Today I want to talk about the Holy Spirit. There are many things that can be discussed when talking about the Holy Spirit because as an equal member of the Godhead He is holy and magnificent. The Holy Spirit is, along with the Father and Son, the power that raised Jesus from the grave. If you don’t believe me read Romans 8:11, John 10:17-18, and Acts 2:24. When we read Scripture in its totality we get a bigger and better picture than if we just read one part. When we read Scriptures together we start to see a picture develop that we cannot see by reading a verse here and a verse there and so partly that is what I want to do here. Now granted I will be using a verse here and a verse there but that is also the difference between writing about Scripture and a personal Scripture reading. What I think might be helpful is to look at a few things that Scripture tells us the Holy Spirit does or offers.
The Holy Spirit gives us the power to speak Acts 1:8; 1:16; 2:4 and so on. The Holy Spirit gives us direction see Acts 8:26 and 13:2. The Holy Spirit gives us gifts see 1 Cor 12:8-11. The Spirit also has fruit for us see Gal 5:22-23. The Holy Spirit is the one who gives us the ability to confess that Jesus is Lord see 1 Cor 12:3. The Holy Spirit also seals us for salvation see Eph 1:13 and 4:30. Now we could certainly spend an entire post just talking about what the Holy Spirit does and offers but instead, I would like to talk about two specific things – The gifts and the fruit.
This is not meant to be an in-depth talk on either of these things. There is much debate on whether or not the gifts of the Holy Spirit are applicable for the church today and spoiler alert I believe they are but regardless let’s at least look at the ones that are not questioned. Generally speaking, most Christians will agree that wisdom, knowledge, faith, and discernment are active gifts today. That is a long enough list for me right now.
If we look at the Fruit of the Spirit we have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I would dare say that all Christians believe this list to be correct and active and while the lists are quite different they do have some things in common.
I have belabored my point long enough so the topic for today is this – Is your praying for the gifts or fruit of the Spirit in vain? Now there are quite a few reasons why it could be in vain. You could have sin in your life that prohibits God from pouring out these gifts and allowing that fruit to be produced. You could simply not actually believe in Jesus as the risen Lord in which case the gifts and fruit are of no use. You could be wasting the gifts and spoiling the fruit you have been given to which no more would be added. Lastly and I think much more common you could be asking for these gifts with the proper context.
First, if we look at the gifts of the Spirit we have again wisdom, knowledge, faith, and discernment which all carry a common thread throughout them. These gifts are mostly for you to use on or with someone else. If you add healing and interpretation of tongues back in the mix we see even more that the gifts are for you to use on or for others.
What good would it be for God to give you a message wisdom if there is no one around to deliver this message to? Yes, you might be built up but for what purpose? What purpose does a message of knowledge have if there is no one in need of that knowledge? Yes, you may receive some insight but to what end? A gift of faith is great to help you get through the situation but lacks any real power without others to receive a bolstering to their own faith or encouraging from it. As to discernment like the others, it has some personal benefit but if you are struggling for discernment that much alone you have bigger problems.
For the gifts to be used to their full capacity you need others to receive the benefit of the gift. So, my question is this, how often are you spending time in community? If you are praying for or simply desire for the gifts are you also in situations that requires the use of them? If not, I think you may pray and desire in vain. James says that often we pray and do not receive because we pray with the wrong motives. We often link this to material prayer requests but could spiritual gifts not also be included here? Do you pray for these gifts so that you may spend them on others? Why pray for something that must be used in community if you do not want to spend time in community? Additionally, if you are not already spending your time in community then would you really spend the gifts of the Spirit in community. If we do not spend what we have freely in community then why would we think God would give us more to spend in community? If you desire the gift of wisdom but refuse to be around people who need wisdom then what good is the gift? If we desire the gift of faith but avoid those who are suffering and need someone to intercede then what good is the gift? I might as well live on a sailboat and pray for a motorcycle. I might receive it but it has no value.
If we desire the gifts of the Spirit and more importantly if we desire the Spirit then we must be in places and with people who need those gifts to be active. This requires us to be around broken and hurting people and the good news is that is all of us. We need to be around each other. We need to be active in each other’s lives. We need others and they need us. They receive gifts to spend on us and us on them and this is the community of the early church. Many times I have heard of people asking how do we live like the early church and I do not think it is living in communes, although I am not necessarily opposed to that idea, it is by allowing their lives to intersect with ours. It is by allowing them to be a part of our lives and by that, I mean an actual part. Not a social media part. Not a snapshot of the happy moments part but an actual part of our ups and downs. A part of our good and bad. It is about being willing to let someone pray for your need and correct your sin. We have to be transparent with one another and often this is painful. We need others to be so involved that they can tell when we need help and when we need correction and we need to be willing to accept both.
Next and naturally I think is the fruit of the Spirit which has another common thread which is that the in order to receive the fruit you need adversity. If we look at the list again it is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control and if you notice these gifts all require something to make them useful. To group them might help us save space. Love, joy, and peace require hostility. Love must be shown in action and situation because anything less is only a word. Joy requires a trial for you to remain joyful in. Peace should go without saying but peace requires hardship for you to remain peaceful in. The next grouping would be patience, kindness, and goodness and these require trial. Patience requires you to wait for something. Kindness is only shown when you involved with another person who needs that kindness. Goodness or the quality of being good means you have something that requires that goodness. For the last grouping, we have faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control and these require a situation that is not yet complete. Faithfulness means we are waiting and believing for something. Gentleness is the ability to be gentle regardless of the situation. Finally, there is self-control and what use is self-control unless you are being tempted in some way to be selfish and not hold on?
Much like the gifts of the Spirit, the fruit requires and environment to be shown and we should understand that most of the time community will be that environment. Either way, you pray in vain for the fruit if you do not allow situations where hardships and trials can come. If you shut yourself off from community and situations that require you to grow you in a sense refuse the fruit of the Spirit.
I for one and am ok with admitting that I need community but it has taken me a long time to get there. I need others to come alongside me and help me grow and mature in my faith. I also realize that in order for me to walk in the gifts that the Spirit has given me I need to be around others to let those gifts be used. This is not hard as it requires sacrifice. It requires time to be spent. It requires you to open yourself up to the possibility of being hurt and you will be. Living in the context of community is one of the hardest and most painful things you can do but I say do it anyway. I am not there, none of us are. As we learn to live in that context God reveals a little more of how we are not doing it and we open a little more. The only way to walk like the first-century church is to walk in the community and I think we can do that.
Just a thought,