Friday, August 26, 2016

When you're overwhelmed

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke‬ ‭11:13‬

Should a believer pray for the Holy Spirit? This is a hot topic in the evangelical world. Many Christians divide over how they answer this question. I don't want to get into all the controversies over the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. But I do recognize that there are many that seem to overemphasize the work of the Spirit in ways that lead to abuses. And then there are those who seem to deemphasize the work of the Spirit, which I believe can lead to an absence of the work of the Spirit. Personally, I have increasingly sensed my need for the work of the Spirit in my life and have been a beneficiary of that work. I've experienced, among other things, the conviction, comfort, and controlling power of the Spirit in my life. I've known his enablement to perform specific task. Although I believe that it's vital for a Christian to sense their need for the Spirit's work in their lives, I have also discovered that we must be aware of certain limitations. The Holy Spirit Himself is unlimited in His abilities, but He does not give believers unlimited abilities to serve the kingdom of God anywhere and at anytime. The Holy Spirit is measured in how He operates in our lives. The bible teaches that believers are given a variety of gifts, for variety of service. Paul wrote:

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭12:4-11.

So we do not all have the same gifts, or the same degree of empowerment or the same capacity to serve God. It all varies in each one and in every opportunity to serve. Now, if we fail to understand how the Spirit operates in our lives, we can become overwhelmed by the many needs in our world. God's grace is sufficient (unlimited) for every work, but He's not asking us to do every work, or meet every need. And if we attempt to do so, we will burnout. God gives us special grace in a measured way for the assignments that he ordains for our lives.

Now, Jesus indeed promised that He would not fail to give good things to those who persistently seek Him in prayer (Matthew 7:7). And in Luke 11:13, we learn that the good things/gifts come through the Holy Spirit that He gives to those who ask. But why should we ask for the Spirit, if the bible teaches that believers are already in dwelt by Him (Rom 8:9-11). Because although He resides in the believer, there are a variety of ways that He can empower believers and be manifested in their lives (1 Cor. 12: 6-7). So when we pray for the Holy Spirit, we are praying for Him to be manifested in our lives, not only for our good, but for the common good of others (1 Cor. 12:7; Philip 4:13;).

God is pleased to grant us the strength, abilities and endurance that we need to accomplish all that He ordains for our lives. But here's the danger. He has not ordained for us to do all things. Yes, Paul did say, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philip 4:13). But this does not me that we are to do all things. Once again, it means that we can do all the things that He has ordained.

We live in a day where there are many needs. And because of the technologies available to us, like the internet, smart phones and social media, we are finger tips away from accessing an abundance of information. We can get up to the minute news about terrorism attacks, earthquake and tornadoes that are taking place thousands of miles away.  We also live in a time where people have the ability to reach us via cell phone anywhere at anytime and vice versa.  People assume today that when they text someone that they need to respond immediately. Therefore some people receiving text messages feel the need to respond immediately so as not to offend. This kind of instant access has added stress and pressures upon people's lives that did not exists 20 or 30 years ago. An article posted by the Stress management society on the Most common stressors of modern life, states the following:

"With the growing pressures of modern technology, few of us ever really ‘switch off’. Everywhere you look, someone is on a mobile device, some checking their work emails. The problem that we face is that we are constantly connected. Just because we physically leave the workplace this doesn’t mean we leave our workload, demand and pressure behind nor does it mean that we divert our mind from work.

Many people will get home and the first thing they do is go to check is their work emails, to see if anything urgent has come up. We don’t give ourselves time to disconnect from the real world, and this is making us feel stressed and overwhelmed...People are feeling more and more anxious when they are without their mobile phone as it takes away the sense of security they feel when they are accessible to other people. This in turn creates a distance between them and their loved ones and they can often feel a sense of loneliness or isolation.

Although people seemed to manage fine before the invention of mobile phones, people have now become psychologically attached to their phones and fear they may miss something of urgency without it. So much so it can now be seen as one of the causes of stress in modern day life."

When you consider  the needs of our world, coupled with the extraordinary means we have to be in the know, if we are not callous, we can easily become overwhelmed.

So how do we as Christians, who are called to care about the needs of the world, deal with this modern phenomenon?  On an ask Pastor John episode, a concern believer asked a similar question: “In our overly digital and connected age, I often feel so overwhelmed with how much global and local suffering I feel both a desire and a Christian obligation to stay informed on, pray for, and be involved in. Sex trafficking, Syrian refugees, homeless people in my city, the Black Lives and Blue Lives Matter movements, abortion activism, suffering members of my church, reaching the unreached, and on and on it goes. I want to pray, but I find it so overwhelming because the prayer list is so long, and I want to act but I am paralyzed by how much there is to do. I truly believe this stems from a lack of deep heart conviction of God’s sovereignty. Could you maybe share how you stay balanced and aware in praying and acting for the pain and suffering around the world? And specifically how does your belief in God’s sovereignty in the midst of this suffering effect the way you live and pray?”

You can find the entire transcript here:

In one of the points that John made to answer this critical question, he stated. "Trust God for the grace to do the good he expects you — not others — to do, and then do the good in your path, like the Good Samaritan did. Second Corinthians 9:8, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound” — now, how you interpret this next phrase is the difference between despair and joyful hope — “you may abound in every good work.” Does that mean God gives you the grace and the sufficiency at all times in every way in every place to do the good work that a Christian in China is expected to do this afternoon? No. No. No. “Every good work” there means, every one appointed for you — which is a wonderfully liberating thing. You will never be asked to do a good work for which this verse is not true. Every grace will be there for you to do it. God doesn’t intend for you to look at thirty good works, know you can only do five today, and feel guilty about twenty-five. He absolutely does not want that to be the case. That is why this verse is in the Bible. And so, yes, there will be grace for every good work."

Only God can bare the burdens of the world on his shoulders. And although God graces us to bare the burdens of others, we are by God's decree limited in what we can do. In addition, we have spiritual and physical needs of our own that we must attend too and our own families to care for. There's also the principle of rest that God has decreed so that our bodies can be replenished in which the Spirit of God works.

So to keep from being overwhelmed by the insanity, we must regularly disconnect from this instant access world. We must trust that our Sovereign God rules in the affairs of men even when we are offline. We must give ourselves time to rest, spend time with God, and be present with our families. Our God, who neither slumbers or sleeps, (Psalm 121:4), has it all under control.

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