I have spent a fair amount of time over the last few years watching my kids participate in sporting activities of one kind or another. Whether it’s football, cricket, athletics, gymnastics, basketball or swimming – the Aubrey family are quite an energetic bunch and either Mum or Dad is usually on hand to hold the kit bag and provide plenty of snacks. You know who else is always there when our kids are performing feats of wonder worthy – in their minds at least – of the Olympics or the Premier League? The coaches. The teachers. The instructors. The trainers. Whatever you want to call them and however their discipline defines them, I think that these men and women – I’ll call them coaches from now to save time and space – are the real heroes of all childhood sporting endeavours. Usually, they’re giving up their time for free or are working unsociable hours. They soon become voices and personalities of great influence in our children’s lives and figures that appear in conversations at the dining table with sage advice that sounds wonderful to our kids (not to mention very similar to words of wisdom previously offered by Mum and Dad).
I’ve come to realise this about coaches: there are good coaches and not so good coaches. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Okay then, let’s ask ourselves a question? What’s the difference between a good coach and a not so good one? Maybe you’d say attitude: kids can tell a lot – as can parents – about the quality of a coach by the attitude the coach displays. You might say aptitude: after all, you have got to have some soccer skills yourself to train the next Marcus Rashford or Mo Salah, don’t you? I’m going to throw my own suggestion in now: a good coach ensures that everyone he or she is coaching is involved in some way, shape or form. In other words, a good coach believes that everyone gets to play.
Sometimes the weakest swimmer can be ignored or the slowest runner can be jettisoned. But not when the coach believes everyone gets to play. I once watched a football coach – a former semi-professional footballer himself – spend an entire training session working with the worst player on my son’s team, giving the lad his undivided attention and constant encouragement. And then when the boy in question played well in his next match, who was the first and loudest to praise him? You’ve got it – the coach.
The Bible is full of stories about the heroic deeds of great men and women of faith.
Individuals like David, Jonathan, Daniel and Paul won victories for the people of God at times when they had to stand alone and stand out from the crowd. No one else was with David when he fought Goliath; no one else joined Daniel for his sleepover in the den of lions. And these stories inspire us to be strong in God for ourselves, to know that if he is for us, who can be against us? You can stand up to your own Goliath and triumph, you can endure your own night in the den of lions, because you know that your God was David’s God and Daniel’s God. At the same time, the Bible is also full of stories of inspiring acts performed by the people of God when they are harnessed together. Take David’s three friends, for instance, who risk their lives just to get him a drink from the well in Bethlehem. Or the time the 12 apostles were put in prison only to be rescued and released by an angel who sent them straight back to the Temple to carry on preaching.
I think Acts 2 is a story like that. It’s a story where God shows us that he is the kind of coach who wants everyone on his team to play. He’s the kind of Father who has roles and responsibility for every single one of his children. Why do I say that? Because one thing that Acts 2 and the story of the Day of Pentecost shows us, is that the church Jesus Christ is building is a place where everyone – male and female, young and old, slave or free – belongs. The church Jesus Christ is building is a place where everyone has a part to play. It’s a team with a great coach.
The great theme of Acts 2 is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This is a long-anticipated event; even longer than the ten days the disciples had been waiting since Jesus had returned to heaven. This day, the day where the Holy Spirit would be poured out on the disciples of Jesus, was the climax of so much prophetic hope and promise that is found in the Old Testament. God had long promised to dwell among his people; he had long promised to live in them, to write his laws on their heart and for everyone to know him from least to greatest. He had promised, in the words of the prophet Joel, to pour out his Spirit on all flesh. Peter quotes these exact words when he is preaching to the crowd in Jerusalem and trying to explain to them the phenomenon before them: 120 people declaring the wonders of God in a variety of languages they couldn’t naturally speak.
This is what Peter reminds the crowd that Joel had said:
In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. (Acts 2:17-18)
Wow! What a promise! (That’s right – it’s so good it’s worthy of not one but two exclamation marks.) The outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which catapults these 120 believers into the first phase of fulfilling the Great Commission, is an event that God intended to be available to all – men and women, young and old. Later on Peter will tell the crowd: ‘The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call’ (Acts 2:39). Everyone who calls on the Lord Jesus is not only eligible for salvation but also for receiving the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit. That means everyone can receive power – like Jesus promised in Acts 1 – and that everyone can be a witness for him in this world. It means that everyone can speak in new languages, just as the first disciples did, and everyone can prophesy, just as the prophet Joel had promised.
While the Book of Acts and the annuls of church history are filled with stories about remarkable men and women, the Bible teacher and author Andrew Wilson is right when he remarks:
In God’s global mission, the role of extraordinary people doing exceptional things is probably far smaller than we imagine – and the role of ordinary people doing everyday things is certainly far greater than we imagine.
That’s because, after the day of Pentecost, after the age of the Spirit is inaugurated, everyone gets to play. Hey, get ready team – the coach is calling us together.