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The Leadership of the Holy Spirit

Who is the Holy Spirit? 

Let’s take a little dive into the person and role of the Holy Spirit. Being the third person of the trinity, He is just as much God as Jesus and the Father. He was with the Father and Jesus when they created the world at the beginning of time (Genesis 1:1-2). The Hebrew word for “Spirit” is often translated as “wind” or “breath” in the Old Testament. The same word is found in Psalm 33:6, which also speaks about the Spirit’s work in creation: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath [Spirit] of His mouth.”

We can observe the Holy Spirit’s presence in the Old and New Testaments. Before Jesus’s resurrection, the Holy Spirit temporarily descended on leaders or people for a particular assignment from the Lord. It was not until after Pentecost that the Holy Spirit was poured out on every person, despite their ethnicity or social status, who put their trust in Jesus Christ. 

Jesus said to His disciples the night before He died and rose again that it was better for Him to go so that each one of them could receive the Holy Spirit (John 16:7). Just take a moment to think about this! Jesus said it was more helpful for the Holy Spirit to dwell within each disciple than for Him to stay with them physically. So often, we discredit the Holy Spirit because we cannot touch Him with our hands and see Him with our physical eyes. Yet Jesus could not physically be with every person while He was on earth. He was a man with a real body. He humbled Himself to the limitations we experience as a human. But He sent His Spirit to dwell with us forever. 

In John 14:26, the Holy Spirit is known as the Comforter. In John 16:8-11, we see that He convicts believers of righteousness and unbelievers of their sin. He is the one who reminds us of who we are in Christ as sons and daughters (Romans 8:14). Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit is our Helper who lives with us forever (John 14:16). Far from an extensive overview, He is also our Teacher or Counselor (1 John 2:27). 

The Holy Spirit fills us with power to accomplish the work God is calling us to do. After Jesus was resurrected from the dead, He commissioned his disciples to be sent out by the power of the Holy Spirit in John 20:22. He told them, “‘As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.’” 

The Holy Spirit often manifests in the gift of tongues and prophecy for the glory of God. When He descended on the believers in Jerusalem at Pentecost while they were praying and seeking Him in the Upper Room, a mighty wind followed by flames of fire descended on each person’s head, and each person began to speak in tongues. The Gentiles in Jerusalem began to hear testimonies proclaimed in their own language, and 3,000 people became Christians that day (Acts 2). 

What is the Holy Spirit looking for in us? 

As believers, the Holy Spirit longs to lead us and speak to us as we surrender to Him. We all have the ability to hear His voice. As we develop a relationship with God, we will begin to hear Him more clearly and accurately. We will be able to recognize when He is speaking and when we are simply hearing our own thoughts or the voice of the Enemy.

What is the Holy Spirit seeking in us? Wholehearted, quick obedience. He is not asking for perfection but rather a faith that leads to action. There is so much joy in hearing the Lord speak, carrying out what he is asking of us, and seeing Him move on our behalf. Sometimes, we will never know why He has asked us to do something, but we can still trust that He will reward us for our trust in Him. Other times, we will directly see the impact of our obedience. 

There are so many things He wants to be included in, and He delights in our friendship. It could be as simple as asking Him what to wear for an event or what gift to buy a friend. For sure, He desires that we would seek Him out on the more complex, bigger life decisions. But we often forget that He does not just want to be involved in where we should go to school, what career we should pursue, or who we should marry. He wants to help us on that impossibly difficult test, to show us how to love that angry coworker on the 11th hour of the job, and to give us supernatural wisdom of how to respond when our friend fails us miserably. 

Not my will, but Yours be done.

Sometimes, we do not feel joy until after or while obeying the Lord. Not everything He asks us to do sounds like fun to us. But He receives glory when we worship Him, even when we do not understand the reason why. There are times when it is difficult to be excited about what He is asking us to do. It may feel uncomfortable, confusing, wild, inconvenient, or untimely. But part of being obedient is following through in the time that He asks us, not in our own timeline.

Moses wondered why God wanted to use him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt when he stuttered. But the Lord desired him to rest in His strength to lead the people. It may not have been clear why the Lord asked Joshua to march around the city of Jericho with the Ark of the Covenant in front of them seven times before the walls fell down. However, it was clear that the city was not conquered by human military power. Jonah certainly did not get good vibes when God called him to preach to the Ninevites, but God desires that all people would hear about him and be saved, not just those who like us or love us. Jesus asked the Father if there was any way that the cup of wrath would be passed from him… was it not possible for God to pardon the sins of the world by another method than to be crucified on a cross? But yet He chose to demonstrate the cost of sin and the depth of his love in the way the Father asked.

This story demonstrates how the Holy Spirit desires us to partner with Him in reaching those He is actively pursuing. A believer of Jesus (we will call her Sarah) in Central Asia felt led to bring her husband’s oversized Bible with her to her unsaved friend’s house one morning for tea. Little did she know that her friend had dreamed the night before of Jesus coming to her with almost that exact same Bible. While Sarah felt the Spirit ask her to give the Bible to her friend, she took it out of her bag and set it on her lap. Her friend gasped in amazement because it was the same Bible she had seen in her dream. Sarah was also dumbfounded because her husband’s Bible was no longer black but now brown! God miraculously changed the color of her Bible to match her friend’s dream. That friend was saved several months later after the Lord continued to reveal Himself to her. Sarah was so thankful that she had been obedient to the Holy Spirit when he asked her to bring her husband’s Bible that day.  

Can we reject the Spirit of God?

Unfortunately, we grieve the Holy Spirit when we do not listen to Him and do not obey or even partially follow what He is asking us to do. The life of Saul in the Old Testament shows us how someone can receive a high calling from God but lose that anointing due to disobedience. Tragically, the Holy Spirit left Saul because he feared men more than the Lord and sought out counsel from a medium. 

Saul’s heart is revealed when he and the Israelites were getting tired of waiting for Samuel to return from Gilgal. He had promised to return within seven days, but that did not happen. In the awkward waiting game, Saul decided to offer sacrifices in place of Samuel, which went against the commandment of the Lord. When Samuel did return, he directly confronted Saul and told him that his rebellion was just as bad as divination, and presumption was as sinful as idolatry. Because Saul rejected the word of the Lord, the Lord also rejected him from being king (1 Sam 15:23).   

It may appear that the Lord issued a strong consequence for Saul. Just like Aaron made the golden calf while the Israelites were in the wilderness, Saul tried to please the crowd while their leader was on extended leave. He did not treat the Lord as holy; only the Levitical priests were permitted to offer sacrifices. Additionally, the Lord had told them to destroy all of the Amalekites and their possessions, but Saul decided to keep the best of this loot. So, in offering the sacrifice, Saul had disobeyed the Lord and took the situation into his own hands.

So the Spirit of God left Saul because he had disobeyed God and rejected his Word (1 Samuel 15:26), neglecting to destroy all Amalekites out of fear of the people (15:24). 

How often do we make assumptions when we do not hear the Holy Spirit’s voice immediately or within our own time frame? Thankfully, the Lord is so merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (Psalm 86:15). We have all failed to wait on Him at times. However, there are sometimes strong consequences for disobedience. In Acts 5, a couple named Ananias and Sapphira disobeyed the Holy Spirit and paid for it with their lives:

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God” (Acts 5:1-4).

Directly after this, Ananias fell over and died. His wife entered the scene and also lied to Paul about the amount of profit they had received for their piece of property. 

Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband (Acts 5:9-11).

Clearly, disobedience to the Holy Spirit is not something to take lightly. Why did the Lord allow this couple to experience such a harsh punishment? It does say in verse 11 that great fear came upon the whole church and all who heard about what happened. So, while grace does abound, the Lord is the same in the Old and New Testaments. He is not to be lied to or taken advantage of, even in our casual culture.

Let’s examine a few more examples where the Holy Spirit was resisted:

  • In Isaiah 63:10, it says that the Israelites “rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit. So He turned and became their enemy and He himself fought against them.”  The people continually rebelled against the voice of the Holy Spirit through the Prophets, who warned them against idolatry and compromise.   
  • In Acts 7:51, Jesus says to the crowd, “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!” Jesus got on the Pharisees’ case for knowing the prophetic Scriptures about the Messiah and watching Jesus fulfill those Scriptures but yet still walking in unbelief. They did not joyfully respond to Jesus’s invitation to come to Him. They were physically circumcised, but their hearts and ears were still hardened to the truth.

He just wants our yes!

Here’s a testimony of a current staff member who followed the Holy Spirit’s leading last year:

I had been sensing that the Lord was leading me out of my current situation and into something new. As I was working as a nurse in a hospital, I received an invitation from a family friend to take a School of Ministry Development (SOMD) at YWAM Lancaster. I felt an initial nudge in my spirit that I should do this. I heard a few weeks later that the school was canceled but there was going to be an internship offered instead, starting in only a month later. I came to the base for a morning worship the next week, and I felt so much peace immediately when I entered. It was in the next hour that God confirmed through words of knowledge that this was where I was to be in the next season of my life. 

The only thing that stressed me out about joining staff later that year was that I would not have time to work a paid job. Raising funds through partnership development did not sound like my gig; I had always worked and earned my own income. I thought it would be humiliating to talk to people about finances, but I did not know that it would be a precious opportunity for me to trust the Lord and more closely walk with the body of Christ. I wanted to keep a per diem position at the hospital, but a school leader encouraged me to genuinely seek the Lord about continuing to work in this season. The next day I felt the Lord tell me to trust him and put in a three-week’s notice at work. That night I happened to read a book that spoke directly into my situation and gave me the courage to completely surrender my nursing career to the Lord. I have been on staff with YWAM Lancaster for about a year now, and He has been incredibly faithful to provide for everything that I have needed, including two international short-term missions trips.  

Here is another testimony of whole-hearted obedience to the Holy Spirit’s leadership that led to many gospel seeds planted in Central Asia this past December:

It started with desperate prayer for a need in a country in Central Asia. There was a flood that was ravaging the farmlands, creating a desperate economic situation and health crisis. We were praying, asking the Lord to provide and send laborers into the harvest field. Then suddenly there was a connection that led to a request for a team to bring hope into the nation. Islamic leaders were asking for Bibles and for Westerners to do Christmas presentations in several prominent locations throughout the country.  

The request appeared unbelievable at first, almost surreal. A nation that does not celebrate Christmas wants us to share about the birth of Christ? How could this be legitimate? Would we make it out of this place alive? With much prayer, we responded to the voice of the Holy Spirit: we would go. 

What appeared unreachable was easy for the Lord to put together. In less than a month, the body of Christ as well as local business owners contributed to the several thousands of dollars necessary for the trip expenses. The Lord miraculously connected the people together for this trip. He gave dreams and supernatural clarity to three persons in a performing arts group about traveling to this specific nation. They obtained their passports within a few days’ time, and one girl received her visa a day before they entered the country.

Through song, dramas, and testimonies, our team spoke in front of universities, churches, a medical center, an orphanage, news broadcasting stations, a governor, and the president of an adjacent territory. We had the opportunity to minister to the homeless, disabled, impoverished, and underprivileged persons as well. Over 250 Muslim leaders received Bibles in their own languages, and some of them would not stop asking us questions about it. Several of them asked us to come and share more in their own villages, and we were able to connect them with local believers who would continue to plant those seeds long after we had left. Students at a boarding school said that they were secretly reading the Bible because it was so fascinating. We shared the gospel with English-speaking university students as well. We believe that the Lord will continue to pursue all of these individuals. 

The entire trip was brought about by an invitation from the Holy Spirit, and He faithfully led us every step of the way. We could have stayed back out of fear, but the Lord was consistent to guide and protect us.

We can trust that when the Holy Spirit speaks, He is trustworthy and only loving. Out of His extravagant love for His children and the lost, He may lead us to do things that may seem dangerous or radical so others may experience salvation, hope, and healing through His blood. We are invited to partner with the Holy Spirit to share and demonstrate the heart of God with others. Through an ever-growing relationship with the Holy Spirit, we will learn to recognize His voice more clearly. We will deepen our relationship with Him as we step out in faith and absolute surrender to His voice.

We invite you to come and take your next step in your journey here at YWAM Lancaster! Come do a Discipleship Training School (DTS) that will inspire you to live a life of hearing the Lord and obeying His commands. Click here to view 10 common questions about DTS.

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