In the summer of 1988, we experienced one of the longest and worst droughts in memory. The entire summer season was crippled with higher-than-normal temperatures, and, to make matters worse, the rains dried up and so did the ground. Farmers fed all their hay that season to keep the cattle alive, and we eventually cut trees to allow the livestock to have something green to eat. The hotter the temps, the harder the ground became. The lakes and reservoirs reached some of their lowest in history, and it was dangerously sultry by mid-morning each day. Leaves fell from the trees in the middle of July like it was winter. May ran into June. June gave way to July and deep into August, with no reprieve until one day rain was forecasted. The sky eventually opened up and several inches of rain poured upon the hardened ground. What took months to evaporate and become a wasteland took only one night to bring back life. The only thing that softens hard ground is a storm.
Two such storms occurred in the book of Acts. The last recorded visitation from Jesus before his ascension in Acts chapter 1 gives the disciples asking Jesus once again about a physical kingdom. He speaks with them about the empowering of the Holy Spirit in verse 5. They revert back to a physical kingdom in verse 6 and Jesus returns the conversation to Holy Spirit talk in verse 7. He pretty much told them that they were not equipped to know the things that only God knows, and the one thing they should focus on in verse 8 was the only thing they needed for the task ahead, and that was the Holy Spirit. Remember these visits were the catalyst for proof of Jesus risen and victorious. It doesn’t matter that Jesus died and rose again for us, if no one ever knows about it. Two storms were about to soften the hardest hearts. The disciples were still struggling to grasp the power of the Holy Spirit through them without Jesus present. Their ground was needing softened and Jesus knew the perfect storm at Pentecost would be all it would take.
The other storm would come later in Acts chapter 9 when an evil Pharisee named Saul was visited on the road to Damascus. His heart was hardened beyond reasoning. He had authority and the hatred within him to arrest and imprison Jesus followers. Jesus showed up in a storm that left him temporarily blind and totally dependent upon God. If it had not been for this visit to the most undeserving of individuals, we would not have the majority of the New Testament as we know it today. In the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel, God lets us know, in chapter 16, that he focuses on the heart. He knows when the soil of the heart is hardened. He knows how to determine our fruitfulness just by gauging the hardness and receptivity of the heart. He saw in Saul a hard heart but perfectly aligned for the gospel. Saul was no one’s pick. Mathias was the choice of men, and we don’t hear anything else from him. Saul wouldn’t have chosen himself nor would anyone else to carry the gospel to the world. His heart was admittedly hardened, and Jesus softened that ground with another perfect storm.
Each time in scripture when God brought a storm, his people benefited. So my challenge to you is not to despise the journey. Accept the storm, and enjoy the ride.
We’re Christpoint Church, and we’re located on the square, in Sparta, and would love to see you this Sunday at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. We’re real people, living real lives, serving a real God.