Have you ever been somewhere all alone and wished that you had someone, or several someone’s with you? This is what was happening in the scripture that we’re looking at today. Jesus had told his closest followers that he could not stay much longer with them and was trying to help them see how they were going to function without him.
Things were beginning to fall apart for the disciples. Jesus announced he was leaving. In the dialogue that he had with his disciples, Phillip suggested that they would be satisfied if they could just see God. No one had ever been allowed to see God. God communicated through burning bushes and roaring winds. I wonder...they had been with Jesus for three years, did they not recognize that he was God in human form?
The passage is full of interesting points. The first is Jesus’ statement that what we ask for “in Jesus’ name” will be granted. Some people think that this is some magic phrase that gives extra power and authority to our prayers. Now, I have no problem adding those words onto a prayer, but it’s not a magic ‘stamp´ that we add so that we can get what we want. Ray Stedman, who is a pastor in California, has suggested that it means that we are praying in Jesus´ “place”. There are times that we empower people to speak or act on our behalf. To pray in Jesus´ name is to pray in his place, representing him.
Where was he when he spoke these words? He was facing the cross. He was facing the collapse of all the hope that his kingdom and raised in the hearts of his followers. But he knew that beyond the cross lay the resurrection, and that there could never be any new beginning if there was not first an end to all which people saw and hoped for.
To pray in Jesus´ name means that you accept the process of God, the process by which God brings the things that we think matter to utter collapse, so that the very thing that you don't want to happen, happens. But for the disciples and for us, the cross was not the end of the story. Beyond it was the resurrection. Beyond the cross was a new beginning, believing in that new beginning is what it means to pray in Jesus´ name.
Sometimes, when we pray, it seems as though God waits until the very last moment to answer us and allows us to go through pain and even the loss of loved ones so that we will see that beyond death we find resurrection. To pray in Jesus’ name is to profess that we know that prayer is not just a shield or a guard that prevents things from happening. Prayer in Jesus’ name may mean the end of all that you had hoped for, but out of that collapse, God will bring new life.
In our scripture, Jesus assured the disciples that God will send the Holy Spirit to help them in a variety of ways. I would not expect many of you to be uncomfortable talking about God as our creator. We use the word Father to address the way that God generated everything that we see, and even those things that we cannot see. A few of us might be A little bit uneasy talking about how God came into our world as a tiny baby and died on cross for us. But the number would probably go up a bit as we talk about God as a spirit. You might be afraid that I have a bag of snakes up here behind the pulpit that I’m going to bring out and suggest that we handle them. You might be worried that we’ll start speaking in some strange tongues or dancing about and shaking. While I don't know what God has planned for our worship service this morning, I can assure you that I didn't bring any snakes with me today.
So often we see the Holy Spirit as an unimportant concept that it has often not been emphasized as much in many modern churches. I hope that in the next few minutes that we can come to see that it is God’s spirit that is responsible for the strength that we have to live out our faith. When Jesus talked about us doing great miracles, I think that he is meaning things that are great because they are done through God's spirit as opposed to being done through our own power.
Another misconception that people have about the Holy Spirit is that you have to do certain things to be worthy of this power in your life. They think that you have to pray for three hours every morning before you get out of bed and memorize the Bible forward and backwards; that we have to live a sinless life. What Jesus says is that if you love him you will try to keep his commandments and that the Holy Spirit will be obvious in your life.
A popular movie a few years ago was Home Alone. I have lost count of how many sequels have been made from the original. The story is about a family that goes on vacation and accidently leaves their 10-year-old son alone at home. In the meantime, robbers try to break into the family’s home, but the boy is able to foil their attempts.
There are times that each of us feels like God has left us alone at home. We feel like we are on our own with little chance of solving our many problems and that we’re not doing very well with them. We want someone to come along and stand by us and make things feel better. In our scripture, we read that God’s spirit will comfort us in the midst of our suffering and sorrow.
Another way of seeing this comforting spirit is as an encourager. Just before turning 16 in 1969, I bought a 1961 Corvair. It was black and shined like a new penny. Unfortunately, it was a stick shift and the only cars I had ever driven were automatics. I remember my father trying to teach me to drive it. I was never in the right gear. I would try to take off from stop signs in third gear or would move up through the gears without increasing my speed. Down the road we’d buck and bounce. I remember my father patiently encouraging me to try again.
God’s spirit comforts us, guides us, encourages us and directs us through the toughest of times and most difficult of experiences. The word that Jesus uses here is “counselor” which we might understand as a companion who walks along beside us, stands with us, strengthens us, guides us and fortifies us.
Some of you may remember when Jackie Robinson was the only African-American to play major league baseball. Everywhere he played, he was jeered at by the crowds because of the color of his skin. One day when Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers were playing a home game he committed an error. He stood at second base, humiliated, while the fans loudly vocalized their anger. A few moments into the incident, without saying a word, shortstop Pee Wee Reese walked over and stood by Robinson. He put his arm around him and the crowd became silent.
I don't know about you, but there are days when it is only possible to make it from one task to another through God’s power encircling me and enabling me to do the things that I think are God's will for me that day.
Throughout history, this has been the experience of many Christians. We can’t even walk without holding God’s hand. It is so sad to see Christians who forget this. They struggle along, not realizing the comfort and vitality that they can have from God’s spirit. We think that we can get by on our own and ignore the places where our lives are falling apart.
So many people feel abandoned by God during the storms of life. So often, they go into a panic and indulge in distractions that soothe their spirits for awhile instead of turning to God for the power that can help them get through the battle they are facing. They forget that it is God that empowers followers of Jesus. We think that if something is going to happen, it will be because we have made it happen. Friends, we have never been abandoned for a single moment of our lives. Every moment of everyday, we are in the presence of God's spirit. We have just forgotten to trust and confide and find hope in waiting for God to do what only God can do in God’s manner and in God's time. If you want real power in your life, seek it from God's presence which is within and all around you.
It is God’s powerful, life changing spirit that gives us what we need to conquer bad habits and start new ones, the power to tell others about Jesus, and the power to make right decisions and choices in life. God does not expect us to live our life on our own. That’s not the way we were created. God wants to help us every step of the way.
This power has not been taken from us as much as we have given it away when we give up on ourselves. If we give up on each other, we have compromised God’s power to work through us. If we give up on those whose lives we consider to be not right, we have denied the power of God to change people. If we give up on those who have hurt us, we have announced that evil has won. We are not powerless. We have just given our power away too often.
Have you ever been doing something when suddenly the tune of some long forgotten song comes into your mind? This happens, I believe when our minds are clear and the climate is right for this old forgotten memory to slip in.
Thank God for the times that God’s spirit slips into our consciousness. So many thoughts and feelings compete for our attention. Worry, fear, lust, and greed. And when these black clouds engulf us, we forget that God promises to be with us. When our hearts and minds and souls are open to the message of the gospel and the way that we can be at work with God we remember that we are God's children and that we can have a fresh, new, powerful life in his name.
We read that God’s spirit comes into our lives as an advocate. This advocate presents to us truths and principles of life as God has directed us to live and reveals to us the ways that the world has twisted the directives of God with its phoniness and flatulent experiences. This advocate reminds us of practical ways of living lives of faith.
In verse 21, Jesus said that he would reveal himself to the disciples because of their love for him. We choose to obey and follow God’s way for our lives because of what we have seen God do in our world and our lives. We don't live lives of faith so that God will love us, but because God has loved us.
I don't know about you, but I try to spend as much time as possible with people that love me and whom I love. My hope is that as we grow in our knowledge of what God has done and which God promises us, we will seek to spend more time with God and that through this increase in time together we'll come to live and serve God more and more. As we love God more, we'll find ourselves filled more and more with power and authority to be in ministry with and for God.
As we find ourselves more involved with the life-changing work of God we will find that God has changed people. Mean, discouraged people will be cheered up, dishonest people will start living lives of integrity, closed people will open up, gossipers will shut up, conflicted people will make up, and lukewarm people will fire up. We will find that the church has been revived and that the whole face of the earth has been changed completely and forever.