpose is to serve his kingdom, and our joy is to see his plans fulfilled. But the truth behind all of that is that God is in the business of saving and restoring his creation.
Do you really believe that he wants to include each of us in that plan, not just as the ones being saved, but as active participants in the work of seeing others saved? Because it’s true! He wants us to get our hands dirty in the most audacious mission the world has ever known. He wants us to serve as his witnesses.
But what if we don’t feel adequately gifted for the task of sharing in God’s mission? What if the very thought of being a ‘witness’ makes us feel faint? That’s okay, because with the Spirit comes not only power but just as importantly God’s good gifts to his people:
From courage to wisdom, so that we not only have the confidence to speak but also have the words to say.
From gifts of teaching to administration, so that God’s Church is not only built up but also functions effectively.
From gifts of pastoral care to miraculous healings, so that not only are we comforted in sorrow but experience the awesome power of God in our lives.
“A spiritual gift is given to each of us” (1 Cor. 3:7) – and yes, again, that means you.
Are you open to being used by God to build his kingdom? Are you hungry to know more of the Spirit’s power in your life, fanning into flame those gifts and abilities God has given to you? Do you long to see St Richard’s reaching new people, growing new disciples, being a place of healing and wholeness?
Then maybe, just maybe, the solution to our church’s problems doesn’t lie ‘up front’ with the church leadership. Maybe, just maybe, it’s with you (and me) rediscovering some of what Pentecost is all about.
Do you believe God considers you to be an essential part of his plan to rescue our world?
What stops you taking a more active role as a partner in God’s mission?
What passions, ambitions and gifts has God given you to use for the glory of his Kingdom?
The Spirit came and your Church was born,
in wind and fire and words of power.
The Spirit came blowing fear aside,
and in its place weak hearts were stronger.
The Spirit came as your Word foretold,
with dreams and signs, visions and wonders.
The Spirit came and is here today,
to feed the hearts of a world that hungers.
Fill us with that Spirit Lord. Amen.
Prayer for five friends
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.