(May 22, 2023) Richard Winter enquires…
If asked the above genuine question, how would you answer?
Some of us might say: ‘Not too bad’ – with a fragment of truth in our answer. But the asker’s quick rejoinder probably might be ‘So you’re not too good, eh?’
And if they were to hear ‘I’m great, everything’s fantastic!’ they might doubt the veracity of that response.
An apt answer
In reality most of us are learning life lessons, so a more apt answer to the question ‘How are you?’ most probably would be: ‘I’m learning and growing.’
Now there’s nothing to be ashamed of about growing and learning – we all process life at different speeds, and with some different responses. Sometimes we learn quickly, at other times it is slow and possibly downright painful. It could look like three steps forwards and two steps back.
Being a Christian is not like going to a spiritual Disneyland –
- You don’t get every prayer answered your way.
- You don’t always get a miracle when you ask for it.
- But you do get to pray for God’s will to be done!
Life is not always easy and you can wonder does anyone else ever have it like me?
Some Christians will admit: ‘Yes, my life too!’ But add some comfort – ‘It’s like the apostle Paul’s: “… hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed”’ (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
Do you recognise your life in those verses? Hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted, struck down? If so, let me immediately identify flaws or misconceptions that some may make about Christianity… four spiritual ‘flaws.’
Because you are a Christian all your problems are solved –
1) Because you are a Christian all your problems are solved –
No, sometimes being a Christian makes life harder… try being a Muslim convert to Christ!
2) All the problems you ever have are written about in the Bible –
No, sometimes you have to walk by faith because guided missiles are not specifically written about in scripture.
3) If you are having problems you are unspiritual or are sinning –
No, think of Job and his suffering, or a good person who never smoked but got cancer.
4) Being exposed to sound Bible teaching automatically solves problems –
No, God may be asking you to do something for Him in the midst of what you are currently going through!
May Paul’s words above comfort, encourage you. But note that truth doesn’t necessarily provide the immediate removal of difficulties – however truth gives you a road map to your destination.
The greatest battle most of us will fight is with ourselves and what we want to do with our life. And just looking at a map won’t transport you anywhere. If you want to go to England or Africa, you plan your trip, follow the directions and actually go… and it takes time!
That is how it is with Christians – the Bible is God’s truth, His road map for us. We need to read it, to know it, but critically we must ‘do what it says.’
Our unfinished mission
In completing His mission on earth Jesus paid for our sins. substitutionally dying on the cross at Calvary’s hill. Because we could never appease God for all the wrong things we’ve done, Jesus conquered death, that final act of human existence, to offer eternal life to those that believe in Him (John 3:16).
And while He declared it was a ‘finished work’ for Him (John 19:30), it is an ‘unfinished’ work for us in that we must share His gospel to a world of lost sinners! (Matthew 28:18-20 – the great commission).
Now most of us are willing to take Jesus’ sacrifice on board so we can go to heaven… but are we unreservedly willing to commit to Him and surrender control to His direction in His kingdom? And share in carrying out that great commission? Or will our work always be unfinished?
If we are willing to venture forth for Him, obedient to His commands, be comforted that Jesus knew we would need help. But allow me to backtrack a little here…
The Christian’s prayer
It was a common thing for followers to ask their teacher, their rabbi, to teach them a special prayer.
Remember how Jesus’ first disciples asked Him? (Luke 11:1). Fuller guidance on the prayer mentioned in Luke’s gospel is found in Matthew 6:9a-10 – ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’
This prayer (the ‘Lord’s’ prayer) is really ‘our’ prayer! And we must get its focus right – off us and onto God and His will ie ‘your will – God’s will – be done.’
Jesus knew we would need help with this goal and whenquestioned by His disciples about leaving them to return to heaven, He told them this: ‘… I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth…’ (John 14:16-17NKJB).
Ministry of the Holy Spirit
This promise foretold of someone else just like Himself (‘another’) – the Holy Spirit – who would transform and help them (every disciple, follower of Christ) to serve and fulfil the mission He entrusted to them, to us!
The word ‘Helper’ is the Greek word paraklētos which has been translated in other versions as –
- Friend (NIrV, Mge).
Such adjectives speak of six major aspects of the Holy Spirit’s ministry… and these are detailed profoundly through the book of Acts, assuring us that He is our –
A legal officer ensures that all the benefits that are left in an estate are given to the right people according to a will.
This is the foundation of our relationship with the Holy Spirit.
In John 15:26, Jesus promised: ‘When the Advocate [helper] comes, whom I will send to you from the Father – the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father – He will testify about me.’
He backed this up in John 16:13-14, ‘But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come.He will glorify me because it is from me that He will receive what He will make known to you.’
When Jesus suddenly appeared to His disciples after His resurrection, they were very much afraid (Luke 24:37). He immediately consoled them by promising comfort and assistance – ‘I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high’ (Luke 24:49).
And later, just before His ascension, He confirmed that promise: ‘… 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 1:8).
The Bible speaks a lot about the power of the Lord and He will empower us too to witness Him. ‘Power’ is dunamis in the Greek, a word associated with dynamite – just a little bit is powerful enough to blow rocks apart.
Understanding there is a job or mission to be done for Jesus, some of us will simply state we are not equipped for such a worldwide task.
God knows that! That’s why the Holy Spirit will equip us for our tasks. He freely gives us spiritual gifts that will take us beyond the limits of human talent, experience, education and speech. For example…
1) Power gifts (1 Corinthians 12:8-10)
Given by the Spirit (v4), Paul called these ‘manifestation gifts’ (v7a), to be demonstrated for ‘the common good’(v7b). The Message explains that this means ‘everyone benefits.’ These nine gifts that to be expressed are–
Remember we mentioned at the beginning of this article that life is all about learning and growing? We must grow in operating these gifts that the Holy Spirit has equipped us with!
2) Fruit gifts (Galatian’s 5:22-23)
The Holy Spirit will also give us what Paul termed the Fruit of the Spirit.
Life, as we know, can be tough and we need to partake of such fruit at every stage! These work in balance with the power gifts. In reality such power and fruit are qualities of Christ’s character, which the Holy Spirit will reproduce in us, changing our character and personality to be more like His.
To learn more, ask those who know and exercise these spiritual gifts!
At some stage of our life we will face some form of insecurity, rejection, and lack of love.
But that’s life! Indeed all humanity has these ‘nasties’ in common… and to assist us ‘God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us’ (Romans 5:5).
When the encouraging Holy Spirit gives you God’s love, you will see the world differently and you will act differently toward it and people who need Christ.
If I want to ship some goods to London, I need an expediter to assist me in this task,and ensure that it’s handled safely, securely and with speed.
When it comes to doing God’s will most of us have struggled with doing it quickly, securely and safely. To know what God wants us to do, and how to do it, the Holy Spirit will undertake intercession for us to assist us in getting the job done.
Paul wrote: ‘And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God’ (Romans 8:27).
When we obey God’s commands – His instructions – our expediter the Holy Spirit gets things done for us. He opens doors, arranges divine appointments, untangles complicated seemingly unsolvable problems.
No list of the activity of the Holy Spirit in our lives would be complete without mentioning the powerful protective ministry of equalising the influence of Satan.
The Holy Spirit suits us up with the whole armour of God which we are told to put on and not take off – it’s there so we are always protected.
Ephesians 6:11-17 lists this armour for our battles –
- Helmut of salvation
- Breastplate of righteousness
- Belt of truth
- Shoes of readiness
- Shield of faith
- Sword of the Spirit
Paul advises us to stand firm, having ‘Put on the full armour of God so you can stand against the devil’s schemes’ (v11).
Knowing these Holy Spirit attributes allows us to go deeper into the Book of Acts and be inspired to fulfil our commissions from God (in addition to the great commission)…
Ever wondered why there is –
- Only 28 chapters?
- No appropriate ending?
- No expected goodbye?
And the reason is simple –
- Acts is an unfinished book!
- Every active Spirit-filled church is the yet unwritten ‘Acts 29.’
- We are a part of that 29th chapter being written all over the world.
- In spite of worldwide troubles, we’re living in the most exciting time since Acts 2 Pentecost Sunday!
- The Holy Spirit has not stopped empowering the saints and being our helper!
- Nor advocating, comforting, counselling, being a friend.
- Nor endowing power ministry gifts to those willing to be used by Him until Jesus returns!
So the question to all Christians is still: ‘How are you?’ Are you –
- Continuing to learn and grow?
- Acting with the Holy Spirit, your helper?
- Dressed in God’s armour?
- Recipient of God’s spiritual gifts?
- Empowered as God wants you to be?
- Fighting the good fight of faith against the devil and the world?
- On a mission to tell the world about God’s love?
Why not join the –
Dr Richard Winter pastors The Connection Church, Huntington Beach, California. Link: OnlineConnect@gmail.com