The perception of power that Christians have is often cultivated by the world before ever walking in the freedom of Christ. The world teaches us that our measure of power is heavily tied to the outcome. Martin Luther King championed civil rights, Gandhi helped win India’s independence and Muhammed Ali was the best boxer of all time, but if you’re looking for the story about the guy who died trying to become the next great inventor, athlete, or blogger, you’re not going to find it. Given how we’ve been so conditioned to perceive what’s powerful, it’s not hard to understand why we feel so powerless as Christians.
I’ve wrestled with nothing more in my walk with the Lord than a clear understanding of the power of the Holy Spirit. I spent many of my early years as a believer hearing about how more mature Christians had a supernatural encounter with the Holy Spirit. With a child-like wonder, I decided that someday I would reach that level of Christianity too. Power from the Holy Spirit had become an elusive, mystical rite of passage that every “real” Christian was supposed to walk through someday.
So, with each passing year, I waited patiently (and sometimes impatiently) for my holy ‘a-ha!’ moment. Fully convinced that someday I’d suddenly start speaking in tongues or break out into a prophetic utterance that would have the whole church in an uproar. I’d be reeling in my seat every time a sermon about the Spirit was preached, anxious to respond to the altar call in hopes it would bring the warm rush of the Spirit I had heard so much about. Needless to say, it never came. I prayed, questioned, and even begged God to fill me in the way he filled the 3,000 believers at Pentecost, but I never felt overtaken by the Spirit. Eventually, I grew weary and stopped asking. Whenever the concept of being filled with the Holy Spirit was discussed at church, I listened but had convinced myself that it wasn’t for me. Pastor after pastor would tell me that I wasn’t truly living in the will of God unless I was filled and as a result, I was filled with a deafening sense of discouragement instead. While I know I am saved, I convinced myself to be grateful I was getting into heaven at all. That my lot was to be the kind of Christian that will get into heaven by barely making the cut.
If you identify with a similar lack luster journey of faith, I’m willing to bet that there are many more of us; but what if our belief that we aren’t filled with the Spirit is more a result of a biblical misunderstanding? John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have more abundantly.” Believing that the power of the Holy Spirit is not available to all who He has called does not only fall tragically short of our promised abundant life, but is also unbiblical.
John 7 describes how the believers will receive the Spirit like rivers of flowing water once Jesus is glorified. So, according to this verse, given that you believe that Jesus was resurrected in glory, you already have the Spirit residing within you. Acts 2:38 says that if we repent and are baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, we are promised the gift of the Holy Spirit. From what I can tell, there is no disclaimer about any lag time in between.
While it is not wrong to expect an experiential outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our lives, solely attributing being filled with such experiences turns a precious gift meant to uplift, into a debilitating disheartenment instead. Bible verses like Acts 2: 1 – 5 shows how the Holy Spirit came upon believers like a rushing wind and cloven tongues of fire, but when we do not properly interpret these verses, we focus on the manifestations rather than the promise. Could God be rolling His eyes at us from heaven because the power we beg for is already available, but we’re too busy waiting for a rushing wind to notice?
Paul writes in Galatians 5: 22-23 that the fruits of the Holy Spirit are: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I believe that the prevalence of these qualities in our day-to-day life is the most telling sign of being full of the Holy Spirit. Having inexplicable joy in the wake of difficulty, discipline to wake up at 5:00 AM to spend time in the Word, stepping out of your comfort zone to minister to a coworker, holding your tongue in an argument with your spouse; these may seem small but serve as tangible evidence of a Spirit-filled life. While a big “aha!” moment is certainly possible, waiting for it in restless dissatisfaction can lead to missing the most powerful moments of all—the ones that come in small doses but carry much weight in the kingdom of God.
The best evidence of God’s power is your obedience. The beauty is not in signs and wonders but in the conviction that came upon you to act like Christ and operate in a supernatural strength to live accordingly. If you often find yourself filled with a heavenly joy that doesn’t align with your present circumstances, or you are serving the Lord unashamedly with confidence and a sound spirit, stop stressing and consider yourself filled. It is far more difficult to persevere in relentless obedience with an absence of validation and recognition in the midst of trial than to speak in an effortless, unintelligible language in your prayer closet. The validation of His power in the form of speaking in tongues, healing powers or other supernatural abilities are undoubtedly gifts from above but to endure in the absence of them? That’s what I call spiritual grit. Paul says that our only aim should be to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given—and if you’re enduring regardless of how the Lord chooses to manifest his Spirit in your life, more power to you my friend. Keep running the race and leave the cloven tongues of fire up to Him.