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Little Pentecosts

While crowds of people followed Jesus during his earthly ministry in Judea, the spirit of Jesus worked through the disciples to give birth to a body of believers that has been growing ever since as the fire of the Holy Spirit spread to the ends of the earth.

Once again, Peter and the other disciples provide a significant model for us. While Jesus was on earth, they were followers, students. They didn’t always understand the message or the methods of Jesus’ ministry, and they certainly were not able to perform even a single miracle in Jesus’ presence. Their failures and weaknesses were most apparent.

In fact, Judas betrayed Jesus and then killed himself in despair; and when the pressure was on, Peter denied he ever knew Jesus. Finally, in the wake of the Crucifixion, everyone took refuge behind locked doors, hiding in terror, expecting reprisal. Yet these terrified followers didn’t remain students, and they didn’t remain terrified. Instead, they were transformed.  

They were empowered by the Holy Spirit to be more than simply followers of Jesus; no longer students, they became messengers of the gospel. This transformation didn’t take place because of the bodily presence of the Jesus they had followed those many months; it didn’t happen because of his teaching or through the witness of his miracles and healings. The disciples were transformed into messengers by the presence of Jesus in real time, through the power of the Holy Spirit.  

We call the event of the disciples’ transformation Pentecost, that miraculous event that took place fifty days after Easter and launched the spread of the gospel throughout the world. What we don’t always realize is that the Holy Spirit has been responsible for a myriad of little Pentecosts ever since.

A pivotal event in my own life occurred in 1996 when I had been in ministry only a short while. Due to the young age of my children, I had been appointed part-time to a local church as an associate; and while my work was focused mainly in the important areas of children’s worship and teaching, I had very little responsibility overall. Then I was invited to attend an evangelism conference, the Order of the Flame. With its emphasis on evangelism, the focus of the entire conference was on reaching others for Christ. It was a powerful time, and I was surrounded by many talented people who were doing exciting things for God’s kingdom.

The last event of the conference was a worship service. There was dynamic music, great preaching. It was an awesome worship experience. We closed our time with prayer. Everyone stood, and people spontaneously offered their prayers aloud.

As the praying became more intense, I suddenly felt the powerful presence of God’s Holy Spirit—not just in the service itself but within me. As I continued to listen to the prayers being lifted, I was overwhelmed by the spiritual depth that surrounded me, feeling out of my league. It didn’t seem possible that I could do the types of ministry these folks were doing with such power. I began to feel intensely unworthy, ill-equipped to do whatever it was God was calling me to do. In that moment, I was ready to bolt out of the room. It was truly a crisis, not necessarily of faith but of calling.  

As I began to follow my instincts and leave as quickly as possible, I felt the full weight of God’s power upon me. I couldn’t move. I wanted to run, but I couldn’t. I sat down, convinced there was no way I could do what God was calling me to do.

Then suddenly I heard the voice of Jesus within me, saying, “you are ill-equipped; you don’t have all the ability. But that doesn’t matter; because I am not ill-equipped. You can do this—you will do this, because I am your source of power; and it is I who will work through you.”  

God moments—“little Pentecosts”—times when we experience Jesus in real time. From that time on, everything changes—who we are, how we live. These aren’t events that exist only in the stories of our faith. They happen every day to believers all over the world, and following in the Jesus way requires that we be open to those life-changing, faith-shaping little Pentecosts.  

Being open to experiencing our own little Pentecosts is about recognizing that each of us has a life mission. It’s that purpose for which God created you, for which God has placed unique gifts and talents and passions within you. And often, you can trace your “God mission” back to some particular passion that has been in your life for a long time.

Are you open to the Holy Spirit bringing a little Pentecost into your own life? What do you feel ill-equipped to do?