Before Jesus ascended to heaven, He told His disciples that He would send one who would teach and guide all those who believe in Him. Less than two weeks later Jesus’ promise was fulfilled: the Holy Spirit came down from Heaven, playing an essential role in the part of every Christian’s life, from that day forward.
As a child, I had quite a different perception of the Holy Spirit and the Trinity than I do now. I envisioned God as a gruff, Moses-like figure, in flowing white Robes, seated on a throne; as judge & jury.
Jesus was the ‘tender shepherd’ of my bedtime stories, meek and mild (not the rebel-rouser who over-turned the Tables in the Market place or advocated for social justice for the unclean, unworthy or unloved).
The Holy Spirit, I had no idea of – although I was aware of the sign of the dove. But beyond that, to me, a spirit was a rather scary, ghost-like figure …. that might be found hanging out at grave-sides, in haunted houses, or conjured up through a careless swipe on a ouije board! I’m so glad my adult-understanding of the Trinity, has since changed for the better!
The good news is: Spirit enters your life when you give your life to Christ and decide to become a Christian. To grow in faith, we need to allow Spirit to take control over more and more areas of our lives. Although Spirit is continually working on our behalf, we still need to develop a relationship with it. Spirit needs to know where we need its help and guidance, in order to achieve the things God wants it, and us, to do.
If the Holy Spirit was a friend that I would like to introduce you to, I would describe my friend as being most worthy of your time; one who is generous with the gifts that they bestow and has great connections!
Spirit has a very important role to play in our lives. Spirit is our comforter when we are hurting; our life’s teacher, who reveals God’s truth; and, our guide as we journey through this earthly realm.
Now, like any other relationship, you can’t just sit back and expect Spirit to do all the work for you. You’ll need to pitch in and do your part. That entails becoming familiar with God’s truth (as set out in Scripture); meditating on God’s word and offering up prayers. It’s important that we include these 3 activities in our daily lives; they interconnect to give God an opportunity to communicate with us; and, provide a pathway for Spirit (God’s helper) to intercede, through our prayers. Prayer is one of life’s mysteries, but greatest gift. Jesus prayed, with great conviction, offering up to his Father the deep burdens that weighed down His disciples. Jesus also prayed for strength for Himself to get through difficult times. We know God answers prayers from what is revealed to us in Scripture. Prayer is more than just asking God for things. It is an attitude, a way of life.
There are times when life is just simply too big, and too complex. In such times, we know neither what to pray for, nor how to present our petitions. Yet the Holy Spirit comes to our aid. Apostle Paul, in this morning’s reading from his letter to the Romans, describes Spirit as the one who: “…helps us in our weaknesses; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. “
The Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf, graciously sharing with us the weight of our burden. Paul encourages us, therefore, to go to the Lord, with our prayers. He acknowledges that praying can be hard work. It is difficult for most of us. It takes thought, concentration and a life-long commitment. Moreover, we are not always good judges of what we should be praying for. We mess up! We ask for the wrong things! Our ego gets in the way. We do not know what is best for us because we do not have God's overall perspective of what God is doing, not only in our lives, but also in the lives of those around us - who in one way or another - are impacted by our actions.
We don't always see how God is using our situations in life to impact others, for God’s good. Isn't it wonderful to know that when we do not know how to pray that the Holy Spirit comes to assist? Albeit, Spirit doesn't take the entire load (That really wouldn't help us in our spiritual maturation process)! However, Spirit helps us in working out the problems and overcoming the difficulties by making intercession for us (as the Holy Spirit of God dwells in us, knowing our wants better than we)
Spirit intecedes for us, pleading in our prayers to God; raising us to higher and holier desires than we can. God, in turn, receives our often inarticulate groanings as acceptable prayers, since they come from a soul under the control of the Spirit of God. God knows that the Holy Spirit is always praying for us, according to God's plan for our lives.
God listens to the intercession of the Spirit, on our behalf, and answers them according to God’s will. Therefore, we have someone praying for us all the time. Christ prays for us in heaven; the Holy Spirit intercedes for us here on the earth…and God answers prayer. God ‘works out’ a situation, not in accordance to our desire, but to our needs for spiritual growth, or a higher purpose that is beyond our comprehension.
Spirit will never prod us to do anything contrary to God’s Word. However, there is always the danger that our Ego will. Therefore, it’s important that we know how to discern between the two: By being familiar with God’s Word; the way of the truth. This knowledge can help us to discern whether our desires are driven by Spirit or Ego. If what your mind is telling you conflicts with Scripture or God’s truth; it is not from the Spirit and should be ignored.
The Holy Spirit never itemizes errors, so if the voice you are hearing is listing all your faults, it isn't Spirit that is guiding you! If the voice you get caught up in listening to is asking you to make a sacrifice, it’s likely ego that is calling you. Spirit usually guides us through our own conscience in quiet, subtle ways. Guidance from the Holy Spirit tends to arrange things so nobody loses!
The Spirit never wants us to be isolated, but rather, immersed in a community of believers. Not only do we then benefit from the wisdom, and life experience of each other, but also from the spirit’s wide distribution of her gifts that enable us to work together, stay together and benefit from one another’s strengths. The gifts of Spirt represent some of the characteristics of Christ. They are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Can you see evidence of the fruits of spirit in your life, or in that of others around you? As we grow in Christ they will come clearly into focus…
Some people may seek the Holy Spirit as a vehicle for selfish reasons. They may want the Holy Spirit to be like an astrologer or horoscope, to save them the trouble of thinking and making their own decisions. Others would like to have the Holy Spirit as a conversational companion to ward off loneliness. However, the Holy Spirit isn’t involved in idle words; it has already given us enough information and guidance, through scripture and our personal Gifts. It wants us to use what we have been given; it has been training our conscience to respond rightly to what faces us, when we pray or meditate on the Word.
Obstacles or challenging circumstances in our lives will test our convictions, or they may be indications that we need to think about whether we have properly discerned God’s call and the pathway best for us to journey. They force us to seek God again, to check with Scripture, and to check with others who have greater spiritual maturity. Be patient; take heart: If we walk in the Spirit, we will continue to see these qualities grow and mature in us, and they will become evident to others as well.
Through life’s experience, we can see how Spirit has answered our prayers and led us in past situations. This will help us recognize Spirit’s “voice” when it speaks to us in the present. So, I hope you now see the important linkages between your relationship with God, prayers, the studying of Scripture and the intercessory power of the Hold Spirit. …because, frankly, it's impossible to follow God, and the work God has carved out for us in this life, unless we are led by the Holy Spirit…
Let us pray. Holy One, I pray that your Holy Spirit will come down… …to move within us, around us, and amongst us; to intercede in our prayers throughout our lives until your work is done and our lives are overflowing with your love. In Christ’s name AMEN.