In our early business career, are we not usually exposed to various programs of self-development to provide us with an edge in our business dealings? You probably can easily recall attending seminars and workshops where you gained the latest management and personal insight in your field. You probably read books and listened to audio messages written by the latest guru of the times. You may have practiced exercises to maintain a positive mental attitude and to develop supreme self-confidence in yourself. Everything you did most likely was to build yourself so that you would have the edge over others. But somewhere through all this you may have, like I did, found it non-fulfilling. It didn’t satisfy the inner hunger, only strengthening the outer image that was being carried before others.
Then one day, like me, you received a “spiritual slap.” For those not familiar with the old TV after-shave commercial, it goes like this: a man is standing in front of the bathroom mirror just putting down his razor after his morning shave. He reaches for a bottle of after-shave lotion, dabs a little on his hand and proceeds to slap his face. The punch line he states then is “Thanks, I needed that.” A spiritual slap is like that. It’s being spiritually slapped by our Heavenly Dad to awaken us from our blindness and stupor. It breathes a fresh aroma into our dull life. It jump-starts us for the day and hurdles us unto the next track meet. It revitalizes the soul. It brings a fresh stream of running waters in our life. It makes us want to stand up and dance. It’s the light bulb turning itself on in our inner being. After which, we only are able to humbly kneel before our Creator and thank Him for graciously being involved in our life, for giving us a spiritual breakthrough. That is what we call the “spiritual slap.”
Well, after I received one of these spiritual slaps, it became apparent that all the self-improvement going on in my life up to that time, was creating myself into an image of success. It was Michael working hard to develop solid habits of leadership, self-discipline, social charm so that Michael would look good in the eyes of others. So that Michael could get from life what Michael solely desired. So that Michael …Michael …Michael …etc. Do you get the point? Everything Michael did was built around Michael. It took God’s mercy to awaken me from the ignorance.
There is nothing wrong with working to improve the self. It’s that we need to build our life on a solid foundation where everyone comes out a winner. What good is it to gain the whole world for ourselves at the expense of others? When we pursue our selfish interest only to sacrifice “me, myself, and I” or “only to protect our little world,” don’t we generally do so at the expense of others?
Imagine a world where everyone only pursues their own interest without concern for others. A world where everyone pursues what they want without placing boundaries on themselves. A world where everyone pursues what they want without a peaceful formula to settle differences. Would that describe a world in chaos? How close is that to our present world? Do you know how war and strife starts between people? (James 4:1-3)
What does all this have to do with the power of the Holy Spirit? Everything, plus more. The problem is that we work to change our self from the outside-in. We work to improve the outer image and forget the inner man. We play the role of creator in our life. We determine what is of value based on our own, limited, human understanding. It is a frustrating, difficult if not impossible work, to change one’s heart to be perfect like the Creator’s. It takes the Power of the Creator to change it. You and I with all the resources from the universities, research laboratories, and private/public institutions do not have the tools to make it happen. It takes God to make it happen.
When the Holy Spirit became active in our life, this life begins to change from the inside-out. I remember one instance that made me become aware of this change from the inside-out. In my early career, I was very impatient. I hated to wait for anything. I needed instant gratification or my insides would become a short circuit fuse box with wires exploding around it. A war would be ravaging in my emotional channels. I wasn’t a pleasant person to be with at times like this. Anyhow, several years after the Holy Spirit became active in this life, I found myself waiting for an appointment with a gentleman. He was going to be late. Normally, I would wait for five minutes and if the client didn’t arrive, then I would leave. I didn’t have the patience to wait. But this time I found myself waiting. I just sat there reading a magazine letting the time go by. When his secretary came to get me, I looked at the time and notice it was over a twenty minute wait. I found myself chuckling down the corridor before I met him. It was a change from the inside-out that I didn’t do anything to make happen. It was simply the power of the Holy Spirit doing His work in my life. This was the first time that I really noticed a change in my character that I couldn’t take any credit for. It was here that the realization came that God is truly creating a masterpiece in His children if we surrender ourselves to Him and let Him change our inner being to be made totally in His Image and Likeness.
This is only one of the many powerful attributes on how the Holy Spirit blesses us. Another attribute of the Holy Spirit is the attitude that He instills in us. This is one of the great paradoxes of the Christian life. You find yourself discouraged, but yet full with joy. You are angry, but still at peace. You feel emotionally hurt, yet still reach out in love. The list is endless. In Galatians, Paul writes about the attributes of the Holy Spirit in contrast to the satanic side of human nature (Gal 5: 16-25). He calls them the “fruit” of the Spirit and lists them as love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And states that these spiritual qualities come in one’s life not by keeping any laws or rules or principles, but they come in one’s life by the Holy Spirit. They are a gift from God. Though one needs to believe and obey God to receive the Spirit (Act 5:32). The Holy Spirit doesn’t reside in the lives of people who are rebellious against God. But only upon those who truly have surrender their all into the hand of God. Typically, this is given at the time one is baptized and hands are place on you by church elders in prayer requesting God to impart the Holy Spirit in you; it’s when you make a public announcement that you have surrendered your life to God. There are volumes of books written on the Holy Spirit; about His divinity, His role in the Godhead, and His involvement in our life. My purpose is only to highlight His power to change our life and create within each disciple an overflowing, abundant, treasure of spiritual wealth that is ever refreshing and ever giving. It is a Power that changes lives from inside-out and touches the lives of everyone around you. It cannot be hidden for long.
My early frustration in walking with the Lord was trying to become a Christian by doing it all myself. I wanted to be like Jesus Christ and wanted to be like Him now. I was on the fast track to becoming the perfect Christian. No life long process for me. I had my Benjamin Franklin habit list made out and began tackling each item on that list. I was going to become the perfect Christian overnight. No ten year plan for me. I was on the one year, fast track to holiness plan. Yes sir, the Christian world is going to rise up and take notice of me; the making of a Christian superstar. No stopping me. Well, that was my attitude; a self-centered approach of becoming a Christian. I started by focusing on exercising more outward love. I would read scripture relating to the benefits of love. I would meditate on the fruits of love. I would pray asking God to make me more loving. I would read books on being more loving. I setup guidelines and rules of behavior to become more loving. I did everything in my power to change myself to become more loving. Now, I probably became slightly more lovable then before I started all this. But, after many, many years of working at love, I had to admit we haven’t arrived to where I thought I ought to be. It was about this time that I experienced another one of those “spiritual slaps.” In hindsight, while I was working to change myself in the area of love, God was working to change other areas of my life that I didn’t think was that necessary. In my youth, I was more arrogant, prideful, and supremely confident in myself than today. But didn’t think it was a problem that required priority attention. Instead, I focused on love. Meanwhile, while working on becoming more loving, the Holy Spirit worked on my interior heart and changed my attitude from the above three to a more humble, service-oriented, and faithful disciple of our Lord.
In looking back, I have come to realize that He is the Master Potter and we are only the clay. That there is great comfort in knowing that He knows what is top priority in our life and He will create His masterpiece in us. Our mission is to diligently yield to Him and trust Him to accomplish the work that He has started in us. Meanwhile, I have become more patient today then I was yesterday. But also realize that no matter how much more we become, it is still far short of the patience that God has for us. His patience is supreme. He is more patient than the most patient person you can think of multiplied many times over. The attitude and spiritual qualities that the Holy Spirit manifests within us are His qualities. He gives as much or as little as He pleases. They are all a gift from Him. Though He is very generous and wants to give us more than we ever ask or imagine, we must still ask and seek diligently. But we must realize that He has the final say. We are not talking about a positive mental attitude (PMA). Though God has more PMA than the top ten PMA’s of the world. To cultivate a positive mental attitude is something that we do ourselves apart from God. I know. I did. What the Holy Spirit offers is more than just PMA. They are more than emotional or mental attributes that we control. He implants within us a fruit seed that through proper cultivation grows within us to become like Him. Imagine a life where the fruit of the Holy Spirit overflows out from a person touching others; a life that is rich in love, joy and peace. Imagine being in a room with one dozen other people who are rich in love, joy and peace. You want. to experience a natural high? There are few greater highs than experiencing the richness of God with others.
Most people who I have met express the desire to have more love, joy and peace in their life. Yet most people pursue these qualities in a worldly fashion. Television and magazine commercials associate these qualities with physical items or activities. Movies portray that these qualities are only attained if we be willing to sin. Another life guru arrives on the scene with his philosophy to a path way of more love, joy and peace in your life. When in fact, the Holy Spirit is willing to start His work in you if you are willing to repent and surrender your life to the Creator of this universe. The problem most of us have is that we are not willing to do it God’s way. We either can’t believe it works, or we have witness Christian amateurs who never fully commit to discipleship, or we want an easier route that fits into our lifestyle. God laid out a simple plan outlined in the Bible that each person with a desire to know and seek may experience the power of Himself in their life. Why not give it a real try?
I’m sorry to say but many of us would not recognize the power of God if they were directly confronted by it. We think of God coming in great power to shake up the heavens and earth. Rarely do we think of God coming in a whisper. When Elijah sought an answer from God, he kept looking into the major events confronting him at the time. But God spoke to him in a whisper (I Kings 19:11-12). He speaks to many of us in the same way; in a very low key manner. Our problem is we just don’t recognize it because we don’t recognize God. We don’t recognize God because we don’t know Him. We don’t know Him, because we don’t invest much time in developing a meaningful relationship with Him. If we knew God better than we do, we would see the invisible fruit that He produces in the lives of those around us. You would see the fruit being produced in your life, your children, your mate, your parents, your friends, your business associates, etc. You wouldn’t have to look for physical signs or miracles. You would listen to the changes in people’s lives. You would feel the emotional change in lives. You would sense the peace and calmness in people while their world was being torn apart. You would notice something different in their life and write it off as a growing up thing. Ask God to allow the Holy Spirit to come into your life and change it. It takes faith. It takes belief. It takes a disciple of His fully surrendering personal ambitions, plans and dreams. It takes much. But it also receives much. And also gives much. God does anything He desires. And His desire is that you come to know Him and the power of the Holy Spirit in your life. Have you?
Oh Heavenly Dad, Thank you for giving us a Counselor, Coach, and Helper in The Holy Spirit. Let Your Spirit saturate us with You. Let Your Divine Fruit live in us, grow in us, and multiply in us so we can glorify Your name with all the people we meet. Help us to introduce You to each person we meet through Your Spirit. Let Your Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Goodness, Kindness, Mercy, Humility, and Self-Control be present always with each person we meet. Let them come to know You through me. Again, thank you for choosing me as your vessel of encouragement and inspiration. Help me live this life in Your glory always. Amen.