“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God” (Romans 8:14).
“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).
We come to the last of the four sources of wisdom: the Holy Spirit. The other three are ourselves, life experiences and others. And no, the Holy Spirit isn’t our wisdom source of last resort. It’s not that we first draw upon our own growing ability to think wisely or reflect on past experiences or consult with others, and then, if all else fails, we ask the Holy Spirit’s help. Paul writes, “So I say, walk by the Spirit… (Galatians 5:16).
It’s actually the Holy Spirit that helps us grow in our own ability to think wisely, learn from past experiences, and discern what to do with the counsel of others. Jesus described the Holy Spirit as our Paraclete, a Greek word meaning partner or someone called alongside to help. The Holy Spirit wants to come alongside and teach us how to learn from all the sources of wisdom.
At the same time, there can be these sort of direct “messages” from the Holy Spirit. We may not be sure if it’s the Spirit or our own unconscious speaking; if it’s the Holy Spirit’s voice or our own inner voice, or even some other spiritual voice. Uncertain, we may find ourselves asking, “Am I being led, or am I being led astray?”
I think part of the problem is that we confuse walking by the Spirit with thinking the Holy Spirit is always going to tell us what to do. In my experience, the Holy Spirit as often as not sheds light on a situation without necessarily giving me a direct order. He wants me to exercise my thinking function, develop emotional intelligence, and engage with all of my God-given abilities. At the same time we don’t rely only on our own intuition or logic, but allow the Holy Spirit to show us an angle that we might not have seen on our own.
It can be our immaturity that wants to be told the wise thing to do without knowing the actual wisdom behind that choice. In other words, we want to skip the step of actually learning wisdom. We want to get it right the first time. We don’t want to make mistakes. We don’t want to look foolish. We don’t want to have to take responsibility for our own decisions. We don’t want to have to learn from life experiences. “Just tell me what to do, God.”
And when we think he has, and the results throw that into question, we can quickly doubt our ability to hear God, or wonder whether he even can be heard.
As some of you know, I try to make it a regular practice (though not as regular as I should) to kneel before God with a red pen and open journal, asking God to speak into my life, often about a particular situation or decision. Usually what comes into my mind are insights rather than directives, additional understanding rather than what I should decide. Even when the guidance is specific, I’m usually shown some wisdom about why it’s the best course of action.
But not always. If a granddaughter, for example, is financially strapped, a dollar amount may come to mind that I may not be able to explain. Sometimes the same amount occurs to both Sharon and me, and that pretty much seals the deal.
Remember, the Holy Spirit is working with Jesus to disciple you. He’s here to help us grow, not just learn how to obey orders. He’s also here to help us carry out Christ’s mission. There will be plenty of “holy hunches” to act upon, without knowing where they will lead or what the results will be. Let’s be grateful that we have this Helper to assist us every step of the way.
Having the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean we no longer have to think for ourselves. It just means we no longer have to think by ourselves.