May 15, 2016

How Does the Spirit Enable You to Speak?

Passage: Act 2:1-21
Service Type:

On the day of Pentecost, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Holy Spirit enabled them to speak.  What happened on that day of Pentecost certainly seems remarkable enough.  We can close our eyes and envision those flame like tongues descending and engulfing each disciple’s head yet with the curiosity much like that of Moses and the burning bush, they are not consumed by this flame.   The sight alone is enough to draw a crowd to wonder what in the world is going on.

Yet the wonders of God do not stop there as a mighty wind begins to blow and all of a sudden these disciples are motivated to do something they had never really tried before;  WHY?  Because they had never really thought that it was possible. 

They began to speak in these other languages in order to share the good news of Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit had enabled them to speak.

You know, that made me curious...just what does Webster’s say that the word "enabled" means? 

There are words that once you learn what they mean, you never really think too much about them anymore.  "Enable"  is just such a word.  Without really thinking about it I guess I always assumed that it meant to make happen or to give ability

So I looked it up and here is what Webster’s said; "It means to make possible."

Now maybe I am splitting hairs, but to me there is some difference between making something happen, or to give ability, and to make something possible.

The story of Helen Keller comes to mind and is truly a story of the working of the Holy Spirit. 

Helen was born a normal healthy child in Tuscumbia Alabama in 1880.  But at just 19 months she developed a disease they only knew as a brain disease and it left her blind, deaf and mute; and she would remain that way for the rest of her life.

You would think, especially in that day and time considering the status of women and the few technological advances that had been made, that Helen’s abilities would be forever limited.

But thanks to an insistent Mother and Father, Helen was introduced to Ms. Anne Sullivan in late 1886 which began a 49 year relationship that lasted until Ms. Sullivan’s death in the 1936.  

Prior to meeting Anne Sullivan, Helen’s only teacher was the young daughter of their cook, Martha Washington, who had taught her about a dozen or so words by finger spelling.  

But  on March 3rd 1887 Anne took Young Helen and had her move out to a small cottage on the Keller Plantation to work exclusively with her.  Helen was wild, almost uncontrollable.  She was frustrated with what was happening, until Anne took her out into the yard, to the water pump and began to pump the cool well water onto her hand and in the other hand, Anne spelled the word WATER.

It was like a light switch came on, or maybe like a tongue of fire came down on Helen.  As soon as Helen understood the word water, she pounded on the ground with her fist.  She wanted to know what the thing was that was holding her up.  Anne began spelling the word GROUND.  By the end of that day Helen would learn 30 more words! 

What had not been possible before, had in fact become possible, and as the possibility grew, so did Helen’s ability to learn.  Not only learn, but communicate and share ideas.  Helen would go on to attend the Horace Mann School for the deaf in Boston.  She would toil for 25 years to learn how to speak so that others could understand her.  She also attended the Wright-Humason  School for the Deaf in NYC and she would graduate Cum Laude from Radcliffe College  in 1904 at the age of 24.  She would go on to be a world renowned speaker, activist, and journalist.  

What stands out to me about the remarkable life of Helen Keller, is that very moment when all of a sudden, like those disciples on Pentecost Day, with her hand under the water, and Anne Sullivan spelling "Water"  in her other hand, the world opened up for her and anything was possible.

I believe what Webster’s says about the word “Enable” is true.  To enable someone is to make something possible that may not have been possible before.  That is very different from having ability, or being made to do something.  

The Power of the Holy Spirit is not that it will force you to do something you cannot control, or make you look like some kind of fool.  But it takes what ever ability you may have and allows you to see what can be possible.  

And if it is the work of the Holy Spirit, I believe you will become as excited as Helen Keller did on March 3rd 1880 when all of a sudden she understood water.

The Holy Spirit opens doors and shows you what you can do with the gifts that are there for you to pick up, yours to learn.  And it will be the motivation and encouragement that keeps you going.  Pushing until you have accomplished your task, or your goal.  

For Helen Keller, that did not end until the end of her life. At that point she could look back and see just how many lives she had touched,  she could see the difference she had made in a world that was at best cold and indifferent to disabled people. 

By that motivating Holy Spirit enabling  or making it possible for her to learn and communicate. Helen Keller changed not just her world, but the world around her.

The same it true for those disciples gathered there on the day of Pentecost.  Until that day, the miracle of Christ was still hidden.  Believers were fearful of the Jews and even more so of the Romans.  The freedom that Christ gave to them in being forgiven but also in learning to forgive others, of truly looking after one another rather than looking down on one another, believe it or not was a mind blowing concept.  NO one would have thought it possible.  Even reaching out to strangers would seem risky.

But thanks to the Holy Spirit, blowing in and motivating and encouraging those disciples to step out of their comfort zone and getting excited about taking the message of Jesus Christ out of the Upper Room and into the outdoors of the world.  The sharing of our amazing faith became for the first time; Possible.

The Holy Spirit opens doors and invites us to walk through them, motivating and encouraging us all the way.  Sometimes in subtle ways and sometimes with great emphasis.

Have you ever been motivated or compelled to do something or to achieve something or bring about change you knew was for the better that without asking anybody’s opinion, you just jumped right in?  Or at least that is what you felt like doing.   Or what about the other end of the spectrum?  Something was telling you to act but it was more like a nudge here and a nudge there, and to test it out, you talked to someone about it first.  

Either way these are the activities of the Holy Spirit.  This is the motivational movement of God;  always encouraging us to look for the possibilities to make the world a better place; especially when it comes to spreading his Word, sharing his Good news, Sharing his Love.  

Sometimes the Holy Spirit moves us in Dramatic fashion like we see on the day of Pentecost or on March 3rd 1880 for Helen Keller, and sometimes we are moved in subtle ways to consider and ponder what new possibility God is pointing out to us.

Sometimes that takes time because we never saw that "possibility"  before.

The Holy Spirit enabled those disciples to speak in other languages.  That is, it made it possible for them to be understood by other people in order to communicate the Mighty works of God.  

So the question for us, on this Pentecost Day is how does the Holy Spirit enable us to share the mighty Works of God in today’s world?  

Maybe the first thing we need to answer is can we see the mighty works of God for ourselves?

Can you see God working in your life?

If the answer is yes, but you are not all that excited about it, then there is something wrong. 

Remember,... I said the Holy Spirit makes things possible.  Or at the very least gets us to pay attention to what is possible.

 It is up to us to make them a reality.  If it had not been for the disciples on the day of Pentecost getting excited enough to actually go out and begin speaking with the courage of the Holy Spirit being on them, you and I most likely would not be sitting here today.  

The Holy Spirit opens the doors to possibilities and the potential for what we can still be.  It does not show us the past or what we have been or done. You know why?   Because we have been there and done that already.   It simply gives us the present and the hope for the future.  And it always makes possible what seems impossible.

We see that in the life of Helen Keller.

Can we see it in our own? 

That is the power of the Holy Spirit; IT makes it possible for you to speak and share what you know with the world.

Now the question for us is, will we? 

I think the world is counting on it!