“The 4 phases of the Spirit’s work”

Newsletter 15 May 2020, Episode 46

How many weeks have we been in lockdown now? I’ve lost count. In fact, I often struggle to figure out which day of the week it is.

I sat down the other day to try and figure out what some of the lessons might be for me and those of us of the Christian faith from all that is going on. What happens when we look at these events through the lens of the New Testament? I don’t have all my thinking processed yet, but here are a few ideas.

Some lessons from the Spirit

  1. There are no barriers to his work.
  2. He acts so that we can grow through this time of testing.
  3. He is readily available and enough for us to be supported in what we need.
  4. He finds ways to connect us with our neighbours – especially those we might not have anticipated connecting with.
  5. He has shown us that we can be more flexible regarding our forms of church than we thought we could.
  6. He has made the vulnerable more visible to us.

No barriers
Last week Simon Palmer was restored here in Watford. I heard recently that two teenagers had been baptised in this period in Belfast. Just yesterday a teenager was baptised in the sea down in Dorset.  There are many, many stories like this going on not only in this country but around the world. It might be a truism, but it is vital to remember that our physical restrictions have no bearing whatsoever on the Spirit’s effectiveness. In fact, in some ways the Spirit seems to have been more powerfully released because of what is going on.

The early church
A quick skim through the book of Acts reminds us that the church progressed, matured and expanded as a direct result of the unexpected actions of the Spirit. Whilst talking to a friend about this yesterday it occurred to me that on each occasion something unexpected happened to disrupt the life of the early church, our early brothers and sisters went through four phases. These were: surprise; wrestling; insight; cooperation.

Where are you and where is your congregation or family group in this process? Are you still in the surprise/chaos scenario? Are you fasting, praying and wrestling with God to make sense of things? Have you found a Spirit-inspired insight revealing God’s purpose in this? Are you now consciously, intentionally and practically planning on cooperating with what the Spirit has shown you?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this and your stories of surprise, wrestling, insight and cooperation. For myself, different aspects of my personal spiritual life and church life are in different phases. Predominantly I have moved beyond the surprise phase, but some parts of what’s going on cause me to continue to wrestle. I have some new insights regarding the value and effectiveness of online church, outreach and training. I sense that cooperation is on its way and has begun, but there is much more to do.

Could it be that one of the reasons God has allowed the current situation is to help us grasp something that the apostle Paul understood?

“I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”

(1 Corinthians 2:3–5 NIV11)

If this period teaches us to rely on God’s power more than our own wisdom, all of what we are experiencing will be worth it.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and that you are able to discern what the Spirit is showing you to his glory and your joy.

God bless, Malcolm