As a good Methodist, I grew up weekly affirming that “I believe in the Holy Spirit,” but that did not mean that I understood Him. Truthfully, I still don’t fully understand him, but here are a few insights that have helped me experience the Holy Spirit:
1. Holy Spirit is a person.
The Holy Spirit is not an “it.” When the late Steve Jobs referred to “the iPhone,” he dropped the definite article. To Jobs, it was simply “iPhone,” as if to personalize it. I wonder if sometimes even in the language we employ to speak of the Holy Spirit, we don’t do the very opposite and depersonalize Him. He seems safer that way, right? But Holy Spirit is a person, one who can be known and can know us, as frightening as that intimacy may be.
2. Awareness is everything.
A.W. Tozer once wrote “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Tozer may be correct, but I wonder if he would have left out the phrase “about God,” if he were to have penned the sentence today. What if the most important thing about us is simply what comes into our minds when we think? In an age with so much mental clutter and so many weapons of mass distraction vying for our attention, our problem is not just that we think wrongly about God, but that we rarely think about God at all. Making room in our minds and our hearts and our schedules can be an invitation for Holy Spirit to fill these spaces.
3. Obedience is God’s love language.
I think Holy Spirit likes it when I look stupid. I say that because He rewards it so generously. I’ve stood for minutes in uncomfortable silence in front of my congregation; I’ve jumped in a shockingly cold river fully clothed; I’ve given away guitars worth more than my vehicles, and I’ve started a church against the advice of a personality test, all because of a prompting by Holy Spirit. I’m not alone–Noah built an ark before rain was a “thing.” Abraham moved from his homeland before moving was a thing. Moses threw a stick on the ground before Pharaoh, and not to play fetch. When we obey, we trust Holy Spirit more than we trust our own inclinations. He likes that. The times I have knowingly experienced Holy Spirit most have been during the times of greatest obedience and surrender.
4. Honor is attractive.
If you want someone to like you, it is normally pretty easy. Honor them. Speak well of them. Let your actions communicate that you are important to them. In worship, as we fix our attention on God, listen to Holy Spirit, sing majestic words about His many attributes, tell Him how much we like Him, He seems to be attracted by it. Honor and gratitude prepare the way for us to experience more of God, either by expressing our thoughts and feelings about God, or by realigning them.
5. The goal is God.
Yes, Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways. No, we do not always know what He is going to do or to say or when, but there is a simple and predictable formula for experiencing more of God. Ok, here it is—Seek Him. He wants to be found. The Holy Spirit may work in unexpected ways, but He rarely reveals Himself to unsuspecting people. Study great outpourings and revivals, and you will find that none of them happened accidentally. Ask the apostles, the Moravians, or the 24-7 Prayer movement, and they would likely affirm that we tend to stumble upon God more often when we are looking for Him than when we are not. Living lives in which we are immersing ourselves in listening prayer, seeking God through Scripture, listening for him in books we read and in conversations with others–seeking God both through spiritual disciplines and in our everyday lives—will certainly result in our finding Him. Oswald Chambers provided a good example when he said, “My goal is God Himself, at any cost, by any road.”
So what is your goal? At the end of the day, maybe experiencing Holy Spirit isn’t easy, but it is simple—seek Him, find Him; don’t seek Him, well . . . you get the idea.