Last Friday the Holy Spirit spoke to me. He probably speaks to me a lot, but this time I heard him.
I had been mentally prepping for the upcoming Sunday school lesson that I was slated to teach in place of my absent husband. Ironically enough, our topic was—yes, you guessed it—the Holy Spirit. Our recently completed series on the Nicene Creed had spawned a secondary discussion on the Spirit, who gets short shrift in that ancient text. Our class had asked for more teaching and discussion on the mysterious third person of the Trinity.
The previous week my husband had taken us through the Old Testament, showing how the Spirit moved and worked in chosen people to do various special works of God. Leaders, prophets, judges, kings … they only did what they did because the Spirit empowered them to do it.
But then Jesus— I just love that phrase, don’t you? “But then, Jesus…” so much hope and potential! In this case, starting in the Gospels, Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit in a personal way, revealing more of His personality and purpose (Luke 11:14) in the lives of Jesus followers. He is our comforter, our advocate (John 14:26), the Truth-revealer (Mark 13:11) able to be with each believer at all times and in all places.
The Spirit conceived Jesus in Mary’s womb (Matt. 1:20), the Spirit sent Jesus out into the wilderness to be tested (Matt. 4:1), then brought him back to civilization to begin his ministry (Luke 4:14). The miraculous, courageous, beyond their normal abilities acts of the apostles (in the book by the same name that we mostly just call “Acts”) only occur when the Spirit empowers them—the author mentions the Spirit 91 times. Believers also receive from Him a variety of gifts with which to bless the church (1 Cor. 12).
The book of Acts showcases the work of the Spirit like no other book of the Bible. We could camp out in that book alone for weeks of study and still not cover it all. He’s a tough bird, that Spirit—difficult to pin down logically, to explain his methodology, to predict his next move. He’s a mystery.
And that’s what makes so many believers content to benignly ignore him. We give lip service to a Trinity but practically worship a divine duo—the Father and the Son—instead. I think that’s because mystery scares us. What we can’t understand or predict we tend to push aside.
Does the Spirit work today? Does he still reveal truth? Yes, in accordance with the Scripture (see Mark 13:11). How does he do that? Ah, a question not so easily answered. We can rest assured that He will only guide us into actions or words that correlate with Scripture, that live out its righteous values that reflect the heart of God. Sometimes, though, these promptings to action might look a little strange at first glance.
Peter bucked centuries of tradition regarding food that was considered clean or unclean when he accepted the conclusion of the divine vision he had in Acts 10. Ananias obeyed the command to anoint the killer of Jesus’s followers, Saul, against all logical thought (Acts 9). Many have felt the prompting of the Spirit to adopt, to write a letter of encouragement, to enter the ministry, to sign up for military service, to do crazy things that can’t be otherwise explained. But all Spirit-led promptings align with Scripture and point to obeying God’s call to love mercy, do justly, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).
So back to last Friday. A clear, unmistakable impression led to behavior completely out of character for me: I picked up a stranger on the side of the road.
I know, not a really big deal for most people. But it was a first for me.
On our way to the local library, several miles down the local state highway, I noticed a young woman walking down the road. I only really thought about it when, on our return trip, I saw her again. She had walked about 2 miles.
“Help her.” “Turn around.” “Why not you?” I didn’t hear audible words, but these impressions weighed heavily in my mind as I passed her. A quick self-inventory revealed that 1. I had an empty seat (which is unusual with my brood), 2. I had extra time and 3. The potential danger seemed negligible. (I did have kids to consider.)
So I turned around, pulled up in front of her, and invited her to ride wherever she needed to go. Ended up taking her about 7 miles down the highway to the next big city. Did I change her life? Probably not. Did I help her avoid walking through dangerous intersections and what was becoming a nighttime venture? Yes. So maybe my obedience helped her avoid something negative. We’ll never know.
I think the most important thing happened to me, not to her. I heard, and listened to, the Spirit. My children witnessed it, too. I've missed way too many of His promptings in the past. Too busy. Too afraid. Too distracted.
I pray that remembering this event makes me more aware of such impressions now, and more willing to pay attention.
How about you? Have you ever been convinced that God spoke to you, that He wanted you to act in a certain way? What convinced you? Did you listen or ignore the impression? I'd love to hear your story.