It’s Wednesday night at 8:45 PM. I’m driving home and reflecting on the day. Thirteen hours of work and I’m ready for sleep. Over the course of a week I had studied the Bible, scoured commentaries and books on theology, written a sermon, and delivered it twice. What I got in return was blank stares, students doodling on their note papers, and a seeming lack of passion.
That’s when the spiritual exhaustion is at its peak.
You’re likely not a youth pastor reading this.
So maybe you can grasp one of these other sets of circumstances.
You speak often about Jesus in your home, encouraging your children to follow Him, to seek first the Kingdom. All of your unique attempts at digging into Scripture with them seem to come up short. They are enamored with the things of this world, pursuing the American Dream, and your attempts at discipleship in the home don’t seem to be bearing fruit.
Your dear friend or family member is far from God. They have been for a while. You’ve prayed for them countless times. It’s not that you’ve stopped praying for them, that God would touch their hearts. It’s just that when you’re deeply honest with yourself, you’ve stopped believing that they will ever change.
Your community is full of sin and wickedness. The churches in your community are dwindling and shrinking, and it feels like things are hopeless. Those that walk under the banner of Christ aren’t honoring him with the things they post and the vitriol that is thrown back at the church disorients you and discourages you.
There are times when we feel hopeless.
There are times when we feel like there’s nothing else we can do to impact our family members, our churches, our communities.
And that’s exactly what we should be feeling.
Last Friday, it hit me afresh when I was reading a few chapters out of the book of Exodus as part of my quiet time. The people of God had been enslaved in Egypt for centuries, and now under the leadership of Moses they were being rescued by God. At the time of their departure, they were shown favor by their former captors, and this favor was from the Lord.
The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians. – Exodus 12:35-36
There are a ton of examples from Scripture regarding the way that God is the one who moves in the hearts of men. This one was simply the one that stood out to me and impacted me last weekend.
Seriously. Think about what is happening here.
The people of God were enslaved.
And now those, whether they were actively serving as task-masters or were passive observers, who had been enslaving the people of God are lavishing them with silver and gold and clothing.
But did they do this of their own accord? By no means. We read that the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. God was the one who was working in the hearts of the people. The same God who by His sovereignty hardened the heart of the unnamed Pharaoh for His glory (as hard as that is to accept) now softened the hearts of the Egyptians for the sake of His people.
This floored me last Friday.
I would love to be in control of how people respond to the proclamations about Jesus that I make each Wednesday night and Sunday morning and occasionally at other times during the week. I would love to tell you that you have the power to change your prodigal family member’s heart, your child’s heart, or the spiritual health of your community. We love to pretend to be saviors.
But we’re not in control. We don’t have the power. And when we acknowledge that and rest in that we find the answer to seeing change happen.
Praying for the Spirit to move.
It’s only been six days. But I’ve been striving to push into that. I’ve been striving to get on my knees and pray for the Spirit of God to move. And you know what? He is.
He’s at work.
He’s always at work, but when I ask Him to move by the Spirit to soften the hearts of those who hear the Kingdom message, I begin to open my eyes to how He’s been working all along. It’s like buying a car. When I bought my Chevy Malibu, I started seeing them everywhere. It’s not that my purchase of a Chevy Malibu was followed by an outpouring of Malibu purchases in Vernon. It’s that I simply had my eyes opened to see them everywhere.
Here’s how God has been at work in my life recently. I desperately long to invite people into a deep, Christ-honoring, Spirit-led intimacy with the Father and passion for the Kingdom. I desperately want people to set their minds on things above and live for the only thing that matters. And I want to use the home God has so richly blessed me with to do so. I want to have adults and students in and out of it every day, growing into the image of the Son of God. As bad as I want that, it’s not been happening much.
But yesterday I prayed throughout the day that God would use His Word, a sermon on John 1:35-42, to ignite a fire for the Kingdom of God in the hearts of our students. I prayed that God would begin to use our home as a place for people to reorient themselves around the Kingdom.
After all of these prayers for the Spirit to move, in the span of an hour five students asked to come over to our house, three of them asking to be intentionally discipled by me and my wife. We are starting a Bible study open to the public on Sunday night and I pray we have many come.
Your prodigal needs the Spirit of God to work in their heart.
Your children need the Spirit of God to work in their heart.
Your community needs the Spirit of God to work in its streets.
Thankfully, we have a God who softens the hearts of the sinful and gives His people favor.
Let’s ask Him to do so.
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