Lift Up Your Hearts: Gospel Power

In these very difficult and strange times we are living in, some of us may find that we are continually confounded by what we see on the news and the various events happening around the world.

I know that for me things are getting more and more concerning. I know that I have been tempted to fear, to get angry and to question why. Why are there so many fires and so many hurricanes? Why are people resorting to violent rioting and attacking one another? Why are people ending long-term friendships over political disagreements? I do not think I have ever seen times so tense before. Granted I’m only 38, but all of that on top of coronavirus and we have ourselves a pretty big confusing mess. Thankfully I don’t have a ton of time to lose watching the news, but I read a lot of articles and try to keep up with what is happening. Honestly, I cannot imagine living through 2020 without my faith in our Lord. Things can just seem so hopeless. Will we ever get back to normal? Will we always have to wear these horrible masks? Will we ever be united as a country again? Is there a peaceful resolution to our divisions and disagreements? Will people ever come back to church, even if there is a vaccine? What will happen next? Is there any good news? While many questions remain unanswered for now, the last one does have one. The answer is YES! There still is good news.

In this weekend’s passages for the Sunday readings, the Lord reminds us through the apostle Paul that when the Gospel is authentically preached, it is not just with words but also through deeds of power worked by the Holy Spirit to confirm the message. In His letter to the Thessalonians he states. “We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father, knowing, brothers and sisters loved by God, how you were chosen. For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction” (1 Thess. 1:2-5). St. Paul experienced the truth that when the Gospel is proclaimed the Lord accompanies it with signs and the power of the Holy Spirit. This is because God wants to continue to show and convince the world of His love and of His saving mission of forgiveness.

I have seen many miracles in my own life and have watched many more happen to those around me and to those I have ministered to. Two years ago I began going to the Encounter School of Ministry in Brighton, Michigan. This is a ministry that teaches ordinary Christians how to live in their identity as Christians and to proclaim the Gospel in the anointing of the Holy Spirit. It is a ministry that expects the unexpected, that believes in the power of miracles and that trusts that when we ask, our good Father in Heaven will shower His blessings upon us. They teach how to pray for healing and how to listen to the Holy Spirit in order to allow the gifts of the Holy Spirit to flourish. Before, when I would see passages in Scripture about believers doing the same things that Jesus did, I always knew they were possible, but thought it was only for really holy people. I didn’t know that we could all learn to pray with expectant faith, knowing that the Lord is going to show up. Mark 16:15-18 says, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

The Gospel that Jesus came to proclaim is powerful, transformative and life changing. While we know that the main focus is not necessarily the external wonders, miracles and signs, it is important that we realize that Jesus used signs and wonders to proclaim the Gospel and to show the world that He had the power to do what He proclaimed. There is a well known story in the gospels about a paralyzed man who was brought to Jesus and lowered down before Him through the roof by his friends. “When Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven.’ The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God” (Luke 5:20-25).

Jesus demonstrates that His kingdom brings about the healing that humanity needs. He comes to forgive our sins, to bring us healing and to teach us how to live as one body. During these times that we are living in are we desperately need of the power of the Gospel. It seems that on our own we have been not be able to turn things around. Our Lord Jesus has the power, but just like the friends of the paralytic, we need to do whatever we can to bring others to Jesus, placing them before Him in our prayer. We pray that the Lord would grant mercy and forgiveness, and would demonstrate by the power of the Holy Spirit that He has the ability to bring us to healing and transformation. May He demonstrate to us the good news of the Gospel that has the power to bring about what it proclaims.