I recently read Forgotten God by Francis Chan. If you have not read this book, then get thee to a bookstore and secure one for yourself. When I finished reading it, I immediately turned it back over and read it again.
It’s not that what Chan says is so groundbreaking or new to me; I understand the Holy Spirit and his function in the lives of believers; I’ve got the doctrine. What has been lacking in my life is a solid discussion of the Holy Spirit and his role in my every day life. For instance, when I hear a person start to talk about the Holy Spirit, it’s difficult for me to discern what he or she may mean. Most of the time “Holy Spirit” can be synonymous to “speaking in tongues.” He is said to “fill the room” or “fall on” someone. Or a person may say, “The Lord said to me.” Whether it’s right or wrong to do so, I filter all of that and try to pay attention to the point the person is trying to get to, to take hold of the good and thank God for that.
Not only do I filter what I hear, I’m careful about the words I use. When I consider the Spirit and His role in my life, I think about how He uses the scripture to convict me of sin, encourage me, remind me of the truth, strengthen me when I’m weak or afraid, remind me of the gospel, etc. When I talk to another believer about what God is doing in my life, I don’t speak referring to a specific person of the Trinity. Whether it’s a function of God the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit, God is doing the work, so in conversation I simply refer to God. I usually say, “The Lord,” because “God” can mean many things to different people, but Lord is still generally understood as Jesus Christ.
It’s an interesting matter of discussion, I think. When you talk about God and His work in your life, what kind of language do you use?
All of that is beside the point. One of the things this book got me to thinking about is quenching the Spirit.
In Forgotten God, Chan discusses our propensity to quench the Holy Spirit. He wrote specifically about how we do that in our own lives, but I started to think about all the ways the Spirit’s work can be quenched in others, especially those who are young in the faith.
Think back to your younger days. Was there ever a time when you were really fired up about an idea that you knew God gave you? Were you excited about something you were learning in Bible study and just couldn’t wait to share it? Were you burdened about something and knew God wanted you to take action, but didn’t know where to start?
And so you shared it with an older Christian.
What was his or her response? Did he rejoice with you and stoke those coals? Did he pray with you? Did he encourage you to keep pursuing the Lord? Or did he say something like, “I remember feeling that way. These things come and go…it’ll pass and you’ll be fired up about something else.” Or did he remind you that you are just one person, what can you do? Or did he just look at you like you were a little too spiritual?
I’ve been the young recipient of both responses. And, now that I’m in my 30s, I’ve been the older encourager. But I NEVER want to be the one who quenches what could be an amazing work of the Holy Spirit in the life of another.
I don’t ever want to think that passion and big dreams aren’t for me anymore. I don’t want to think that my “maturity” tells me, “This too shall pass.” I want to be sensitive to the real working of the Holy Spirit and be involved in any way that I can, to lend my spiritual gifts to whatever He’s doing. I want more than to be able to use spiritual phrases when talking about a fleeting moment of excitement. I want the real deal.
Now, I know that every excited person does not deserve a pass because the Spirit may be at work. But the passionate person can gain wisdom from the council of other believers who can help channel that excitement and passion to be something even better. At the very least, a passionate person needs encouragement to stay the course when others do not exhibit the same level of enthusiasm for an idea.
Don’t quench the ember. Fan it to flame!