Have you ever wondered about the Holy Spirit? Who is he? What does he do? How do you know he is working inside you? These are all legitimate questions - and I don't think you are alone in your struggle to understand his influence and purpose in your life. In fact, the disciples of Christ, when they first heard about this "helper" or "friend" Jesus was planning on sending to them after he was taken into heaven, asked similar questions. They did not understand some of the things Jesus was telling them - so they asked questions. Jesus never feels affronted by our questions - he doesn't see them as disrespectful or as an insult. In fact, he encourages us to question what we don't understand because he wants us to come to a place of assurance about all the things which cause us to question.
I still have many things to tell you, but you can't handle them now. But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is. He won't draw attention to himself, but will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all that I have done and said. He will honor me; he will take from me and deliver it to you. Everything the Father has is also mine. That is why I've said, 'He takes from me and delivers to you.' (John 16:12-15 The Message)
It was to this end that Jesus announces to his disciples (and to us) his intention to not leave them without someone to help them understand the things which were not completely clear to them. It is this same Holy Spirit we have been given - for the purpose of taking us by the hand and guiding us into all the truth there is. Don't miss that! He actually moves us into truth - but not just "snippits" of it - all of it!
What Jesus tells us about the Holy Spirit may help us recognize his activity in our lives. In fact, it is his "activity" we come to understand as his "presence" in us. Let me explain. The wind blows, but do you see it? Not really. You may see "evidence" of its activity, but you never actually SEE the wind. You see leaves carried on a current of wind, or skies filled with dust as the wind swirls it up into a cyclone, but you don't SEE the wind. You see the activity of the wind - its effect on that which it touches. The same is true of the Holy Spirit in our lives - we see his activity (his actions) - serving as evidence of his presence.
Jesus tells us his purpose is to:
- Reveal whatever it is we need to understand more fully. Jesus reminds us of an important aspect of growth. We learn different aspects of truth at different seasons of time in our lives. What we can "handle" today may differ from what we can "handle" at a later period of time. The Holy Spirit is keenly aware of where we are in our "growth cycle" and custom tailors our "learning" to the season we are in. It is kind of like having a personal tutor to help us get a good handle on the lesson we are learning. We have on-on-one attention to actually "get" the lesson down pat.
- Take us by the hand and guide us into truth. The image presented here is two-fold: one of being taken to a place of truth and the other of actually coming into it with one capable of walking us through it step-by-step. I have had the opportunity to explore far off destinations in this world in the past ten years. Those I enjoyed, and learned the most about, were those where I had someone to "guide" me through the places I never knew existed. The purpose of a guide is to give us the insight into these places. The same is true of the Holy Spirit - he acts as a guide, getting us to the destination AND giving us insight we never knew we'd find there.
- Help make sense of the stuff we don't understand. My son-in-law recently lost his eldest nephew in a tragic automobile accident in Mexico. The family is now struggling with the "why" behind this tragic loss. Both parents and three siblings survived - but why was Michael taken? My friend just gave birth to her second child - finding out just days before delivery the child would be born with a tumor on her kidney. As if this was not enough, this mother's father had been diagnosed with lung cancer and is in the fight for his life against this disease. You can imagine the "why's" being asked within this family. There is always going to be hard stuff in life we simply cannot comprehend in our finite minds. We need the Holy Spirit to help us "unravel" the complexity of our grief, the paralysis of our fears, and the uncertainty of our abilities to rise above each of these.
- He gives us exactly what we need directly from the hands of Jesus. When all is said and done, I think this is the most amazing part of his activity in our lives. He is giving us exactly what Jesus has prepared for us in the moment of our need. It is his privilege to confirm God's care over our lives. It is one thing to know we possess something, or have access to it - it is quite a different matter to know someone is taking exactly what we need and delivering it to us right at this very moment in our lives.
Now, we also know the purpose of the Holy Spirit is to convict the world of sin and to convince us of righteousness. As such, he reveals truth to those in need of truth and guides them into truth. Jesus was quite clear - he brings ALL truth into the fullness of revelation in our lives. So, if we don't understand, we have an advocate provided to us to help guide us into this understanding. Sometimes we find new understanding brings a little conviction. This is never a bad thing - we often have the greatest opportunities for growth when we become aware new truth. So, grow on, my friends! You have been given all you need for growth - in the Holy Spirit!