given on Sunday, May 19, 2013, Pentecost Sunday.
Opening Scripture: Judge 3:10
10 The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he became Israel’s judge. He went to war against King Cushan-rishathaim of Aram, and the Lord gave Othniel victory over him.—the NLT
Have you ever heard those stories on the news about how someone could lift a car off a victim? Or maybe how the neighbor runs into a burning house and saves a family? Every once and a while a news story reports about a heroic feat on the battlefield. Reactions to these stories range from complete disbelief to a prayer of thanks sent straight to God. Typically these feats of heroism are credited to adrenalin, a hormone that acts as a full-body alert system. Pursuing a deeper understanding, I learned that this is the hormone that causes an individual to react in either a fight or flight mode. How does this fit in with understanding the Holy Spirit?
Reading through the opening scripture from Judges, I found the following statement in the study notes:
The phrase “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him,” was also spoken of the judges Gideon, Jephthat, and Samson, among others. It expresses a temporary and spontaneous increase of physical, spiritual, or mental strength. This was an extraordinary and supernatural occurrence to prepare a person for a special task. (Life Application Study Bible, p. 381)
Does that not sound like the definition of adrenaline! Even the ancient people, the faithful tribes of Israel, acknowledged that something unique worked in extraordinary situations.
Yet, there is a twist to our understanding—the Holy Spirit. In Judges, this unique force is identified as the Spirit of God. Reading through the listing of verses relating to the Holy Spirit, the Old Testament inclusions are overwhelming outnumbered by the references to the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. The Judges study note adds in one more line for better understanding:
The Holy Spirit is available to all believers today, but he will come upon believers in an extraordinary way for special tasks. We should ask the Holy Spirit’s help as we face our daily problems as well as life’s major challenges. (Ibid.)
How often does something come up in our lives and we have to decide—fight it or flee it? Recognizing the Holy Spirit and understanding how it works can help us manage the “fight or flight” response that hits us in difficult times.
As Christians, we are equipped with all that we could possibly need to manage the life issues that are constantly popping up in our lives. Once we can acknowledge that there is a God, that he did send his Son Jesus Christ to teach us and to die for our sins, then we are linked directly to God’s adrenaline—the Holy Spirit.
Remember the verse I frequently reference, Philippians 4:13: “I can do everything through him (Christ) who gives me strength.” A new level of understanding leaped out once again—the Holy Spirit is God’s adrenaline that makes it possible for us to manage all the unexpected, often un-Christian, experiences we stumble into during our lives.
God’s adrenaline. The more science explains, the more I see God. When God decided to create man and woman, he thought of absolutely everything. The problem is that humans began using free will to out do, out think, or out maneuver God. The business of living got into the way and blinded us to God’s power.
Now Christians are faced with a new quandary: How do I know when the Holy Spirit is available and working? Obviously one should know because as practicing Christians we go to worship, we believe in Christ, and we live out the Golden Rule. Or, do we? Maybe we go through the motions without really connecting to God, you know, by talking and listening to him.
Many days I know that students or family members do not hear what I am saying; therefore, it stands to reason that we do the same type of ‘hearing’ with God. We are what we do. This may be why Peter and Paul applied so much emphasis in their ministries to the Holy Spirit.
In Luke’s second book, Acts, he shares how Peter and Paul introduce the earliest Christians to the Holy Spirit. The first half is Peter’s work of the Holy Spirit, and the second is Paul’s. But, in Acts 1:4-5, Luke writes what Christ said:
4 . . . “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. 5 John baptized with[a] water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” –the NLT
Through baptism, each individual is empowered by the Holy Spirit. We symbolize that with the use of water, but consider the immense strength we are granted once empowered by the Holy Spirit! There is a problem, though. How do we know, really know, that we now exist with such a gift?
That is a tough question to answer. Maybe we need to realize again God supplied these bodies he designed with that special hormone ‘adrenaline.’ Even when we do not consciously think, many times our bodies react with amazing skill, agility, and/or strength. The fight-or-flight response is beyond our conscious control in many critical circumstances.
Still, there is the concept of the Holy Spirit as an additional presence with us, just not a visible presence. Mull this idea over:
During that short time [30 years of Jesus’ life] the church was established, and the gospel of salvation was taken throughout the world, even to the capital of the Roman Empire. Those preaching the gospel, though ordinary people with human frailties and margins, were empowered [emphasis added] by the Holy Spirit to take the Good News “all over the world” (Acts 17:6). Throughout the book of Acts we learn about the nature of the church and how we today are also to go about turning our world upside down. (Ibid. p.1942)
The Apostles and the earliest disciples were just the average person like us, working to keep their families fed, sheltered, and clothed. They were picked by Jesus or called by God to transform the world around them.
Today, we are the disciples. We accepted God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit when we were baptized. We joined a particular church because it provided us with a community of believers who wanted to see God in action. Peter uses the story of Stephen as an example of how the Holy Spirit empowers the faithful:
Acts 6:8-10: 8 Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people. 9 But one day some men from the Synagogue of Freed Slaves, as it was called, started to debate with him. They were Jews from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and the province of Asia. 10 None of them could stand against the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen spoke. –the NLT
Again the study notes make a point of explaining that Stephen could not have managed all the lies, the imprisonments, the abuse, and the stoning if he had not accepted the Holy Spirit’s presence in his life. God’s adrenaline provides us the physical, mental, and spiritual strength to manage all the un-Christian influences in our lives.
Just who is the Holy Spirit? How do we recognize him, her, or it? There is no simple answer to that question, but remember that science has been able to identify the hormone adrenaline and to explain how it works. Compare that same understanding to the Holy Spirit.
We may not physically see it, but we know it is there. We know that when life hands us the challenges, God has given us the Holy Spirit to manage. The Holy Spirit is God’s adrenaline that makes it possible to do all things through Christ who strengthens us. You will recognize it when life puts you to the test:
- Maybe you are diagnosed with an extreme medical condition. Knowing that God is right there, simply call out to him for the strength to manage.
- Maybe some fraudulent person or company victimizes you by an accident or a scam. Rely on the Holy Spirit to guide you through the problem successfully.
- Maybe you are handed a task at work or even one you choose to take on that others say you can’t do. Think positively and thank God that he has provided you the Holy Spirit to work through it with you.
Just who is the Holy Spirit and how do you recognize it can be answered much more simply than one could ever expect: Once you accept Christ into your life, you accept the reality of God’s adrenaline, too. You know the Holy Spirit whenever you tackle some issue in your life that others might consider too much to handle. The Holy Spirit will give you the skills and the strength to handle the extraordinary situation in such a manner that others will think you are extraordinary.
Dear God in Three,
We believe in you as one of three.
We believe in your presence
in this universe we live.
We believe that you joined us
on this earth in the form of Jesus.
We believe that Jesus ascended into heaven
but you empowered us with the Holy Spirit.
Guide us daily in modeling your grace and love
to others in our homes, communities, and countries.
Guide us in acting fearlessly to the daily challenges
that pop up around us.
Guide us in serving one another in love,
never tiring because we are empowered.
Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit.
May we recognize how it gives us the strength
to do all that we can for all that we can
whenever and where ever we can. –Amen
Closing Scripture: Philippians 1:1-4
3 Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters,[a] rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.
2 Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. 3 For we who worship by the Spirit of God[b] are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, 4 though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more! –the NLT