There is a verse in the Bible which has gripped me lately: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
What was it that led others to take special notice of Peter and John (as well as the rest of the disciples) and proclaim, “Wow, did you see that? Unbelievable!”
We know the answer. The Holy Spirit. Before Pentecost (Acts 2), these men were petty, insecure, and self-absorbed. After their Spirit-baptism, they were bold, passionate, Jesus-fixated men who could not be contained.
I have asked myself: Does my life provoke that kind of astonishment in others? As people observe me, are they ever left surprised, baffled by what they have seen (and it would have nothing to do with my unique ability to put a shirt and pair of pants together)?
Author and popular speaker Francis Chan writes, “If I were Satan and my ultimate goal was to thwart God’s kingdom and purposes, one of my main strategies would be to get churchgoers to ignore the Holy Spirit.” I couldn’t agree more. Without the power of the Holy Spirit, people operate in their own strength and only accomplish human-size goals. However, when believers live in the Spirit’s fullness, their lives ring with “supernaturalness.”
I believe that kind of life is meant to be the norm for every Christian. If our lives can be explained apart from the work and presence of the Holy Spirit, we are not living the life God designed for us to live. We are falling far short of what he intends.
I remember when our oldest son Joshua was 4 or 5 years of age. He was mesmerized by the garbage truck that came by every Monday morning to collect our trash. As soon as he heard the roar of the engine as it rounded the corner toward our house, he would plop himself on the couch and stare out the front window fixated upon the “wonder” sent from heaven.
One day my sister, his Aunt Lisa, was visiting and asked Joshua what he wanted to be when he grew up. I will never forget what he said (it is on video): “I want to be a garbage-can man!” Now please, no offense to my brothers who are part of the sanitation engineering efforts of this world. I appreciate their labors tremendously. But understand, what father or mother would be pleased if his or her child’s greatest aspiration in life was to be a “garbage-can man?” We parents want more for our children. We tell them (at least we should) that the sky is the limit. They can be anything they set their mind to if they work hard enough and have God’s blessing. Right? We encourage our children to dream and think big.
Yet so often, we are like my son Joshua and settle for so much less than what God wants for us. We are okay that we can’t cast out demons, cleanse lepers, restore sight to the blind, and raise the dead. We’ve never even thought about handling snakes, drinking poison, or walking on water (see Mk. 16:18; Mt. 14:22 ff.). We are okay that we go to church once a week, pay our bills on time, have regular family nights, and give a portion of our money to charity.
We are content with low-level Christianity—“getting by.” In fact, many of us are happy to just make it through the week.
Friend, you can be much so more than a “Garbage-Can Man.” God has more than mere survival planned for you. Jesus wants you to do “greater things” than even he did on this earth (see Jn. 14:12).
How? Through the Spirit of God.
So Jesus tells us, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Lk. 11:9-13)
I pray this year you will yearn for more of God’s Spirit in your life. More of his power to enable you to effectively witness—declare and give firsthand account—that God is alive and that he truly changes people, using them in astonishing ways.
There is more. They say our level of frustration is the distance between our expectations and experience. I hope that your frustration level rises. That you see a greater gap than you realized between where you are and where you could be. And I hope that this will not lead to despair or discouragement but hunger, longing, and asking.
Your life was meant to be unexplainable.