Haven't we all been in meetings or services where there might as well have been a sign outside saying: NO HOLY SPIRIT ALLOWED? Haven't we all endured longwinded sermons about things only important to the one speaking? Haven't we all sat in bored subjection as others performed a "service" for us on Sunday morning? In other words, haven't we all about had our fill of gatherings where all was perfect except someone forgot the Holy Spirit was supposed to be there?
Just because the candles are lit and are beautiful to behold does not mean the Holy Spirit is going to move. Just because the order of the service is perfect with just the right hymn sung at just the right time doesn't mean the Holy Spirit will be allowed in the service. Just because the prayers are long and flowing, and even the message is grammatically correct and Biblically accurate, doesn't mean the Holy Spirit will stir the people's hearts.
Perhaps my most cherished moment with my dad came in thirty years ago while I was serving in Mississippi. My dad and mom had driven down to visit and near the end of their stay they attended a big meeting I was teaching and sharing at. They had attended many other functions I officiated, but never one this big and as it turned out, this profound.
At the conclusion of the meeting, at which I had taught the Bible for perhaps an hour, I introduced my parents. My dad was a very humble man around groups, but he asked if he could say something. I said to go right ahead. He then proceeded to tell everyone how proud he was of me and how hearing me teach the Bible was the highlight of his life. After a few more wonderful words, he hugged me and then started crying. I started crying for my dad had never done anything like this before, in public or in private.
While holding my dad to my side, I told everyone how proud I was of him. Without going into details, I told everyone that since he had totally committed his life to the Lord, he had whipped habits most men could and would never confront, let alone beat (he was a hard core alcoholic, and a mean one at that). Then my mom asked if she could say a word. This was the shock of all time since my mom NEVER spoke in front of a group for any reason.
She proceeded to tell everyone that what I had just said was absolutely the truth and that my dad had given up some very bad habits and had become the most loving and kind man on earth over the past few years since he became totally committed to the Lord. Hearing this from my mom really shook my dad up and he started weeping like a child. It took both me and my mom to hold him up. He was really touched to the depth of his soul.
Once I got my parents back to their seats, I had to somehow close the meeting. When I got back to the front, what I saw was one of those sights you see very few times in a lifetime. There was not a dry eye in the room. Even hard as nails men were brushing aside tears while many others were sobbing great tears of thankfulness. I looked back and my mom was holding my dad in her arms as a mother would hold her little child. I had never seen my parents so much as hug, let alone show this kind of outpouring of true love in public.
We sang a few very quiet hymns of praise and then I prayed and spoke briefly about what we had all seen and experienced that evening. Even now, thirty years later, I have never felt and seen the tenderness of the Holy Spirit at work as I saw it that night. Even now, thirty years later, I have never seen more of God's people get as genuinely blessed and moved as I did that night.
Huge commitments were made by many people in that room that night. Commitments to salvage marriages, commitments to give up drinking and drugs, commitments to be better parents or children and commitments to love, serve and obey the Lord were made in the hearts of many people. The effects of that night were felt for months and years to come in everyone's life that was privileged enough to be there, especially my parents.
The lesson to be learned is that when it comes to the greatest moments of God working in people, it rarely happens because of a great teaching or preaching. It rarely comes because the choir sang on key or the praise band nailed their performance. These things help set the stage along with worship music and other things. But, the greatest moves of God come through the working of the Holy Spirit.
When the Holy Spirit moves, there is no way of knowing what He will do. He may stir people's hearts to pray and prophesize. He may stir others to sing or even dance to God's glory. He may stir someone's heart to speak of their battles and their needs. He may even stir a dad to praise God publically for his son. The Holy Spirit has no limitations when it comes to moving and stirring the hearts of God's people to be healed or moved to action.
I learned one of the greatest lessons of my life at that meeting thirty years ago. I learned that no matter how great my teaching was and no matter how full of enthusiasm the singing and praying were; the Holy Spirit is the one who works in people's hearts not me. I learned that there are times the structure of the meeting or service can be so rigid the Holy Spirit never is allowed to do anything. I learned that once the Holy Spirit starts moving, pretty much the leader should leave things alone. He will do His thing and all will be blessed.
We are mere humans who can only do that which our senses tell us is best. This is fine when it comes to setting up church services and meetings; but the Holy Spirit still must have the final say or it is all in vain. What good are all the meetings and Sunday morning services in the world if the Holy Spirit is never extended an invitation to attend? May the Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on all of us and stir our hearts in greater service to our Master.
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