June 16, 2019
Day of Pentecost
Acts 2:1-21; Romans 8:14-17
Pastor SeokCheol Shin
The Holy Spirit With and For Us
Life Is Unfair
We have an unresolved long debate on life: “Is life good or bad” or “Is it easy or hard?” What kind of perspective do you have on life? Throughout my life’s journey in this world so far, I have learned that life seems unfair. Somebody is born rich, but somebody else is born poor; somebody has a lot, but somebody else doesn’t have much; somebody is healthy, while somebody else is unhealthy. That doesn’t mean that when we are happy with our privileged things, we must feel guilty and need to be in a lousy mood all the time. We need to recognize that life is neither easy nor fair.
I hope each of us realizes that life is hard sooner rather than later, so we will not have any fantasy of earthly life but seek out God’s help. Don’t get me wrong. I really don’t wish tragedies on anyone else. I don’t wish for anyone to worry about finance problems. I don’t wish for anyone to struggle with physical or mental illness. I don’t wish for anyone to have to deal with alcoholism or drug abuse in themselves or in their families. No Christian should wish harm to anyone. However, I am saying that life is hard and we are weak. Therefore, we must rely on God, the source of all creation.
Look Around and Look Up
When troubles come and we feel powerless, we may sometimes be tempted to give up our life. I had a time to look for a counselor when I was really tired of my life. One day my therapist asked, “Have you ever felt suicidal?” I said, “Sometimes yes, but I endured it.” She continued to ask, “What made you overcome it?” At my lowest point, I was tempted to give up my life, but then I had to think about somebody else, particularly, my mother.
When we get to the end of a rope and feel there will be no more hope in life, we need to look around and look up. If we just give up and finish our life because it is too painful to endure, we may be free from dealing with pain and despair, but we should know that somebody else has to carry our burdens instead of us. Our suffering is not gone; it is only moved to another person.
What if our Father God just gave up on us because he is really sick and tired of forgiving our sins and taking care of our lives? Then, God might be free from all problems happening in the world, but we human beings would have to deal with all the troubles and tragedies with our own limited power. Without God’s support, no one could say, “Life is good.”
When life is really painful, don’t only look at yourself but look around and look up to see who is around you. Surely, life is neither easy nor fair, but we can still keep it going on and even celebrate it because God our Father, who is with us, doesn’t give up hope and love for us.
The Holy Spirit Praying for Us
In this Pentecost season, we give God thanks for the gift of the Holy Spirit according to his Son Jesus’ promise to his disciples. What we couldn’t do, Christ has already done for us. He has lived the life we cannot live and died the death we don’t want to die. And Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Christ has sent the Holy Spirit on us, so that we can call God “Abba, Father” (v. 15). As God’s children, we have the power of the Holy Spirit, our Counselor and Comforter, the One who stands beside us and prays with us and for us, especially in our tough times.
In Romans, the disciple Paul talks about the present suffering we have to deal with as long as we live on earth. According to him, the whole creation is groaning like a woman in labor pains (v. 22). Even men and boys feel pain like women in hard labor. What Paul says is, “Life is hard.”
In numerous cases, troubles come from our relationship with people, even people we love and trust. Our beloved can’t stay with us forever, but someday they will leave us alone. That is why the Lord Jesus warns us not to love anyone more than God! The person who never causes us a grief in our life, or even the person who loves and cares for us still cannot be our God. No matter how good they are to us, they will all fail us later as they die or leave us!
It is not just the people in our lives. Deliberately or not, we also hurt our own lives. Sometimes our body lets us down. Sometimes our emotion lets us down. The disciple Paul confesses about his weakness in Romans 7: “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it…. Wretched man that I am!” (7:19-20, 24).
But Paul doesn’t give up hope although he knows life is hard or sinful. He continues to say, “Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (vv. 24-25). Taking our attention from ourselves to Jesus Christ, Paul encourages us not to look at ourselves but look around and look up to find the salvation that comes from God.
God made us for worship. If we do not worship the true God but still say we worship the Lord, then we may only worship God’s gifts instead of the Giver. For now, we may be happy because we feel our lives are blessed with all those gifts. Yet, if we only worship God’s gifts and all the gifts are gone away, we may have to see ourselves struggle with the sense of emptiness of life. Loved ones die or leave us alone. Children grow up and go their own way. Our bodies grow weak as we get older. Our money has never saved us from the power of death and sin. Worship wrong things, and, yes, there will be a time we may have to say again that life is hard.
In this regard, the Lord Jesus was not being mean when he said, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37). He didn’t mean that we must not love and trust any one, but he was warning us not to worship wrongly. He was trying to remind us that God our Father is the true One who can save us from troubles and help us live in peace and joy.
Time to Receive the Holy Spirit
When we feel we hit the bottom of life, it’s time to look around and look up, not to give up. In the midst of our troubled life, Jesus promises all his disciples and us today, “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you” (John 14:18). He promises to send the Holy Spirit to be with us forever (v. 15). In Romans, Paul says that the Spirit is to pray with and for us. Therefore, we are not alone, not abandoned, not orphaned, and not deceived by anything false from the world because the Risen Christ stands in our midst by the power of the Holy Spirit.
When we are afraid, when we are in want, when we lack faith, it is time to turn to God and receive the Holy Spirit. Life is not easy, but life is good because the Holy Spirit is now with us, praying for us, leading us, carrying our burdens, and providing hope of life for us. Thanks be to God! Amen!