The Holy Spirit is the “How To”

In our day of instant answers, quick remedies, copious strategies, and prolific writings touting all forms of human insight, I fear someone is being tragically ignored.  He was the first and sufficient resource for early Christians and has directed every truly great Gospel movement in the history of the church.  Today, as we steer our lives and ministries down the road of human success and significance, He is often relegated to the back seat, maybe the trunk, or perhaps the trailer of optional equipment we are hauling behind us.  Our ignorance of His primacy and power grieves and quenches His heart and leaves us operating our affairs at a superficial level that completely eclipses our unique impact in this needy world.

Sadly, we’ve become comfortable with an approach to life and ministry that compels us to “figure it out” rather than simply follow Jesus in the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit.  We gravitate toward those ideas that are promoted, proven, practical, and predictable based on the “wisdom” and experiences of other “successful” people.  In a subtle but seriously-flawed way, we may even distrust the Holy Spirit.  Further, in our rapid-fire, results-oriented society we’ve lost the passion and patience to seek the mind of the Spirit and wait for His clear direction and necessary empowerment.

Evidences of the “How To” Reality of the Holy Spirit

In Acts 6, why did the early church leaders refuse to personally direct the redesign of the widow-feeding program to instead “devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word”? The Holy Spirit was their “how to” for supernatural empowerment and results.  Why did they trust the congregation to find seven qualified “Spirit-filled” men who could take on this task? The Holy Spirit was their “how to” for solving problems and empowering vital ministry initiatives.

Think with me about other notable scenes in the Book of Acts: 

  • The early church gathered in prayer in the upper room for ten days prior to Pentecost because the Holy Spirit was their “how to” for launching the church in supernatural witness.
  • When Peter preached the Gospel on the Day of Pentecost the singular promise he made to the converts is that they would receive the “gift of the Holy Spirit” because the Holy Spirit was the “how to” of the Christian life.
  • They devoted themselves to “the apostles teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and the prayers” because the Holy Spirit was their “how to” for daily discipleship.
  • The early believers gathered to call out to God and seek fresh boldness when facing fierce persecution because the Holy Spirit was their “how to” for endurance and transcendent impact.
  • When Peter was in jail they gathered to cry out to God because the Holy Spirit was their “how to” for deliverance and protection.
  • Before global missions was launched from Antioch, the leaders of the church gathered in extended fashion to fast and minister to the Lord because the Holy Spirit was their “how to” for every expanding advancement of the Gospel.
  • When the leaders of the Jerusalem church were deciding on the applications of Jewish laws for the early believers they were able to declare their conclusions with united hearts, stating “it seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us” because the Holy Spirit was the “how to” of direction for the church.
  • When Paul and Silas were beaten and bloodied at the midnight hour in the inner cell of the Philippian prison they prayed and sang praises because the Holy Spirit was their “how to” as they were enduring suffering and facing danger.

Silent Partner or Executive Director?

As I contemplate why so few pastors lead pervasive efforts of prayer in their churches and why so many congregations would hardly be identified as a “house of prayer for all nations” I am convinced that one primary reason is that the Holy Spirit is no longer our “how to” in ministry.  In my own journey, I have so easily relied on readily-available popular wisdom and pithy methodologies, making the Holy Spirit more of a silent partner rather than the executive director of my life and ministry.

After all, why should we engage in the discipline and struggle of passionate and persevering prayer when we have a bookshelf filled with answers written by the latest gurus of church growth? Why should we get on our faces for extended periods of time when we can simply have a 45-minute meeting and figure it out on our own? Why should we get on our knees when we can instantly surf through the daily supply of e-mails that connect us to countless websites providing shortcuts and clever new ideas, ripe for the picking? Why should we call our churches to fast and pray when we can call up high-powered consultants to give us the answers we need?

Of course, the tools of modern day ministry have their place and can be useful.  However, there is a difference between “using” these tools and “depending” on these tools.  The clarion difference is the degree to which we intentionally, humbly, and passionately seek the mind and power of the Holy Spirit in the word, prayer, and surrendered pursuit.

As I progress in ministry, I really am convinced that the sufficiency of the Holy Spirit in life and ministry is a truth we embrace intellectually but often neglect practically.  I am arrested with certain truths, and trust they will capture your heart as we conclude.

  • Jesus’ compelling commands to “Ask…Seek…and Knock” conclude with this challenge: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13) 
  • Paul’s encouraging words about Christian living remind us that the essence of fruitful living is to live under the control of the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to manifest the character of His life through us.
  • Jesus’ consistent and final words to each of the seven churches of the Revelation are: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Pray with me today that our hearts would not be drawn away from the “how to” of the Holy Spirit in daily life and ministry.  Resolve with me to give significant time to seeking His will, finding His mind, and delighting in His all-sufficient direction.

Copyright © 2012 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.