Why doesn't my experience of the holy spirit live up to the promises I read in the bible?
FOR THE SPIRIT GOD GAVE US DOES NOT MAKE US TIMID, BUT GIVES US POWER, LOVE AND SELD-DISCIPLINE. -2 TIMOTHY 1:7
God’s Spirit lives in us.
Do you hear that? I mean, I could just drop the mic and walk away right now... Can you even begin to fathom it? I can’t. In fact, I don’t know if there’s anything more mind-bending for me than sitting here sipping my London fog in this unassuming coffee shop trying to consider how the Spirit of God himself lives in me. The contrast is too great, too wonderful. How is it that God, THE God... of everything, the eternally existent, all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect Creator, who upholds the universe, how is it that HE could be inside of perfectly ordinary me right now? How is it that he’s the one empowering me, guiding my thoughts, hearing my prayers for help? Seriously, I’m blown away. But this isn’t just about me, some “professional Christian lady” who writes about Jesus for a living. It’s about you too.
When you believed Jesus, his Spirit took up residence in you.
You didn’t just “get saved” and then “see you later, you’re on our own”. No, Jesus gave you his own Spirit to be with you and help you through all your days. He did this because he loves you, and he is genuinely for you. And more than that, he’s with you, even in you. Here’s just some of what the Holy Spirit does for you: he teaches you (John 14:26), guides you (Gal. 5:16), cleanses you from sin (1 Cor. 6:11), empowers you (Acts 1:8), gives your heart confidence (Rom. 8:16), and guarantees your heavenly inheritance (Eph. 1:13-14). I mean, come on!!! Just, wow. He does all of that, and like our verse says, he also gives us courage, power, love, and self-discipline.
Do you feel it? Do you live like it?
Man! I wish I did! Oftentimes though, I don’t live like any of this is true. Even as I write down all of those amazing truths, I must acknowledge that there's a disconnect between the truth and my actual experience. What about you? Feel the same way? It’s not uncommon for us to find ourselves asking questions like these: Why then am I timid? How come I don’t feel the power or love of the Spirit? And why do I struggle so mightily with self-discipline? If the Spirit of God himself is actually in me, then why don’t I experience the victory and abundance that I’m promised?
(CONTINUED FROM ABOVE)
Because we aren't puppets.
I know that might sound weird, but we aren’t controlled by the Grand Puppeteer in the sky. We serve a compassionate, loving God who has given us free will, the choice to love and follow him or not. He doesn’t animate us with his Spirit so he can make us do whatever he wants. Instead, we make real decisions that matter, like whether or not to trust him, whether or not to consult him, and whether or not to rely on his guidance. So, while the Spirit does indwell believers, he responds to us as we respond to him. Or as theologian Wayne Grudem puts it, “The Holy Spirit gives stronger or weaker evidence of the blessing and presence of God in accordance with our response to him” (Systematic Theology, 1994). You see, so much of our actual experience of the Holy Spirit is up to us. If we want to experience more of the Holy Spirit’s presence and blessings in our lives, we have to let him.
Great. I want that. But how do I get there?
If we want more of the Spirit in our lives, we have to begin at the beginning. First, the Spirit of God comes and dwells in us when we put our faith in Jesus as the loving, saving master of our lives. And some of you may be uncertain about that, like, “I don’t know if that’s me or not.” If that’s where you’re at, no problem. I’ve got a short article that does a good job of explaining how you start out on this faith journey. Now, for everybody else, I’ve got a couple of tips for how you can respond to the Spirit in ever increasing ways so that you can experience more of his work and presence in your life.
1. Just ask God! Jesus promised us that our Father gives good gifts to those who ask him (Matt 7:11). And what better gift is there than the gift of himself? Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matt 7:7). God wants you to experience the full and abundant life he has for you in the Spirit. Ask him for more of himself, and don't you know? He’s happy to give it!
2. Don’t grieve the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is absolutely good, all of the time. And if he’s in us, and we do wrong, it grieves him (Eph 4:30), much like it grieves me when my kids make bad choices. The Spirit wants what’s best for us, and following our own passions and folly is simply not that. Remember what we said about how our response to him affects his response to us? If we want to experience more of his blessing and presence, we need to respond to his leading with a “yes”. When we ignore him, when we sideline him, when we flat-out say “no”, then we’re in danger of quenching his work in our lives. The good news on this point is that he’s the very one who gives us the self-control we need to follow his lead.
3. Believe God’s promises. God always makes good on his promises (Heb 10:23). And in our verse, he promises us that his Spirit “does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline”. When we really believe God for these things, we start to live like it, and they become evident to us in ever increasing measure. For instance, when we trust God in a given circumstance will give us self-discipline, and we walk in his ways, we experience victory. This is naturally going to increase our faith, and lead us to trust him more. It’s a cycle of belief. First, we believe God, then he delivers, increasing our faith and encouraging us to believe him more and more. Sadly, this belief cycle is easily broken by fear or doubt or circumstances. Buuuuut, there’s always grace for us to get back into the groove and start believing again!
I hope that doesn’t seem like too big of a stretch. Let me encourage you though, this is what God wants for you—an abundant, purposeful, beautiful life, one that is connected to him and empowered by him. This is true life: life in the Spirit. Jesus talks about the Spirit-filled Christian this way, “From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38b). The Spirit of God lives in us, and he is ready and willing to give us life, and not just to us, to those around us. I want that. I’m willing to ask God for more of that. I’m committed to saying “yes” to the Spirit. And I am hoping to get on that belief cycle as I trust him to give me courage, power, love, and self-discipline. What about you?
How different would your life be if you started saying “yes” to the Spirit more often?
I’m committing to asking God every day this week for more of himself. Would you commit to doing it too?
Are there things in your life that are grieving the Spirit that you need to give up or change?
Thanks for reading,
Meet Natalie,Dwell co-founder
Hi there, I'm Natalie. I'm so glad you're here. I'd love to connect with you and hear more about what God is doing in your life!
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