Excerpted from The CSB (in)Courage Devotional Bible, © 2018 Holman Bibles, Denise J. Hughes, Editor.
The moment I found my seat on the Boeing 757, the weight of my mission overwhelmed me. After twenty-five hours of flight time, I would land in a city in West Africa known for its political volatility and poverty. It was a place of unknowns, insecurity, and suffering. My task was to deliver a message of encouragement to the women living there.
The problem was I felt like a phony. What did I know of their daily suffering? How could I possibly speak any words of wisdom into their reality? Sure, I've experienced my share of struggle, but I was going into their world of poverty with an extra-large suitcase and far too many clothes and snacks. I'd kissed my well-dressed husband and children goodbye, left my spacious suburban house, and drove my SUV to the airport without the least bit of concern about their safety or mine. Although I would spend more than a week in West Africa, I would do so with the full assurance of returning home to my all-too-comfortable life.
Thus, the reason I sat overwhelmed in seat 27A: I had little talent or experience to offer, nor did I have any magical powers or hidden wealth to share. I was an ordinary woman from the other side of the globe who loved Jesus. That's it. Was it enough?
I wonder if the disciples experienced similar doubts as they huddled together in Jerusalem. A few weeks before, they'd watched Jesus's arrest, unfair trial, and horrific crucifixion. Fearing a similar fate, they fled in different directions, terrified for their lives. Then, against all hope, Jesus appeared, alive! They didn't understand it, nor could they explain it, but they celebrated it! Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah, the One who'd come to save all humankind.
But then, almost as quickly as He'd come, He left. While they watched, amazed, He rose into the sky with a few final words:
"You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Ac 1:8).
They were to be missionaries of the good news, ambassadors of Jesus. What a calling! They were ordinary men and women, with meager resources and few credentials. How would they deliver hope to a desperate world?
As it turned out, Jesus knew what they needed and already had a plan to deliver it.
"He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father's promise" (Ac 1:4).
The disciples gathered in Jerusalem, overwhelmed by their mission, yet God gave them exactly what they needed to accomplish it.
"When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying" (Ac 2:1-2).
The Holy Spirit came down in power, touching each person present with the extraordinary presence of God. Never again would they need to visit a priest or temple or touch the person of Jesus to experience the presence of God. Instead, God's presence now lived within, filling them with everything they needed for a holy calling.
The disciples began to speak in other languages—languages they did not previously know. Before, they cowered in fear, but now they spoke with confidence and joy, so much joy that some accused them of drunkenness. But inebriation wasn't the reason for their transformation, it was the presence of God.
As I sat in seat 27A, I leaned hard into this truth. Alone, I didn't have much to offer the women of West Africa. I knew this full well. Even so, I wasn't traveling alone. I had access to an incomparable power source: the presence of God in me. The Holy Spirit promised wisdom when I felt foolish and power when I felt weak, and that meant I already had everything I needed.
The story of the disciples' courage doesn't end with the gift of the Holy Spirit. God delivered a second gift, one we often miss:
"Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved" (Ac 2:44-47).
Jesus's promised gift of the Holy Spirit was the power they needed to accomplish their mission. That gift was given in community, to a gathering of people who would soon be called the Church. The gift of the Holy Spirit to one person was something to behold, no doubt, but the gift of the Holy Spirit to a gathering of Jesus followers held the makings of a movement, a movement called Christianity—the kind of movement that would soon spread "to the end of the earth."
If you're feeling overwhelmed, you're in good company. The truth is, you and I are ordinary individuals with ordinary means. However, we serve a God who never leaves us (Heb 13:5) and promises that all things are possible through Him (Mt 19:26). May we cling to Him in our need and trust that He will provide exactly what we need, exactly when we need it.
In what seemingly ordinary ways can you share God's love with others?
In what ways has God already shown His faithfulness and His hand in the situation you face today?
What gifts or opportunities has He given you for the calling He has placed on your life?
Devotional Reading Plan, page 1827
Author Index, page 1849