I have a little friend, only nine years old, who told me a story recently.
She was out camping with her family in the bush and it was nighttime. The rest of the family were sitting around the fire, but she needed to go to the toilet. She got up and walked into the dark tree line toward the place where her dad had dug a toilet. As she was walking, she heard a soft, pleading voice in the darkness, like someone speaking inside her head.
The voice said, “Please, don’t go this way!” She instantly turned on her heels and ran back to the camp.
“What’s the matter?” her mum asked. “Someone told me not to go to the toilet up there!” she yelled. Her dad grabbed a torch and made his way to the bush toilet to check out who was there. There was no-one. But there, curled up near their toilet hole, was a death adder: a deadly Australian snake whose bite can kill within six hours.
Who owned the soft voice of warning that saved my little friend? Many people, including myself, can tell stories of hearing similar voices speaking to their hearts with words of warning, praise, rebuke, illumination or encouragement. The prophet Elijah encountered the same “still, small voice” once on top of a mountain. It was identified there as the voice of the Spirit of God, or more commonly known as the Holy Spirit, or Holy Ghost.
This is the divine Person who Jesus promised to send to us when He said in John 14:15–21:
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.”
Some translations call Him the Comforter, the One who is one with Christ, just as God the Father is, and can comfort us in trouble. Other translations call Him the Counsellor, the One who helps us in our problems.
However, there is no doubt what He does. He teaches us truth and He brings peace to our hearts.
“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:25–27).
Sounds good right? To have someone there to give us peace.
There is a lot of crazy stuff taking place in the world today which claims to be a manifestation of the Holy Spirit. However, just because something miraculous or supernatural occurs in a church does not necessarily mean it is the Holy Spirit.
Jesus once warned about spiritual deceptions and false prophets and said “. . . by their fruits you shall know them” (Matthew 7:20). One of the big questions for testing whether or not a person or church is really Spirit-filled is to ask, “Do they show the fruits of the Spirit?”
Galatians 5:22, 23 says: “. . . The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” If they do not show these characteristics, it is not the Holy Spirit of God but a false spirit at work.
You see, the Holy Spirit refines us. Whenever gold or other precious metal was extracted it had to be refined. The process was to heat the ore to such temperatures that the gold separated itself from the rock, mud and other minerals. Biblically, it is called being “tried in the fire”. That’s where we get our little tests. They come in different ways. Sometimes we are tried with health issues. At other times our problems are financial. Our test could even include relationship or career challenges. Those who have weathered such storms know what it means to be tried in the fire. When we come through, like pure gold that is refined, all of the raw ore seems to float away leaving behind a purer spirit, a more sensitive nature and a closeness to God. We approach our situation crudely, but arise more refined and able to withstand whatever life throws at us.
The Holy Spirit is the refining agent. The Holy Spirit separates and then polishes us as we prepare for greater service.
The Holy Spirit also gives spiritual gifts and enlightens the mind. He opens the heart to understanding the things of God. He reveals to us our sins and mistakes, gives us a will to do better next time and the power to improve. He is the power to overcome addiction and the strength to persevere when we fail. He is the strength of our lives. The Holy Spirit inspires us, empowers us and guides our understanding. The Spirit touches our hearts and transforms us, renewing the image of God in which we were created.
I have a friend who is a seeker of truth. She has been involved in many religions in her lifetime. Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, a number of different Christian churches, and traditional spirituality as well. One day a young Christian pastor of my denomination came to deliver her some books she had ordered. She invited him to chat with her, and as they talked she immediately noticed something was different about him. Where others had tried to thrust and force their beliefs on her, he asked her questions. He listened. He was interested. “I’d like to study the Bible with you,” she said. So for the next few months they met, prayed and studied. He was very quiet, not pushy and answered all of her questions from the Bible. If she disagreed, that was okay. He didn’t raise his voice or become forceful.
One day they were reading John chapter 3 where it says, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).
The young pastor said, “That is how the Spirit works on a heart. It is like the wind! You can’t see Him, but softly, gently, in a pleading voice He calls to us and changes our hearts.”
She said thoughtfully, “Yes, I have often thought from what I saw in churches that the Spirit’s work is about yelling and noise. But I see Him at work when we study His Word. He is real, and I can feel Him in my home now.”
The Holy Spirit is the secret Power that is the difference between someone being just another two-faced religious hypocrite, and being a loving and lovable Christian!
Do you want the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in your life today? Ask for it!
Jesus said in Luke 11:13 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”
If you’re interested in knowing the Holy Spirit and would like to connect with a local pastor or church, or if you just have questions, visit signsofthetimes.org.au/help or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Daniel Matteo is a Seventh-day Adventist pastor in Tasmania, Australia. He is married to Katy and has two children, Grace and Samuel.