"But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you" ~ John 16:7
Chris Rice was a popular Christian musician during my college years and one of his songs was entitled “Big Enough.” I really appreciated the words of the chorus then and still do today:
God if You're there I wish You'd show me
And God if You care then I need You to know me
I hope You don't mind me askin' the questions
But I figure You're big enough
I figure You're big enough (emphasis added)
Those words have been floating around in my brain lately as Fall approaches and we consider the focus of our fall Recharge retreats here at IOLBC: The Holy Spirit.
I can sort of wrap my head around God the Father. I think most of us can. I’ll admit I conjure up an image of an old guy with a white flowing beard and deep voice. I grew up with a father who has always given 100% of what he had to give to his family, and an amazing grandfather as well so I have some idea of how to relate to a father figure.
It’s easier to wrap my head about God the Son. Afterall, Jesus was human for a time. He had flesh and bones like you and I have. He knew what it was like to be hungry, stub a toe, and learn to read.
But God the Holy Spirit? I’m not even sure I know where to begin when it comes to this mysterious third person of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit reminds me that God is a very big God who is, ultimately, beyond my comprehension. I can’t draw a picture of the Spirit. I can draw a symbol to represent the Spirit such as a flame or a dove. I can draw what I imagine a spirit to look like. But I, like most everyone I know, have no idea how to relate personally with a spirit.
So, who is the Holy Spirit?
First and foremost, the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Holy Trinity. It is part of who God is and therefore the Holy Spirit has always been and always will be. While God the Father is generally categorized as Creator and God the Son is generally categorized as Savior, God the Spirit is generally categorized as Power. To go much deeper into how the Holy Spirit is understood in the context of the Holy Trinity is, I promise, too much for this post today so it is on the list for a future post.
The book of Acts is an interesting book. It tells the story of the earliest Christians and how they shared the Good News of the risen Messiah. It starts just after Jesus’ resurrection. He has been with the disciples for 40 days and is ascending back into heaven to be with the Father. I can’t imagine the disciples were overly thrilled with this turn of events. We have to remember all they have been through in the last two months. They came into Jerusalem with Jesus being celebrated only to watch him be arrested, scourged, and crucified. They believed for 3 days that all was lost as Jesus lay in the tomb only to encounter the Resurrected Christ. And so Jesus is taking the time to tell his disciples about why he has to go, why he has to leave them again.
"On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” ~ Acts 1:4-8
Jesus had to leave so the disciples would let go of their dreams, an earthly kingdom, and focus on something bigger, a heavenly kingdom. And to do the work of this heavenly kingdom, they were going to need some help so he promises them the power of the Holy Spirit. If you keep reading in Acts, chapter 2 jumps right in with an amazing demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s power which the church continues to remember and celebrate each year on Pentecost Sunday.
Ultimately, the Holy Spirit is our helper when it comes to doing the work God has called us to because we can’t do it on our own. Doesn’t a helper sound great? A helper sounds like an assistant, a subordinate, someone who will do the work we don’t want to do! For the first two summers I worked at camp, I was blessed to have a part time office assistant working with me. They helped with a lot of routine office tasks which become especially time consuming during the summer. This past summer I did not have an office assistant. I had to do all of that work on my own. It's been a month since our last summer camper departed, and I’m still behind. I loved having a helper.
But if we view the Holy Spirit in this sort of way, we miss the point. God is the person in charge, the Holy Spirit walks alongside us as we do God’s work. Not as an assistant, but as a co-worker, an encourager in the call to be witnesses to the work of Christ throughout the world. The Holy Spirit empowers us through the gifts we receive to be uniquely equipped to proclaim the Good News of Christ. And if we want to know if we are on the right track, we will see the fruit of the Spirit evident in our lives and our ministry.
Yes, the Holy Spirit is mysterious. But also, the Holy Spirit is vital and important to living a life which honors and glorifies God. So jump into the mysterious and see what happens. Seek out some understanding about the gifts you have been given and ways to use them to share the love of Christ with those in your corner of the world. I can’t wait to hear the stories of what happens when you do!
Dive into the book of Acts where many of the stories of how the Holy Spirit empowered the early church to spread the Good News of the Risen Messiah are recorded. As you read, ponder how you see the Holy Spirit working in the church today at a worldwide level, a national level, a regional level, and within your immediate church body.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If you want to know to what degree you are working alongside the Holy Spirit in your life, examine your life to see how clearly others would be able to see the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Ask a trusted friend to tell you what they see as strengths and weaknesses.
You were uniquely created and gifted to do the work God has called you to in sharing the Gospel. If you are unsure of what you could possibly offer, learn about yourself and your strengths. One I place I would recommend starting is by picking up a copy of "Living Your Strengths: Discover Your God Given Talents and Inspire Your Community." You'll take an online assessment, be given your top 5 strengths, and each chapter will explore a different strength and offer practical suggestions for how you can get involved in a way which is meaningful for you.
Embrace who God created you to be. Each person of the Trinity, while all God are also all distinct (I know, so beyond confusing isn't it?!). An important lesson in that to remember is that each person will be different and unique. Embrace who you are and encourage others in who they are. Seek out one person who you know is struggling to believe they have anything of value to offer and strive to see them through God's eyes. And when you do, tell them what you see.