When my daughter was four years old, I was sitting in our kitchen as Nanci got off the phone with the soccer coordinator for a local kid’s league. As she hung up the phone she looked at me with a big smile and said, “Guess what honey!? You’re going to be Emma’s soccer coach!” In a matter of seconds, I became the coach of The Cheetahs, five girls ranging in age from four to six who had never played soccer in their life. They were soon to be coached by a man who had never played soccer in his life! Our season started off with a bang. The girls were so excited to be playing their first game, even if it was against a bunch of boys with a few seasons of experience under their belt. Our girls ran up and down the field, but didn’t score a single goal. That was fine because we knew what we needed to work on…everything!
A few weeks later, we were still desperate to score a goal. A few games later, in the last half of a game, one little girl broke free from the pack and began moving toward the goal. As she closed in, all of our Soccer-moms had to restrain themselves from running out and kicking the goal for her! By the time she neared the goal, most of our parents were three steps over the foul line screaming, “KICK IT ANNIE! KICK IT!” In a moment of sheer exhilaration, we scored our first goal of the year. Excitement filled the air. We knew this was the first of many more to come.
Instead, our schedule got more and more difficult, and it seemed that the boys got taller, faster, and stronger…three more games, four more games, five more games…zero goals. I tried my best to keep the girls motivated. Its OK girls, you really improved your kicking this week! But the frustration was mounting. Weeks passed with zero goals. The drought was almost unbearable. One girl decided she wouldn’t play against boys and sat out a few games. Another showed up with her head hanging low.
As we entered our last week, I gave it everything I had as a coach. We were about to play one of the other all-girls teams, and I hyped it as if it were the NBA Finals, World Series, and Super Bowl all wrapped into one. We practiced like crazy the final week of the season. The morning of the big game, our girls marched in like little 5 & 6-year-old soldiers. Even our little soccer girl who had been sitting out told me, “I’ll play this game coach.” We were facing the “Little Divas,” but they looked huge! They were beaming with confidence. They were taller and bigger than any of our little Cheetahs. After seven games and only one goal, I held my breath and waited for the whistle to blow. Our girls held hands as they stood in a line for the coin-flip. Immediately after the whistle, their biggest girl took the ball down and kicked it toward the goal like a rocket. Our entire sideline winced as the ball bounced out of bounds off the goal. All of a sudden, the girl who had sat out the last three games took the ball and got a look of determination on her face. She weaved and kicked it down the field like a professional before kicking a goal with authority!
Our side erupted and jumped up and down in excitement! But our girls didn’t stop there. They looked like Real Madrid. They were blocking goals, stealing the ball, and eventually scored eight goals! I almost felt sorry for the Little Divas. What happened? Our girls played with passion and determination. They were on fire. There is only one way to describe the way they went out and played. They were inspired, and as everyone who has ever watched a sporting event knows: there is a huge difference between “just playing” and “playing inspired.”
As followers of Christ, sometimes it feels easy when you first start out on the journey of following Jesus. We start off in our faith just like our girls began the season. We’re excited; we’re resolved to put on a fresh uniform and try to do things the right way. We share our faith, we bring friends to church. We’re different. But oftentimes, it only takes one stumble before the wind goes out of our sails. There have been times in my own life when I’ve felt so spiritually dry that I’ve wanted to go to God and say, “God, the game is too hard. I’ll just be here on the sideline.”
To be inspired is to be filled with the urge or ability to do or feel something. It is to be animated with a motivating force beyond yourself. For Christians, true inspiration comes from being filled with the Holy Spirit, which we see described in Acts 2:1-4.
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.
This is a different way to live. This is the way of being filled with the Holy Spirit. This is the way of inspiration.
On Pentecost, God poured out the Holy Spirit on the Church and filling normal men and women just like us. The disciples were waiting in an upper room after Jesus’ Ascension. All of a sudden, the room was filled with God’s presence – the event was so indescribable that we read is that the sound was like a rushing wind and there was something like tongues of fire that deeply touched everyone who was there. As soon as these disciples were touched and filled by God’s Spirit, they began to witness in an inspired way. The fire of the Holy Spirit lit the fuses of the disciples and the Christian Church spread like wildfire from a tiny upper room in Jerusalem to eventually reach the entire world.
And just as there is a difference between “just playing” and playing inspired, by the power of God’s Spirit, there is a world of difference between just living and “living inspired.” God’s Holy Spirit can and will inspire you and give you the ability to be the person God created you to be. We simply have to receive the infilling by God’s mighty personal presence. When you are filled and inspired by the Spirit of God you can do things beyond your own power and ability, things that are spiritually heroic. Sometimes we miss it because the heroism happens in ordinary settings and extraordinarily ordinary ways.
Years ago, I was working in a job and I had some difficult experiences with my boss. There was one person I worked with who often did things that were blamed on other people at work. One day, during a meeting, I was accused of leaving several things unfinished and several mistakes that were actually the fault of this other person. Every fiber of my being wanted to stand up and let everyone have it with both barrels. At the very least, I was ready to walk out. However, for several months, three of us who were Christians had been meeting for prayer and bible study before we started work. Everyone else knew we did this and watched us very carefully to see how we lived. As badly as I wanted to react, I heard a whisper in my heart saying, “Don’t say anything. Just sit there.” Against my own inclinations, that’s what I did. As I was walking out to my truck that day, one of my co-workers who knew I hadn’t done what I was accused of said, “I don’t know how you did that. You know you weren’t responsible for what they blamed you for.”
By the power of God’s Spirit, I was able to say, “You’re right. I wanted to let them have it and tell them whose fault it was. The only reason I didn’t is because I’m a Christian, and I felt as though God didn’t want me to react.” By the power of the Spirit, I was able to understand in a very minor way how Jesus endured so much and suffered for things he never did. I would have missed that blessing if I had reacted under my own power. Instead, I was able to respond calmly because of the grace-filled inspiration of God’s Spirit.
Perhaps you aren’t living with this inspiration. Perhaps you’re a follower of Christ, but the Spirit feels as foreign to you as anything you’ve ever heard of. If so, here is a prayer that goes back hundreds of years that has been incredibly important in my spiritual life.
“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth. O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy Your consolations. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
You can even shorten this prayer and pray simply, “Come, Holy Spirit.” In 1980, on Mother’s Day, Pastor John Wimber prayed this simple prayer, “Come Holy Spirit,” and an incredible movement began that would later be called the Vineyard. Since then, that movement has impacted the world with a radical commitment to taking risks in obedience to Christ and in submission to the Holy Spirit. 2000 years ago, God poured out his Holy Spirit on a group of Christ-followers to fill and inspire them with His divine presence and the world has never been the same. What would it mean for you to open yourself and receive the same Holy Spirit today? I’m convinced it would result in a new level of life, adventure, and love. You’d stop “just living” and begin living inspired.