Perspectives | 21/06/2020 | Leaky Vessels by Derek Chittick

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Espace spirituel anglophone

dimanche 21 juin à 8h45

Durée émission : 10 min

Espace spirituel anglophone

A couple of weeks ago, the air conditioning in our car stopped working, just at a point where the sun was gracing us with its presence almost continuously and the temperatures were in the high 20s.

Inside the car, they were much higher, necessitating driving with the windows open but still being uncomfortably hot. These things happen, of course, but the annoying feature about this occasion was the fact that it happened last summer too, and we had two garage bills before it was sorted out, so we thought we’d be free of that particular trouble this year.
The problem seems to be that there is a leak in the system, allowing the gas which performs the miracle of air conditioning to drain away over time. It can’t be a big leak, or the system wouldn’t work for any length of time; just big enough to allow it to function for several months before packing in.

Occurring as it did around the time of Pentecost, it made me think of a similarity with us. I remember hearing a story about a man who attended a particular church where there was frequent opportunity for people to be prayed for if they felt they had a particular need. This man came forward for prayer on every possible occasion, and his request was always the same – please pray that I might be filled with the Holy Spirit. No matter how many times he was prayed for, he still came back again with the same request. Sometimes, when he was being prayed for, there would be an indication that something was happening that looked like his prayer was being answered. He always went away grateful and testified to being refreshed by the experience.

Finally, when he came yet again and asked to be filled with the Holy Spirit, the person who was to pray for him said, “But I’ve prayed for you to be filled with the Spirit so many times! Why do you need me to pray for that again?” The man replied, “I leak!”
Sometimes, especially at Pentecost, we can have the impression that the coming of the Holy Spirit to fill us is a one-off event, like what happened to the disciples on that morning in Jerusalem. According to our theology or experience, or both, it may or may not be accompanied by incredible manifestations; possibly not a rushing, mighty wind and tongues of fire on our heads, but at least speaking in a strange language or experiencing a special sense of the power of God moving in our life.
Whatever it may look like, we see it as once for all, and that’s it. We may even look back to that day with special affection as the day when we came to know the Lord, or the day when He gave us a second blessing, and we tell others about it, perhaps even with a sense of awe or excitement, but we don’t look for or expect anything similar to happen again. We received the Holy Spirit, and that’s the end of it.

However, we probably also know the feeling of something lacking, of the need of fresh strength or renewed empowering as we go through life as disciples of Jesus. Sometimes, the way seems harder than others, as the years pass the initial enthusiasm may wane, the road might seem more difficult, the people around us become more demanding and less reasonable, and we can end up tired and discouraged. The resources of the Holy Spirit, given to us to enable us in following Jesus, seem to have run out; have we used up our allotted portion of His power, and must we go on running on empty for the rest of our lives? The problem is that, like the man in the story and our air conditioning system, we leak!

A quick look at the New Testament, however, may help us here. Two terms are used to describe experiences of the Holy Spirit – baptism and filling. One is a picture of being immersed in a fluid, the other of being filled with a fluid, so they seem to point to different things. The baptism in the Holy Spirit, promised to those who follow Jesus, seems to be a one-off experience, often at the start of our Christian lives. Filling with the Spirit, on the other hand, is a particular equipping by the Spirit in the face of challenges or opportunities. Some time after Pentecost and the powerful outpouring of the Spirit on him and the other disciples, Peter is dragged before the Jewish ruling council and put on trial. Faced with such a challenging situation, Acts 4;8 tells us that he was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke powerfully to the elders. Other recorded incidents tell a similar story – fresh empowering by the Spirit for new challenges and ongoing service.

In Ephesians 5;18, Paul directs us to be filled with the Spirit, but the exact meaning is actually, “keep on being filled with the Spirit,” an ongoing process. The Lord doesn’t just give up on us when we run out of steam, but encourages us to come to Him for fresh resources on a regular basis – whenever we need them, in fact! He doesn’t ration us, He gives His Spirit without measure, which is great news for me, because I leak pretty badly! So let’s not be satisfied with running on empty or with giving up for lack of fuel! The resources are there and we only need to ask, as frequently as we want to. Have a good week.

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