. . . but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8)
Nearly three weeks ago Marnie and I hit the road to make our way down to Winston-Salem, NC for our daughter’s graduation from Wake Forest. We traveled via Washington, DC where we did a graveside service for a friend at Arlington National Cemetery.
Our reasons for traveling were all significant. Our timing, however, wasn’t so great.
Not many days before our departure the Colonial pipeline had to shut down to deal with a threat from hackers. I remembered hearing the story on the news, but I didn’t think too much of it at the time. But by the time we were driving from DC to Winston-Salem, panic was setting in at the pumps. The further south you went the worse it got. Virginia wasn’t too bad. We would later learn that 70% of North Carolina gas stations had no fuel.
As we made our way down interstate 95, we handled this problem by being hyper attentive to what we had in the tank. Once we saw that we were three-quarters full, we started looking for gas. Quite often we struck out. When we found it, we would fill up, even if that meant only a quarter of a tank. By doing this we made it to North Carolina without too much trouble.
The strategy was simple: Pay attention and don’t get anywhere close to empty.
Today I’d like to suggest to you that this strategy has value for your spiritual life.
Filled with the Spirit
In the weeks leading up to Easter at Grace Church, we were working our way through the Apostles’ Creed. Every time we speak the words of the creed, we affirm that we “believe in the “Holy Spirit” (our church uses the old-school “Holy Ghost”).
We believe in the Holy Spirit, but we don’t talk much about the Spirit.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, but we’re not entirely clear on what the Spirit does or how it works in our lives.
When the Spirit came upon the gathered disciples, Peter interpreted the event for a bewildered crowd of onlookers who were in Jerusalem celebrating the feast of Pentecost. He cited one of the Hebrew prophets and spoke of what was happening as the fulfillment of God’s promise to “pour out” his Spirit (Joel 2).
God’s pouring out isn’t measured and stingy. At Pentecost, the followers of Jesus were “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4). This fullness enabled them to do what Jesus had told them they would do. Effective witness flows from ma fullness of the Spirit.
I’ve often wondered about that phrase – “filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Unlike my car, my soul isn’t equipped with a gauge that tells me exactly how much Holy Spirit I’ve got and when I’m dangerously low. But that doesn’t mean we’re driving blind in the life of faith.
Begin by Asking
There are a variety of ways that we can sense spiritual depletion. I can’t explore them at length here, but you may already know what some of them are. We’re flirting with empty when we’re too easily irritable, unable to listen or truly care about another person’s life, often anxious and sleepless, or simply not interested in spiritual things. The warning signs are not too hard to detect.
The real danger comes when we simply fail to pay attention to these. The strategy that kept me on the road between DC and Winston-Salem is the same strategy that keeps us moving through our days in the power of the Spirit. We pay attention and make regular efforts to stay away from empty.
I suspect there are many of us who believe in the Holy Spirit, say the creed, go to church, but really don’t pay careful attention to the fullness of the Spirit in our lives. We live on fumes. Today I’m simply asking you to pay attention.
And don’t forget the most basic way that Jesus taught us to replenish the supply of the Spirit in our lives. We begin by asking. Our Heavenly Father will not refuse the Spirit to those who ask. If we know how to give good gifts to our children, God will certainly give the Spirit when we ask (Luke 11:11-13).
How’s your tank today? What would it look like for you to live this day filled with the Holy Spirit? Pay attention. And ask for the gift of the Spirit that God stands ready to give.
Father God, I want to live my life in the fullness of the Spirit. I confess that often I fail to pay attention to the Spirit. I can busy myself with good things without seeing that I’m dangerously close to empty. I ask you today for the gift of the Spirit, enabling to be a witness in the places where you will lead me. I ask in the name of your son Jesus. Amen.