John 16:7 NIV
But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.
We’re on holy ground when we are listening to the words of Jesus. When he spoke, he was not afraid of leading his disciples into a state of holy tension, where they were psychologically caught in-between two seemingly contradictory truths. In his words above about the Holy Spirit being the Advocate, there is a tension that is created that we cannot deny—life is hard, yet the Holy Spirit is in us.
I regularly experience the feeling that I can do little to fix the great evils, injustices, and heartaches that are occurring in the world. I lament. I groan in intercessory prayer. I long for the Spirit to break the news cycle. I know the Holy Spirit is within me, and that I have a part to play, but the world remains overwhelming and exceedingly difficult to deal with. Rarely do the people or things I pray for change on a dime. My own awakening to love is ever-challenged, and I must “fight the good fight” for my own soul as well as others. I get tired. Worn out. Carried to the edges of my faith by waves I cannot seem to still like my Lord. That is one thing that is true.
Here is another thing that is true. In contrast to my feelings of powerlessness, the Holy Spirit says, “I can do something—and we can do something together.” God’s power is present to change people and situations, especially when one of us yields to the Spirit’s leading. There is great pain that has been alleviated (think “hospitals”), even cut off at its source (think “abolition”) because faithful people, empowered by the Holy Spirit, showed up and believed they could do something in partnership with God.
By faith in the Son of God they took up a vocation that came to them from Another and worked through them for others—and they changed one tiny corner of the world with Christ. I can’t deny it’s true. None of us can. It’s happened with me, and it’s happened with you. The Holy Spirit is our Advocate, and through us, advocates, helps, others. That is another thing that is true.
We live in-between the times of Christ’s first and second coming. Christ’s followers have had to live in the tension between the now and the not-yet of the Kingdom of God for millennia. Like Peter, I often think, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy…” (1 Peter 1:8). And yet, at the same time, Jesus’ words in John 16:33 remain: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Joy and trouble. A taste of God’s love and a taste of death’s sting. One will last forever, and the other is as temporary as anything could ever be. But still, we work toward, and long for, the New Creation. We pray for, act for, and live for the world to be ruled by the Prince of Shalom, his peace and love permeating all things.
And as we wait, the Advocate lives and works within us. Our sanctification, our transformation into Christ-likeness, hinges only on us saying yes to joining the Holy Spirit in helping those around us. The rest, in the midst of our troubles, is up to him.
Jesus, I receive the Holy Spirit. There is a part I have to play with you as an advocate and a helper, becoming Jesus to my network of relationships. Come, Holy Spirit, show me the next place in which you are working, and show me how I can partner with you in that work today. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Is there an invitation from the Holy Spirit, to be a helper, that you are aware of today? How will you respond?
For the awakening,