You Will Receive Power
National CCR Youth Leader, Australia
It has been a decade since WYD was held in Sydney Australia, and if you were fortunate enough to attend, you would surely remember the theme that was forefront for the entire event; Acts 1:8 – “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Additionally, there was that amazing theme song written for the event with the chorus cry of ‘Alleluia! Alleluia! Receive the power from the Holy Spirit ‘which remained popular for many years following.
There is no doubt that the tangible and transforming power of the Holy Spirit is alive and well today, but as we celebrate Pentecost a little over 2000 years from the original event, a question I would like to reflect on is; As much as we receive that Power, why does it seem like it goes away again?.
Let me start by sharing about my most vivid experience of the power of the Holy Spirit. I was a leader at a youth retreat for high school students. Even though it was not a charismatic event, I had still been asked to organize prayer teams for the night sessions. Not expecting much, I prepped my prayer teams and advised them to steer clear of anything that would be considered openly charismatic. The first night of prayer went to plan, but on the second night something shifted in the atmosphere. To my shock, young people flocked to our prayer lines and one by one were hit by the power of the Holy Spirit. Gifts of joy, healing, deliverance, tongues, visions and more were manifesting everywhere, and the room became heavy with the Presence of the Spirit. The young people, who had no formation or teaching in spiritual gifts, were buzzing with awe and excitement as the Spirit began to stir and work in the heart of every person in that room.
As much as we receive that Power, why does it seem like it goes away again?.
The events before, during, and after that night make for a long story in themselves, but needless to say my faith was burning brightly after that retreat. I remember popping into a supermarket on my way home and half expecting people to see some sort of light radiating from me, but no one seemed to notice anything. The feeling was euphoric. However much to my disappointment it lasted a week, if I may graciously add, is far longer than any spiritual ‘high’ I have experienced before or since. But, just as it has every other time, the goosebumps settled, the tingling died down, and I soon returned to my ordinary self.
If you are reading this article, chances are you too have experienced some sort of powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit, and if you haven’t, I know he is eagerly knocking at the door of your heart, come Holy Spirit! On the other hand, perhaps you are in a place of lack again after experiencing a jubilant moment on the mountain top, and so I am certain like me, you tend to wonder “why can’t I feel like that all the time?” – The saturating peace, the bursting joy, the unspeakable awe, and the burning passion that comes with the baptism or infilling of the Holy Spirit. So often we encounter God in a powerful way at a rally, a retreat, a prayer night, or even a random encounter, but the moment can be fleeting and after a night’s sleep, or sometimes after just leaving the building, it becomes a distant memory and a forgotten feeling.
Sometimes, we want the Holy Spirit to be more like the powers on the ever prevalent superhero movies that have filled our cinema screens in recent times. Once a superhero has discovered their power they permanently have it, or if they happen to lose it in anyway, they fight and scramble until they obtain it again. The power that Jesus promises us in the Holy Spirit can often feel like it is only given in short bursts and not ours to keep. This can create uncertainty in our journey and I have seen some good friends walk away from their faith because they were no longer experiencing the power as they encountered at an earlier time.
As Spirit filled Christians, we can often feel like a cup that has holes drilled out of its sides. No matter how filled with the Spirit we may get, we will eventually drain empty again. At first glance this may seem like a bleak image, but it is missing a key part of the picture. Above the cup with holes is a vast jug, the same jug that recently filled the cup to overflowing, and despite the inability for the cup to retain liquid, the jug is infinitely large and can easily replenish the leaky cup for its entire existence.
Sometimes, we want the Holy Spirit to be more like the powers on the ever prevalent superhero movies that have filled our cinema screens in recent times.
This image rings true of the images of faith that Jesus gives us in the Gospels. We should have faith like a child, we are sheep and He is the Shepherd, He is the Vine and we are the branches. There are many more, beautiful different images yet they have one thing in common – they are all images of dependence. Truth is, we need God, not only now, but for our entire existence. We would like to think that we will grow strong in our faith and be able to one day stand on our own, but we are not designed that way. We are hard wired for Him, created with a God sized hole in our hearts that He alone can fill with His desires. Similarly to a branch, we will forever be reliant on the vine for our nourishment and as soon as we separate we will start to shrivel and die.
Our inability to contain the Spirit of God works the same way. We were intentionally created for dependence. The Creator delights in His creation and He never tires of shepherding His precious sheep. His Grace to meet our needs is inexhaustible even as He is limitless in His provision.
A good challenge therefore for us this Pentecost would be to begin to accept our reliance on Jesus, to embrace our neediness, and to allow God’s Power to be made perfect in our weakness. This must be true, not just today, but tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. God longs to walk in relationship with us every day and our human desire for independence can be healthy in many other aspects of life, but not in faith.
Let us continually call upon the Spirit in our lives, Veni, Sancte Spiritus! Let it become an anthem within our hearts and not just a prayer we save for religious occasions. When you wake up in the morning, Come Holy Spirit, when you order food at the store, Come Holy Spirit, when you walk past a stranger, Come Holy Spirit, when you consider who to talk to outside of church, Come Holy Spirit, and when you have to wait in line, Come Holy Spirit.
Leaning on the Spirit of God at all times is not only beneficial for our faith, it’s also a lot of fun. You will be surprised at how many exciting tasks and missions the Spirit will lead you on when you keep a constant conversation of prayer in your heart.
Jesus promises us in Luke 11:13 that our Good Father in heaven will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask, so don’t settle for a half full cup.
This Pentecost, learn to constantly ask for the Holy Spirit and allow the abundant waters of heaven to keep you filled to the brim at all times.