Read at beginning of service:
Ephesians 1:3-12 (NIV)
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will– 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment–to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. 11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.
For last five years the field of ?personal coaching? has seen phenomenal growth. Today there are life coaches who specialize in everything from finance and career to creativity and spirituality to family and personal relationships. At the highest levels of corporate management, coaches can make a tidy living helping “cash-rich” and “time-poor” professionals, charging as much as $500 per half hour.
Most of us at one time or another have had a coach urging, encouraging, shouting or whispering, showing or growing us to be the best we can be on the field, court, track or ice. Hopefully, we?ve all had the experience of having someone in sports, in personal relationships, or at the workplace, who has guided and mentored us, a coach who has taught us some skill or imparted wisdom to improve our performance as mothers or managers, at fishing or flying or just plain living life.
The good news today is that we have access to the services of the most effective coach there ever was. If you?re a Christ-follower you don?t need to hire a coach for $500 a half-hour, sign up for some course, or join a team to benefit from this mentor. There?s a Coach living inside of each believer. He?s the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the living God, the third Person of the Trinity.
If any of those terms seem shadowy or spooky to you, or if you have come to think of God?s Spirit as an ?it,? an impersonal force at work only in very mystical, mysterious ways, this series will introduce you to the Coach who lives inside you. The Holy Spirit, like any other coach, wants to hone your skills, inspire your attitude, and improve your performance in the game of life. He does this in a very personal and powerful way. In fact, today I hope to help you to discover how He?s been watching you from before eternity began, and scouting you for the big leagues.
The dramatic, true story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team is one not easily forgotten. What a Cinderella team ? not only did they surprise the world by defeating the unbeatable Russians, they went on to win the gold medal at the Lake Placid games. The story orbits around the team’s coach Herb Brooks and his commitment to release the potential in the young men he mentors. With a proven record as the University of Minnesota’s hockey coach, Brooks was selected to recruit and coach the Olympic team. During the summer of 1979 amateur hockey players from throughout the nation were invited to fly to Colorado Springs for a week long tryout. After the first day of observation, Brooks identified the 26 players he wanted on his team. While those selected were ecstatic, those cut were sent packing. In one clip, the coach is seen walking towards his car in the parking lot of the National Hockey Center. Just as he?s about to get into his car, Walter, the chairman of the committee that recruited Herb, flags him down.
(show clip from the movie Miracle . Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures. Written by Eric Guggenheim and directed by Gavin O?Connor)
God knows who He needs on His team. From eternity past and for all of your life, His Spirit has already been scouting, and drafting you. He?s been watching you and knows you intimately. He?s been at work with you long before you ever have been aware of Him.
The making of a first-round draft pick
We find him at the top of his game. He?s a performer, he seems to be the kind of guy who?s going to make Most Valuable Player. He executes the play, makes the goal and wins the game.
It?s the story of Peter. It?s the Day of Pentecost. A group of people who?ve never really heard of Jesus have gathered around, and he preaches a transforming sermon.
“Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd” (Acts 2:14).”?about three thousand were added to their number that day” (Acts 2:41b).
Now if you know anything about Peter?s story, the big question is where did this guy come from? How do you explain Peter?s phenomenal success?
How to explain Peter?s phenomenal success
Here?s a man who denied Jesus three times, refused to let Jesus wash his feet, and had the nerve to tell Jesus what He could and couldn?t do, and what He would and wouldn?t do when He predicted He would go to the cross. When you look at Peter?s stats, there?s no reason to imagine that he?d ever succeed. When you consider the crucial nature of the position he was being drafted for, you?ve got to wonder what God was up to. He was impatient, belligerent, a know-it-all big-mouth who loved to bluster but couldn?t produce in the clutch situation.
Something transformative happened to Peter that explains it all. The story is in Acts 2. The disciples, 120 of them, have been meeting, praying and waiting for 10 days for something Jesus had promised before He ascended to heaven. On one of the great Jewish Feast days, the Holy Spirit came upon them all and,
“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:4) [The Day of Pentecost].
How do you account for Peter?s phenomenal performance? He wasn?t a talented communicator, or impressive leader. It wasn?t because of his moral perfection or spiritual excellence, but the power of the Holy Spirit came upon Peter, filled Him and made him effective. The omni-competent Coach chose Simon Peter, a man of great strengths and glaring weaknesses, to lead His fledgling church.
Now here?s the punch line: one of the incredible benefits of this story being recorded in the Bible is to tell us that if God could do that with Peter, He can do it with you! It?s not about how wonderful you think you are, but about how powerful the Holy Spirit is. It?s not about you, it?s about Him.
Here?s what you need to know. The Holy Spirit has been scouting you since conception. He knows your strengths and weaknesses, and where you fit in His incredible plan.
The scouting work of the Holy Spirit
Since the ?great one,? Wayne Gretzky, and Mario Lemieux began re-writing NHL records 20 years ago, hockey pundits and fans have been looking out for ?the next one?. Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins certainly has the hype. The native of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia took the Rimouski Oceanic and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League by storm for two amazing seasons and was picked first overall by Pittsburgh at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Scouts have compared his style of play to hall of famer Marcel Dionne. It’s too early to tell if he will reach those great heights, but if stats count he?s got the right stuff, and it?s the scouts who?ve been watching, and assessing.
Did you know God?s Spirit has been watching you ever since you were in your mother?s womb?
God?s Spirit has been WATCHING you.
There are no accidents, no mistakes. You?re unique. God has planned your entrance into this world and prepared a plan for you. God has been watching you. Unlike the hockey scouts though, He knows exactly what you can accomplish because He made you for a purpose. Take a look at Jeremiah 1:5. God knew about Jeremiah long before he was ever born.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).
Consider the apostle Paul. He?s telling the Galatians about his calling as an apostle. He doesn?t start his story on the road to Damascus where he became a believer. He doesn?t start it when he was a boy being taught by one of Israel?s greatest rabbis, Gamaliel. Listen to what he says:
“?God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace?” (Galatians 1:15).
You say, well I can believe that about great Old Testament prophets, or powerful New Testament apostles, but I?m not so sure about how relevant it is to me. Take a moment to consider something the apostle Peter wrote to ordinary-joe, garden variety, utility-Christians like you and me. He claims that you were
“chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit” (1 Peter 1:2).
The Holy Spirit has been setting you apart, weaving the strands of your life to bring you to the moment of connection with the God who loves you. It?s one of the reasons why here at HPC we believe that we are ordinary people who are part of an extraordinary plan!
Did you ever think about the fact that you are so valuable to God that He chose you early ? with enthusiasm.
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (Ephesians 1:4).
God?s Spirit has been watching you, but He?s been also drafting you?wooing you, calling you to Himself and enlisting you to be on God?s team.
God?s Spirit has been DRAFTING you.
We often miss this point when we contemplate how people become Christians. We imagine that people make a personal decision after having heard the evidence. Once we hear about Jesus and who He is and what He?s done, we then decide, perhaps because it seems reasonable to us, or right to us, or because we recognize the need, to become a Christ-follower, as though the entire matter rested on ourselves. Listen to what Paul says to the Corinthians,
“?no one can say, ?Jesus is Lord,? except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3).
The only way that anybody can truthfully say that Jesus Christ is Lord of his/her life is because of the Holy Spirit. There?s no such thing as just making a decision. Sometimes we think if that?s the way it happens, it means that one day a light goes on, and ?click? we?re believers. The drafting work of the Spirit is more subtle than that. James Engel wrote a book several years ago called What?s Gone Wrong with the Harvest In it, he suggested that most people need more than one encounter with the gospel to make the decision to follow Christ. On average North Americans need to have five to seven genuine encounters with the gospel before they?re ready to receive God?s love in Christ.
That means most people need to see Jesus credibly lived out in the lives of others. They need to hear the music of the gospel before they?re ready to hear the words. People come to Christ step by step. That?s a great relief for everybody. If you?re someone who?s checking out Christianity, don?t let anybody force you into a decision as though they were selling you a used car. Instead, it?s okay for it to be a process. If you?re a person trying to share Christ, it?s also a relief to know it?s not all on your shoulders. All you need is to encourage the process. Move people one step closer to Jesus, that?s all.
It was certainly true for Peter. We can read the gospels and think each one gives us a different account of Peter?s conversion. In fact what we find in the gospels is step by step encounters with Jesus that eventually resulted in Peter becoming a Christ-follower. Let?s look at three steps in Peter?s process of coming to Christ.
Three steps in Peter?s PROCESS
1. He shows you not what you ARE, but what you can BECOME!
In John 1 we read about Andrew spending a day with Jesus and discovering that He?s the long-awaited Messiah. At the end of that day Andrew rushes to find his brother Simon, and tells him, “Simon, you?ll never believe who I?ve met!”
“And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, ?You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas? (which, when translated, is Peter)” (John 1:42).
With one look Jesus sizes Peter up, and says, “You may be Simon son of John, but I see a rock ? someone solid on whom I will build the future.”
Consider the transforming power of a new name. You may have labelled yourself ?loser,? ?failure,? or ?sinner,? but God has given you a new name. He?s made you a part of His family, and shows you what you can become. That?s the Holy Spirit?s work.
After that encounter with Jesus, we don?t know what happens to Peter. One morning, however, Peter is cleaning his nets after a long profitless night of fishing. He?s not in a good mood when Jesus shows up. Jesus has a crowd with him, and wants to use the natural amphitheatre made by the mountainside slipping down to the lake. He notices Peter and asks him if He can use his boat. Peter is dog-tired, but he welcomes Him aboard. Jesus teaches the multitudes, and then He turns to Peter and tells him to let down his nets. Peter is a fishing pro. He knows that when he comes home with no fish it?s because there?s no fish to be had, but just to humour Him, he puts out into the deep, and lowers the net. What do you know? He?s soon got a load of fish so huge it?s bursting the net and takes two boats to bring it in! Take a look at Peter?s reaction as he?s pulling in the fish?
“When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ?Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!??Then Jesus said to Simon, ?Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men?” (Luke 5:8, 10).
You may be thinking you don?t know who you?re dealing with Jesus. I?m not the kind of person you obviously think I am. Go away! But Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” You see the Holy Spirit not only shows you what needs work, but He lets you know what He can do, too.
2. He shows you what needs WORK.
I love the story of three-year-old Matthew Stowell. He went to the Woodfield Mall near Chicago with his parents and grandparents for some last minute Christmas shopping. The family divided up so they could buy some secret gifts. They decided to meet back at a designated spot in one hour. Sixty minutes later the family gathered. It was only at that moment that Joseph Stowell, the three-year-old?s father, and president of Moody Bible Institute, discovered that Matthew was missing. Each family member thought that Matthew was with someone else. Panic swept through the Stowells. Everyone imagined the worst. Everyone was assigned a different part of the mall to look for Matthew. It was Matthew?s grandfather who found him. He reported to the family that he was fine. He said, “Matthew didn?t even know that he was lost. I found him outside the candy store with his nose pressed up against the glass. We are in far worse shape than he is.”
Like so many of us, Matthew was lost but never knew it. What a parable of life that is. We don?t even know we?re lost. We don?t even know how deeply sin-scarred we are until we get close to God. When we do, that?s when we get a clear sense of what needs work in our lives, and what God can do for us. But the Spirit does even more?
3. He affirms your POTENTIAL.
Affirmation is the mark of great coaching, isn?t it? The Holy Spirit, as Coach of your life, shows you what needs work, but He also shows you the way forward. He encourages you to reach your potential. He says, “Yes, you can be a champion!” Each time He encountered Peter, Jesus showed him the future, the possibilities, and his potential until finally he got up and followed Him for good.
“You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (John 1:42).
“Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men” (Luke 5:10).
“?Come, follow me,? Jesus said, ?and I will make you fishers of men.? At once they left their nets and followed him” (Matthew 4:19-20).
God?s Spirit has been scouting you. He?s been drafting you, and more than that He has been training you.
God?s Spirit has been TRAINING you.
Sometimes we find it easy to take credit for a good idea. Have you ever helped someone to an insight, only to find out they thought it was his/her own insight? That?s how it is with spiritual truth. We come up with deep, challenging insights, only to discover they came from the Spirit all along. Look at what the Bible says. Jesus was telling His followers what would happen when He left them after the cross.
“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you” (John 16:13-14).
Have you ever wondered why some people just “get it” spiritually and others don?t? Jesus said unless a man is born again, He cannot even see the kingdom of God.
Only He can teach you what you NEED TO KNOW.
Jesus was asking His disciples who people thought He is. They came up with a variety of answers. Then He asked them who they thought He is. Without a moment?s hesitation, Peter spouted,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).
“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven” (v. 17).
Jesus called Peter Simon son of Jonah here, but notice how He changed Peter?s name in Matthew 16:18.
“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
Peter was on a spiritual mountaintop here. He was the hero! How did he get there? It was the revelation of the Holy Spirit. Look what happens next. Jesus began to predict the cross that was waiting for Him and the death He would face. Peter got another flash of inspiration and said, “This will never happen to you!” In an instant, he learned the lesson we all need to learn ? with Him, all things are possible, but without Him we can do nothing.
“Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:23).
The distance from hero to zero is no farther than a choice. Who are you going to depend on? Where will you get your insight? Even Peter could shrink back from God?s Spirit and so can you.
Maybe you?ve been exploring God, checking out spiritual stuff. You?ve felt some inklings that there?s more to it than myth, and you?re wondering if you should make a decision to go the distance. Let me tell you that God has been scouting you for a lifetime. He?s drafting you right now. He?s got a position for you to play, and a spot for you on His team. All you need to do is take the step. Respond. Reach out. He?s there to receive you when you do.
In 1994, Wayne Gretzky broke the last meaningful record of his career, scoring goal number 802 in a March 23rd game against the Vancouver Canucks. That same year, he went on to win his 10th scoring title and his fourth of five ?Most Sportsmanlike? awards. In 1996, Wayne was traded to the St. Louise Blues and the following year he played for the New York Rangers. In April of 1999, Gretzky announced his retirement after 21 seasons in the NHL. He finished his career with countless NHL records and trophies.
Did you know the NHL scouted Wayne when he was nine years old? At age six, his father, Walter, built a rink in the family?s backyard. It was there that Wayne skated for hours on end every day, practicing his skating, shooting and stick handling and learning everything about the game from his dad. “It was for self-preservation,” Walter admitted, “I got sick of taking him to the park and sitting there for hours freezing to death.”
From the time he was six, Wayne played many leagues above his age. He scored only one goal in his first year when he was playing with 10-year-olds. Each season his skills increased dramatically and he soon set scoring records that seemed preposterous, most notably a 378-goal season in his last year in pee wee in Brantford, ON.
What would have happened if Walter had never put skates on his son? What would have happened if the scouts hadn?t watched him? What would have become of hockey, let alone Wayne Gretzky, if he?d never been drafted? Imagine what would have happened if Wayne had told Walter he?d rather be a ballet dancer.
What might happen to you, if you cooperate with the Coach who?s been scouting, drafting and training you to make an eternal difference?