It is about a month since we at All Nations received a visit from a good friend of the church, Arne Skagen. Arne is from Norway and is recognised by the churches we work with around the world as an evangelist. Which basically means he helps churches reach out to the world around them. During the month since his visit, I have spent a fair amount of time reflecting on some of the things that Arne said whilst he was here.
As a brief aside, I think this is a good habit to have. I have become more reflective over the last few years due to the influence of a good friend and one of the phrases he regularly uses when starting a conversation, which goes like this – “I was walking the dog this morning and I was reflecting on…” Whilst I tease this friend for all his mention of “reflection”, what I have learned from him is that deeper reflection leads to more effective action. The time spent in reflection spills over into the rest of his day, informing his decisions and his actions. And we all do this in some way. We all think, reflect on, or even worry about things going on in our life, and these thoughts become a part of us, shaping our approach to the rest of our lives. The question is what are we reflecting on and how?
The Bible uses a different word for this – meditation. Psalm 1 talks about the one who meditates on God’s Word day and night. This person proactively makes time to think about, ask questions of and talk about God’s Word, to the point they will even give up sleep; they refuse to gloss over things the Lord has said, or to rush through life without considering God’s way. This person loves the Lord so much that they give careful attention and focus to Him, to His Word and His deeds. As they do so the Word becomes a part of them, it shapes their worldview and informs their decisions; their meditation leads them closer to Jesus and increases their willingness to follow Him. This is what the Lord intended for Joshua when he says, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.” (Joshua 1:8)
So, in this way I have been reflecting on Arne’s time with us as a church, and if it is alright with you, I thought I might share some of these reflections with you, and hopefully we will find ourselves following Jesus just that little bit more closely and be more effective in our reaching out to others!
If you didn’t get to hear Arne speak during his visit, then I’d encourage you to head to the All Nations Church podcast and listen to his Sunday message about making the most of today – after all, that is all we have! Which leads me to today’s reflection – “we as Christians are called to sow the Word of God and do good to others, but the first seed we sow is to the Holy Spirit, which is an opportunity for Him to do something in the heart of someone else.”
So often when it comes to sharing the Gospel with others, I take on far too much responsibility! I very often feel like I must create the perfect conditions for my friend to hear the Gospel, as if I will only get one opportunity to share it, or as if it’s all down to me to communicate effectively and convince them of their need for salvation. But of course, this is a substantial overreach on my part. The reality is that no matter how hard I try, I cannot move another human being to repent and put their faith in Jesus. All of these things, the conviction of sin (John 16:8), the change of heart required to repent (Romans 2:4), and the grace and the gift of faith to believe in Jesus’ resurrection (Ephesians 2:8) is all the work of the Holy Spirit. Which leaves me with the question, what are you and I responsible for?
All we can be responsible for, then, is cultivating our relationship with the Holy Spirit and allowing Him to work through us to share God’s love with others. After all, our bodies do not belong to us but they are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). We cannot achieve anything by our own strength, but we can offer the Holy Spirit our bodies, our time, our words, our deeds as an opportunity for Him to do something amazing.
This is something that I have been trying to cultivate in my own life for the last few years. I think about this most days. It has become a habit of my prayer life. In fact, so habitual, I rarely pray it out loud. It has just become part of my thought process as I look toward the day: “Holy Spirit let me sow an opportunity to you today.” And we are back to that word. Today. We just start where we are. Where we are today. In the place where we live, with the people that are around us, with the boldness, courage and resources that we have available today.
So today, what seed do you have in your hand that you could sow to the Holy Spirit? It could be smiling at your neighbour when you both head off to work. Maybe you haven’t before. Maybe they will ignore you, but what if they smile back? Just sow! It might be asking your colleague how things are going in their family after they mentioned their challenges to you last week. Just sow! It might be that those friends and family whom you have known for a long time and have shared with before but who haven’t responded to the Gospel yet, are still in your life for a reason. So, forget yesterday and any past disappointments, and ask what is the Holy Spirit doing in their lives today?
When I first heard Arne talk about sowing in these terms, I realised that this was the kind of life I was already living! This man who God has given to the Church to help us grow as evangelists, was telling me that the very normal things, like saying hello to my neighbour, in my very normal life were not only valid but valuable things to God, because they are opportunities for Him to show His love to his creation. And in fact, by doing these small things I was taking my place in the eternal purposes of God. What a game-changer! So in the weeks following Arne’s most recent visit, I have gone about this afresh, actively sowing opportunities to the Holy Spirit to do something in someone else’s life.
Here’s something that happened a couple of week’s back.
I was walking through one of Cardiff’s parks with some friends and as I went, I just asked the Holy Spirit if there was anyone He wanted to speak with. I felt led to go and speak with a couple who were sat on the grass engrossed in making something with their hands. As I walked by, I smiled, and they smiled too. So, I stopped and asked what they were doing. They were making some kind of lego model. They clearly had time on their hands, so I asked if they were students! They said yes, they were. I asked what they were studying. They both said they had just finished their degrees, one in psychology, the other in game design. I told them that one of the students in church had just finished their game design degree and I asked if they knew him. They did. So, I asked if our mutual friend or anyone else had already shared the Gospel with them. This young man said that he had been surrounded by Christians all his life, had heard the Gospel and was in some ways not surprised that now a Christian had felt moved to come and speak with him in the park. I felt the Holy Spirit wanted to encourage them that whatever was in their heart to do, they should go for it, because He was going to bless their next step and show them His kindness. So, I told them the Gospel, about their Heavenly Father that loves them, that He sent His only son to die and take away their sins, and that He was going to show His kindness to them by blessing their next step. They were both really moved and said they had not experienced God’s love in this way before. As our conversation came to an end, I pointed them to go and speak with his family and ask them about church. I smiled. They smiled. And I headed off.
Another friend in the church was telling me about how he was filling up his car at the petrol station when the gentleman at the neighbouring pump tripped over. He went over to help him out. The man had hurt his back. My friend helped them back to their car and just as he was about to head back to his own car, he thought, “I might just offer to pray for this man.” He did. The man looking a little startled said, “Alright then.” My friend prayed for him. After he had prayed, the man said “I feel peaceful, and I want you to know that I will never forgot you and how you have helped me today.”
The only thing that my friend and I can say that we did was just sow a seed to the Holy Spirit. Before you know it a man is receiving prayer and experiencing such kindness that he said he will never forget it, and a young couple are realising that God has been seeking them out to save them, surrounding them all their lives, and has a good plan ahead of them. So, I finish this reflection by asking again, what opportunity could you sow to the Holy Spirit today that will release Him to do something amazing in the life of someone else?