Back in the 13th century there was a German emperor named Frederick the Second who wanted to know what language children would speak if no one ever spoke to them. He chose several newborns and he instructed the nurses to feed them but to provide them no cuddling or talking. What language do you think the children grew up speaking?
They didn’t grow up at all. All the babies died before they could talk. The rate of infant mortality caused by a total failure to thrive among orphans has sometimes reached incredible proportions. After WWI a famous doctor, Fritz Talbot, studied infant mortality in German orphanages. He watched an elderly German woman carrying babies on her hip. When he asked who she was, one of the hospital workers said this, “Oh, that’s old Anna. When we have done everything medically we can do for a baby, and it’s still not doing well, we turn the baby over to Old Anna and she is always successful.”
Dr. Talbot published his findings. He said, “Here is the lesson. Orphanage workers need to touch, hold, carry and mother every baby in the orphanage several times every day.” As this message of the importance of touch was spread to American orphanages infant mortality went from 90% to 10%. Today, nurses who work with prematurely born children in neo-natal units are taught how to therapeutically touch babies.
We human beings only thrive when we are touched. One doctor investigated the health of the elderly who were confined to nursing homes. He found that elderly people who had a pet were healthier and lived longer than elderly people who did not have a pet. Even a pet we can touch and who rubs against us does something positive for our health.
Marilyn Monroe was asked by a reporter about her childhood. She broke down in tears. She was shuffled from foster home to foster home. She said she never really knew love while growing up and she was rarely touched. She said one of her happiest memories involved one of her foster moms who was putting on makeup. Young Marilyn came into her room and asked what she was doing. The woman turned around and began to playfully touch Marilyn’s face with powder and put lipstick on her. The reason this was one of Marilyn’s happiest childhood memories was someone touched her and made her feel pretty.
There was a study done of successful basketball teams that suggested that successful basketball teams communicate affirmation to each other through touch more often than unsuccessful teams. Successful teams have players who constantly put their arms around teammates who are feeling down or who just blew a play. Successful teams are regularly seen high-fiving with their teammates.
We need to be touched. We thrive only when we are touched. And most of all we need God our Creator’s touch.
Here is what we read in Romans 5.5, “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
The Apostle Paul says that the thing that secures us, that gives us joy in the face of trials, is a direct experience of love poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. The idea is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the profusion, the abundance of this Spirit is something we don’t have to simply believe in as an abstract doctrine. There is no uncertainty here. The outpouring of the Spirit is God reaching down from heaven and touching us in a way that assures us that God is real and that God loves us. God’s touch communicates to us that the Christian story is true, that there is a reason to hope, and that our present suffering will result in our ultimate joy!
The way God touches us is by the Holy Spirit. Gordon Fee, one of the great New Testament scholars of the last century, wrote a massive book on the Holy Spirit called God’s Empowering Presence. He opens the book this way:
I am convinced that the Spirit in the Apostle Paul’s experience and theology was always thought of in terms of the personal presence of God. The Spirit is God’s way of being present, powerfully present, in our lives and communities as we await the consummation of the kingdom of God. Precisely because Paul understood the Spirit as God’s personal presence, Paul also understood the Spirit always in terms of an empowering presence and an experiential presence; whatever else, for Paul, the Spirit was an experienced reality. Without an experience of the Spirit, we are living sub-New Testament lives.
Here are some personal questions every follower of Jesus should ask themselves:
Have I been touched by the Holy Spirit? Am I sure that I’ve been touched?
When was the last time I was touched by God? Do I need a “second touch? Or at least, another touch (even if it’s the hundredth touch)?
Do I regularly pray to be touched by the Holy Spirit? Do I regularly pray that those I love would be touched by the Spirit?
This autumn, Vineyard Columbus will be spending the months of September and October exploring the work of the Holy Spirit. Our sermon series in those months is titled, “Come, Holy Spirit!”
We’ll be doing seminars on healing, hearing God’s voice, being filled with the Holy Spirit and deliverance during those months.
The culmination of our Holy Spirit emphasis will be a conference titled “Reveal” featuring the strong prophetic ministries of Julian and Katia Adams on October 9-11.
Ask the Lord to use this series to grant you and the entire church, including visitors, a fresh touch from the Holy Spirit.