Every Time I Feel The Spirit
In his book entitled Healing Grace, Dr. David Seamonds tells about a farmer who had fallen on hard times. He went to see the manager of his bank. He said to the banker: “I’ve got some good news and some bad news. Which would you like to hear first?” The banker replied: “Let’s get the bad news over with first.” The farmer said: “Well, between the drought and inflation, I won’t be able to pay anything on my mortgage this year. And then you remember that loan I took out a couple of years ago to buy a new tractor, well, I can’t pay anything on that either. And then just before the last planting season I borrowed some money from you to buy seeds and fertilizer—and of course I can’t pay that back either.” The banker said: “Well, that sure is bad all right! But, please, tell me the good news.” The farmer replied: “The good news is that I fully intend to keep doing business with you!”
There’s great theology in that story if we reverse the subjects. The good news of our Christian faith is that in spite of our moral bankruptcy, God intends to keep on doing business with us. In fact, that is what Pentecost was all about. The disciples were spiritually bankrupt. Their minds were confused. Their confidence was shaken. Their nerves were shot. Their strength was sapped. Their energy was depleted. Their hearts were empty. After three topsy-turvy years of following Jesus around the countryside, it had all come to a screeching halt. First there had been the crucifixion and their hopes and dreams had been dashed. Then came Easter, and with the Lord’s resurrection, their spirits were resurrected too. But then came another jolt. Jesus had said to them: “I must return to my heavenly Father, and I am going to leave you to teach the world of love and sacrifice and commitment and grace.” And then He was gone, and they were left on their own. The size of the task He had given them, combined with the depth of their own feelings of inadequacy left them wallowing in despair again.
It was just then that they heard a strange sound, way off in the distance, becoming louder and louder. It was a sound like the rush of a mighty wind, and it blew into their lives. And suddenly, they received a new burst of courage and confidence, and strength and energy. They were empowered to take up the preaching, teaching, healing, caring ministry of Jesus Christ. They felt the Spirit and they went on to become the Church of the living Lord.
Have you heard the story about the young man who approached the father of his girlfriend to ask his permission to marry her? The father was more than a little skeptical. He said: “Son, I like you. I think you are a decent young man. However, my daughter has very extravagant tastes, and I doubt that you will ever be able to support her in the manner to which she has become accustomed. I’m a wealthy man, and I can barely manage it myself.” The young man thought for a moment, and then he said: “Well, you know, Sir, I think I have an idea. You and I could just pool our resources.”
That’s actually the message of Pentecost, isn’t it? God is with us. We can pool our meager resources with His vast unlimited resources—and His strength will see us through. Because of Pentecost, because of the strengthening, sustaining presence of God’s spirit within us, we can live with courage, confidence, and grace. Let me show you what I mean …
Every time I feel the Spirit in my life, I find the strength for Christian living.
In those critical days after Jesus departed from them, those disciples were bound to have experienced some hard, uncertain, and discouraging moments. I suspect they were tempted to throw in the towel and quit on life. We all know the feeling.
Father Roland Rolheiser is a Roman Catholic teacher and writer. A few years ago, he wrote an article containing what he called “The Ten Commandments For The Long Haul.” They contain some secrets for facing the challenges of life over a long period of time. Here they are:
- “Be grateful. Never look a gift universe in the mouth.
- Don’t be naive about God. He will not settle for less than everything.
- Walk forward when possible. When it feels impossible, try putting one foot in front of the other.
- Pray that God will hang on to you.
- Put love first in your life. If a life is large enough for love, it is large enough.
- Accept what you are … and don’t be afraid to be who you are.
- Refuse to take yourself too seriously; laugh at yourself regularly.
- Don’t be afraid to be softhearted. Redemption lies in tears.
- Stay with the folks. Remember … you are on a group outing.
- Don’t mummify. Stay alive and alert and celebrate life.”
When I first discovered Rolheiser’s “Ten Commandments for the Long Haul” I found them all helpful and thought-provoking, but the one that caught my attention most of all was the last one. “Don’t mummify. Stay alive and alert and celebrate life.” In other words, don’t quit on life, and walk through your days like a mummy. If you’ve ever seen a mummy, you know that there’s something physical there; there’s a body there, but it is lifeless. There’s no breath, no spirit, no heartbeat, no vitality, no soul, no strength, no life.
Sadly, some people are like that. They have become disillusioned with life. They have lost the fire that drives their hope. They just “go through the motions” of life. They exist, but they are mummified. They’ve thrown in the towel. They’ve given up. They’ve quit on life. They have no zest, no joy, no spirit. They are lifeless flesh trudging through life toward death. They mummify. Please don’t let that happen to you. Please don’t drop out. Please don’t quit, even when the circumstances seem to be forcing you to quit. Ask God to let you feel His Spirit. For then you will find the strength for joyous Christian living.
And every time I feel the Spirit in my life, I find the joy of Christian believing.
God is not going to force us to believe in Him. He is going to encourage us to believe in Him. He is going to invite us to believe in Him. He is going to create a situation where we can believe in Him, but believing in Him is something we have to do for ourselves.
If I were to make a list of the most beloved hymns of all time, one of the hymns certain to make that list would be “Just As I Am.” It has been called the world’s greatest soul-winning hymn. That is due in large measure, I suppose, to the world-wide influence of Billy Graham and his Crusades. Billy Graham walked to the altar in his conversion as a young man, to the singing of that hymn, and ever since, his Crusades on every continent have used that hymn as the invitation hymn.
But the real power in the hymn is found in the one who wrote the words many years ago. Her name is Charlotte Elliott. She was born in England in 1789. When she was 32, she suffered a rare illness that left her a permanent invalid. She sank into great despair. A year later, her concerned father brought a minister into their house to talk with his daughter. God was with that minister that day. He said just the right words with just the right tone of voice, and suddenly the presence of God was felt in that room. Charlotte Elliott felt the Holy Spirit touching her heart. She gave up her rebellion against God and placed her complete trust in Jesus Christ. From that moment on she did a very interesting thing. Until her death at age 82, she always celebrated her birthday on that day—the day of her spiritual birth. “That’s the day I really came alive”, she said, “and therefore, that’s my real birthday.” Later she wrote the hymn, which is her own spiritual autobiography:
“Just as I am, without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”
Today, as you come to this table, feel the Spirit. When you do, you’ll find the strength you need for Christian living, and you’ll find the joy that comes from Christian believing. So come, just as you are.
The blood of Christ is shed for you …