*An excerpt from the Jeannie Cunnion's newest release, Don't Miss Out: Daring to Believe Life Is Better with the Holy Spirit
Much of my relationship with the Holy Spirit has been like the simultaneous gesturing we do using one hand to wave someone toward us with a “Come closer” motion while holding up our other hand at the end of our outstretched arm signaling “Stop right there.” Yes, it’s fair to say my posture with the Spirit of God was one of hesitation more than cooperation.
I can’t help but wonder what words you would use to describe your feelings about or experience with the Holy Spirit.
In conversations with Christian friends from varying walks of life, I’ve asked what words they would use to describe their feelings about the Holy Spirit. A few shared how He was crucial to their faith and how they felt very connected to Him, but by and large, most friends expressed feelings of uncertainty or disconnection.
Our uncertainty about the Holy Spirit isn’t surprising, considering the way the He has been misused and misunderstood in the church and in culture. Most Christians are comfortable with God the Father and God the Son, but we assume that God the Spirit is reserved for the extremes: either the super-spiritual or the super-strange.
The stigma is that if you speak freely of the Holy Spirit, you must be a very religious person who got so close to God that you got access to His Spirit, or you must be one of those slightly off people who behaves a bit dramatically while doing sensational things in the name of the Holy Spirit.
Because of this stigma, most Christians casually recite the seven words we often find in Scripture—“through the power of the Holy Spirit”—but rarely do we actually know what that means or welcome His transforming power in our lives. We settle for less than all of God. Let me make that more personal. I settled for less than all of God.
Have We Settled?
The irony is, if you had asked me to describe my faith life a couple years ago, I never would have thought to use the word settling, because I love my King Jesus and I know how desperately I need His mercy and grace. He is the lover of my soul. But as I began to awaken to the Holy Spirit’s presence and power inside me, what I discovered stunned me, because settling is—in many ways— exactly what I’d been doing by not relying more on the Holy Spirit’s supernatural presence, provision, and power dwelling in me.
It’s not that I didn’t believe in and affirm the Trinity—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. I wholeheartedly did. I was just neglecting the extraordinary benefits of the indwelling presence of God’s Spirit. This discovery lit a fire in me because it revealed I was settling for far less than all that God offers us.
In fact, I vividly remember several mornings of sitting in my office chair, my Bible open on my desk and a very large hot coffee in my hand, reading chapters 14 through 16 in the gospel of John specifically in search of the Holy Spirit’s presence on the pages, being utterly awestruck at what I’ve missed. The question that kept running through my mind was, How have I been following Jesus since I was eight years old, faithfully attending church, and reading Scripture and attending more Bible studies than I can count, but somehow neglecting the very One Jesus said is to my advantage?
Did you know that about the Holy Spirit? Did you know that Jesus said He is to your advantage? Read these words of Jesus slowly:
But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, “Where are you going?” But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
The “Helper” Jesus is speaking about in verse 7 is, of course, the Holy Spirit. Jesus knows His disciples are deeply disappointed that His departure is imminent, so He lovingly assures them, “Trust me on this! It is better that I return to my Father so that the Holy Spirit will come” (my paraphrase). Other translations read “it is better for you,” “for your good,” and “for your benefit.” Isn’t it so interesting that Jesus didn’t say it was “almost as good” or even “just as good” for them to have His Spirit in them rather than His physical presences with them. He said it was “better,” and it was only going to happen if He ascended to His Father.
The twelve disciples weren’t disappointed because they didn’t want the Holy Spirit. They were disappointed because it meant Jesus was going to depart. This was devastating news for the men who’d just spent three years by His side and under His leadership. I’m guessing their sadness was also anchored in their inability to even begin to fathom what they would soon gain in the Helper.
It is no small thing that Jesus’ revelation to His disciples remains true for us more than two thousand years later. And yet, we might be tempted to respond to this news as the disciples did. “Better for us that you leave? No. How could it be better? How could anything be better than you right here beside us? We want you, Jesus, not just the Helper, your Spirit.”
I can’t help but wonder what Jesus would say to those of us feeling unsure, even now, about it being better to have His Spirit living in us over His physical presence beside us. I envision Jesus responding with tenderness, yet certainty, saying something like:
“But daughter, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are One. The Holy Spirit makes me even more real and beautiful to you. He takes up residence in your heart so you will never be alone and never be without what you need. He is making you more like me. And let me tell you what else He can do for you. Oh, just let me tell you how He is to your advantage!”
How the Holy Spirit is to our advantage, and all the benefits we enjoy by receiving His indwelling presence, is what we are about to discover together. And it’s going to be so good!
How Is the Spirit to Our Advantage?
Jesus was “God with us.” The Holy Spirit is “God in us.”
See, the disciples thought they were losing closeness and connectivity with Jesus, when really He would be closer and more connected to them than ever before because His Spirit would now take up residence inside them. And that same closeness and connectivity is accessible to us today, through His Spirit!
Even more than that, knowing we have the Holy Spirit living inside us should give us extraordinary confidence. What is more empowering than knowing Almighty God indwells us?
When facing a frightening diagnosis, navigating financial hardship or crisis, fighting fear over an uncertain future, praying to better love a di cult spouse, feeling hopeless over foolish choices our children are making, or struggling with the same old sins and strongholds, we can stand confidently on the power of the Holy Spirit, who is our divine Helper. This is not flimsy or false confidence. This is certified confidence. He is more than able!
I need you to know that whatever lies before you, it’s not all on you! It’s on the Spirit in you. And if His power can raise our Savior from the grave, He can handle whatever hardship or fear you face.
But there’s more.
The Spirit gives us confidence that we can live out the call of the Gospel because He supplies the ability. We don’t have to muster up heart motivation to worship God above all our other loves. The Spirit does that in us. And then He gives us the boldness to spread the Gospel to a world desperately in need of healing and hope.
This is all the work of the Spirit. This is why Jesus said it’s to our advantage that the Holy Spirit comes. His work in our lives is so connected and crucial to experiencing the fullness of God.
The Holy Spirit, our consummate Helper, guides us, comforts us, fills us with hope and joy, gives us life and peace, strengthens us in our inner being, communicates with us, prays for us, leads us in truth, empowers us to fight sin, illuminates Scripture, and advocates for us. He opens our hearts to the love of Jesus, makes us more like Jesus, and gives us supernatural gifts to build up the church and glorify God.
This, and so much more, is what we will unpack thoroughly in the chapters to come, as we discover how Jesus’ ascension ushered in a new depth and dimension in our relationship with God. This is worthy of celebration.
I believe that the deeper we dig into Scripture, and the more we open ourselves up to experiencing the Spirit’s presence and power in our daily doings, the more we’ll find ourselves grateful that Christ ascended and the Holy Spirit descended. We’ll discover Jesus was right all along. Why do we ever doubt?
Oh, how I want us to know Him and enjoy the benefits of being filled by Him. This is an invitation to discover how essential the Holy Spirit is to the full and flourishing Christian life. He can do more in you and through you than you ever thought possible. (And if you haven’t put your trust in Jesus, please keep reading, as this is every bit as much for you! The very fact that you’re holding this book in your hand tells me God is in passionate pursuit of you, patiently waiting for you to say yes to Jesus and receive His Spirit!)
It’s time to stop settling for mere knowledge of His existence and start enjoying the many benefits of His presence.