26 May 2023

Pentecost: Power to proclaim

General Shaw Clifton (Retired)

Image shows a colourful and stylised picture of a dove.

In an extract from Holiness Ablaze! General Shaw Clifton (Retired) encourages us to use the power the Lord offers us.

Do we make use of the power God is willing to grant us? I am asking this Pentecost question because too often we let down our Lord and spurn the use of what he is ready to give us. I have in mind especially his wish to have us proclaim the gospel. A refusal to use the power on offer from the Lord could be a denial of Pentecost, a letting down of our Lord, of our fellow Christians, and even of the unbeliever. On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit gave the believers power to proclaim his message. That same power is available today.

Power to proclaim

Acts 2 records the believers being gifted with the ability to speak in unlearned foreign languages, a phenomenon known as xenoglossia (from the Greek meaning ‘other languages’). This should not be confused with glossolalia, the ecstatic uttering of unintelligible sounds, referred to as speaking in tongues, and commented upon at length by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians chapters 12 to 14.

Nobody can escape a sense of regret as their life draws to an end. None of us is perfect. We all err and make mistakes. For some, such regret might include a regretting of missed opportunities to speak up for the Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes fear holds us back and leaves us silent. We become stricken with apprehension of what others may think or say of us. Fear, or social convention, can render us tongue-tied, even though we sing, in the words of Richard Slater (1854–1939):

Holy Spirit, come, O come,

Let thy work in me be done!

All that hinders shall be thrown aside;

Make me fit to be thy dwelling.

(SASB 292)

‘Thy work’ includes the bestowing of power to proclaim his message. Opportunities might arise of doing so in a public setting, such as speaking in personal testimony during a worship service, or in entering upon a preaching ministry. Today the Church needs articulate, intelligent, well-read preachers. The power of preaching to a congregation remains undiminished. Where are today’s Peters, or Martin Luthers, or John Wesleys, or Billy Grahams? If you are called to preach, then preach you must, however inadequate or unqualified you feel. God will open doors for you and equip you if you are ready to obey.

Also, of course, we can speak for Christ in more private settings. Perhaps it could be a quiet word with a colleague at your place of work; or with a neighbour near your home; or with a member of your family – a sibling, a parent, a child, or a grandchild. The airing of spiritual matters with our loved ones is a highly sensitive thing, but you will know when the Holy Spirit is gently urging you to do just that. He will guide you as to when and where and how.

Image shows the front cover of Holiness Ablaze.

Others who laughed

Acts 2:13 candidly records the mockery faced by the disciples on the day of Pentecost: ‘But there were others who laughed mockingly.’ Mockery is Satan’s subtle tool. Even at Pentecost it did not cease. The fear of mockery is another power with the potential to silence us.

Among my books is a copy of Samuel D Gordon’s 1903 Quiet Talks on Power. An American lay preacher and evangelist, Gordon produced 25 books of Quiet Talks. The 1903 volume was his first. In it he tells of a young woman he knew who taught children in a USA Sunday school. She had a class of boys, all from a socially disadvantaged part of town. Gordon enquired how her classes were going and she replied, ‘I am going to give them up.’ ‘Have they all become Christians then?’ he asked. ‘No,’ she said, ‘but I am feeling very discouraged and have to give up.’ Gordon then suggested she might invite the boys, one or two at a time, to her home for tea and in that setting find an opportunity to urge them to take Jesus as their Saviour. However, her reply was simply, ‘But, Mr Gordon, they would laugh at me!’

This young woman was unable to carry the risk of being laughed at, even if that meant that her spiritual influence and witness fell away. The fear of mockery needs Pentecostal power to overcome it.

The Holy Spirit who bestowed the power to preach upon the disciples in Jerusalem at Pentecost is still alive and will give you and me the same power to proclaim Christ to a dying world. For some reading this it could be that you are being called to devote your entire abilities and your entire span of years to proclaim Christ.

Richard Slater, quoted earlier, wrote:

Make me, Holy Spirit, strong to fight

For the Lord who died for me;

Help me point the lost to Calvary’s height

Where for sinners there is mercy.

(SASB 292)

For group discussion

  • What regrets do you most decidedly wish not to have at the end of your days?
  • Read again the account of the young lady Sunday school teacher. What would you have said to her by way of guidance?

Written by

A photo of General Shaw Clifton in Salvation Army uniform

General Shaw Clifton


Discover more

Major Malcolm Martin reviews Holiness Ablaze! by General Shaw Clifton (Retired).

Resources to help you celebrate Pentecost Sunday.

The latest publications from The Salvation Army.

The official book publisher of The Salvation Army in the United Kingdom and Ireland.