What self-respecting person travels with so many gadgets that he runs out of electrical outlets in the bedroom? This person, as my family can attest. So, when my watch needed recharging, I plugged it into the outlet in the bathroom. Yes, I knew it was a GFCI outlet, but I thought it would work just fine. It didn’t. Nothing. Zipola. Nada. No charge was happening in that outlet. Nothing else I tried to plug into that outlet worked, either.
I threw on my jeans, then ran out to the garage and started looking for the breaker panel. (Not something I would recommend of visiting guests, but I was desperate.) I found the guest bathroom breaker located on the panel with the other GFCI circuits. Everything looked fine, but I flipped it, then reset it. I then ran back to the bathroom: still nothing. No power. So, I did the only thing I could think of next. I took my shower! After toweling off and feeling a bit more clear-headed, I looked at the outlet again. Suddenly, I noticed the little red test button was not fully engaged. How had I missed that? I punched in the red button with a click, and then, bingo! My charger worked perfectly.
Often, I fear, we make plans to do great things for the Lord and find we can’t pull off what we had hoped to accomplish. We don’t have the ability, the resources, the insight, the right opportunity, not to mention the spiritual and emotional strength to get them done.
We can blame part of our failure on the opposition of Satan. The evil one will go to great lengths to interfere with our work to reach people with the good news of Jesus — remember the birds, the scorching sun, and the thorns in Jesus’ parable of the seed and the soils (Mark 4:1-7, 15-19).
Unfortunately, however, an even more significant reason for our failure has to do with our ignoring the importance of prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit. These two spiritual resources enable us to do what the Lord has called us to do. However, we often rely on our insight, the latest fad for evangelism, and what we have heard other churches do as we try to find ways to reach people in our communities.
Jesus gave his parting instructions[NOTE] to his closest followers before he returned to the Father. Remember what he said — both what he commanded and promised — to them?
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."
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"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" (Acts 1:4-5, 8).
We can have good plans and good intentions: if they are not prayer-incubated and Spirit-empowered plans and intentions, then they are going to fall short of our hopes and dreams. In effect, we hoped to have power, but we have forgotten to push the little red button. Without prayer and the Holy Spirit’s power, we rely on our own plans, efforts, insights, and power. Our circuit to heaven is cut off. Jesus’ promised power doesn’t flow to us. Our plans, efforts, insights, and power may get us down the road, but they will never be enough to help us arrive at God’s divine destination. We never reach those we are trying to bring to Jesus.
Jesus’ first disciples did what he asked. They returned to Jerusalem. They waited in prayer for the Lord to fulfill his promise (Acts 1:12-14). And, when they were filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:32-36), they began their work that ultimately "turned the world upside down" (Acts 17:6 ESV).
As we read through the book of Acts, when the disciples followed Jesus’ plan, they received what Jesus promised — power, open doors, and new people added to the family of God. When they didn’t, things slowed down, and the growth of Jesus’ family stopped. Their human prejudices and shortsightedness kept the message confined to the people they thought they could reach, not the world Jesus had called them to impact.
As we look at our world so in need of Jesus, today, we must make sure the current of heaven’s grace flows to us, and flows through us, to the world. Let’s punch that little red button by hitting our knees and asking for the Holy Spirit’s power to help us fulfill God’s call to reach our lost world.
We can discover the many ways that the Holy Spirit works mightily through ordinary people in the Bible — for example, notice all the ways the Holy Spirit is at work in us according to Romans 8:1-39. In the book of Acts, however, Luke assumes we know about many of these ways and focuses on four clear ways the Spirit is at work, which are all at least implied in Jesus’ instructions in Acts 1:8.
- Ensuring all peoples are saved:
Jesus made sure all people groups are included in God’s family through faith in Jesus, turning from their past life, baptism in water, and the coming of the Holy Spirit (Jewish people — Acts 2:36-47; Samaritans — 8:12, 14-17; Proselytes — Acts 8:36-39; Gentiles — Acts 10:34-48; 11:15; 15:8; and Disciples of John the Baptizer — Acts 19:1-7.) The Spirit also confirmed this inclusion through the work of the Jerusalem conference — Acts 15:28-29. The coming of the Holy Spirit was a clear indication that they were saved and included in the family of Jesus, resulting in fellowship with other believers.
- Giving Jesus’ servants words to say in the face of hostility:
Jesus promised this — Luke 12:11-12. We see it at Pentecost Acts 2:4, 32-33. Peter had that power before the Jewish ruling council — Acts 4:8. This power was given to all disciples after prayer — Acts 4:31. Stephen displayed this powerful speech as he was martyred — Acts 6:5; 7:55. Luke also stressed this inspired speaking throughout the book of Acts — Acts 5:3; 9:17; 13:9, 32; 11:24; 17:16.
- Guiding them on mission and opening up doors of opportunity:
The Holy Spirit led Peter to Cornelius through a dream-like vision — Acts 10:19 The Holy Spirit designated Barnabas and Saul (Paul) as the mission team to share the gospel as the Spirit guided and led them — Acts 13:1-4. Paul and his team prevented from going into Asia — Acts 16:6-10 — after calling them to Macedonia. Compelling Paul’s team to go back through Macedonia and Achaia — Acts 19:21. Sending Paul eventually back to Jerusalem — Acts 20:22; 21:4, 11
- Empowering Jesus’ followers in response to prayer:
After threats, the Holy Spirit empowered them to speak boldly — Acts 4:23-31. The Spirit came to the Samaritans after prayer — Acts 8:15. Paul and his team used Lydia and her household's commitment to prayer to lead them to Jesus — Acts 16:16. Of course, Jesus’ final instructions emphasized this principle — Luke 24:49; Acts 1:5, 12-14; 2:1-4, 32-36. Growth and depth of fellowship was a part of the leadership and all the believers’ devotion to prayer: Jesus’ first followers before Pentecost — Acts 1:14-16. The early believers after their conversion — Acts 2:42. The church’s response to persecution — Acts 4:23-31. The apostle’s focus as leaders — Acts 6:4. Peter’s call to share the good news of Jesus with Cornelius and other Gentiles — Acts 10:2, 9; 11:12.
- Jesus Isn’t Finished with Us Yet!
- It’s All About Jesus
- All Seekers Are Welcome Here
- What Time Is It?
- The Revolutionary Power of Witnesses
- A Family Without Borders
- Jesus’ Power to Get It Done
- Don't Just Stand There!
Special thanks for the use of the Jesus related images in this series to Free Bible Images and The Lumo Project. Those pictures associated with the ministry of the apostle Paul are courtesy of Boettcher+Trinklein Television Inc. © All rights reserved, from ToTheEndsofTheEarthMovie.com.