I learned lesson in serving on the weekend when I took part in a youth outreach event with Project X.
Well, it was actually more of an extension of a lesson that began in March this year.
While at an event called Simply God, God challenged me about my motives behind serving Him. One of the most challenging questions was: If my books never generate money or recognition for me, do I still want to put the effort into writing them?
We all know what the ‘right’ answer is. But honestly, my motivation diminished when I considered that scenario.
Then God presented the question another way: If I never land a publishing contract or a husband—two things I’d like to find in the next 10 years—will I still be as enthusiastic in serving Him?
I knew then that my attitudes would be challenged. However, it was all head-level at that point. On the weekend, I got a taste of it in practise.
I’m part of a group called Project X, and we held our second annual youth outreach event in the outback town of Roma last weekend.
It included freestyle motorbike riders, an X Factor competition, a gaming zone, a graffiti art zone, a girl zone and more. My job was in the girl zone, where I had prepared a creative writing workshop and brought in magazines and games, planning to chill out and chat with high-school aged girls.
In the lead-up to the event, there was a lot of talk about how teenage girls were a particularly vulnerable demographic in that area. We planned accordingly, and prayed every step of the way.
The even wasn’t supposed to kick off till 3pm Saturday, so we were pretty pumped when people started rolling through the gates at 2.45. The first few through the door were younger girls, aged between 4 and 8, so I plopped down at our nail painting station and started with them. We expected the older girls to arrive soon.
Within half an hour, the place was packed. But there wasn’t a lot of teenagers in sight. In fact, it seemed that we’d attracted every age group except girls aged 15-19. By the end of the day, I’d spent a couple hours simply asking, ‘Which colour glitter would you like?’
Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time with those little girls. They were adorable and told me all about their schools and siblings and glitter preferences.
But the day didn’t go quite the way I expected. While I knew I’d played my part in a larger movement (our group preached the gospel to hundreds that day), I had little contact with the spiritual side of it myself.
So at the end of the night, when my friends were on a total high about the conversations they’d had and things they’d seen, I … wasn’t.
At first, this bothered me. I journaled a little during church the next day (yes, I’ll admit I wasn’t really listening…) and God used that time to point out a few things that I’d momentarily forgotten.
The biggest one was: serving is not about me!
I’m not supposed to serve just because I want warm fuzzies or a spiritual high. I’m not supposed to serve because it makes me look holy or important. And I’m not supposed to serve just because it’s going to be fun. (Though it was a pretty fun adventure with my mates!)
I should do this because I want to obey God. I wanted to spread His message and hopefully be part of expanding His family. And I want to glorify Him.
At the end of the day, whether 1 or 100 people responded, we were successful if we fulfilled those three objectives.
I mean, I know a little bit. I know that what we call the ‘Holy Spirit’ is God’s own spirit which lives in my heart, and has lived there ever since I accepted Jesus’ forgiveness.
I know the Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity: God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
I know Jesus sent the Holy Spirit into the hearts of believers, so that He can help us.
But any understanding beyond that gets a little fuzzy.
A few weekends ago I heard a sermon which spoke about the Holy Spirit in a clear and simple way that I’ve never heard before. I’ve listened to the sermon four times since and it has majorly helped me with understanding this mysterious part of God’s character.
And it just so happens, the preacher was my Dad. So I’ve been able to get a copy of that audio and put it here to share with all of you. 🙂
I think this message was also especially good for people who don’t feel like they fit into church. So if that’s you, listen up! 🙂
Since I struggle to remember things that I only hear—it’s far easier for me if they’re written down—I listened to the sermon again last night and wrote down notes to help me remember all the great points. I’ve included those notes below for all of you too.
I really ask that you give this message a go. Dad’s a farmer, so he talks in normal Aussie language and explains things in a practical way.
Play it while you wash the dishes or rake the lawn or something, and get ready for God to talk to you!
First, Dad does a quick recap of the sermons they’ve done so far this term. They are all about the Book of Acts.
1. Who is the church for?
Not just ‘churchy people’, but everyone.
2. The Holy Spirit draws ourselves and other people closer to Jesus.
The Holy Spirit wants the whole church to take the whole gospel to the whole world.
3. It was Jesus’ mission, and it is ours too today, to make disciples. (Jess’s note: By ‘disciples’, we mean ‘to make followers of Jesus who are becoming more like Him’.)
4. We need to get ready for that mission, and to get our identity from God. We need to know who God is and what he’s done for us, so we know who we are and what we should do.
5. Preparation often involves waiting. We usually think we’re waiting for God, but God is often waiting for us to focus on Him.
6. We need to pray together. Praying together builds unity.
7. The Holy Spirit is in our hearts and enables us to continue Jesus’ mission of creating disciples. His Spirit fills us and overflows into our interactions with people we know.
8. The Holy Spirit helps us to know Jesus/God better.
9. The Holy Spirit is for everyone.
Then Dad prays.
Okay, here’s the ‘real’ sermon:
Dad is preaching from Acts 2. You might want to pause for a minute and read the verses he’s preaching from; that part got left out of the recording.
On the day of Pentecost[a] all the believers were meeting together in one place.2 Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting.3 Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them.4 And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages,[b] as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.
5 At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem.6 When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers.
7 They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee,8 and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages!9 Here we are—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia,10 Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!”12 They stood there amazed and perplexed. “What can this mean?” they asked each other.
Acts 2:1-12, NLT
The Holy Spirit is for all people.
(Jess’s note: Dad’s reference here to ‘Beksy’ was for my sister, who was sitting beside me in church laughing at something.)
The Holy Spirit worked to connect people to Jesus. He still empowers us to do that today.
What attracted the crowds was Jesus, not clever speaking or talent. That hasn’t changed today. It’s all about Jesus.
The Holy Spirit is here to connect us with Jesus, and others with Jesus. He communicates with us in ways we can understand.
When you let God take over more of your life, you give the Holy Spirit more room to work in your heart. You become even more empowered to reach other people.
(Jess’s note: At 14 min 30 sec, Dad refers to a ‘line’. I think he had a picture of it up on the projector in church, so here is my best reproduction of it.)
Two extremes to avoid, and the balance in the middle
Here is a list of things that happened when the Holy Spirit did stuff, as recorded in Acts:
They prayed together
They worshiped Jesus
They had unity
They spoke in heavenly tongues
They spoke about Jesus with courage
They cared for the poor and sick
Lots of people believed in Jesus
People were generous
They were obedient
They spoke in foreign languages
It’s all about bringing us closer to Jesus, and others closer to Jesus. Each of those actions helps accomplish that.
The number of times an incident is recorded in the Bible can be an indicator of how much emphasis God puts on it. Which two things in that list do you think were recorded the most often in Acts?
SPOILER ALERT: BELOW ARE THE ANSWERS
‘Miracles happened’ was #5. ‘Prayed together’ was #6. ‘Cared for poor and sick’ was #8.
‘Spoke about Jesus with courage’ was #1. ‘Lots of people believed’ was #2.
In fact, most of the items in that list were mentioned less than a handful of times. But Acts records thirty instances where the Holy Spirit empowered believers to speak about Jesus with courage. It also records seventeen instances where lots of people believed.
Acts 1:8 NLT: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
If we will wait and we have the Holy Spirit on us, we will be God’s witnesses.
(Jess’s note: By ‘witnesses’, Dad means that we will communicate to people about God and what He’s done for us.)
God has given us all different gifts, but the Holy Spirit is for everyone. This is a promise made to all.
It is not only a promise, but also a command.
Jesus used a variety of styles to connect with people. God meets people where they’re at. Eating with them, working with them, doing life with them.
God puts people in our lives for a reason. Our job is to pray, watch and wait for God-provided opportunities.
We don’t have to force anything; the pressure is off. It’s just us being obedient.
When this event at the start of Acts happened, there were two main problems with spreading the word about God. One was distance; no cars or planes back then. The other was language barriers.
In this event, everyone was already there for the Pentecost festival. And God solved the language problem with a miracle. It’s almost like He knew what He was doing!
The message about God is bigger than just us; it’s about everyone.
The Holy Spirit is given to those who obey.
The Holy Spirit isn’t just for special people, or super-spiritual weirdos. He’s for ordinary people like us.
All of Acts is a record of what the Holy Spirit will do, working through the lives of obedient people.
Pray for courage, pay attention to those outside the church, be intentional about growing disciples and listen to the Holy Spirit. Watch and see what God’s doing around us. Let the Holy Spirit deeper and deeper into our hearts.
Obedience can teach us stuff about God that our minds cannot learn on their own.
Jess’s note: So one question for me to think about after this message is, am I becoming more and more obedient to God?
I also especially loved the part about how the Holy Spirit empowers us to communicate with other people about God.
Comment below and share how/if this message challenged you!
Also, if this message means as much to you as it has to me, please consider sharing it with others.
I think this is a topic that gets missed a lot in church, and I feel very lucky that I’ve been able to get a better understanding of it. 🙂 It’s also been great timing, with our Project X mission coming up next weekend.
If everyone can shoot up a prayer for the Project X weekend, that would be fantastic! 🙂