Last time, I promised to tell a story about getting out of the way and letting the Holy Spirit work. In this particular case, I was doing a fill-in sermon for a brother who was out-of-town. I realize that not everyone is going to fill in for a Sunday sermon, but I think the principle applies in many other areas, so here goes.
About 18 months ago I filled in for a preacher who was out-of-town, and took his next text in a sermon series on Luke, but this far out, I can’t recall what the exact text was… That morning, the music was unbelievable; better than it ever had been and it seemed somehow enhanced. A few others had speaking roles before it was my turn, and there seemed to be something extra in all of them that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, something unusual in a good way. When it was time for the sermon to begin, I got up and began to speak, but very quickly, I was all messed up. I lost my place, forgot what was next in my outline and realized that I had entirely lost focus. So you’ll know, I never lose my place, and I never lose focus when in front of a room; is was a little disconcerting actually. Later, people told me that they hadn’t noticed anything going wrong, but in my mind, I was near panic!
I set my text down and sat on the back of a chair, and with my feet in the seat in front of me, I just began to share with the people. I remember being surprised at what was coming out of my mouth and at what was rushing through my mind as I went along, but I couldn’t help but notice that people were really paying attention. It felt almost like I was watching somebody else talk that morning, and eventually I noticed that I was wrapping up. I moved right into an old-fashioned invitation, and on cue, everyone stood and sang the song; no one came forward, so I said a few words and we sang it again; this time someone came forward. I’m not sure why, but I had them sing the song again and this time a whole family came forward. We did the song again and someone else came forward; then I knew we were finished. It was surreal that day.
When the preacher returned, he called me and asked what had happened; everyone was talking about last Sunday saying that the Holy Spirit had been so obviously at work… “What did you do?”
I told him the truth, all I had done was screw up a perfectly good sermon! Somebody else did the rest of course.
This is not the only time that this kind of thing has happened to me, but it usually happens when I’m teaching, since that was my normal role, but it’s always the same sort of thing, I find myself surprised by what I’m saying and yet I know it’s “right” and just let it go on until it’s finished; then there is an amazing reaction from the people. I must point out here that I have teaching as a spiritual gift which does make a difference, but you must understand that I didn’t really do anything other than get ready to rock and roll. Am I special? No, not at all. Am I unique? Hardly! I’m simply a brother in Christ who is trying to serve, who makes plenty of mistakes and screws up royally from time to time… just like you.
It is awesome to see God working in His church, and I only wish more of us would be willing to let go of a little control and let Him work. As for our journey, this is the biggest “drink” I’ve ever found, seeing God at work in the lives of those in my church family.