Summary: The need of the hour isn’t for more programs, it’s for more power.
It is a long-standing custom in our society, when approaching the end of a year, to pause and reflect on the twelve months past. To think about what we’ve attempted, what we’ve achieved, what we’ve lost, what we’ve gained, what we’ve suffered, and hopefully, what we’ve learned from it all. It’s also a time to look forward to the future, to think about how we are going to better our lot in the year to come. How we intend to better ourselves, or improve our circumstances, or perhaps how we hope to make the world a better place before the next December 31st draws nigh.
This kind reflection is especially appropriate for us this morning, as we are not only completing a calendar year, but also our second year of worshiping together as a congregation. And looking back, we have much to give thanks for. He has provided everything we need. A place to worship. Financial resources to meet our expenses. Faithful, talented workers; people who, every Sunday morning show up to unload the trailer, and play the guitar, and run the sound board, and teach Sunday school, and care for children in the nursery, and do dozens of other things in service to Christ. Most of all, we give thanks for those who have come to know Christ more deeply, who have experienced His love, and comfort, and strength in a new way this year. Because that’s the main reason we began this journey in the first place. Yes, some of that spiritual growth has come through struggle and suffering. But God is faithful. And so we confess together with the Psalmist that "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. . . In faithfulness you have afflicted me" (Psalm 119:71, 75).
Having said all that, however, my focus today is not on what’s past, but on what’s to come. And the question I put to you this morning is this: not what changes do we expect to see in the coming year, but what changes do we want to see? What changes are we seeking after, and hoping for, and trusting God for? In other words, what does this church really need right now? We certainly don’t lack potential answers to that question. We need a new place to meet. We need money to meet our budget. We need to grow; we need more people. And we need workers; it wouldn’t hurt if some of those new folks could play the drums, or teach Sunday School, or lead a Bible study. But what we need most isn’t any of those things. It’s more fundamental. What we need, desperately, is for God to pour out His Spirit on this church, and upon us as His people. What we need is to see God’s power released in our church and in our lives. What we need is to see God do great and mighty things among us, things that only He can do, things that can’t be explained by anything other than the hand of God. We need to see His power convicting of sin, softening hardened hearts, granting repentance, reconciling relationships, opening minds to the gospel, releasing addicts from their addictions. We need to see God changing hearts and lives. Yours, and mine, and theirs -- the people outside our doors who are without Christ and without hope. And God can do it. I’m convinced that compared to what God can do in this church, all the blessings we’ve seen so far are just scratching the surface. They’re just a beginning, just the tip of the iceberg of what God’s power can accomplish.
Brothers and sisters, we can see dramatic growth in this church. We can see the gospel of Jesus Christ going out from here and spreading throughout this whole region, drawing unbelievers to Christ, transforming lives, restoring marriages and families. It’s not a fairy tale. It’s not a pipe dream. It can happen. But in order for that to happen, we have to make some changes ourselves. First, we have to change our attitude. We have to stop thinking that what we’ve experienced so far is all there is, that God has no intention of doing anything dramatic or powerful in our lives and in this church. We have to expand our vision. Listen to Paul’s warning in his letter to Timothy:
"… There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-- having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. " -- 2 Timothy 3:1-5