by Ryan Wheeler
We are subject to the Holy Spirit. He is not subject to us. He is no genie in a bottle. He will not be commanded or controlled by men. Because of this, our flesh will not always enjoy the work of the Spirit. There will be times that He moves and acts and intervenes in ways that fit our agenda and desires (especially when we have our minds on the things of God), but often, He will work in ways that do not match our plans at all.
There is a dual manifestation of our beloved Holy Spirit. His work is always a blessing to us and sometimes it even feels like one. Then there are the times when His work feels painful, scary and disappointing even though it is by nature very, very good.
We see a great picture of this in the first chapter of Mark. Verses 9 through 11 describe the baptism of Jesus and verses 12 through 13 describe the 40-day wilderness test of Jesus. Both accounts feature the Holy Spirit as a main character.
Mark 1:9-13 ESV
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."
12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.
Notice the two action words relating to the Holy Spirit: descending (vs. 10) and drove (vs. 12). This passage shows us two very different sides to the good work of the Holy Spirit.
The heavens being torn apart and the Holy Spirit descending like a dove onto Jesus represents a scene for which all of us should yearn. Oh that in our worship services the Holy Spirit would descend and bless our gatherings with His manifest presence and love! Oh that we would hear the voice of God speaking to us, as Jesus did that day, words of encouragement and pleasure! Surely this sort of supernatural activity would be welcome by all who love God and long for His felt presence.
Verse 12 is no less amazing and wonderful and loving, but I wonder how we would react to this side of His good work. It is strange to think of the Spirit of Comfort driving someone to pain and trial. The time in the wilderness for Jesus was pivotal, but not enjoyable. It was so very good, but not easy. It strengthened the spirit of Jesus for the ministry ahead of him and the even larger trial of the cross, but it weakened His flesh.
There is a popular side of the Holy Spirit's work and an unpopular. Jesus embraced them both. We often do not. Let's not be fair-weather followers! The more painful side of the Holy Spirit is just as good and profitable and amazing as the pleasant side... maybe even more so. No matter how the Holy Spirit is working in your life currently He is always trustworthy. Holy Spirit, let your perfect will and way be done for us... no matter the popularity!
Milton Hubbard has served as Pastor of Living Word Assembly since 1977
Ryan Wheeler serves as Associate Pastor at Living Word Assembly.