Is anyone tired?
Not the kind of tired that comes from staying up late last night or from having a busy week at work. I’m talking about the kind of tired that is bone-weary, the kind of tired that says, “I’m ready for the next world. Jesus, take me home now.”
Do you feel that you are sludging along in a field of molasses, weary in this struggle of just trying to live life, let alone an “upright” life?
The kind of tired that no amount of exercise or eating right or developing good habits or other people can solve?
I know I experience that. Every single day. Not hopelessness, just resignation.
We’ve heard it sung from the church risers and we’ve heard it shouted from the pulpit: Jesus, through the empowering, sanctifying Holy Spirit, is able to do for us what we are not able to do for ourselves. He is able to empower us when we come to the end of ourselves.
We know that in our heads and say it with our lips, but how well do we embrace that in our hearts?
I would suggest that the reason we struggle with this concept is because we haven’t had a real encounter with the Supernatural. Not lately, at least.
What comes to mind when you think of the place and role of the Holy Spirit in spiritual growth or discipleship?
Over the past few days we’ve been looking at the first two “streams” of spiritual formation and discipleship: The New Life and The Abiding Life. We also dove into these streams deeper by examining John’s story. The third stream of spiritual formation is “The Empowered Life.” The Empowered Life “stream” focuses on the sanctifying work of Christ (separated from sin and unto Jesus) and the filling of the Holy Spirit for holy living and effective witness. These are great blessings of the Christian life that are available to all believers.
For many of us, this third person of the Trinity is a mystery.
We don’t know what to do with Him. He doesn’t fit into our box. We can’t explain Him with any kind of concrete definition or analogy. And we certainly can’t control Him. All we know is that we are just plain tired. Because of all these things, we are frankly terrified of Him, this Holy Spirit of God. In the meantime, in the effort to grasp this whole Empowered Life thing, we walk a thin line between dead orthodoxy and emotional manipulation.
Recently I heard a pastor give a sermon. He talked about this “Brush With the Supernatural” and used the story of Jesus calming the sea. He followed that with the story Jesus healing the demoniac man by sending the evil spirits into a herd of 2000 unfortunate pigs.
This pastor said that in the search for a church home he wanted to “identify with a group of people who believe God is up to something in our world that is beyond understanding.” He wanted to know that when the elders prayed for him that they had real expectation that God would do something more than any of us could do for ourselves. He wanted to be around people who helped him see the things God is doing, people who would keep him ready and responsive for the work of God. And in those moments of doubt when he would ask, “do you believe in the supernatural?” he wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less than a resounding “YES!”
Power that can neither be calculated nor managed is downright frightening!
You know the story. Disciples are in a boat, a storm is raging, and Jesus is sleeping. “Don’t you care about us?!?” the disciples exclaim as they shake him awake. Without a word in answer to their question, Jesus stands up and calms the sea. Notice their response. It certainly wasn’t “Jesus, that was awesome!! Glad that’s over! You can go back to sleep now.” No, they were terrified. They seemed to be more terrified of him than they were of perishing in the storm. “Who is this!? Even the winds and the waves obey him!!”
Once upon shore, Jesus got out of the boat to interact with a demon-possessed man. Having just witnessed the One who is infinitely more powerful than the wind, having just experienced the supernatural, and probably scared out of their minds with what might happen next, the disciples basically responded with, “You go ahead, Jesus, we’ll just stay in the boat over here.” When was the last time you walked in step with Jesus, filled with the wonder of his presence, but then fear kept you in the boat?
Jesus then healed the demon-possessed man by sending the evil spirits into some pigs. Pigs – natural born swimmers, by the way – jump off a cliff and drown. Notice the people’s response. After all, this man who had been tormented all of his life had just been set free! But, rather than a consensus of joy, there were angry, which was really just a mask to cover their fear. After all, before all this they could control the evil because they could pinpoint the danger. They could keep it locked up and out of reach of their children. They could manage the evil from afar. But, then this GOD shows up and disturbs their way of life!
Even if it’s for good, even when it’s of God, power that can neither be calculated nor managed is downright frightening!
And those pigs! The townspeople were counting on those pigs to bring home the bacon (so to speak). And Jesus just sent them off a cliff! When God works, somebody has to pay for the pigs. I’m not sure I’m okay with that!
God is unpredictable. He is uncontrollable.
So, what do we do with that?
What do we do with the Holy Spirit – or rather, what do we allow Him to do with us?
And what does it mean to be “empowered.”
Empowered life for what?