When applying for a job one of the key ways to ensure you are invited for interview is to read the job description carefully and make sure you meet all the criteria listed. I’ve applied for a few jobs over the years. I haven’t always got the job, but generally if you remember to explain why you fit the criteria the employer asks you in to find out more about your suitability.
I read a job description the other day for a foodbank manager. It was a reasonably large population that it was to serve, so they were actually looking for a number of people to fill the role.
The job description read “Wanted, someone to help distribute food to some women from ethnic minorities. Successful candidates must already be well thought of by those in the society that they will serve and by others generally. Candidates must be wise, and full of the Holy Spirit. Miracles may be required. It should be noted that not everyone will be pleased that you are able to do your job well. This may result in stoning.”
This was the job that was described in Acts 6, to which Stephen (amongst others) was appointed. Recognised as being full of the Holy Spirit, Stephen was known to perform miracles on a daily basis. He wasn’t a church leader, just someone who had encountered Jesus and followed Him. There were those who didn’t like the fact that Stephen was good at his job and conspired against him. After a speech which infuriated them even more, he was stoned to death.
I suppose my question isn’t would you apply for the job given the possible end point. The question I want to challenge you with is would you qualify for the position? You see, Stephen was simply a follower of Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit doing an everyday job. Miracles, signs and wonders were normal. Tim Keller wrote, “We modern people think of miracles as the suspension of the natural order. Jesus meant them to be a restoration of the natural order.”
If we call ourselves Christians, each of us are called to live peaceably with our neighbours. We have the ability to be wise. (James 3:17 – “but the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”, James 1:5 says “If any of you lacks wisdom let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach and it will be given to him, but let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” All we need to do is ask, and the wisdom we will receive will assist us to do our job, whatever that might be. I don’t think this is necessarily a one off thing. Sometimes we ask God for wisdom and assume that we have then received all we are going to get for a given situation. If we are to believe James, God’s desire is to give generously. I would suggest that God’s generous is significantly more generous than we are expecting.
That Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit was demonstrated by his wisdom from above, and that the community thought well of him. It is all to easy to stop there, and gloss over the daily signs and wonders. Is that a part of your life? I know that it isn’t yet part of mine. I want it to be though. For too long we have dismissed this part of being filled with Holy Spirit. Part of the reason for this is that we are worried that we may offend people. We are so consumed with being accepted that we try and fit in with the world. The world doesn’t possess the power we have through the infilling of the Spirit that we try and contain Him and tell Him where and when He is allowed to show up. Life has become too easy for us, particularly in the West. It is all too simple to do church these days without any involvement of the Holy Spirit. First Century Christians did not have that luxury. I find it interesting that church growth was significantly better in the early days of the church, where signs and wonders were freely demonstrated than it is now where we try to contain Him.
The New Testament is full of verses that tell us that the preaching of the gospel isn’t just to be an intellectual exercise. It is to be accompanied with power, and a demonstration of that power. (Matthew10:7-8 “and proclaim as you go, saying ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, case out demons. You received without paying, give without pay.”) We can’t do the second part of that verse without Holy Spirit.
We owe the world and encounter. Let’s ensure we give them all that God has for them, not just part. How different would our ‘ministries’ be if we did?