From Zeroes to Heroes

6 Then they gathered round him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:6-11)
11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 12 For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. 14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?”  (Galatians 2:11-14)

7 You are judging by appearances … 10 For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.”  (2 Corinthians 10:7-10)
The first Christians were not the superheroes that many people make them out to be. After three years of following Jesus, they still hadn’t twigged that his mission was not to drive out the Roman occupying army. It took Peter a further twelve years after that to realise Acts 1:8 was an instruction for the Church was to take the Gospel to the Gentiles. Even when he finally twigged, he still needed to be corrected, “because he was clearly in the wrong.”

Paul, who rebuked him, did not fare much better. He was so lacking in preaching skills that his critics in the church at Corinth complained that “he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.” We are so used to viewing the early apostles as superstars on a pedestal that we can easily forget that they were pitifully inadequate for the task which they were given. Jesus told them not even to try to fulfil his Great Commission until they had first received the promise of the Holy Spirit. Only that promise could turn a band of zeroes into Christ’s world-conquering heroes.

The secret of the phenomenal growth of the Church in its first three hundred years is actually quite simple. Jesus told them to wait for the Holy Spirit, so they gathered in the upper room in Jerusalem, and they prayed and waited. They waited because they knew there was no point in starting until the Holy Spirit came. They waited because they had grasped the secret of God’s promise of indwelling power. Are we willing to wait today? The call to be filled daily by the Holy Spirit is a call to die to our own strength and wait. It’s very easy, but it’s also very difficult.

Without the Holy Spirit, we can be busy for God but we cannot be successful. He has given us his plan, and he refuses to fulfil it any other way. The Church has only ever marched to victory through God filling her ordinary foot-soldiers with his own extraordinary Holy Spirit. She has always floundered when she neglects this call. Jesus still makes this promise to us at Everyday  Church today: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth.”
  1. Do you tend to put the first Christians on a pedestal? 
  2. What difference does it make for us to realise that they were zeroes in their own strength, but that they were transformed from zeroes into heroes when they received the power of the Holy Spirit?
  3. Do you find it easy or difficult to wait for the Holy Spirit to fill you afresh each day as a follower of Jesus? What is stopping you from taking some time right now, to wait and to pray and to be filled with God’s Spirit?
Father God, I confess that I’ve been busy with the wrong things. I haven’t waited each day for you to fill me with your Holy Spirit, but I really want to begin doing so now. Our lives are going to be different after the coronavirus lockdown, and I pray that one of the biggest differences to my life will be this – that I wait for you to fill me with the Holy Spirit each day. Father, please transform me from a zero into a hero by your mighty, indwelling power. Amen.
Today’s Everyday Devotions were brought to you by Phil Moore, who leads our team of whole-church elders.
If you have time, consider carrying on your conversation with God using one of our helpful Prayer Pathways.
Today’s Everyday Devotions have also inspired a devotional video that you can watch on our YouTube channel.
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