The speaker was Tony Campolo. The year was 1988 and the place was Forest Home, California. It was Forest Home’s annual Winter Retreat for College Students, and I found myself there because a buddy from high school had invited me to go with him and his church (Lake Avenue Congregational). I agreed to go simply because I had nothing else going on.

“Nothing else going on” pretty much described my spiritual life at that point. I was born again (John 3:3) when I was in second grade and had a relationship with God through Christ. But at this point in my life (sophomore year in college) I wasn’t growing spiritually and I remember that God wasn’t really a top priority in my life. Looking back, I probably went up to that retreat to spend time with my buddy and meet some new people. There was nothing super-spiritual about my motives.

I don’t remember anything that Tony shared that weekend. Looking back, and wracking my brain, not one thing comes to mind. There were no one-liners, there were no Tweetable quotes (Twitter didn’t exist back then, but you know what I mean), there were no nuggets of wisdom that landed on me. But what did land on me in a fresh way was a Who. And the Who was the Spirit. For me, the words were ordinary. The messages preached were not even memorable. But the Spirit decided to work through them and in my life in a way that displayed His sovereign grace and mercy. He stirred up in me a hunger, a seriousness, and a passion for God that had been missing. And as far as I can remember, all of this was separate from any “persuasive words and wisdom” on the part of Tony Campolo. And this is good, because as I look back on that weekend, I look back on what God sovereignly did, and not on what Tony Campolo shared. It was the Spirit and His power Who showed up, not some crafty message that a speaker put together. (I’m quite sure Tony would be delighted to know that God worked through him and his ordinary words!)

Sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves to say just the right thing in just the right way. And there’s nothing wrong with working hard at all that. But we just don’t need to put pressure on ourselves. People coming to faith is God’s work, not ours, and this week’s passage gives us some great reminders and some important pointers about what to focus on. Tony Campolo did his best to prepare for that weekend at Forest Home, and I and all the students who went are grateful for that. But the best thing that happened in my life and many others was that the Spirit was powerful among us.

To that end, thought for today might be to pray for the Spirit to be powerful in the lives of the people you’ll be encountering as you go about the business of living. You’ll have words to share with those people, and you should take that seriously, but He will make the difference in their lives way more than any cool or hip thing that you might come up with. And that, my friends, is good news!

Would you like to share a short story of God’s spirit working in your life? Click here for the form and instructions.

Scott Smith
Connections & Growth Pastor

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