The Holy Spirit is the source of power for holy living and ministry, and we trust His work in the lives of all true believers.
For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. (Romans 8:13-14 (NASB)
How do you visualize the Holy Spirit? You are probably more likely to be able to form a kind of mental picture or image of God the Father or Jesus Christ, the Son. Fathers and sons are human. Like us the Son was born of a woman and lived in time and space. Artists down through the centuries have painted, carved and sculpted their impressions of the Father and the Son. Who, for example, is not impressed and deeply moved by Michelangelo’s powerful rendering of God on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel?
What about the Holy Spirit, the third person of the triune God? We know the Spirit by his works of revelation, redemption and renewal. We see powerful and dramatic images in scripture that reflect his person, character and mission. The Holy Spirit, for example, is seen as a dove descending from heaven and alighting on Jesus on the occasion of his baptism (Matt. 3:16). He appears in the midst of a mighty wind as tongues of fire on the heads of the gathered disciples (Acts 2:3). He is likened to streams of living water welling up from within (John 7:38, 39). He is the wind that cannot be seen nor controlled (John 3: 8). He is the counselor who comes alongside advocating the truth, teaching, revealing, convicting, and judging (John 145:25, 26; 16: 8, 9). He arms the warrior church with his sword, the word, a potent weapon in spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6: 17). The Holy Spirit helps, heals, empowers, guides, illuminates, convicts, teaches, judges, grieves, seals, arms, bears fruit, gives gifts, and baptizes.
Presented with such an awesome array of rich and personal images, our response should be nothing less than enthusiastic. We are not using the word, “enthusiasm’ in its contemporary sense of getting excited and emotional. “Enthusiasm” originally meant being infused or inspired by God, that is, to be filled with God. During the Great Awakening in early American history the critics of the revival movement labeled those touched by the power of the Spirit as religious enthusiasts. It was not intended as a compliment. The Apostle Paul observed that the cross was a stumbling block to the Jew and a scandal to the Greek. To the politely religious, correctly believing, and spiritually tepid of our day, the scandal is not the cross – it is the Holy Spirit.
The bottom line, as Americans often say, is that our response to the Holy Spirit is not to admire him, debate about him, have seminars with respect to him, write books or articles concerning him but rather to yield to him, receive him, and be enthused with and empowered by him. The same Spirit who has liberated us from the bondage of sin and death has also released us for our adoption into a new family (Romans 8:13-14). This Spirit is not a doctrine to be mastered or a force to be manipulated. He is God the Spirit. He wants to have his way with us and work his will in us. He is the indispensable source of power for holy living and ministry. It is holiness, Christ-likeness, above all else, that he seeks to produce in us and through us. The same Holy Spirit that is at work in me is at work in you. This means that we must learn to trust his work in each other, the foundational element of true Christian community.
International Co-Director, Bob Johnson reports the following incident that took place at a time when he was serving in the leadership of a sister mission organization:
“In August, 1989, 300 or so missionaries gathered from all over Europe at the picturesque little resort village of De Burght, Holland. We came to enjoy seven days of annual conference. As the conference director, I was responsible for all aspects of the program. I had asked Earl Sandifer (Proclaim! International board member) to lead the hour-long, daily, morning time of prayer and “body life.” We had a plan and a schedule for each minute of each hour of every day. On the second morning Earl must have sensed somehow that the Holy Spirit was going to disturb my plan.
“He started the meeting with something from the Word. Then he opened things up to whatever the Spirit had in mind. It was a little slow and awkward at first, but, one after another, missionaries began to testify spontaneously. Some had words of praise and thanks. Some read scripture. Others initiated singing. Some asked for prayer for healing. Others made public confession of sin. This was something one rarely expects to see in a group like ours. After all, we were missionaries. We had our reputations to consider.
“The tears began to flow. Earl encouraged those who needed to be reconciled to someone in the meeting to go to that person right then, right there, and put things right. When someone acknowledged that they were struggling or suffering, others gathered around them, laid hands on them and prayed. One missionary with whom I worked closely came over to me and said that for several years he had harbored deep resentment against me for something he now realized was a misunderstanding on his part. I didn’t even know we were estranged. We wept, embraced and prayed together.
“Time flew by; the programmed hour well spent. Wasn’t it time for morning coffee, a check on the nursery, a run to the toilet? I was the conference director. What about my carefully crafted program? What to do? Earl briefly and quietly left the platform to confer with me. He returned and delivered one of the all time classic conference lines. “I started this meeting,” he declared, “but I’m not going to end it. The Holy Spirit will have to do that!” Indeed, the Holy Spirit had led in the planning for the conference, but now it seemed clear that he was saying, “Abandon the plan, I have something else for you.” This was uncharted territory. We had no contingency plan. Were we going to allow enthusiasm run its course, or not?
Some in our fellowship started to get restless, nervously checking their watches. We were left with only two choices – take control or step aside and trust the Holy Spirit. Earl and I opted for the second. More praise. More singing. More encouragement. More worship. More confession. More tears of sorrow and joy. People slipped in and out of the meeting to check on babies and take care of necessities. Earl, under orders from his commander, the Holy Spirit, remained at his post.
“A fellow missionary approached me. He sensed that the Holy Spirit was urging him to speak to me. He insisted that I share with the whole body the current financial crisis we were facing at the Bible Institute in Belgium. This would give the missionaries the opportunity to pray and even lend assistance. I was serving as chairman of the board of the school at the time. We were in arrears with the mortgage. We had unpaid vendors calling and threatening us. Fears and rumors churned among the staff and student body. Everyone in the know was sure that the school would collapse without immediate financial relief. They were right. I was extremely reluctant to open up this sad story at the conference. The financial struggles of the school were chronic and controversial. There appeared to be no solution.
“This Holy-Spirit-driven missionary wouldn’t let me off the hook. ‘What was the purpose of the Body of Christ if we couldn’t share our burdens and be transparent about our struggles,’ he reasoned. I swallowed my pride, got up, and explained about the dire conditions at the school. I asked people to pray, and, rather half- heartedly, suggested that if anyone wanted to give, they were free to do so. I hastily left the platform – duty done.
“Earl had all the missionaries from the Belgian school form a cluster, and then others gathered around them to pray. He suggested that if anyone wanted to contribute financially, they should write their pledge on a piece of paper and hand it to me during the meeting. I thought to myself that this was out of line. I knew the staggering amount that we needed to keep the school open. If my memory serves me correctly it was in excess of $13,000. Earl’s challenge would probably result in failure, I thought. Once again, well-intentioned zeal would produce little more than broken dreams and unfulfilled expectations. Missionaries began drifting over to me, pushing their little bits of paper into my hand. I avoided eye contact. I was ashamed.
“I noticed that groups began to gather here and there from the various fields, apparently to discuss and pray about the Belgian situation. They concluded their impromptu meetings, and dispatched someone to deliver a bit of paper to me. It seemed that the palm of my hand was enflamed. Within about an hour or so and with fear and trembling, I dared to add up the numbers on those bits of paper. To my utter astonishment it was in excess of $13,000. The school would continue to operate. I announced the results. The community went ballistic with joy and celebration.
“We scrapped the printed program. No planned seminars survived that day. No business meetings took place. Few showed up for the afternoon volleyball matches (this was radical stuff!). If you wanted lunch you could go and eat. If not, you stayed and fasted. The Holy Spirit kept that meeting going for nine hours with most of the missionaries participating throughout. At the end of the day we were all pretty well wrung out, but we all knew that we had experienced something very, very special.
“As I look back on that amazing day, I remember at least two things that came home to me about the Holy Spirit. First, the most powerful thing that happened in that meeting was that people were driven by the Spirit to openly confess their sins and to renew their relationships with Christ and with each other. There was no doubt what the Spirit expected. Some remained detached observers. Most of us yielded to his presence and power, and in deep humility took steps to face up to our sinful ways. When that began to happen, we also opened ourselves to his leading in other ways such as the generous and sacrificial expression of support for the Bible School. He wanted to produce holiness and Christlikeness in us. It was to be reflected in our attitudes, behavior and ministries.
“The second thing that came home to me was to learn to trust the work and leading of the Holy Spirit in others. I had to trust that he was leading Earl even though I was the conference director. I had to give way to the leading of the Spirit in that brother who insisted that I speak about the Bible School when it was the last thing I wanted to do. This is the heartbeat of Christian community. Do I believe that the Holy Spirit is at work in you? If the answer is yes, then by faith I can expect that he will speak to me, minister to me, lead me, admonish me, encourage me, and challenge me through you. I can also expect that by faith and in genuine humility the same thing could happen to you through me. “
We in Proclaim! International declare ourselves to be enthusiasts for Jesus Christ. Therefore, we desire to fully trust the Holy Spirit as our completely sufficient source of power for holy living and ministry and to trust His work in the lives of all true believers.