One evening while teaching children at my church, I walked by a little boy Jesse who looked sad. I asked him what was wrong. He just shook his head. Since he wouldn't share his problems, I switched tactics. I put my hand out and asked him to count my fingers. His eyebrows went up. I asked him again to count my fingers.
“One, two, three, four, five.” His eyes scanned across my fingertips as he counted.
I asked him to stick out his hand. I touched the tops of his fingers and said, “Jesus, family, friends, food, and books.” I explained that listing things you are thankful for helps you feel better when you are sad. No matter how bad things were, you can remember that there are good things too. Then I had him list five things that he was grateful to have.
“Mom, dad, candy, presents, and fun.” A small smile cracked the edge of his mouth.
“See, that wasn’t so hard.” I smiled back at him.
Honestly, I’d never counted my blessings on my hands before that night, but I’ve found it encouraging ever since. Whenever I saw Jesse after that, I stuck out my hand and had him count his blessings. The exercise brought both of us joy.
Psalm 107:1 says, “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” When we realize that God’s mercy never ends, we rejoice to thank God for how good He is to us. Jesse didn’t always list the same five things every time, but he always found something to be thankful for.
My list of things I am thankful for has also changed over the years. Sometimes I just list the first things I think of, but other times I take a more sophisticated approach. I call it a handful of gratitude.
First, I wiggle my thumb. The thumb is the anchor finger to thank God for creating us and writing our stories. For this finger I express gratitude for the greatness of God in the beauty of creation. I look at trees, rivers, or a beautiful sunset to drink in His beauty. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.” If God took so much effort to paint beauty across the skies, then He can write the story of my life with loveliness too.
Next, I move my pointer finger. I think of something that points me to back to joy and truth. I thank God for His Word that brings truth into my life. Colossians 2:6-7 says, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving” (NKJV). When I abide in the Word of God, His truth keeps me firmly grounded so I can overflow in joy for His character and His love.
My middle finger reminds me of the things that stand above me. Psalm 36:5 says, “Your mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds” (NKJV). God’s mercy stretches high above me and is vaster than I can conceive. When I rest in the assurance of a love that big, nothing that can out match God’s love.
Then my ring finger stands for commitment. Thank God for the new covenant where my relationship with Him doesn’t depend on me providing animal sacrifices over and over again. Hebrews 9:15 says, “And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” (NKJV). Jesus made a way for us to be reconciled to God once for all through His death on the cross. God’s love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8) and even when I am not faithful to Him, He will still be faithful to me (2 Timothy 2:13). God’s commitment to me once I surrender to Him ensures me a place in heaven and an abundant life on earth.
Last comes the pinky. This finger represents being thankful for small things I take for granted. Psalm 92:1, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High” (NKJV). During COVID, my church sent its worship sets over YouTube for us to sing at home. I realized all those times I had sung at church had been a big blessing. Even if it wasn’t the same, I would sing praise to God and glorify His name wherever I was.
In this season of gratitude with Thanksgiving around the corner, I realize that thankfulness is always a necessity. This year has held a lot of unexpected heartache and hurt for me, as I am sure it has for many others. Despite the hardships, God has blessed me so much. My hand is literally attached to my body so I can put it in front of my face for a reality check to thank God instead of focusing on what I lack. May we feel God’s hand on ours as we count our blessings every day.
This week's blog is a Bible study I wrote for Feed Your Soul with the Word of God, Collection 1, a banquet of 30 short Bible studies.
God may take us to uncharted places, but He will never leave us nor forsake us.
Several years ago, I was excited about a work opportunity to move overseas. I discovered a position I was qualified for in my favorite city in Europe. Some friends from church had already relocated there, so it meant built-in community. I’d lived abroad before and was very lonely. I dreaded repeating that.
For the application process, we ranked our job preferences. That didn’t faze me. Surely God wanted me with fellow believers. I submitted the form with a flippant statement “You can’t outdo the sovereignty of God.” All my friends and family prayed for me to get the job. I bragged about the prospect for weeks. My heart was set on that particular city.
When the assignments were issued, my heart sank. I didn’t get my top pick. I couldn’t understand. Everyone had prayed. I had never even visited the place, yet I would have to live there for two years. What happened to the sovereignty of God? I had equated God’s sovereignty with Him granting my desires. I thought more about my wishes than the Lord’s will.
James 4:13-16 (NKJV*) says,
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
My arrogant boasting backfired. I had tried to manipulate God with my prayers. I was positive I was going to such and such a city, but the Lord had other ideas. He knew how to use my short life best, though it didn’t fit into my master plan.
Submitting to God’s will instead of demanding my own way was challenging. Though I didn’t understand what God was doing, I took the job. After a while, my new city became home. I attended an international church and found a Bible study where I made close friends. I sang karaoke at a wedding shower and ran relay races in my living room for a baby shower. We did life together. After I left, a friend invited me back to be in her wedding.
More importantly, I wound up a mere four-hour trip away from my youngest sister. God had called my sister to missions overseas. She did not receive her first choice either, but God knew what He was doing. We celebrated holidays together and often met to travel. Our relationship deepened, and we supported each other.
God even used my home as a safe haven. Various missionaries stayed with me while they were transitioning back from the field or when they needed respite. My brother also lived with me for six weeks during a stressful period.
Proverbs 16:9 says, A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. I love to plan and try to organize everything into neat little boxes of two-year increments. However, I can’t even control what will happen tomorrow. Fortunately, God sees the bigger picture. He does exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). When I let go of my death grip of control and surrender to Him, He surpasses what my finite mind could even begin to dream. Now I say “Lord willing” and mean it. I can trust God even when I don’t understand Him. I hold my demands more loosely, which frees me to receive His unimaginable good gifts.
Have you ever made plans you were certain would happen, yet they never materialized? It might not have been a move, but perhaps it was a job or a relationship. Instead of being stumped, remember, You ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that” (James 4:15). It’s God’s will, not ours, that matters.
When God redirects your paths with sharp turns into unknown territories, instead of cowering in fear, start rejoicing. The God of the universe who sees and knows all, is about to do great things. Initially, the scene may look foreign, scary, or even dull. But look closer, and you will uncover the opportunities God has preordained for you to give glory to His name. So don’t boast like I did when I thought I was moving to my favorite city. God may take you elsewhere. We live for His kingdom, and His plans are best. May the Lord free you to say “Lord willing” with eager anticipation and joy.
Father, Thank You for caring about each one of us, and working in our lives to fulfill the plans You have for us. Help us to remember the many reasons that we have to trust You, and submit our will to Yours. When disappointments come or when we must change the plans we have made, help us to look forward to the good that You have in store for us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
1. Have you ever made certain plans, but God had a better idea?
2. In what areas of life is it the most difficult for you to submit to God’s will?
3. Has God ever given you more than you ever could have dreamed or planned for?
4. Are there any truths or life experiences that help you to trust God’s will above your own?
*All Scripture verses are taken from the NKJV.
Check out Feed Your Soul with the Word of God, Collection 1 on the Lighthouse Bible Studies website or Amazon.
Used with permission by Lighthouse Bible Studies.
Facebook. Twitter. YouTube. Netflix. The average American in 2015 took in 34 GB of information every day. That’s 100,000 words! My mind hurts just thinking about it.
Because of the deluge of data, our brains are becoming overloaded. We spend so much time trying to focus that we can’t. Our minds can only process so much at once. Though it may sound counterintuitive, to focus better, it helps to take regular mental rests. Taking breaks from thinking frees up space so the brain can think creatively. We need to erase the junk and clear our minds so we can process what is important to dwell on.
Personally, trying to tear myself away from my desk is difficult. Putting alerts on my calendar at work to pop up and remind me to give my mind a breather has helped me refocus. I am not recommending scrolling the internet all day or streaming movies on YouTube when it’s time to work. We need to do everything to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). But when we take the time to mentally unwind, we don’t hit tunnel vision where creativity and productivity end. Instead, stand up and stretch. This can be invigorating as it gets blood (and thoughts) flowing again.
Other suggestions for mental rests include:
These breaks don’t have to be long. Five to ten minutes is fine. But the little space you give opens the door to mental renewal.
Not only do we need to rest our minds, we also need to conduct regular mental resets. Mark 12:30 says, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment” (NKJV). We are supposed to love the Lord with all of our mind. If we aren’t aware of our thoughts, how can we love God with our minds?
Every morning I recite Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer” (NKJV). When the deep thoughts inside me please God, the things that come out of my mouth will also honor God.
I’ve learned that instead of letting my thoughts stream freely, I must slow them down and inspect them. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (NKJV). The enemy inserts evil thoughts into my mind. If I am not attentive, those thoughts will take root and choke out the truth. When I examine my thoughts, I can determine if they match God’s Word. If they don’t, my job is to uproot them like a weed, and replace them with truths from the Bible.
I am growing in how I love the Lord with my mind. Through His strength, I am stepping away from the onslaught of information to clear my head, and taking my thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. No matter how much data enters, if it doesn’t match Scriptures, I need to delete it. I pray our minds conform to the mind of Christ each and every day.
Have you ever considered getting an accountability partner, but had no idea what to discuss? This practical checklist covers physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and financial questions you can cover with your accountability partner during monthly meetings. It is not exhaustive, so feel free to add more. You know best which areas are struggles for you and where you need more encouragement.
If you meet with your accountability partner on a monthly basis, I suggest tackling no more than a few goals each month so you don’t get overwhelmed. Sometimes I chose one goal from each area, but other times I need to focus on a specific category more than others. That works. You drive where you need to grow so that you get the most from the experience.
What other things would you add? Please post your suggestions below. Thanks!
I’ve recently thought of taking juggling lessons. I figure with juggling all the stressors in my life, maybe actual juggling would be a healthy outlet. My family, friends, and work all clamor for my attention. When I think I have one area is relatively stable, another starts to fall. I can’t seem to keep things aloft.
While juggling lessons may provide some physical outlet, they still won’t give me peace. I need real rest. Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (NKJV).
Too often, I think I have to pull my own weight. Subconsciously, I think I’ve got all the answers and have to do it myself. Usually when I think “I’ve got this,” it has not turned out well. I fall on my face, feeling like an idiot with blood on my nose and dirt in my teeth. When I let God guide me, He carries the weight. In Biblical times, oxen were trained by yoking a large ox to a young ox as the young ox learned to work. The larger ox took the heavier brunt of the load. God invites us to let Him carry the burdens that cripple us. His burden is light. He wants our souls to rest. God is not prideful, but lowly in heart.
Often, I can get overwhelmed by circumstances. Some people think that God will never give us more than we can handle, but that is not Biblical. If I could do it alone, my head would swell with pride. First Peter 5:5b says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (NKJV). God resists my pride and allows situations that are beyond my control so that I will acknowledge my need for Him. This breeds dependence in my life, which God loves.
But despite needing to learn dependence, sometimes I don’t realize my need until late in the game. I try to do it alone and burn out, feeling like the end of a candle with a wick that won’t light. God invites me to let Him be our light. He is the wick that burns eternal. As I melt into Him, He displays His glory for all to see.
The Lord has started asking me to give Him my burdens. Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved” (KJV). Before I go to bed at night, I stick my hand out and visualize the hardships I am carrying. I name them one by one and physically enact handing each burden to God. My heart lifts as I realize I don’t have to fix everyone and everything in my life. I like how the KJV says God won’t suffer the righteous to be moved. He isn’t putting up with that junk. God sustains me in my difficulties.
Psalm 68:19 says, “Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits, The God of our salvation! Selah” (NKJV). The NIV says, “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” God both daily loads us with benefits and bears our burdens. He gives us good and takes the bad as we receive a lighter load. God did not design us to walk through life alone, and is always ready to answer our cry. May we learn to walk beside Him and let Him share the weight of our burdens.
Someone asked me why I always talked about depending on God. Couldn’t I do anything for myself? Didn’t I want to develop some life skills of my own instead of always running to God like a weakling? I admitted that many a time I have tried to do things on my own. When things are going well in life, I tend to run along on my merry way thinking that I have got this. But I don’t got this. I always wind up falling on my face. It takes humility to rely on God because it strips me of my pride to ask God for help. God allows me to fail to remind me that apart from Him, I can do nothing. (John 15:5)
What does it mean to depend totally on God? Does it mean that I sit on the couch and relax while God does all the work because God is in control? No. God did not call me to be lazy. Does it mean that I do all the work, and ignore God? No. Total dependence on God is a process whereby I allow God to go both before me and beside me. Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed” (NKJV).
God Goes Before Me
God goes before me and clears the path. I must take my directives from God and not my own ideas. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (NIV). Often, I think I understand the best thing to do, because it makes sense to me. However, I need God to direct my paths because He has the greater perspective.
God’s ways and thoughts are higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8-9). He doesn’t always do things the same way twice because He wants me to seek Him first for guidance. I think of Moses and how he got water from rocks in the wilderness. The first time God told Moses to strike the rock, and water poured forth. The next time, however, God told Moses to speak to the rock. In his anger, Moses struck the rock. His disobedience bared Moses from entering the promised land. Fully relying on God requires me to seek Him for every decision.
Does this mean I go to God for guidance over each shirt I wear or what I eat for lunch? Yes and no. While, no, I don’t think that God wants me to be crippled by indecision with worrying over a cheeseburger or a hoagie, He does care that what I wear and eat honor Him. So, yes, I need choose clothing and food that I won’t be ashamed of before God. I decide beforehand that what I put on and put in my body will bring God joy.
God Walks Beside Me
I must go beyond getting God’s guidance to obeying. James 1:22 say, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (NKJV). I’ve heard that obedience is God’s love language. Obedience requires action. Philippians 2:12-13 says, “Therefore work out your own salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you, both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (NKJV). I have to work out my own salvation. God provides me the desire to answer His calling and actually equips me to do so. What a good God! When I tap into His unending strength, I can obey His commands.
My washing machine broke recently, so I ordered a new one. Then my new washing machine wasn’t working properly. If I sat around waiting for God to fix my washing machine, I’d never have clean clothes. Instead, as I talked with God, He directed me. I made six trips to Home Depot, video-chatted with the company’s vibration experts, and had installation folks visit my house three times. Finally, things are better, but I needed God’s endurance to keep going. Even in the middle of frustrations, I knew that God will take care of me in the long run. Philippians 1:6 says, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (NIV). God completes what He starts. He doesn’t drop us on our heads as we seek to obey.
The Lord blesses obedience and curses disobedience. Deuteronomy 30:19-20a says, “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days” (NKJV). Now, blessing, does not mean a life of ease, but one where God has promised that “He will not leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:8 NKJV). God is with us through every hill and valley we face. As we fully depend on God, our faith muscles grow and our relationship with God deepens as He leads us in the way we should go.
This week I had the opportunity to guest blog for Katy Kauffman's series "Sustaining Life's Victories." I share how Biblical accountability has grown my relationship with God and give practical tips for creating accountability in your own life.
Here's the first paragraph and a link to the rest of the article:
I had one sin that crippled me for years. I shoved it into the deepest corner of my heart so no one would know my shame. Satan used that guilt to keep me entrenched in sin. I remember sobbing by my bed, begging God to rid me of the pain. I didn’t know what to do. God showed me that surfacing sin is one of the surest ways to strangle its grip on my life. When I finally confessed it, the stronghold broke, releasing the sin’s hold on me.
I heard a nudge in my heart to turn around. I was driving home in the middle of the night after a violent storm had swept through the area. After cresting a hill, I’d nearly run into a large branch in the road. I swerved just in time to miss it.
Turn around and move that branch.
Ugh. I did not want to go back. It was after 3 am. I was so tired that the lines in the road swam before my eyes. All I wanted was my pillow.
Then I remembered a story my pastor shared about a time when the Holy Spirit had led him to turn around late one night. He had found an empty car on the side of the road where the driver had been ejected from her seat into the nearby woods. He called 911, and the woman received medical treatment. Maybe I should move that branch.
I turned around. I parked along the roadside near the fallen tree. My heart raced as I ran to lug the branch out of the way. I worried that if anyone passed, they’d hit me because it so dark. My exhaustion level was too high for this type of excitement.
When I drove off, I felt peace for obeying the Holy Spirit’s prompting. In my rear view window, I saw another car driving down the part of the road where I’d just been. It warmed my heart to know the path was clear.
Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (NKJV). I believe God prepared beforehand for me to turn around and move that branch. Honestly, it wasn’t very glamorous, but I obeyed. God desires to use His children for His glory and has individual assignments for each of us. However, too often I miss those opportunities by refusing to listen.
What if I had decided I was too sleepy and kept driving home? Maybe if I hadn’t moved that tree, the person behind me would have gotten into an accident. I’ll never know. I had to be ready to listen to the Holy Spirit, even when it seemed inconvenient.
Psalm 25:14a says, "The Lord confides in those who fear Him” (NIV). The God of the universe shares His secrets with those who fear Him. When He knows that our ears are open to hearing His whispers, His Holy Spirit calls us. We just have to be willing to hear and obey.
I also realized that my heart was softened to hear the Holy Spirit ask me to do something random like turn around in the middle of the night because my pastor had shared a similar story. This enhances my understanding of verses like Psalm 9:1, “I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works” (NKJV). When God does something good in and through us, we need to boast of what He has done. We share our stories because they give God glory. They also encourage others to be obedient when their times come.
God also reminded me about how well He protects us. Psalm 121:8 says, “The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore" (NKJV). I wondered how many times God had cleared my roads, physical or otherwise, without my knowledge. Some people ask why God doesn't prevent bad things from happening. I suspect He stops way more things than our minds could begin to conceive, we just don't know. By listening to the Holy Spirit, God used me as an instrument for salvation that night. I pray we tune our ears to listen to the Holy Spirit, obey His prompting, and sing His praises to everyone we meet.
The Holy Spirit Reminds Us of Truth
Last time, we examined how the Holy Spirit teaches us truth. Now we will build on that concept by exploring how we soften our hearts to be taught by the Holy Spirit. As a reminder, the verse we are looking at John 14:26 says, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (NKJV).
The second half of John 14:26 explains that the Holy Spirit reminds us of what Jesus said. For Him to do this, we must memorize God’s Word. We can’t recall what we haven’t already stored in our hearts. I almost hear the Holy Spirit saying, “Help me, help you.” We must do our part to enable the Holy Spirit to bring to mind God's truth in our lives by hiding God's Word in our hearts.
I heard a story once about a child who prepared to battle a dragon. Sadly, his only weapon was a pencil, and the dragon consumed him. We also fight a great dragon called Satan. While it helps to remember a few verses like John 3:16, if that is our whole spiritual arsenal, we will be eaten alive. I have learned to dig into the Bible to learn many Scriptures that pertain to my personal struggles. I study them so that when the enemy strikes, my weapons are ready.
This past weekend, a family member was hurt very badly. Initially, we had a lot of unknowns. Fear sought to strangle our hearts. The Holy Spirit reminded me of Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (NKJV). God wasn’t done with my sibling yet. He was still in control. God would make a way forward. Because I’d already deposited truth in my heart, it was easily accessible for the Holy Spirit to use to comfort me in my distress.
Ways to Memorize Scripture
One way to memorize Scripture is to read the verse aloud several times. Ten years ago, I tried to memorize Philippians, but got bogged down. Later I started again, and learned it. I studied the verses every night. First, I reviewed the verses I had previously memorized. Then I read the new verse aloud several times and recited it without looking at least five times or until I got it right. It took a whole year, but I finally learned it all.
Other methods of Scripture memory include writing the verse out longhand many times, putting it on sticky notes around the house to read, and finding a Scripture buddy to text verses to daily. A fun way of memorizing verses is through music. In elementary school, one of my children’s Bible study teachers turned a verse into a song that we sang for weeks. I still know that verse today. Music sticks in my brain. If you’ve ever had a song you can’t get out of your head, you know what I mean. Make up your own tune or find a song you love, and sing verses of truth into your heart and mind.
Even if you’ve had trouble before, start anew memorizing God’s Word. Don’t feel like you have to tackle a whole book. Take it one verse at a time. Let it dwell in you richly and renew you day by day. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you know God’s Word. He’ll be glad to assist.
Stir Up the Holy Spirit's Power
May we always seek to unleash the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives as we learn to love God’s Word. Even though the Holy Spirit won’t leave us, we can treat Him as if He wasn’t there. After you put chocolate syrup in milk, it technically is chocolate milk. However, unless you stir the milk, the chocolate lays idle on the bottom of the glass. Moving the chocolate distributes it throughout the milk. I pray we stir up the Holy Spirit daily and invite Him to teach and remind us of truth.
I rejoice to live this side of the cross where every believer gets the indwelling Holy Spirit. Not only does the Holy Spirit live in us, but we also now live without fear of the His departure. Even David, a man after God’s own heart, had to ask God not to take the Holy Spirit from him after he sinned with Bathsheba and killed her husband Uriah. David had seen the Spirit depart from Saul. He didn’t want sin to block his connection to God. Everything changed after the cross. The Spirit remains for good in the believer.
But what does it mean for the Holy Spirit to live inside believers? What role does the Holy Spirit serve? I’m going to take a couple of weeks to examine what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit’s work in Christians, and how we can help maximize His efforts in us.
The Holy Spirit Helps Us
John 14:26 says, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (NKJV).
The Greek word for Helper is parakletos (par-ak'-lay-tos), which means called to one’s side for help, comfort, or strength. The Holy Spirit helps comfort us and gives us strength to obey God.
In the verses before John 14:26, Jesus assures His disciples that it’s better for them that He returns to His Father because He will send the Holy Spirit. Jesus allowed Himself to be confined by time and space while in His human body. The Holy Spirit has no such limitations. He is everywhere. We are the temple of God because the Spirit dwells in us. The Holy Spirit helps us understand spiritual things that cannot be discerned by our natural minds.
The Holy Spirit Teaches Us
The first thing John 14:26 tells us is that the Holy Spirit teaches us all things. How does He teach us? Sometimes, we hear the roar of the ocean or feel the mist of a waterfall that remind us of God’s majesty. However, we mainly learn through reading the Word.
I used to get frustrated when I didn’t understand my Bible. It seemed pointless to plod through the pages. I wondered things like, did Jesus literally mean to forgive someone only seventy times seven times? Should I keep a spreadsheet and tally up the times I've forgiven another person? That seemed like a lot of work. Then a friend reminded me to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to show me truth. After praying, the Holy Spirit revealed to me that forgiveness was to be without count. God Himself had set the example and forgiven me many more than four hundred and ninety times. Now I always pray before I study and learn more with the Holy Spirit working as my personal instructor.
When I invite the Holy Spirit to teach me as I read the Bible, many times words leap off the page to address exactly what I need to hear. The Holy Spirit has given me just the right verse to comfort me in hard times. Once I was seeking wisdom about my next job. My contract was about to expire, and I had to find work. Figuring out where God wanted me to go was stressful because I’d applied to several places and didn’t know what I wanted to do.
One morning while doing my devotion, the Holy Spirit highlighted Isaiah 30:21, “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” Whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left” (NKJV). The verse encouraged me that when the right job came along, I would know. During one interview, peace filled the room. I felt the Holy Spirit’s assurance that this was where He wanted me. Another job had seemed more interesting, but I chose to obey the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
This time we looked at how the Holy Spirit teaches us Scripture so we can understand God’s Word. Next we will examine how, in addition to praying before we read the Bible, we can prepare the soil of our hearts to best receive the Holy Spirit’s help.
Joanna Eccles has led Bible studies for over ten years and completed the year-long C. S. Lewis Fellows Program. She is passionate about discipleship and helping people know God better. Joanna enjoys coffee, traveling, and reading, and currently lives in Virginia.