“Is it all for Jesus Christ?”
I want to start with something funny that I found on an internet site: A priest is walking through the jungle when he comes upon a hungry lion. Just as the lion goes to attack, the priest crosses himself and says, “Lord, if you can hear me, please instill the Holy Spirit in this beast’s heart.” The lion stops as a bright light begins to glow around him. He looks to the sky, folds his paws in prayer, and says, “Thank you, Lord, for this meal I am about to eat.”
Let me ask you, was that God answering him in the funny story? We are sometimes confused as to if God answers our prayers. God may answer us differently from what we expect, and therefore we may overlook it, or it may just take long for us to identify it.
I have a friend of mine whom I met in high school. I was able to attended boarding school in the city with my middle school’s principal’s help, because my grandparents and father wouldn’t support me in attending high school. Most students visited their parent’s houses on weekends, but I was not particularly eager to visit my parent’s house. So, I stayed at the school. She was the one who invited me to her house most weekends. She was a sincere Christian. After we had our meals, we usually played at her church, playing ping-pong, piano, or some games together there. But I never attended church services. After graduating high school, I went to Seoul to attend the university, and she didn’t go to college. So, we didn’t see each other for a long time.
After I became a Christian, I remembered her and looked for her. She was still living in her hometown and she married a faithful Christian husband. I then invited her to attend our first celebration service for our new church in Korea in 1996. She came to our church with her husband. Her husband told me, “I wanted to see who you were because ever since I married my wife, she never ceased to pray for you and even asked me to pray for you, even though we’ve never met. It is crazy. But it is because of Jesus Christ. No, to tell you the truth, it is all because of you. She really cared for you.” Finally, she said, “You know, since I met you in high school, I prayed for you to become a Christian, but I never expected you to become a pastor. God is good all the time. The first became the last; the last became the first.” She prayed for me for fifteen years. Finally, she noticed that God had answered her prayers. What if I hadn’t looked for her? What if she had never heard that I became a pastor? What if I had never heard she prayed for me all these years? Why did she pray for me? Is it all for Jesus Christ? No, it is all for me. She deeply cared for my soul and for my salvation. Even though we didn’t see each other for fifteen years, the Holy Spirit was working for her and me through her prayers.
Today is the universal church’s birthday; we call it “Pentecost Sunday.” The day of Pentecost means the fiftieth day since Jesus was resurrected. It is the day that finishes the Easter season. What happened with Jesus’s disciples after Jesus was lifted up to heaven? They gathered together at the Upper Room, where they had the last Supper with Jesus, and prayed all the time. Jesus’ last recommendation was that all the disciples stay in Jerusalem and pray so that God may send them the Holy Spirit within a few days, who could help them and guide them to move forward. They didn’t have any other choice because all Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers tried to find them to kill them after Jesus died. Their severe persecution threatened the disciples more after the news of Jesus’ resurrection spread out over Judea and Israel. Then, the disciples gathered all together in one place and locked the door.
It was Pentecost day. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Others saw them and thought they were drunken because they became crazy after losing Jesus Christ.
Why did Jesus recommend that they stay in Jerusalem? Why did Jesus promise to send the Holy Spirit and finally send them the Holy Spirit? Is it all on behalf of Jesus Christ? No, it is all for his disciples. In other words, it is all for Jesus’ disciples; Jesus wanted to protect them from persecution and waited for them until they gained the strength of faith and courage to move forward.
Remember that human desire scatters people and divides or separates them, but the Holy Spirit (God) makes people unite, reconcile, and restore one another. We already have lessened from the Babel Tower: When people desired to build their city up to heaven, suddenly they faced chaotic situations with confusion in diverse languages. Finally, they were scatted over the world (Genesis 11:1-9). But, on the Pentecost day, they could speak and understand all various languages by the Holy Spirit. Then, the Holy Spirit strengthened and empowered them, sending them all over the world as Jesus’ witnesses. Do you think it is all for Jesus Christ? No, it is all on behalf of human beings. Jesus Christ was just a sacrifice for God’s love for us. God’s purpose is for us, not Jesus Christ, who says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one, and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God sent Jesus Christ to save us, and sent the Holy Spirit to protect and guide us.
When I was a little younger in my faith, I thought God was too selfish because I thought God handled people however He liked. Yet, as much as I grow in my faith, I notice how God’s grace is deep and long. God says through Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Even though we don’t yet know, God must still work for us.
God sent the Holy Spirit upon the first disciples of Jesus and made them begin the church on earth. The disciples, who were depressed by the loss of their beloved teacher, Jesus Christ, got up strongly and boldly because of the Holy Spirit and lived out the life of witnesses of Jesus day by day. And, more than one hundred years ago, our ancestors, who were inspired by the Holy Spirit, built our church here and lived out the life of witnesses of Jesus Christ. And then, we did so as well.
And, now what? It is our turn. We should keep our faith, live out the life of witnesses of Jesus, and turn to our kids and grandkids. Do you think it is all for Jesus Christ or only for our church ministry? No, it matters not only to our church ministry, but also to your children and grandchildren. If you give up the life of witnesses of Jesus, who cares for your children and grandchildren?
Think about the veterans who died in war. Why did they die? Did they fight for their own benefit? No, it is all for their loved ones. They wanted to turn freedom over to their loved ones, and they sacrificed. Today, we are here because of someone’s love, sacrifice, and prayers. Your commitment and prayers really matter to our church ministry as well as our next generation. Please make a little more of a commitment to the church ministry and encourage your kids and grandkids to live Christian lives. Let’s do it together! Thanks to God. Amen!