Are you struggling with Pandemic-related inertia?
As we move out many of the Covid restrictions, do you need to find a way of ‘getting going again’, of recovering your balance? But how can you do it?
Welcome back to the Word for the Month, and a special welcome for those who are first timers! This, and previous words, may be found here.
I want to share with you six simple biblical steps that are foundational for refocussing your life. At the end there is a prayer and a video-based Blessing.
Having lived so long in Covid restrictions has been traumatic. We are all weary. Our routines have themselves become like prisons. Our lack of social interaction has been frustrating, painful or damaging. Our sense of motivation has fallen asleep. How do we ‘get ourselves going again’?
As always, we find help and direction in God’s Word.
Following the trauma of the crucifixion, the disciples were in lockdown. When Jesus rose from the dead, he met with them over 40 days and helped them to recover (Peter, Thomas) and refocus their lives. What he shared with them is recorded by Dr Luke in Acts 1:3-14and it gives us pointers for our own lives today.
You need a personal meeting with Jesus, the resurrected Lord
This is where it starts. This is not about mental assent to the doctrine of the resurrection. It’s personal encounter. Two-way conversation. Fellowship. (Acts 1:3)
In the strange days we are living through, with little or no physically-present collective worship, it has become easy to lose our sense of contact with Jesus, and with our brothers and sisters. The Christian Church has caught up with the World and learned to live within the digital world. We may be warmed by the videos or live streaming of events around the world, and it’s all a wonderful gift. It isn’t personal, though. There really are 10,000 reasons to be thankful, but no-one will hug you or share a cuppa with you at the end.
Intimate long-distance relationships are normally time-limited.
Jesus is not remote. He isn’t hiding, although it may sometimes feel as though he is. He is alive, he is with you now, and he was with you in your isolation, fear and grief. He can still walk into a room that has the doors and windows shut. If you ask, he still wants to comfort you and reveal more of himself to you.
You need to learn about the Kingdom of God
Last December we celebrated the birth of Jesus. God himself coming into the world, although the world failed to recognise him. Next December we shall celebrate the incarnation all over again.
In the Spring we celebrate Easter as we recall the events surrounding Jesus’ betrayal, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. Paul the Apostle writes at length about the saving work that took place for us. Through his death we have died to sin and the demands of the law that issues in spiritual death have been replaced by forgiveness. Through his resurrection we too have been raised to new life in Christ Jesus. We have a future hope. How glorious is that?
So that’s the birth and death of Jesus celebrated every year.
But what about the life and ministry of Jesus? What about the four gospels, the accounts of his life, words and deeds during his presence with us? Do they count for anything? Was Jesus born to die for our sins and that’s the whole gospel in a nutshell? Should we simply forget about his life and teaching? Was his ministry irrelevant?
This month, May 2021, we celebrate Ascension Day and Pentecost (the birthday of the Church). Do you know the dates without looking them up? Most won’t.
It’s noticeable that the disciples were not spending their time with Jesus on learning more about how their personal salvation worked. Rather, they were discussing and working through some issues related to the breaking in of the Kingdom of God and it’s timings. (Acts 1:3) They had a Jewish kingdom consciousness and the teaching of Jesus was all about the kingdom. Why not go back to the gospels and read them as a learner about the kingdom and see afresh what Jesus taught and demonstrated. After all, he said we were to seek the kingdom before anything else. (Matt 6:33)
You Need to Accept your calling to be a witness for Jesus Christ
This is not a calling for a special few. Every single person who follows Jesus is called by him to become a witness. (Acts 1:8)
What is a witness? Simply put, a witness is someone who has seen something first-hand, or who personally experienced something, and can tell the tale.
So being a witness has to do with evidence. What evidence do you have to encourage others that Jesus is God’s Son and that his words and promises are certain, and available for them as well?
How do we witness?
We witness by our lives; not because they are perfect, but because they have become a work of grace in progress. If our words and lives don’t match up, it will be our lives that will be believed, and our words will be mocked. So, we ask the Holy Spirit to fill our lives afresh and to release the fruit, the character of Jesus, through us. If we wait until we are good enough that time will never arrive. Being on the way is sufficient as long as we don’t pretend that we are fully sorted already.
We witness by our actions.
Regardless of what we say we believe, the way we expend our time, money and energy display the true picture of what we truly value in our heart.
As Christians, our love, care for the weak, the poor, the downtrodden, the oppressed, should be evident. Our deep compassion for people and for the created order speak loudly of the Creator and the Saviour. We pray – but we also act, according to our circumstances. (James 2:14-17)
We witness with our words. We name the name!
A witness is called to speak what they know about Jesus. To answer the questions:
Do you know him?
How did you come to trust in him?
What has he done for you?
What have you seen him do for others?
What prayers have been answered?
What effect is he having on your life?
How does he influence your marriage, parenting, interacting with others?
What has he brought into your life? Healing, peace, restoration, purpose, forgiveness? – whatever you have experienced is what you witness to.
It’s that simple – and that difficult. Fear and self-doubt rise up. ‘I’m not able to do that. My life isn’t that sorted.’ Yes, but that’s the point. That’s exactly where you relate strongly to those around you whose lives are also not sorted. You aren’t called to be a witness to your well-sorted life. You are called to say what you know, believe and have experienced of Jesus in the context of an ordinary life. That’s what makes your witness believable.
Our testimony brings evidence that God loves us and has raised Jesus to life; that he is the Son of God. That hope and salvation have come into the world.
‘But I feel so weak.’ Yes, and so you should. That’s the safe place to be. Honest. Realistic. So, bring your weakness to Jesus and remember his promise. (2 Cor 12:9)
Welcome the promise and instruction of Jesus
Jesus understands our fear and weakness, that we are but flesh. God’s purpose is a supernatural enterprise from beginning to end. Flesh alone cannot to the job.
So, knowing our frailty and our flesh, he steps in, with grace and mercy, to help us. “When the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will receive power to be my witnesses.”
He calls us to work. We are enrolled into his purposes and we have a role to fulfil. We are to be a witness. Each one of us, just as we are, with all our individual strengths, weaknesses, mannerisms, personality, wounds and brokenness.
When he calls you as a witness, he promises you the needed equipment for the job.
You Need to Receive the Promised Holy Spirit
In Acts 2 Dr Luke recounts for us the fulfilment of the promise; the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and the boldness and effectiveness which instantly transformed and empowered the witness of the disciples.
How might you be filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit to become the best witness you can be?
Bring your weakness to him and acknowledge it. Declare your thirst for the Spirit’s help. Don’t think this promise isn’t for you; Peter declares its for young, old, male, female, slave and free. Everyone who is thirsty may come and drink. (John 7:37)
There is a simple ABC that might help us here.
A. Ask. Just ask the Holy Spirit to fill you afresh and empower you to bear witness to Jesus.
B. Believe the promise-giver, the living Word of God, and choose to believe by faith that he has heard your prayer and empowered you.
Note, this isn’t about you, or feeling empowered or different (although that might occasionally be experienced). It’s about the way your straightforward testimony is received by others. There is a power in the simplest words you speak that has nothing to do with you and the effect upon others can be surprising.
C. Confess. Speak out your witness whilst trusting that the Holy Spirit is anointing what you say with his power.
Be clear about Where Jesus Is and What he is doing
Jesus has been taken back into heaven. Dr Luke, the careful historian, witnesses to it. It’s a hugely vital fact of the Christian gospel, but unlike Easter and Christmas, Ascension Day is forgotten by many. Go on – admit that you still don’t know the date of it this year! You won’t be alone!
God has raised Jesus up from the dead and exalted him at his right hand. Note: the context was that he was continuing to speak of the Kingdom, of which the coming of the Spirit was a part, and he was blessing them in his going (Lk 24:50, 51).
So, what is Jesus doing now? Here are some pointers to consider.
He is seated at the right hand of the Majesty on High. All that was necessary for your personal salvation has been accomplished.
He stands to honour those who suffer for their witness (see Acts 7:56).
He is blessing you and will continue to do so.
He is speaking to the Father on your behalf (Gk parakletos) whilst the Holy Spirit is speaking to you on the Father’s behalf (Gk parakletos).
In Jesus, the Kingdom of God has broken into time and space. Heaven’s rule invaded planet earth 2,000 years ago and it has been working underground, like yeast, ever since.
God’s story on earth hasn’t finished. We know the beginning of the ending, but we haven’t arrived there yet.
Your story on earth hasn’t finished either. You exist because of the will, purpose and sheer goodness of God. Your physical life is finite and none of us know how long we have left. To be counted among the wise, we need to make the most of the time we have and be faithful in our witness. (Eph 5:15-21)
Those steps again:
- Have a new meeting with Jesus
- Learn about the Kingdom of God from the gospels
- Accept that you are called to be a witness for Jesus Christ
- Welcome the promise and instruction of Jesus
- Receive the promised Holy Spirit (afresh).
- Be clear about where Jesus is and what he is doing now.
We are living in a time of extended grace and mercy. (2 Pet 3:9) When the end comes, the opportunity for people to repent ceases. The time is short. There is an urgency to our task.
We wait for the ending as we live in expectancy; Jesus is coming again in power and great glory. (Acts 1:9-11) And we shall see him! (1Jn 3:2; Rev 1:7)
So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and sober. (1Thess 5:6)
Heavenly Father, I come to you in weakness to ask you to revive me again. To heal me from my wounds, to strengthen me again, and to stir up the joy of my salvation.
I accept my calling to be a witness for Jesus. I have read his words and know the promise. So Holy Spirit, I ask you to come and fill me now with the empowerment I long for, that my life, my actions and my words may be effective witness to others, believers and non-believers alike. Holy Spirit, I put my trust in you and receive you by faith right now. Come and empower my witness so that others may come to Jesus and worship him. In Jesus’ name.
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© Roy Godwin 2021