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Experiences of the Spirit

This article was written in June 2009, but seems appropriate to share again given our current sermon series.

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” (Acts 1:8 NKJV)

I remember a sermon from years ago at Creekside talking about the Holy Spirit. Mac was preaching, and he pointed out that the word power in Acts 1:8 is the Greek word dunamis, from which we also get the word dynamite. For some reason I had never considered the magnitude of what Jesus was saying there. He wasn’t talking about the power of a light bulb — he’s talking TNT! This sounds like something I should get plugged into.

But truthfully, I don’t pay enough attention. One of the affirmations of Covenant doctrine is “a conscious dependence on the Holy Spirit.” Conscious. That means that we intentionally try to be aware of it. I haven’t experienced much of that in my life, not because I meant to avoid it… I just never thought about it. What kind of radical difference could that make in my life if I did?

The Holy Spirit is constantly at work in our lives, but his work doesn’t look the same in every instance or in every person. So I thought I would share a few stories of times when I’ve felt the Spirit touch me, and see if I can extrapolate how that might look if I tapped into his power more often.

The first is an experience with which most Christians are familiar—making a tough decision. I was 18 and trying to choose a college, which at the time was the biggest decision I’d ever made. After visiting schools and deliberating options and praying hard, I went with my gut. As soon as I said “Michigan,” I knew I had made the right choice. I didn’t hear an audible voice or see a sign, but I knew I had examined all my options thoroughly, prayed diligently and trusted God to lead me. After the tension of not knowing, a peace in my soul confirmed what felt at first like gut instinct.

The second is my mom’s story. She wasn’t praying over any particular decision but simply thinking about her future and wondering what she would do. The answer came to her as reassurance—not necessarily to her physical hearing, but as clear in her head as if she’d heard it: “Don’t worry about it; you’ll be working for Me.” She changed her career focus and began her work in children’s ministry in the local church. Though she hadn’t been expecting a voice from above, she was receptive and quiet enough to hear it.

The third is a story of my grandmother. While I do believe that, to some extent, God performs more miracles in cultures that are expecting them, they aren’t called miracles for nothing. My grandmother saw more than her share of both suffering and miraculous circumstances in life, and though she was absolutely unswerving in her faith, she always struck me as a very pragmatic Christian. Yet late in life, while in the hospital with a severe illness, she had a vision. It was a doorway filled with light and, standing next to it, her long-dead husband. She asked him if she could go home, and he said, “No, it’s not time yet,” and closed the door. When she awoke, she was on the road to recovery, and we were blessed to have another year with her before God finally called her home. My mom was in the room with her when it happened, and she said that the experience of seeing someone “commune with the Spirit” was breathtaking.

God has promised that he will always give us guidance if we ask (James 1:5); indeed, he wants us to ask. He knows whether we need strong affirmation or to take a step of faith, so he knows the best way to answer each question. Sometimes it’s a feeling of peace, other times it’s a great big glowing sign, but either way, we have to be listening.

I think that’s what “conscious dependence” looks like. A continual flick of the thoughts upward. Am I still on the right track? Anything you want me to do? The more we ask, the more we’re prepared to listen. The more we listen, the more likely we are to hear from him—maybe even at times when we haven’t even asked a question. The more we listen, the more we’ll get used to acting on what he says—and if you’re like me, we have to get used to acting so we don’t talk ourselves out of obeying or think we’ve imagined the instruction. And of course, the more we act, the more we see God work, and the more his Kingdom is glorified and our faith is strengthened. Now that’s a power worth depending on.

Abigail’s email address is in the directory.

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