Spirit of Power

Today’s Reading: Acts 21:15-36

For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of POWER, love and sound judgment. – 2 Timothy 1:7

After Saul received his sight back, he was baptized – not just by water but by the Spirit. He was filled with the Holy Spirit and immediately began to preach about Jesus. This boldness shows again that Paul was not consumed by a spirit of fear, but had been filled with the POWER of the Holy Spirit and lived his life in response to that infilling.

First he went to the Jewish synagogues saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!” It was like this big “aha” moment he wanted everyone to know about. He had persecuted the Christians because he really did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, but now he has experienced Jesus first-hand and he wants everyone to know that he was wrong – that Jesus is indeed the Son of God.

Of course, the people recognized him. They didn’t see him for who he had become but could only see him for who he used to be. His reputation of persecuting the believers was well known and they did not want to accept these changes as real.

Oh how guilty we can be of this in the church! How often we continue to define new believers by where they have been instead of looking to see where God is taking them. Oh, how guilty we can be of doing this to ourselves! We continue to define ourselves by our past mistakes and sins, holding on to the guilt instead of letting the Spirit completely fill us and make us into a new creation.

Saul’s preaching became more and more powerful. No matter how hard the Jews in the synagogues tried to prove that Jesus was not the Messiah, they could not argue with the proof that Saul had. They had a choice – join him or kill him. They chose the latter. When they heard the Jews were plotting to kill Saul, watching for him day and night so they could murder him, the believers lowered him in a large basket through an opening in the city wall so he could escape (Acts 9:20-25).

When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he faced the same kind of opposition. This new life of faith was not coming easily for Saul. The believers were afraid of him and the Greek-speaking Jews tried to kill him. But Barnabas (this was the nickname the apostles had given him because he was a man of encouragement – Acts 4:36) stood in the gap for Saul. He told the believers how Saul had changed and how boldly he had been preaching in Damascus. The believers helped Saul escape to Caesarea and then to his hometown of Tarsus.

(Maybe God is calling us to be a “Barnabas” for someone today. Perhaps He will ask us to stand in the gap or be a source of encouragement before the day is over.)

Does this escape plan mean that Saul was scared? Did he run away from God’s call the first time things got difficult? Did he say – Sorry, God, I tried. I guess you’ll have to find someone else. Maybe this preaching thing was just for a season of my life and it is time to move on. Not at all. Paul’s testimony of this difficult time in his life gives us a little more information:

“After I returned to Jerusalem, I was praying in the Temple and fell into a trance. I saw a vision of Jesus saying to me, ‘Hurry! Leave Jerusalem, for the people here won’t accept your testimony about me.’” – Acts 22:17-18

Saul was not running in a spirit of fearfulness. He was doing exactly what Jesus told him to do. God had given him a spirit of power, love and of sound judgment. This decision to leave Jerusalem can probably be placed in the category of sound judgment. God would use this persecution and the need to move from town to town to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ across the region. What could easily be defined as extreme persecution was used for God’s purposes and for God’s glory, just as He uses the difficult times in our lives.

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of POWER, love and sound judgment. – 2 Timothy 1:7

Father God, we thank you this morning that we do not have to live in fear of any situation we are facing or any unknown in our future. Thank you for the gift of your Spirit living within us, filling us with a spirit of POWER that allows us to overcome a spirit of fear. Lord, help us to respond in obedience as Paul did regardless of the intensity of the problems we face knowing that your grace is all we need. We ask for a fresh infilling of your Spirit this morning and we place the circumstances of our day in your hands. We are willing to have any conversation, walk through any door you open, and go wherever you lead. Amen.