God is so big
There is a beautiful e mail travelling the world at the
moment in which a photograph of the Earth is shown in
relation to the size of Jupiter. Our planet is so small!
Then came a photo of the Sun towering above Jupiter,
followed by Arcturus, which is many times bigger than the
sun – and then the still more massive giants that populate
God’s incredible universe.
For whatever situation we are
facing, the Holy Spirit is God’s ‘executive’ agent. He can
bring whatever touch, strength, anointing or word of power
that is required. Nothing is too hard for Him, and nothing
too small (cf Jdges. 3:10). Ask Him now to bless and lead in
some seemingly ‘impossible’ situation that either you or
someone known to cluster members is currently facing.
The Holy Spirit sustains
After Jesus was filled with the Spirit, He was led (some
versions say driven) into the wilderness before He emerged
in the power of the Spirit. (Luke 4:1,14). The sequence is
signficant. Real spiritual growth often occurs through
severe testings (cf John 16:33). God may be doing more than
we realise at the time to refine and cleanse us. Never
underestimate His Spirit’s ability to sustain us through
times of trial.
It would be nice to assume that being ‘led by the Spirit’
always meant being led ‘beside quiet waters.’ In reality,
the Lord often leads us into the zone of maximum conflict,
exactly as He did His own Son. Sometimes this is the result
of our own sinfulness or recklessness – in which case we
must face our own shortcomings. In many other instances,
however, our sinfulness is not the primary factor – in which
case, we must continue to trust God to lead and strengthen
us through this particular time of testing.
Neither can we afford to
forget that we are caught up in a strong spiritual battle.
The enemy targets those who pose a particular danger to the
kingdom of darkness. It is important that we do not
inadvertently give the devil a foothold in our lives through
the choices that we make. Take Galatians 5:16 to heart: Walk
by the Spirit and do not seek to gratify the flesh. It is so
important to keep feeding our spirits by a regular spiritual
diet during times when the pressure is really on. The Holy
Spirit sustains us not just to stop us from giving up and
falling, but because He has clear aims and objectives in
||Pause and pray into
the issues raised in this section. Jesus promises
that when we are under extreme pressure, the Spirit
of our Father will speak through us (Matt.
10:20-21). Have you experienced this?
Jesus also promised that The
Holy Spirit will lead you into all truth (John 16:13). This
is not so much a matter of getting our doctrine straight
(important though that is) but about being led by His
Spirit. 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 Holy Spirit works in entirely unpredictable ways,
according to His own wisdom and understanding. It is tragic
when we try to control everything (either as individuals or
as churches or organisations).
For discussion as a cluster,
or in small groups:
||Look back and see
how He has led you. Are there are things that you
know and are doing now, that would once have seemed
impossible. God loves to see us trusting Him!
What experiences have you had of God’s wonderful
unpredictability? How did you handle these times?
Spend some time praying this prayer:
||Lead us by your
Spirit, Lord, into the things that are most on Your
heart for us.
Lead us to the people, places, tasks, materials that
will best advance Your work through us.
Keep us away from everything that is wrong or merely
Bring people to our consciousness so that we can
pray for them, write to them, or go and visit them.
And may Your Spirit bring things to mind that will
help us to make sense of what is going on.
The Holy Spirit encourages
us to share our resources
How much of your substance and yourselves are you really
prepared to put into the extension of the Kingdom? Put it
another way, how much do you still look on things as being
yours than the Lord’s?
||What is your
particular gifting? Hospitality? Preaching? Sharing?
Don’t follow the western way of everyone for
themselves, but keep an eye out for each other’s
needs. Part of the work of the Spirit is to inspire
generosity in the hearts of His people. Don’t wait
to be told about a need – people often keep their
deepest feelings and predicaments to themselves. Is
there anything that either you or someone you know
could do to come alongside?
Symbols of the Spirit
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, the disciples were
all with one accord in one place. [The Greek literally says
they were ‘together together – that is “together in purpose
as well as together in one place”]. And suddenly there came
a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it
filled the whole house where they were sitting. (Acts 2:1-2)
Fire and wind. What powerful symbols these are. They are
often used to represent the Person and work of the Holy
||It was prophesied of
the Lord Jesus that He would baptise with the Holy
Spirit and with fire. (Matt. 3:11) A Bible study on
the word ‘fire’ reveals what an important biblical
theme this is. Fire reflects the passion burning in
the heart of God. What else do you understand by it?
The work of God through His Spirit is often likened
in Scripture to the wind (eg John 3:8) Praise God
that there are powerful winds of revival blowing
around the world at this time. What other kinds of
winds are mentioned in Scripture?
Such references to fire and
wind remind us that we are to humble ourselves before a holy
God. Another powerful symbol for the Holy Spirit in
Scripture is water. How do you understand this concept?
the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood
and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let
him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as
the Scripture has said, streams of living water will
flow from within him." By this he meant the Spirit.
One of the most beautiful
‘symbols’ in Scripture is when the Holy Spirit is portrayed
as a dove. (John 1:32).
‘And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit
descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained
Doves are sensitive and
In The Sensitivity of the Spirit, (Hodder and
Stoughton), RT Kendall writes about the difference between
two birds that at first sight might appear to be similar:
pigeons and doves. Pigeons are territorial and combative,
whereas doves are extremely sensitive. Kendall details many
of the ways by which we can revert from doing things ‘by the
Spirit’ to our own natural gifting. It is all too easy to do
this – without even realizing that we are doing so.
||We behave in a
‘pigeon-like’ way when, through ignorance, prejudice
or downright envy and malice, we badmouth what the
Holy Spirit is doing, and are cross with each other.
If we are frequently touchy and defensive – or over
eager for praise – or inclined to talk too much and
run others down, then beware: we risk driving the
Dove away. Repent and get back into God’s presence!
Otherwise all we may be left with are the residue of
our own efforts and perspectives – which lead to
irritability and self-pity and ever decreasing
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit
of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
(Eph. 4:30 )
It is all too easy to blank out challenging words (whether
from Scripture or from others). Pray to catch yourself
whenever you find yourself ignoring such words – or putting
them on the ‘too difficult to deal with now’ pile.
||Pray for the Holy
Spirit to open our ears to godly challenges. We are
in danger of heading for a fall whenever we imagine
ourselves to be exceptions to them.
The Holy Spirit is implacably opposed to all forms
of pretence, manipulation and control. An extreme
example of grieving the Holy Spirit is when Ananias
and Sapphira bent the truth in the way they
described what they had done. Peter said, Ananias,
why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy
Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land
for yourself? (Acts 5:3). Pray for the Lord to keep
integrity uppermost in your life and such a spirit
will never taint you!
One warning sign that someone may be going off
course is when they reject the help of trusted
friends and counsellors and go in search of other
people, who have less knowledge and experience of
them. When they in turn ‘dare’ to ask probing
questions, trusted friends are likely to find
themselves suddenly excluded too.
All too many of us feel ‘justified’ in holding
certain grudges because of the way that we have been
let down or abused. The Scriptures warn us not to
allow a foothold to bitterness rage and anger. (See
Eph. 4:30-32). There is nothing optional about this.
Stay flexible to the
If there is one quality that we need above all others to
remain ‘in step’ with the Spirit it is flexibility – closely
followed by courage. Too much ‘preprogramming’ can cause us
to miss out on where the Holy Spirit may be wanting to lead
us. Our aim is to share the Father’s heart and to be in the
‘mode’ that He is in. This will determine whether our
response should be primarily one of joy and praise, or of
profound mourning – and of everything in between!
A student preacher who loved to preach came speak at the
church in which he was doing a placement. He had spent hours
preparing his message, but when he saw the power of the
worship and intercession that was developing, he wisely
recognised that this was where the Spirit was moving and
willingly stood aside to allow more room for the prayer to
continue. That is a good example of the sort of flexibility
we may occasionally need to demonstrate if we are to keep in
step with the Spirit. We learn to sense when the Holy Spirit
wants us to speak, and either speak out ourselves, or
encourage others to do share what they are feeling. Or we
sense the Spirit ‘alighting’ on particular people, and
encourage them to contribute. It makes for much more
For thought and prayer
How open is your cluster to the Spirit's leading? Do we
expect Him to move when we meet? Have we fallen into
The Holy Spirit is both vocal and visual
The Holy Spirit has spoken through the prophets, and it is
always exciting when the Holy Spirit speaks to and through
us. He loves to communicate with His children today. Jesus
said, ‘My sheep hear My voice.’ How do you hear? This should
increasingly be a natural part of our lives – though the
ways in which He chooses to speak vary enormously. Robert's
book The Still Small Voice looks at a number of these
||Hearing from the
Lord is all-important, but knowing what to do with
what we hear is almost equally as important. We can
get the first part right but get the application
wrong. (See ‘Inspired by the Spirit'
God’s timing is always perfect timing – but many of
the difficulties most of us have in matters of
guidance come down to this matter that we find so
difficult. ‘Calls’ come from the heart of eternity –
where things happen outside of time as we know it.
The amazing thing is the way in which the Lord
intermeshes His callings with our timescale with
perfect precision. Keep praying. There may well come
a time when breakthrough occurs, or when the Lord
opens our minds so that we can understand something
has been puzzling us. (cf Luke 24:45)
Whatever subject you
specialise in you can discover more of God. He is a
mathematician, a scientist, a geologist, a biologist, an
anatomist – and every bit as much an artist as an author,
speaker and linguist! Often He chooses to speak to us by His
Spirit through visions and visual impressions in our
spirits. These are the equivalent of the still small voice
in picture format.
||Do a Bible study on
visions. It will reveal the important place they
play in conveying God’s heart and mind. (e.g. Acts
Pray for the Holy Spirit to turn ‘sight into
insight’, just as Jesus did in His teaching
parables. Can you think of times when you have
The Holy Spirit often uses dreams to point us to
things that are important for us to ponder. More
often that not they are a pointer a) to things that
may be out of balance in our lives, b) to situations
we need to pray about, or c) to people we need to
get in touch with. Occasionally they may contain
explicit leading, as they often did in the Bible –
and continue to do to this day, for instance when
Muslims are led through them to accept Christ.
The Holy Spirit gives
specific commands and warnings
Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of
Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach
the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried
to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them.
Why did the Holy Spirit tell the disciples to take a detour
and go in seemingly the wrong way and not go into Bithynia?
We will never know, but when the Holy Spirit prompts us in
such ways, it is important not to argue but just to obey! If
we always knew the reason why He spoke, we would become
prescriptive and self-reliant. If we ignore His promptings,
potentially important opportunities will be missed and we
risk His voice becoming increasingly inaudible to us.
Hint: Many of God’s best words are short and simple words
that lead to major ramifications. (cf Acts 13:2)
Whilst it is lovely if we can sit down and enjoy a full
four-course meal with the Lord, we are blessed if the Holy
Spirit sends us simple nudges in the course of a busy
schedule to keep us on track.
||When the Lord speaks
by His Spirit, it is always significant. When He
directs or warns us about something, it is vital
that we do our best to obey Him – even if it is not
what we expected Him to say. He always knows best!
What examples can you call to mind of this?
I love the interchange between God’s Spirit and our
thinking processes that the verse It seemed good to
the Holy Spirit and to us (Acts 15:28) implies. If
we are not immediately able to sense which course of
action to pursue, try ‘loading’ the question one way
or another. ‘Lord, it seems sensible to me to do
this. Please show me if this is not right, because
otherwise this is what I will do.’ If we are in
danger of going seriously wrong, we can expect the
Spirit to warn us. (Is.30:21)
The gifts of the Holy
||There are different
kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are
different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There
are different kinds of working, but the same God
works all of them in all men.
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is
given for the common good. To one there is given
through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another
the message of knowledge by means of the same
Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to
another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to
another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to
another distinguishing between spirits, to another
speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still
another the interpretation of tongues.
All these are the work of one and the same Spirit,
and he gives them to each one, just as he
determines. (1 Cor. 12:4-11)
We are not going to look at
this important theme in great detail here, but what place do
the gifts of the Holy Spirit play:
a) in your cluster, and
b) in your own personal walk with the Lord?
Because there are many counterfeits around, it is important
to test the spirits to see if they come from God (1 John
4:1) Anything that is truly of the Holy Spirit will always
point away from outward phenomena to give the glory to
Jesus. God will always confirm anything that is really
important in more than one way – but once His call is
confirmed, don’t hold back: co-operate! Remember: the Holy
Spirit recognises giftings in people before they become
visible with the naked eye. Dare to follow any sign of His
The Holy Spirit is not impulsive
I believe the message of this section is particularly
important to understand. The Holy Spirit sometimes moves
quickly and urgently, but this is always by the Father’s
clear purpose and never by random impulse.
In other words, whilst it is vital that we are ready to heed
the Lord’s promptings, we must also beware the falsely
insistent. A good rule of thumb to bear in mind is that,
whereas the Holy Spirit leads, the Butcher drives. The
powers of darkness delight in goading believers to do things
that God cannot own, and which He may even have to
||Events such as the
outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost were too far
‘outside the box’ for the staid Pharisees to
acknowledge them as coming from God. The Lord’s
perspective on the matter, of course, was quite
different. There was a perfect confluence of people
coming together from as far away as Persia and Rome
and North Africa. What stories they would have to
tell when they returned home, all of which would
serve to make it known throughout the world what God
had done for mankind in sending Jesus.
The events of Pentecost began
to fulfil the important prophecy in Joel 2:28-32. Praise God
that although Jesus is the same yesterday today, and
forever, the Holy Spirit is raising up a new generation to
do church in ways that will impact our contemporary culture
that has moved so far from its Judeo-Christian roots. Much
of what God does in our generation will look, feel and sound
very different from that which has gone before. May we have
eyes to discern what God has raised up by His Spirit, and to
lend it our willing support.
What happens when we don’t like somebody or something?
Most of us know ‘strong’ Christians who we simply don’t feel
comfortable to be around, even if they appear to be being
used by the Lord. This may be because they are aggressive
characters, or just because they see things, and minister,
in a very different way from ourselves.
As someone delightfully put it, ‘God has an annoying habit
of laying His hand on the wrong person!’ He almost seems to
delight in using people we feel decidedly ambivalent about!
May the Lord help us to separate out personal preferences
from authentic doubts about someone.
Jesus came full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Some people
are so full of zeal and truth that they appear remarkably
short of grace. Others may be exceedingly courteous, but are
lacking in any real cutting edge. God wants us to reflect
all of His heart.
Gentleness is a wonderful foundation for this, even though
we may sometimes be called to express righteous indignation
in the power of the Holy Spirit, not against other people,
but against spiritual strongholds that are holding people
and situations down.
For thought and prayer
||It is almost
impossible to resent someone you are also praying
for. Pray (silently!) now for someone you find
Don’t be quick to speak against others just because
you do not instinctively like or understand their
emphases. The Lord seems to be quite happy to work
through highly fallible vessels – like you and me!
Praise God for the times when others have shown you
grace and mercy that you did not deserve.
There is undoubtedly a place for righteous
indignation, as Jesus demonstrated when He cleansed
the Temple (John 2:14-17). A pastor once lamented
that far too much church activity is characterized
by an abrasiveness that owes nothing to the
gentleness of the Holy Spirit. Pray that our
‘churching together’ may truly glorify the Lord, so
that people feel secure in their walk with the Lord,
and are drawn by the warmth of His love shining
All of us see things that purport to be of the Holy
Spirit but which we find off putting. Try not to
allow immature and unhelpful examples (of
charismania for example) to cause you to pull back
from letting the Holy Spirit speak and work through
you. If we hold back on the gifts that God has given
us, we may well be in danger of quenching the
Spirit. Are there areas you need to be healed of so
that you can return safely to the fray?
How can we best cultivate
the presence of the Holy Spirit?
Our gospel came to you not simply with words, but with
power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. (1
Elijah discovered that the Lord comes not only in fire and
storm and wind but also in the still small voice – and that
it is one touch from God can achieve far more than anything
else. For those who are eager to increase their hunger and
thirst to seek His face, you may find Robert’s book Intimacy
and Eternity helpful. (See http://ruachministries.org/intimacyandeternity.htm)
||What ‘floats your
boat’ and helps to develop the life of the Spirit in
It is good to go to places of stillness that will
help us tune into God’s Holy Spirit: both places
that have long been prayed into, and out into God’s
countryside, close to creation.
In all this we are seeking to become more attentive
to the leading of the Holy Spirit. It is good to do
so from the moment that we wake up. He is the
Helper! The Holy Spirit often has important nudges
to impart during those precious waking moments, when
we hover between sleep and wakefulness.
Be filled with the Spirit
And when Jesus had said this, He breathed on them, and said
to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22).
There is nothing accidental about what, where or who we are.
Long before we recognised Him, the Spirit was already at
work overruling in our lives, preparing the way ahead and
drawing us ever closer to Himself. May we not hold back, but
press in to receive the gifts God is offering us by His Holy
Spirit. Many will be impacted by our being filled with the
For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all
who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.
A great deal depends on our hunger to be used by Him, as
well as on our capacity to receive Him. We will need to make
real sacrifices of time in order to seek God's face and to
find the Holy Spirit’s best leading for our lives.
It is worth being aware that there are often barriers to
break though as we sit in God’s presence when we move beyond
distraction into the richness of His presence and the
clarity of His leading.
There is no age restriction for receiving the the fullness
of the Holy Spirit. Neither is there any ‘social’
favouritism: God is as concerned to reach the yuppie as the
hippie. Nevertheless, you are, perhaps, more likely to find
the Holy Spirit at work in power in needy circumstances,
such as rubbish tips in Mozambique or Mexico, than where
people’s hearts are choked by material considerations. Can
you identify with this assumption that where needs are
greatest, God works in most power?
We do not need to beat ourselves up because we do not get
the results of a Billy Graham when we have received neither
His calling nor His anointing. A man can receive only what
he receives from on high. (John 3: 27). This verse is a
great comfort – but it is not meant to be an excuse for not
pressing in to receive all that God has for us. After all –
remember the theme – we are ‘heroes of the faith!’
||Are there specific
things you would like to ask the Holy Spirit God to
develop in you?
Holy Spirit, I open my heart wide now to receive
Your empowering and Your direction. By Your mercy I
have already received much – and you are not going
to abandon me now. Come now, Lord, and fill me with
a fresh infilling of Your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’
Appendix: Wisdom from Isaiah
Isaiah 11:2 When the Spirit of the Lord rests on us, He
brings wisdom, understanding, knowledge and the fear of the
32:15 When the Spirit is poured out from on high, desert
places become fertile.
34:16 The Spirit of the Lord gathers the right people
together to fulfil His purposes.
40:13 The Holy Spirit is full of wisdom. He is God’s master
counsellor (the word ‘mind’ can also be translated ‘spirit’)
Get away from any thought of the Holy Spirit being an
impersonal force, such as electricity. There is nothing of
the ‘automate’ about Him. He is one of the three persons of
the Trinity, possessing all the attributes we would expect
from the most brilliant mind in the Universe (Rom. 8:27).
If the Holy Spirit whispers to you as He did to Ezekiel “Son
of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak to you” (Ezek.
2:2) then do not hold back. He does not speak lightly!
42:1 When the Spirit comes on us, we are empowered to pursue
the bringing of justice to nations. God is not only
concerned about spiritual matters, but about the way that
people and nations relate to each other and administrate
44:3-5 There are wonderful promises of God’s Spirit being
poured out on our offspring. Press in to obtain these
48:16 The Lord sends us to places by His Spirit to proclaim
what is on His heart.
63:9-10 As we have seen, God, By His Spirit, identifies with
us completely. When we are distressed He too is distressed,
and He sends ‘the angel of His presence’ to save and succour
When we refuse to seek God, or to do what is right, He
allows us to suffer the consequences of our foolish choices.
God’s power may be infinite, but He effectively limits His
power if we chose not to honour Him. (See Eph. 4:29-32 for
other examples of how we can either grieve or bless the Holy
63:14 This verse contains a wonderful promise that the
Spirit of the Lord gives rest. It is part of the deep peace
of the Lord that Jesus promises, and that we need so badly.
(John 14:27; 16:33; 20:19,21,26)