Vanessa’s gave a powerful message at yesterday’s Pentecost service; she commented “All I can say is God was doing the typing and I am so blessed to have been chosen to say these words”.
The Challenge of Pentecost
Pentecost – let me set the scene with the back story – a bit of history. There were a group of guys who followed Jesus – the disciples. During his ministry the people loved Jesus and many flocked to see him, hear him and be healed by him. The Bible talks about throngs of people, crowds, multitudes and masses. You know like a good crowd we get for a Crusaders game – Jesus let’s say he’s Ritchie McCaw and those disciples the team. Everyone cheering. It would have been so exciting to be part of that. Imagine being one of them, part of that famous group, one of the IN crowd …. and then Jesus was arrested.
In the Gospel of Luke, it says “They arrested Jesus and took him away into the house of the High Priest and Peter followed at a distance.” Then Peter denies knowing Jesus three times before morning – he didn’t want to be known as one of the followers of Jesus. I think about the challenge we sometimes face in saying “yes, I am a Christian” to others and maybe even to ourselves “Yes I am a Christian”.
So Jesus is then tried, the people, the crowd who once shouted hosanna for Jesus, now call for his blood, his crucifixion. Jesus dies and it’s not so great anymore to be part of THAT group, one of those followers of Jesus. What happens next? – Jesus rises from the dead. In his appearances to those who knew him they do not recognise him; then it’s a look, a word, a miracle and they realise it is Him.
Peter and some others were out fishing and they hadn’t caught a thing until a man on the shore tells them to cast their net on the other side of the boat. They do so, obey the command and their net overflows with fish ……. and they realise it’s Jesus. After sharing a meal together, Jesus calls Peter to the side. And asks Peter three times if he loves him, and three times Peter says “You know that I love you, You know that I love you, You know that I love you.” Three times he denied and three times he accepts. Whose sake was that for – Jesus or Peter?
As Jesus is about to ascend to heaven these are his last words on earth, as told in Acts 1: “when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, ability, efficiency and might and you will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.”
Wahoo – They begin to look forward to the arrival of the Holy Spirit. They anticipate….it’s coming. Hang around… for it’s coming. Kill some time ……….…. it’s coming. And then wait some more. Wait for 50 days. Did some of the followers not last the whole 50 days, couldn’t face the challenge of waiting – just like in the play*. Are you waiting for something to happen and it’s a challenge. Are you finding your patience tested and it’s a challenge? Are you struggling with God’s timing – I know it’s a challenge.
And for those who saw it through, who passed the test. were anointed in a powerful way, a life-changing way “ when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, ability, efficiency and might and you will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.” Peter, now anointed with the Holy Spirit, went out and spoke to the crowd and brought 3000 people to Christ. Peter became the leader, the father of the new church and it’s mission to bring Christ to the ends of the earth. Peter, who we see had his challenges to face and who failed some – passed some. Just like us – fail some, pass some, became what God had planned him to be.
The Holy Spirit is not to make us all Peters or Joyce Meyers but to help make us exactly who God planned us to be. Not anyone else , not doing what they do, not being what someone else expects us to be, not what we expect ourselves to be . The Holy Spirit is to help make you, make me, exactly who God planned us to be. God can turn caterpillars into butterflies, coal into diamonds, sand into pearls all with right amount of time and right amount of pressure. In the process of becoming who God planned us to be, we face life and its daily challenges. Sometimes big challenges, sometimes small ones. But make no mistake everybody in this room is facing challenge. It’s part of the process – and my advice is the quicker we hand the challenge back to God – I truly forgive them; Lord I give you my fear; Take my burden and I will not come back for it – it allows the Spirit to move in us.
(*Earlier in the service we had a visiting Youth Group perform a skit from Ready, Steady, Act now, called “120 Waiting Christians”)