I'm closer to 50 than any other age ending in zero, and for the first time in my life I've lived in one place for more than five years. I've had an interesting life, moving from place to place regularly as a child and adult. In one year, I attended three different schools.
I know what it's like to stand alone in a playground at lunchtime for days on end. I've been ignored and laughed at. Such a life, however, has given me social skills that enable me to fit quickly into a group of strangers.
It's easy to establish new friends. Earlier in life, I made many good and deep friendships, but when I had to leave, it was hard to keep in contact due to distance and time. There was no internet or Facebook back then! The loss of friends did hurt. It also took a lot of emotional energy trying to make new ones. Now I find it difficult to go deep in a friendship, perhaps because I'm protecting myself from the hurt of saying goodbye.
Jesus, similarly, became good friends with 12 men over three-and-a-half years. The friendship was deep because Jesus spent most of His time with them, eating, travelling, teaching-living life together. During this time, Jesus transformed these men into leaders with spiritual authority. He gave them a hope beyond materialism and a cause that would change other people's lives as well.
However, Jesus was leaving them. He knew He would be betrayed, suffer crucifixion, rise again and then leave the planet. He was concerned about leaving His friends behind, so before He left, He promised that He would leave them another supernatural Friend. Jesus said, "I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you" (John 14:18, NRSV).* That Friend is the Holy Spirit.
What can believers in Jesus expect from the Holy Spirit?
Having a companion who is with you all the time gives you a sense of security. I have been married some 23 years; and I can walk with my wife each morning, and sometimes I say very little. But I appreciate her being there. She can sit next to me on a four-hour car trip and the conversation may be little more than 15 minutes. But I still enjoy her company. Neither of us feels awkward in the silence. It's enough that she is just there.
The Holy Spirit is better even than my wife. He is "just there" all of the time-24/7, as they say. I'm never alone. Psalm 139 reminds me of this. "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast" (verses 7-10).
The Holy Spirit reminds us humans of who we are. On this planet, I am but one of more than six billion people. I'm nobody special. I'm not on the radio, seldom featured in a newspaper article, never on TV and if you Google my name, you'll get a very short list. In this sense, I am a "nobody." But to God, my family and my friends, I am somebody.
The Holy Spirit tells me that I am a son of God (see Romans 8:14-17). I am not a nobody. I'm a child of the CEO of the universe. I'm important, and I have an inheritance. The God who made me has promised me eternity because I'm His child. The Holy Spirit reminds me of who I am. This self-identity is the foundation for meaning in life.
3 Power to develop
Each person on this planet has unique potential. Every fingerprint is different, and my fingerprints can unlock my computer. An eye can activate home security systems, as each human iris is unique. We're much more than just a bunch of unique DNA. Each person has a unique purpose. The Holy Spirit gives us power to live a purposeful, positive life.
The Holy Spirit gives strength and power to the inner being (see Ephesians 3:16). This power is equated with the power that can raise people from the dead (see Romans 8:11), and it's available to us. We all have potential to fulfil! The Holy Spirit even gives each follower of Jesus a spiritual gift that enables us to develop ourselves so we can bless others.
The Holy Spirit chooses the gifts that are best for us (see 1 Corinthians 12:4-11). The Holy Spirit's unlimited power enables us to be who we really want to be deep down inside!
Life is full of options. Who should I marry? When do I take my vacation? Where do I go? Where should I live? It isn't always easy to decide what's best. The Holy Spirit offers us direction, guidance into truth. Sometimes it is our limited minds, our bad behaviours and habits, that stop us from fulfilling the potential we have. The Holy Spirit reveals the obstacles that stand in the way of our living a better life. These rebukes can be painful, but if we accept that we have issues in our lives, the Holy Spirit is willing to empower new thoughts, concepts and behaviours until they become habits.
Jesus said, " 'But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth' " (John 16:13). David, a Hebrew king in the 10th century BC, wanted the Holy Spirit to search out all the evil within him so that he could be all that God wanted him to be. "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23, 24).
If you are lonely, need a friend, feel stuck in a rut, are overwhelmed with life's complexities or need encouragement, the Holy Spirit is a good Companion. The Greek word that Jesus used most often to describe the Holy Spirit is paracletos, which means "companion" (John 14-16).
However, as a Friend, the Holy Spirit still cannot really be predicted. You never quite know how the Spirit will manifest Himself. He has appeared as a dove, in the wind, in silence and as a sense of deep peace-it could be all of these. The Holy Spirit will surprise you. The Holy Spirit is God, and His purpose is always to lead you to a closer understanding and connection with God and Jesus, the other two Great Powers of the universe. Whenever the Holy Spirit shows up in your life, it's a gift of grace from God. He is a Companion who wants only the very best for you.
How do you receive the Holy Spirit? How do you get acquainted with this Friend who can bless your life in so many ways?
The answer the Bible suggests is very simple: believe in the Holy Spirit and ask for Him to come into and affect your life. By faith it will happen. Jesus said, "If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Luke 11:13).
Why not ask God for this great Gift that gives presence, identity, the power to develop and direction in your life?
The time that the Spirit manifested Himself the most in my life was when I had a group of church people lay hands on me and pray for me. I did feel a difference, a sense of security within myself. My life has been a positive journey since that time 17 years ago. Because of the Holy Spirit within, I've seen many people come to faith in Jesus. I've seen people healed of their diseases. And churches grow and change their focus. I would not have seen such influence had it not been for God's gift of the Holy Spirit.
*Scripture texts credited to NRSV are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright