Thursday, February 13, 2014

Desperate or Deliberate?

"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” 
Luke 11:13

In this passage about prayer Jesus is sharing through parables some instruction on how to pray. These parables are in response to one of His disciples saying to Him back in verse 1, "Lord, teach us how to pray..."

In Luke 11:6 I read about the persistent friend. This friend goes to his neighbor at midnight and knocks asking for some bread saying, "...a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him."

As I think on this in relation to prayer, I realize this is how prayer so often goes. We are presented with a question or a situation and we don't know how to respond. Our friend pours their heart out on an issue and we have no idea what to say or how to encourage them. In turn, our lack creates a need. In that need we go desperately to the Father in prayer. We run to the Lord and ask for help. We know He is our "ever present help in time of need" (Psalm 46:1). We need the Holy Spirit to intervene and help us, or show us what to we ask for Him.

(pause there for a moment while I share my heart)


I've been in a long season of spiritual growth in the Lord and at the same time, in a 'not so fun' place with Him. My God has been allowing the sinful nature that is in my heart to surface. Once He showed me one thing, He'd move on to another. And another. Sometimes He made things abundantly clear by showing me multiple examples of a sin or wrong attitude coming out of me. I can't even begin to tell you how heartbreaking and sobering this private process has been. I strive to live a life that is pleasing to my Lord, so to have Him show me all the depravity that was still in my heart... Well, that hurt. It hurt because I knew it grieved Him. Sin in my life defames His name. When everything else drained out the ugliness remained. Like a sifting. There it was. All of it. With everything else removed I could really see what was in my heart. For the most part I'd say it was just God showing me. And me being frustrated with myself. No one else needed to know. Only God and I could do anything about it.

Meanwhile, during this process, my pastor had been encouraging our church staff to pray daily and ask the Lord to fill us with the Holy Spirit. To pray before we even get out of bed something along the lines of, "Lord, please fill me with the Holy Spirit. Empower me to do Your will today." I began doing this rather sporadic at first, then gradually with more consistency. Mostly because I had some questions in my mind.

Then a couple weeks ago, I came to Luke 11:13 in my Bible reading. I've been camped there ever since.

"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” 

Marinating in this passage I realized how often I was willing to give myself up and let the Holy Spirit take over when I was desperate. Desperate for an answer on an issue. Desperate like the friend asking his neighbor at midnight for some bread. Desperate when I lacked confidence to do something I was called to do. But in recent months after those promptings by my pastor, and the evidence of such fleshly attitudes in my life, I did start asking the Holy Spirit to fill me up before I started my day. I was doing it but wrestling with it at the same time, trusting the Lord to show me the answer to my question which was, "If I already have the Holy Spirit, and trust that He is present in my life, why do I need to keep asking for Him?" I knew, that I knew, that I knew, that I was sealed with the Holy Spirit the day I trusted Jesus with my life. Ephesians 4:30 assures me when Paul says, "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." So in my heart I really wrestled with why I needed to ask for something I already had. I was sure it was biblical, I just needed to understand it in my head and my heart.


With that in mind, this passage sort of stopped me in my tracks. It was the phrase "the Holy Spirit" that got my attention. I'm not sure I had ever really taken note of the difference between this verse and it's parallel in Matthew 7:11. The verse in Matthew was the one more committed to my memory. Take note:

Matthew 7:11 --
"If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"

Luke 11:13 --
"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” 

In studying this passage at length, I have learned that the change in the phrase from "good gifts" to "Holy Spirit" is known as a metonymy of the cause. The first verse here is stating the effect. The second, the cause.

METONYMY (Mesa + onoma = a change of name)
One word is used in place of another to portray some actual relationship between the things signified.

All "good things" come through the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the evidence of good things in our lives found in Matthew, can be replaced with the ultimate source of the good things, the providential work of the Holy Spirit, as found in Luke.

So to answer my own question, I believe this is one of those mysteries in the Bible where the answer is "both/and". I am sealed with the Holy Spirit -- therefore He is "with" me -- because I have placed my faith in Christ. The Spirit is also "in" me giving victory over the flesh, developing Christian character, healing infirmities, inspiring me when I pray, cleansing me, sanctifying me, comforting me, and interceding on my behalf. As I yield myself day by day making more and more room for the power of the Spirit, He acts and works within me and I operate less and less in the flesh. The Bible also implies that the Spirit can be "on" me, anointing me to do some special service for God. I am both sealed with the Spirit and I can have more of the Spirit.

(Ref: The Scofield Study Bible, New International Version, 1984, "The Holy Spirit in the New Testament, Summary" on page 1431.)

As I have been praying this prayer, I am realizing that more than being filled daily, it's a yielding to the Spirit that is already there willing to act and work in and through me -- when I let Him. It's asking Him to guide me in His ways and intentionally laying mine aside. It's seeking the Spirit deliberately, not out of desperation. In doing so, I find that I am calling on the Spirit more and more throughout the day. Instead of asking for help after things happen or when I get fearful, anxious, desperate, etc. I am now asking for the Spirit to take over in the mundane. Before I speak. Or respond. Or react. Just to take over period. I'm tired of doing part of the day in the spirit and part of it in my own strength. I want the Spirit to just lead so that my responses and reactions are not selfish or in the flesh, but instead reflect the fruits of the Spirit. Responding and relating with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. God's Word says, "There is no law against behaving in any of these ways" in Galatians 5:23 (CEV). I just want to be covered with His grace. More than anything, I want the Holy Spirit infusing my life day by day, hour by hour. In accordance with God's Word I can ask for that! The Amplified version says He gives "to those who ask AND continue to ask Him!" I see it as a conscious, constant yielding of myself to the Spirit. In other words, surrendering my all, moment by moment, for His best.

Father God, I thank You for Your patience with me when I don't fully grasp or understand Your Word. I thank You for answering when I ask for clarity. I ask that You fill me to overflowing with the Spirit so that I can act and think and do according to Your will. Keep working in and through me I pray. Help me to keep dying to the flesh so I look more and more like You. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.