"Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual." 1 Corinthians 2:12-13 ESV
"The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8 ESV
I'm a terrible surfer.
In fact, that's understating the issue. Because saying I'm a terrible surfer implies that I can at least surf.
But I can't. At all.
But that hasn't stopped me spending countless hours in the water trying.
Here are a few lessons I've learnt about God, and in particular, the Holy Spirit's ministry in my life, along the way:
THE GEAR DOES NOT MAKE THE SURFER
Nor does the right Bible, clothes, or vocabulary make the Spirit-filled man.
I've seen and tried it; it doesn't work. The tourist with the latest wet-suit, a board shaped by the latest world-champion and surf-shop branded accessories was still as poor a surfer as I was with my second-hand, dinged, poorly repaired, circa 1970 single-fin stick! And even though I knew this, I still couldn't wait to get in the water when I could finally afford to buy my own custom-shaped board. Didn't make a single scrap of difference. I still couldn't surf!
I've seen the same thing in my walk with God. It's quite possible, in fact quite common, to try and dress up as a Spirit-filled man. Oh, I've looked, sounded, and appeared to be vibrantly living the Spirit-filled life, but I'm ashamed to say it was all white-washed walls, a thin veneer to the filth that lay within.
I've seen it in my life. I've seen the facade slowly crumble in the lives of others. It's not pretty.
The gear does not make the surfer, nor does the right Bible, clothes, or vocabulary make the Spirit-filled man.
I CANNOT CONTROL THE OCEAN
But I can respond to it.
I can remember organising a surfing road trip only to be faced with glassy seas. I can remember sitting for hours hoping the conditions improved. I can remember sitting out behind the swell, terrified of heading into shore because of the enormity of the waves pounding the coast. I remember seeing guys around me suddenly dig in deep and head out to sea, leaving me unaware and trapped inside as a sky-scraper came hurtling toward me.
Though I never mastered the art of standing up, over time, I too learned the art of reading the sea. Noticing the subtle shifts and changes and how to make the necessary adjustments.
I've noticed too that discerning the Spirit's voice and will has been much like that. I can barely fathom the power of the presence of God, I certainly cannot control Him. Yet, over the years, I have learned to adjust, responding and positioning myself in the place He would want me. It's not always easy, and I often find myself out of position, yet if I will stop and watch, humbly tuning my vision to His… ahh, that makes all the difference.
I cannot control the Spirit, but I can respond to Him.
SURFBOARDS DON'T HAVE MOTORS
It's the wave that provides the power.
Surfing is about allowing the power of the wave to propel movement. The skilful rider may look impressive, carving arcs and trailing curtains of glistening spray, yet without a wave… well, he sinks. This was my great frustration. I could never seem to find that sweet spot. I was either to late, sinking back into the water as the wave passed me by. Or, I was too far out in front, my momentum slowing as the power of the wave swelled behind me. It wasn't the wave's fault I didn't keep pace, it was mine.
It's been the same in my life as a disciple. More times than I care to admit, I've either rushed ahead or lagged behind. Of course, it would be easier if I contained the power for the spiritual life. Or so it would seem. However, in God's sovereign design, the power needed to live this life is not mine — it's His. My responsibility is to keep in step with the Spirit; not rushing ahead, nor falling behind. Joy is found in that sweet spot, where the power of Christ swells up under me, carrying me, pushing me forward.
You and I do not have motors; it's the Spirit that provides the power.
I still can't surf, and that's ok. But I'm not giving up on a life in the Spirit. He is my deposit, assuring me of my inheritance in Christ. He is my comforter, the one who draws near with the soothing presence of God. He is the one who convicts and enlightens, heals and emboldens.
After years of walking with Him, I still often feel like a novice. But I think He's ok with that, it means I'm not too sure of myself, and as long as my confidence is in Him, well, I'm sure that brings a smile to His face.
To the praise of the glory of Christ.