On February 10, 2013, a fire broke out in an engine room of the Carnival cruise ship, Triumph. The fire knocked out the ship's power, leaving the vessel drifting in the Gulf of Mexico and more than 4,200 passengers and crew in limbo. The lost power made it impossible to operate the flush toilets, keep cool in the un-shaded waters of the sea, and preserve and cook all the perishable food on board. Passengers reported long lines for food, shortages of fresh water, illnesses, and widespread boredom. Many passengers slept in hallways or outside to escape the odors and heat below decks. CNN dubbed the Triumph “the cruise ship from hell.”
The ship finally ported safely in Mobile, Alabama, four days later (February 14, 2013) at 9:00 P.M. News crews riding in helicopters followed the ship and watched passengers beg for help. The ship's loss of power wasn't just a tragedy for the passengers. Carnival expected to lose hundreds of millions of dollars due to this incident.
Apparently, Carnival learned their lesson. Later that year, in June 2013, Triumph set sail once again, but this time it was outfitted with new emergency power capabilities. Carnival knows that when the power goes out, the party is over. (Susan Candiotti, “Investigators find fire clues aboard crippled Carnival Triumph,” CNN, 2-18-13; Thom Patterson, “Carnival Triumph Returns to Service," CNN, 6-13-13; www.PreachingToday.com)
I think we Christians know that too. When we are not connected to our Power Source, the Holy Spirit, life quickly deteriorates.
So how do we connect to our Power Source and stay connected? How do we plug in to the Spirit of God and keep that vital relationship going until the end? Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Galatians 3, Galatians 3, where the Bible asks six pointed questions which give us the answer.
Galatians 3:1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? [Literally, Who has given you the evil eye?] It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. (ESV)
Paul says to these Galatian Believers, “I showed you that Christ died for your sins. Christ paid the penalty for every wrong thing you did, but now you are behaving like you’re under a spell. By trying to keep a law to pay for your own sins, you act like somebody gave you the evil eye and erased your brain.”
“Who did this to you?” Paul asks as his first question. “Who has bewitched you?” And then, just in case their minds were actually erased, he asks a second question.
Galatians 3:2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or be hearing with faith. (ESV)
The obvious answer is we received the Holy Spirit by hearing with faith, by hearing the Gospel and believing it, not by trying to keep the law. The moment we trusted Christ, the Holy Spirit came to live within each and every one of us. That’s how we got started in the Christian life. We began with a simple faith in Christ who loved us and died for us.
It’s like getting on an elevator. More than 150 years ago, elevators were little more than open platforms. If the cable broke, they’d come apart and people would be seriously injured. As such, no one dared put an elevator in a building more than six stories high. Then Elisha Otis devised a braking system for the elevator that insured its safety, and Otis elevators have been the industry standard for more than 150 years. His elevator braking system made modern skyscrapers possible.
But initially, Elisha Otis had trouble selling his elevators until he concocted a creative sales pitch at the Crystal Palace Exhibition in Manhattan in 1854. Every hour at the exposition, the World's Fair of its day, Otis stepped into his machine. He gave the order to an assistant who cut the rope. The crowd held its breath. The brake kicked in, the elevator stopped and Otis announced: “All safe, gentlemen. All safe.”
With this demonstration, Otis quickly sold his first three elevators for $300 apiece. Today, New York City alone has about 70,000 elevators, and it's estimated that the equivalent of the world's population travels on an Otis elevator, escalator, or moving walkway every three days. (James Barron, “A Mid-19th-Century Milestone in the Rise of Cities,” The New York Times, 4-3-13; www.PreachingToday.com)
Today, we don’t think anything about stepping onto an elevator; but 150 years ago, it took great faith. It wasn’t enough just to hear about the safety features; someone had to trust the elevator with his life.
In the same way, your life with the Holy Spirit begins when you put your faith in Christ, when you step on to Him, so to speak, and trust Him not to let you fall. It might be a little scary at first, but you quickly discover that you are safe in Him.
Tell me. Have you trusted Christ with your life? If you haven’t, I urge you…
BY FAITH, START YOUR LIFE WITH THE SPIRIT.
Trust Christ with your life and get started on that elevator ride to the top! Depend on Christ and he will give you his Holy Spirit right now as you begin your journey with Him.
Nathaniel Hawthorne once described happiness as a butterfly, which, when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you sit down quietly, may alight upon you. It's like that with the Spirit of God. He is not seized. He is received. (Ben Patterson, “A Faith Like Mary's,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 87; www.PreachingToday.com)
If you want God’s Holy Spirit within, then stop trying to chase after Him; stop working so hard to get Him. Instead, simply receive Him by quietly resting in Christ. By faith, begin your life with the Spirit. Then…
BY FAITH, FINISH YOUR LIFE WITH THE SPIRIT.
End like you started by trusting Christ with your life. Find full and complete maturity through dependence on Christ, not by following a list of rules.
Galatians 3:3 Are you so foolish? [Paul’s 3rd question]. Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (ESV) – That’s question #4.
The Bible asks us a very simple question here: If we began our life with the Spirit by faith, are we going to complete it by our own human efforts? And the answer is quite obvious – NO! We end like we started – by faith, by depending on the Lord, not ourselves. If we want to find full and complete maturity as followers of Christ, then we must trust Christ to live His life through us by the Spirit He gave each and every one of us.
In a message at a Promise Keepers rally some time ago (August 11, 2000), Gordon MacDonald talked about his days of running track in prep school. His coach had invited Gordon to his home for dinner one night. And after the meal, he pulled out a notebook displaying Gordon’s name on the front cover. He immediately turned to the back page, which bore the heading “June 1957” – three and a half years away.
“Gordon,” he said. “These are the races I'm going to schedule you to run almost four years from now. Here are the times you will achieve.”
Gordon looked at those times and thought, “Impossible!” They were light years away from where he was at that moment as a runner.
Then the coach began turning back the pages of that book, page by page, showing the 42 months he had scheduled for workouts. They were the graduated, accelerated plans for Gordon’s increasing skill on the track as the months and years would go by. The coach had a sense of direction and development when it came to Gordon’s athletic growth. (Gordon MacDonald, from a message delivered at the Promise Keepers' “Go the Distance” Conference, 8-11-00; www.PreachingToday.com)
In the same way, God has a sense of direction and development when it comes to our spiritual growth. He has told us, “You are going to be like my Son, Jesus, someday” (Romans 8:29). And we think, “Impossible! That’s light years away from where we are at this moment.” But God has promised us, “I will complete the work I began in you” (Philippians 1:6).
All we need to do is trust our Coach. All we need to do is trust God’s Holy Spirit as He leads us through life. He’s got some tough workouts planned for us. There are going to be some days when we hurt. But we can trust our Coach, because He really does know what He’s doing. He is working to make us more and more like Jesus Christ, and one day we will, in fact, be as beautiful and wonderful as He.
Trust the Lord to complete His work in you, and finish your spiritual journey the same way you started it – by faith. By faith, start your life with the Spirit. By faith, finish your life with the Spirit. And…
BY FAITH, CONTINUE YOUR LIFE WITH THE SPIRIT, as well.
Live right now every day in dependence upon the Lord. Trust him to help you grow each and every day even through times of suffering. Verse 4 gives us a 5th question to think about.
Galatians 3:4 Did you suffer so many things in vain – if indeed it was in vain? (ESV)
You see, when we live a life of faith, sometimes we suffer for it. Our old friends don’t always appreciate the new changes that are taking place in our lives. Sometimes, people get jealous and they begin to make life difficult for us, or they try to get us to go back to our old ways.
That’s what happened to these Galatian believers. When they came to faith in Christ, some of the Jewish religious leaders didn’t like the fact that Paul and Barnabas could gather bigge crowds than they. The religious leaders got real jealous and began to mistreat the new Galatian believers, lying about them and even throwing stones at their leaders (Acts 13 & 14).
Paul had to remind them in Acts 14, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). And now Paul asks them, “Did you suffer so many things in vain?” In other words, don’t give up the fight yet! Don’t stop trusting the Lord even in the pain. Keep on living your life by faith in Christ; otherwise, all your suffering could become a waste.
Keith Mannes, pastor of Highland Church in McBain, Michigan, talks about the little apple orchard his wife's aunt Gladys has at her home. One year, when they paid her a visit, Keith couldn't help but notice the huge harvest of apples. The branches hung heavy, and some were cracking with the weight of abundance. Never, in many years, had anyone seen such a harvest.
When Keith asked aunt Gladys why, she told him that the previous year there was a late frost in the spring, and all the buds froze. When that happens, Gladys said, an apple tree does a miraculous thing: It stores up its energy in thousands of small bumps, or nodules, called scions (pronounced "see-ons"). All that energy pulsates through that network of scions until the spring of the following year, and then, BAM! You have an exploding riot of buds, as an apple tree unleashes all that stored up energy. (Keith Mannes, Highland Church, McBain, Michigan; www.Preaching Today.com)
That’s the way it is in our life with the Spirit. Sometimes a harsh frost comes along in life – a diagnosis of cancer, the death of someone you love, or some crisis – and your heart freezes. That’s not the time to stop trusting Christ, whose Spirit dwells within. Rather, that’s the time to depend on Christ even more as His Spirit pulsates under the gnarly bark of our lives to make us even more fruitful.
In 1912, medical missionary Dr. William Leslie went to live and minister to tribal people in a remote corner of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After 17 years, he returned to the U.S. a discouraged man, believing he failed to make an impact for Christ. He died nine years after his return.
But in 2010 a team led by Eric Ramsey with Tom Cox World Ministries made a surprising discovery. They found a network of reproducing churches hidden like glittering diamonds in the dense jungle, where Dr. Leslie had been stationed.
Ramsey reports, “When we got in there, we found a network of reproducing churches throughout the jungle. Each village had its own gospel choir, although they wouldn't call it that. They wrote their own songs and would have sing-offs from village to village. They found a church in each of the eight villages they visited scattered across 34 miles. They also found a 1000-seat stone ‘cathedral’ that often got so crowded in the 1980s—with many walking miles to attend—that a church planting movement began in the surrounding villages.
“Dr. Leslie had traveled throughout this remote region, teaching the Bible and promoting literacy. He also started the first organized educational system in these villages, Ramsey learned. For 17 years, Ramsey fought tropical illnesses, charging buffaloes, armies of ants, and leopard-infested jungles to bring the gospel into a remote area. He died feeling like he had failed, but instead his faithfulness and courage left a powerful legacy of vital churches. (Mark Ellis, “Missionary died thinking he was a failure; 84 years later thriving churches found hidden in the jungle," (GodReports blog, 5-19-14; www.PreachingToday.com)
My dear believing friends, don’t let discouragement stop you from depending on Christ, because God only knows the fruit that will come from your continued reliance upon Him.
Keep on believing even through times of pain, because God abundantly supplies his Spirit to those who believe.
Galatians 3:5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? (ESV)
This is the 6th question, and the obvious answer is God supplies us His Spirit “by hearing with faith,” not “by works of the law.” When we hear the Gospel and believe it, God supplies us His Holy Spirit, and He is not stingy with His Spirit.
The Greek word for “supplies” actually means to “give generously and extravagantly.” The word was used in Bible days to describe someone who paid for an entire chorus to provide background music in a play. It was very expensive! It would be like hiring the entire Chicago Symphony Orchestra, instead of some local DJ, to provide music for a wedding reception at the Celebration Centre. That’s how God supplies His Spirit to those of us who believe. He supplies His Holy Spirit with great, extravagant abundance!
On the advice of Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, the parents of Helen Keller sent for a teacher from the Perkins Institution for the Blind in Boston, Massachusetts. Anne Sullivan, a 19-year-old orphan, was chosen for the task of instructing 6-year-old Helen, who was deaf and blind. It was the beginning of a close and lifelong friendship between them.
By means of a manual alphabet, Anne "spelled" into Helen's hand such words as doll or puppy. Two years later, Helen was reading and writing Braille fluently. At 10 Helen learned different sounds by placing her fingers on her teacher's larynx and “hearing” the vibrations. Later Helen went to Radcliffe College, where Anne spelled the lectures into Helen's hand.
After graduating with honors, Helen decided to devote her life to helping the blind and deaf. As part of that endeavor, she wrote many books and articles and traveled around the world making speeches. Since Helen's speeches were not intelligible to some, Anne often translated them for her.
Their nearly 50 years of companionship ended when Anne died in 1936. Helen wrote these endearing words about her lifelong friend:
“My teacher is so near to me that I scarcely think of myself apart from her. I feel that her being is inseparable from my own, and that the footsteps of my life are in hers. All the best of me belongs to her—there is not a talent or an inspiration or a joy in me that has not been awakened by her loving touch.” (Helen Keller, The Story of My Life, Doubleday, 1954; www.Preaching Today.com)
That’s how God supplies His Holy Spirit to those of us who believe. He doesn’t just supply His Spirit for a lesson or two in good behavior. He supplies His Spirit as a life-long companion and close friend, as One who walks with us through every step of our lives.
Spiritually speaking, like Helen Keller, we were deaf and blind. But God’s Spirit came along side us when we trusted Christ, and now He is available to help us excel in this life. All we need to do is to continue trusting Him.
BY FAITH, start your life with the Spirit. BY FAITH, finish your life with the Spirit, and BY FAITH, continue your life with the Spirit. From beginning to end, live your life BY FAITH in the Son of God who loved you and gave Himself for you. It’s the only way to get connected and stay connected to your Power Source as a follower of Christ.
Simply trusting every day,
Trusting thro’ a stormy way;
Even when my faith is small,
Trusting Jesus – that is all.
Trusting as the moments fly,
Trusting as the days go by;
Trusting Him whate’er befall,
Trusting Jesus – that is all. (Edgar P. Stites)