Imagine being Timothy. For years, you have been instructed by Paul, receiving his correction and encouragement and seeing the growth in your own life as well as in the ministry. You sit there reading Paul’s letter, knowing that the days have grown harder and once again he has written from prison. As you read, you sense an urgency in his words and realize what he is doing—he is passing the torch . . . to you! Paul’s race is over—now you must run, and run hard.
Listen to the hope and energy in Paul’s words as he passes the torch onto Timothy, saying, “My dear son! God has called you. I know your faith is sincere. I know that your heart is pure. Now remember the gift of God within you! He has put His Spirit inside you, and it is not one of fear or timidity, but of power! Now fan that into flame and run, Timothy, run!”
Paul knew that what lay before Timothy was a task humanly impossible, as is all Christian service. That is why he directs Timothy’s eyes not onto himself, but on the priceless gift of God within him—the Holy Spirit, who alone is able to work through Timothy, do the ministry and carry out the responsibilities that are now entrusted to him.
Unfortunately, the power of the Holy Spirit is one of those subjects that people in many parachurch or nondenominational organizations tend to avoid, often because of the extremism found in some sections of Christianity and their teaching on the Holy Spirit. Emotional upheaval and radical manifestations have caused many evangelicals to shy away from the balanced teaching of Scripture on this crucial subject.
We must never forget that even the Lord Jesus Christ—God in flesh and the perfect, sinless Savior—had to be anointed with the Holy Spirit before starting His ministry on earth (see Matthew 3:16–17; Acts 10:38). His powerful ministry was not just something granted to Him by virtue of the fact that He was the Son of God. It was by the power of the Holy Spirit that He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, made the lame walk, raised the dead and preached the kingdom’s arrival.
And it was for this reason that Jesus “commanded [His disciples] . . . to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. . . . You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth’ ” (Acts 1:4–5, 8, NKJV).
Not too long before leaving them with this instruction, Jesus came to these disciples and passed a torch on to them, saying, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19–20). But when Jesus came to them, they were much in the state that Timothy was probably in when reading Paul’s letter.
For three years they walked with Jesus, sharing in the joy and thrill of His ministry. They stood beside Him as He touched the blind man’s eyes and rejoiced in amazement as sight came to him. But now things were different. Jesus had been crucified, they had fled in fear, Peter had denied the Lord and they had lost all hope to the point that they were returning to their fishing boats (see Luke 24:21; John 21:3–4). And now Jesus is telling them to go into all the world and do all the things He had done while with them? How impossible this task was! It must have sounded absurd. The disciples probably responded, “Jesus, we understand what You are saying, but physically You have been with us all these years. Now You say You are going back to the Father. How are we going to do this work without You?”
The answer? It wasn’t going to be without Him. He was sending the Holy Spirit, the One who would now lead them and give them the power to carry on the ministry. “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
Indeed, the Lord knew they would never be able to do what He asked in their own power. He had told them earlier that that was absolutely impossible (see John 15:4). That is why He commanded them to wait until they were baptized with the Holy Spirit and had received His power for ministry.
The same is true for us today. The power of the Holy Spirit is absolutely necessary. Why? Because the work to be done is not in the realm of flesh and blood alone. Our task is supernatural. And it is only by the Spirit’s power that we can accomplish the task our Lord and Savior left for us. It was the only way that Peter, the one who was so afraid of men that he ran away denying Christ, stood up with courage in the face of martyrdom to declare the Gospel and led thousands to repentance (see Acts 2). The power of the Holy Spirit is what enabled Stephen, a simple layperson in the Church, to single-handedly speak on behalf of the kingdom and then lay down his life for the faith (see Acts 7). And it is what enables and equips us for the task today, no matter how great or how small.
We desperately need men and women who not only understand doctrine, theory and teaching on the Holy Spirit, but who experience the reality of the Holy Spirit and His fullness in their daily lives and ministries, who know the precious gift of God within them that is able to set the captives free and who do just that!
Are you this kind of person? Are your life and ministry daily empowered by the gift of God within you, the same Spirit who raised Christ Jesus from the dead? My brothers and sisters, please, if not, cry out to God for this power so that you might rescue the perishing and win this generation for Christ. Stir up the gift of God within you!
Excerpt from Chapter 4 of Against the Wind (ISBN 978159589047X) © 2004 by KP Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia.
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