What makes you think God will bless what you are doing?
Wait until the Holy Spirit comes upon you.
“Even the disciples were told to wait until the Holy Spirit came upon them.”
These words were spoken as I shared breakfast not long ago with my faculty mentor from my undergraduate years at a Bible college. Although I had read that account in the book of Acts many times, it struck me differently this time because of the conversation we were having.
We were discussing spiritual formation. Although not a new concept, it was not one that was taught when I was a student. Now, it’s one of the majors made available to the students who attend there. My friend was the one who brought it to birth after years of teaching in Christian education. I asked him what prompted him to move in that direction.
For years, he told me they had stressed methodology, good hermeneutics, and theology as they instructed others on how to provide Christian education in the local church. However, they had largely ignored the idea of spiritual formation. It was as though with the right teaching, preaching, lesson plans, and programs, members of the church could be formed into Christ-likeness without the influence and direction of the Holy Spirit.
Henri Nouwen wrote that “spiritual formation calls for the ongoing discipline of descending from the mind into the heart so real knowledge and wisdom can be found.” Nouwen was fearful that the church was failing at this most basic task of enabling people to communicate with the Holy Spirit of God. Along with teaching the right methods, theology, and exegetical skills, students of the Word need to know how to pray, meditate upon Scripture, practice times of silence and solitude, and incorporate other spiritual disciplines and rhythms into their lives.
The later emphasis, my friend noted, was a focus on nurturing a God/Christ/Holy Spirit consciousness in other’s lives, thus allowing God the opportunity to work through us for His purposes rather than us doing it on our own and then praying for success.
“Even the disciples were told to wait until the Holy Spirit came upon them.” It made me pause. It was true. Even though they had been with Jesus for 3 years, heard Him teach, watched Him perform miracles and were even empowered themselves to do the same, they weren’t supposed to take it upon themselves to carry out their ministries until the Holy Spirit led them to do so.
Why do we think we are any different? What makes us think we can be effective in ministry without being led by the Holy Spirit? Without the influence and the power and the enabling of the One sent on His behalf? There are consequences for not waiting.
I think of Saul in the Old Testament who offered a sacrifice when he became impatient waiting for Samuel. It cost him his crown. And yet, there are blessings for those who do wait. David consulted with God over whether to go to battle against the Philistines. In 1 Chronicles 14, David was told to wait until he heard the “sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees.” What that meant was God had gone before him to strike down the army of his enemy. “They who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength and rise up with wings as eagles.”
There are times when we are all told to wait. When we take things into our own hands, we can be sure they won’t turn out the way God intended for them. Waiting may be one of the most difficult things to do, but it may be the most important things we will ever do. We need to place into our lives times of waiting, times of contemplation when we pray, read the Word, meditate upon what it has to say to us, in silence and solitude as we wait upon the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us.
Do you have those times of waiting in your life? If not, why do you think God will bless you?
Phillip A. Foster, Ph.D., as a psychologist and Director of equipt2lead.org, provides spiritual direction, counseling, training, and consulting, to those in ministry or other roles of leadership in the church. He is the author of “Here’s My Heart, Lord.”
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