In this third study on the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life we will discover three more things He does in our lives.
1. The Holy Spirit calls people and sends them out into definite avenues of service of ministry.
(Acts 13:1-4) “In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshipping and fasting the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus.”
From the moment of his conversion the apostle Paul had received his call to be an apostle however years later we find him among the prophets and teachers at Antioch faithfully carrying out his teaching ministry along with other teachers and prophets of the Word. It was only when the Holy Spirit spoke to the leadership that Paul and Barnabas were commissioned and sent on their missionary journey.
Paul had already been called from the time of his conversion but the timing to fulfill that call was entirely at the will of the Holy Spirit. Not only did the leaders of the church send him out but his calling was also recognized and endorsed by the local assembly where he worshipped and ministered. Even though Paul and Barnabas were apostles they were still accountable to the leadership and the congregation at Antioch.
Notice that the Holy Spirit spoke to the leaders when they were worshipping the Lord and fasting. How many local church leaders today hear from the Holy Spirit or even recognize those who are gifted and called to ministry? Many church leaders today are playing power games, like the Pharisees they love to be called pastor and teacher and have the most prominent positions of authority in the church and push down any who would challenge that authority.
How many evangelical, Bible believing church leaders really hears from the Holy Spirit when choosing people for works of service and ministry? How many leaders fast and pray to make sure they really hear from the Holy Spirit in their decisions? How many men are chosen for ministry and service because they have degrees in theology or psychology?
Who would you rather have as a leader in your church, one who is an academic in theology and psychology and who makes people feel good or one who knows his Bible well and knows the power of the Holy Spirit to set people free from Satan’s power? Paul and Barnabas did not call themselves or push themselves forward but waited on the Lord and remained faithful to what God had called them to do in the local church.
Now we may know that God has called us into a specific avenue of service and ministry and have the gifting for the task but that doesn’t mean that we should rush out and try to find ways and means of fulfilling that call. A man or woman called to ministry needs to have a thorough grounding in God’s Word before anything else and then be freshly anointed with the Holy Spirit for that ministry. They also need a preparation period where God trains them in the ordinary everyday circumstances of life.
Unfortunately there are multitudes of seminary students today who are graduating with theological degrees who have no clear call to a specific avenue of ministry or the mighty Baptism with the Holy Spirit to empower them for that ministry. Our pulpits today are filled with men who have no anointing and we need to ask the question if there is no anointing then is there really a call? How does the Holy Spirit call? In this account in Acts we are not specifically told how He spoke to the church leaders but He definitely spoke to them in some way and His voice was specific, definite and unmistakable in giving directions concerning Barnabas and Paul.
It could be that we are not told how He spoke because we could fall into the trap of thinking that He speaks in the same way every time. There is also nothing in the text to indicate that he necessarily spoke by an audible voice although we must not rule this out entirely. Some believers think that God always calls through emotional and dramatic and emotional experiences and circumstances but this is not always true. Others expect “lightning flashes” from heaven or “earthquakes”, “winds” and “fire” but forget “the still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:11-12)
Many of us do not know what God wants us to do because we do not know the Holy Spirit as intimately as we should. How do we receive the Holy Spirit’s call for our Christian service and ministry? We must desire it and seek it and wait upon the Lord for it and expect it. How do we wait on the Lord? Waiting is not just sitting around doing nothing but worshipping and serving the Lord actively by praying and studying the Bible everyday and by being faithful to Jesus in our daily living. This is how we wait on the lord.
The Holy Spirit does not go around visiting lazy Christians. Sometimes God keeps us waiting because we are not desperate enough to know His will. If we really want to know God’s will for our life then we need to search His Word as we would search for hidden treasure, only then will we find the knowledge of God and His will. (Proverbs 2:1-6) (Psalm 119:130) We also need to remember that as we submit unconditionally to the Holy Spirit in the end God’s plan for our lives will prove to be good, acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
2. The Holy Spirit guides us in witnessing.
(Acts 8:26-29) “Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road-the desert road-that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian Eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”
It is possible to be led by the Holy Spirit moment by moment and to have his guidance in witnessing. (Romans 8:14) Philip had been involved in a great revival and had seen multitudes saved, healed and delivered from evil spirits yet among the great spiritual euphoria he was still sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit where individuals were concerned. He was so sensitive to the Holy Spirit that he could drop the excitement of the big meetings and go into the desert to speak to one man. This one man, an Ethiopian Eunuch, was born again and baptized in water and because of Philips obedience to the Holy Spirit the gospel was carried by this man to the whole Ethiopian empire.
We must never underestimate the will of the Holy Spirit where individuals are concerned. We may witness to one person and lead them to the Lord but we do not know what God has in store for that person. If they become a famous evangelist or missionary and God uses them to win millions to the Lord Jesus we will not loose our reward. God will credit to our account the same reward, as He will to that person being used by Him. In personal witnessing we must always make sure that we only speak to those whom the Holy Spirit leads us to. Of course we need to be ready to witness at all times. (1 Peter 3:15)
Philip the evangelist undoubtedly met many people on the road to Gaza but only spoke to the man that the Lord told him to speak to. Our personal witnessing will be ineffective if we seek to do it apart from the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit. It isn’t a matter of just praying before we go out to witness but to be praying as we go. The Holy Spirit has God’s wisdom and He is capable of handling any situation we face. (Isaiah 11:2) If we pray everyday for God to lead us in our witnessing then He will bring people across our path that need to hear about the Lord Jesus Christ. Our responsibility is to be totally available to the Holy Spirit to use us at anytime, anywhere and in anyway He chooses.
3. The Holy Spirit will strengthen us in times of persecution.
(1 Peter 4:14) “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ , you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”
The apostle Paul said to young Timothy, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy3:12). Today all over the world believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are being persecuted for their faithfulness to Him and many are laying down their lives rather than deny Him. If we seek to live for the Lord Jesus Christ then we will be persecuted. Not all persecution is the same. For some it will mean the alienation of family and loved ones while for others it will mean not getting a job or going to prison and in other cases martyrdom. In our world today for most believers in third world countries being faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ results in beatings, imprisonment, death and even betrayal by family members and false brethren.
The Lord Jesus clearly told us that the day would come when we will be dragged before governors and kings and people in authority because of our loyalty to Him. “But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you up to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of My name. This will result in your being witnesses to them. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words of wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict” (Luke 21:12-15).
This was the precise case with Stephen the first Christian martyr. When he was dragged before his accusers they could not stand up against the wisdom coming out of his mouth. We read, “but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by which he spoke” (Acts 6:10). Stephen wasn’t speaking by his own ability but by the supernatural enabling given to him by the Spirit of God. Peter experienced the same thing when he and John were dragged before the Sanhedrin. Peter was filled with the Spirit at that moment and gave a powerful testimony to the Lord Jesus Christ and the Salvation that comes only through Him. (Acts 4:5-13)
The time will come when loyalty to Jesus Christ will be a crime in almost every country and at that time we will need the power of the Holy Spirit to maintain a faithful and consistent testimony to the Lord Jesus Christ. Whether we are in the workplace, the university or before magistrates the Lord Jesus promises us that He will be with us at such times and that the words we speak will not be ours but the Spirit of our Father who dwells in us. Listen to what the Lord Jesus said to encourage us at such times;; “But be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. On My account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matthew 10:17-20).
Even though Stephen died for his faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ he died with the Spirit and the Glory of God resting upon him. As he died we read, “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55-56).