“You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
In the early part of this century, the island nation of Samoa saw one of the greatest shipping disasters ever to strike the South Pacific. A powerful typhoon swept down on the country’s busiest harbor, dashing to pieces the many vessels that had fled there for safety. With ships foundering on every hand, the captain of the British man-of-war Caliope made a bold decision: he quickly weighed anchor and steamed out of the harbor straight into the teeth of the storm. As it turned out, this was the saving of her. While the ships in port were destroyed, the Caliope survived the typhoon undamaged, riding out the storm on the open ocean.
There have been many similar moments in the history of the Church — moments when a “wait and see” attitude would have spelled disaster, moments when only bold and decisive action would answer the crisis. Recall 16th century Germany when Martin Luther and likeminded believers left the institutional safety of a corrupt Roman church and steamed into the uncharted waters of the Reformation. Remember 1839 when a handful of Saxons set sail from a spiritually bankrupt homeland for a faraway place called Perry County, Missouri. Witness, finally, a time only thirty-six years ago when the founders of the CLC — lay people and pastors — forsook their secure berths in other church bodies, preferring faithfulness to God’s Word over comfort, complacency, and compromise.
“You Shall Receive Power . . .”
Such courage is to be envied, and it is at this time every year that the festival of Pentecost reminds us where it may be obtained. For on the day of Pentecost it was the Holy Spirit who commanded the disciples to leave the harbor of obscurity and insignificance, and launched them — and the Christian Church — on a journey that would change the eternal destiny of sinful mankind.
To all of us common Christians who in moments of reflection have asked ourselves, “Will I have courage when my faith is tested? Can I be bold for the Lord? . . . ” Our Savior answers: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
It is comforting to recall the class of men chosen by the Holy Spirit to pilot the fledgling Church. Humble, uneducated workers, they astounded the scholars of their day by proclaiming the Gospel in fluent foreign languages. Fired by the Spirit of God, the same men who had recently hidden cowering behind locked doors now boldly risked life and limb to bring the Good News of a Savior to a world lost in sin. Imprisoned, Paul and Silas sang hymns. Hauled before the authorities and beaten, Peter and John bravely confessed their Savior: ” . . . For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
In a world sadly bereft of heroes, we Christians may rejoice that we have such heroic figures to look up to. But much more than that, we hold the key to that heroism ourselves whenever we read God’s Word or hear it preached. Through His unchanging Word, God has promised to embue us with the Holy Spirit, to increase our faith, and to embolden us — yes, even humble sinners such as you and me! — with the courage to do great things for His kingdom.
Let us not be afraid, then, when we are called upon by God to leave the harbor behind and risk the open ocean. For at such times, we may be confident, it will be the Holy Spirit who is standing at the helm!
–Pastor Paul Naumann