–May of 1998
Pentecost Settles the Issue of Occupation
William Carey, the father of modern missions, was once asked in a condescending tone by someone of social standing, “Mr. Carey, am I correct in understanding that your occupation is that of a cobbler?” Carey’s polite response was, “No, sir. By occupation I’m a missionary. I only repair shoes to make a living.”
Carey was right. He understood the New Testament concept that by definition all Christians are salt and light. All are missionaries, witnesses, and ambassadors for the Kingdom’s advance. John R. W. Stott stated it with powerful precision when he said, “The Holy Spirit is a missionary spirit; and if we are not possessed with a missionary spirit, then we are not possessed with the Holy Spirit.” Jesus confirms this when He tells his disciples that once they had received the promise of the Father they would be witnesses, both at home and abroad.
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit makes witnesses out of all of us, regardless of our trade or vocation. The Apostle Paul made it clear that a part of the promise of Spirit fullness is that God will “walk in us.” Paul meant that God through His Holy Spirit will carry out redemptive activity through our lives in this present world.
The early Methodists were powerful examples of people who were totally focused by the Holy Spirit on redemptive activity. It was said of Francis Asbury that “he was not a many-sided man, but a one-sided man. If he were not 100 percent religious, it was not because he did not intend to be. If all other Americans were not 100 percent religious, that was but an indication of the work he must do.” Asbury genuinely loved people; but it was always their deepest selves, their souls, he wanted. Polite company and worldly conversation were tolerable at best. He was always impatient to get to the ultimate question with everyone. Diversions were only diverting. Once Asbury turned aside to see a test of a primitive steamboat and pronounced it “a great invention.” But he was not the type to be wondering where he could lay hands on some cash to buy stock in the company. Rather, one suspects he had some vision of the expansion of Methodism and the Kingdom of God by means of the steamboat.
Thomas Oden warns us, “The church that forgets the gospel of salvation is finally not the church, but its shadow. The church that becomes focused upon maintaining itself instead of the gospel becomes a dead branch of a living vine.”
Pentecost both broadens and narrows our focus. The Holy Spirit energizes our hearts to see all men as candidates for God’s grace. He enlarges our vision to see the world as redeemable. At the same time, He narrows our commitments and seeks to channel our employment in the things that matter most.
The coming of the Holy Spirit in our lives will settle the issue of occupation once and for all. Whether doctor, lawyer, farmer, of factory worker, the man or woman filled with the Holy Spirit will find that his first and foremost work is to be a faithful witness for Jesus Christ. Only a personal Pentecost can so change the orientation of our lives that we see the things of this world as only a means to an end. The end is always the advancement of God’s Kingdom. Have you allowed Pentecost to settle the issue of occupation in your life?