Learning to Listen

Question: How do I know the Holy Spirit is really working in my life? Does he speak to me in my dreams or do I get a tingling feeling when I am making a decision? How can I be sure I’m listening to his guidance? — Eutychus

The whole concept of Charismatic gifts and the working of the Holy Spirit today is quite complicated. While I believe the Spirit is working on our life, I believe he is so subtle we best catch glimpses of him in our “rearview mirror.” It’s so humbling to look back and see what he has done and believe I didn’t see it at the time. 

For example, Jan and I came to San Diego quite “by accident.” We were sailing to Mexico and parts beyond when the fuel filters on our boat clogged up stranding us here. What was intended to be a two-week layover for repairs became a whole new life. Who would have thought that was the work of Holy Spirit but now I’m convinced God had a hand in it!

On the other hand, I tend to be much more skeptical when people tell me “God told me to do this or that.” If God made the decisions for us, where would our growth and testing be? For example, when a child is given a math exam, what good would it be if the teacher stood by his side and whispered, “The hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the square root of the sum of the squares of the two other sides”? Instead, a good teacher might tell him to “relax, breathe deep and remember what we studied on Tuesday” but a good teacher won’t take the work away from the student.

So where is the Holy Spirit in all this? He is preparing us for the test! He is the Good Teacher and, if we have been faithfully studying the Word of God under his tutelage, when the time of testing comes upon us, we will be ready! To prove my point, do you remember reading Matthew 4:1? “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Did you see that? “… by the Spirit …” Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted (Also read Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1). This was the time of testing but Jesus had been listening to the Spirit before that, during the time of preparation. And so, when Jesus was tempted by Satan, when he was tested, Jesus knew the answers. He quoted the Scriptures and made the right choices. He was prepared by listening to the Spirit teaching and so should we! 

So how do I know the Holy Spirit is speaking today? By seeing his subtle hand in my past, by trusting in his help today as I study God’s Word, and by passing the tests along the way with the Spirit’s help.

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