Decision Making with the Holy Spirit
Which internship should I take? I had just been offered an opportunity, but was waiting to hear back on a different position that I wanted more. They say a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, so I leaned toward taking the offered job, but wasn’t sure. My school required an internship to graduate, and I only had one day to decide because I was leaving for study abroad the next morning and needed to line everything up beforehand.
I asked my mom what to do, and we prayed together. She then got the idea to write the names of the internships on strips of paper and pull them out of a hat. Two out of three would decide the job for me. I pulled the same place that had already offered me a position the first two times, and didn’t look back. I had peace, and the internship worked well.
Later, I saw that my decision-making process was the Biblical equivalent of casting lots. Proverbs 16:33, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (NKJV). During the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit only inhabited a few people every once in a while. When the leaders needed to make decisions, they often cast lots. One example is when Joshua divided up the promised land allotments for the children of Israel (Joshua 18:6-10). In 1 Chronicles 24, the priests and Levites decided the order in which they would serve in the temple by casting lots. Nehemiah cast lots for which people would live in Jerusalem and who would live in the surrounding regions (Nehemiah 11:1).
Looking at these examples, I noticed they were all in the Old Testament. The one New Testament example I found was Acts 1:26 when the disciples cast lots to decide which disciple should replace Judas Iscariot. Every time people cast lots in the Bible was before the Holy Spirit arrived as a mighty rushing wind in Acts 2:2.
On the night before He died, Jesus told His disciples of the coming Holy Spirit. John 16:13 says, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” (NKJV). Under the new covenant, we as believers all receive the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Spirit does not come and go, but abides in us and guides us in all truth. The Holy Spirit listens to the Father and shares His heart with us so we may have heavenly wisdom. He is our primary source of guidance.
Was I wrong to cast lots to decide on where to do my internship? I don’t think so. We didn’t cast lots as a first resort. My mom had the idea after we prayed together. Nonetheless, I haven’t made any major life decisions using that method since then. God can use whatever He wants to guide my steps (Proverbs 16:9). The main thing is to seek out the Holy Spirit’s guidance for what He wants. He will never direct me in a way that does not align with Biblical truth.
Sometimes, we may have two good opportunities, and God just lets us decide. The beauty of God is that when we seek Him with all of our hearts, He will be found by us (Jeremiah 29:14). If we strive to obey God, He won’t drop us on our heads. Even when we abandon the goodness of
God and pursue our own desires, we can’t escape God. We can never go so far that we can flee from His notice (Psalm 139:7-12). When we repent, He will pull us back to His side, and is bigger than all of our bad decisions. May we seek the Lord’s direction and allow Him to show us how to make decisions as the Spirit chooses. He won’t lead us astray, but will guide us day by day.
The Holy Spirit – Our Interpreter
Have you ever been somewhere that you didn’t speak the language? Perhaps you were on a mission trip, vacation, or maybe even working an international business deal. For people to understand each other, one person holds a key role – the interpreter.
Interpretation is an art. The process communicates the meaning of what is said in a thought-for-thought manner. Sometimes word-for-word translations don’t make sense across cultures, especially if you use idioms. Interpreters usually only share a couple of sentences before listening to the main speaker again. Their job is not to say new things but to faithfully convey the message of the speaker.
The Holy Spirit serves as an interpreter between believers and God. He is fluent in both languages and knows how to bridge communication barriers. On one side, you have the infinite wisdom of the God of the universe. On the other, you have finite human beings with limited minds. We can’t hope to understand God without help.
Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts” (NKJV). The only way our peon minds can begin to understand almighty God is when the Holy Spirit reduces the messages into bite-sized chunks.
The Holy Spirit Interprets God to Us
John 16:13-15 says, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore, I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you” (NKJV).
The Holy Spirit only speaks what He hears. He doesn’t make stuff up, but takes from Jesus to give to believers. Jesus clarifies that because the Father has given Christ everything, the Spirit shares the things of God. The Holy Spirit speaks truth and tells us things to come. He simplifies the vastness of God’s instructions so we can digest them. God want us to understand Him. We are blessed to have the Holy Spirit so that we can know God’s truth.
Sometimes I beg God for reasons for the turmoil in my life. I want to know what God is doing and why. I ask God for the roadmap and timing of when I will escape my trial. While God knows how much longer it will last, usually all I hear is “Trust Me.” Several times my circumstances have deteriorated before they improved. The Holy Spirit, knowing that at the time I didn’t have the capacity to think of things getting worse, simply told me to trust God. That was all my finite mind could grasp. It was enough.
The Holy Spirit Interprets Us to God
Romans 8:26-27, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (NKJV).
I have sat down to pray so distraught that no words would form in my mouth. When all I could do was cry, I have felt the Holy Spirit intercede on my behalf. My heart groaned, unable to breakthrough despair. Sometimes a good cry is healing, because I release stress. When I ask, the Holy Spirit takes my shattered heart and turns its cries into heavenly words that the Father understands.
The Holy Spirit has saved me from misguided prayers so many times. I can remember guys I was interested in, jobs I wanted, and travel I desired, none of which have happened. I’m so thankful that God said, “No.” Had I actually dated those men, worked those jobs, or gone to those places the results would have been terrible.
In one specific instance, I can imagine the Holy Spirit interpreting my prayer to God as, “She asked for this job. However, if she knew what You’ve shared with me God, she wouldn’t want it. In a few months, her friend is going to get really sick. She needs a slow-paced job to take time off. The other job would require her to work a lot, and she couldn’t leave. So, on her behalf, I ask that You don’t give her the job.”
The Holy Spirit interpreted my prayer accurately. Thank God I didn’t get the job. I traveled many times over the next six months to visit my sick friend. Though I’d been bored, God knew where He needed me so that my management would allow me to go. God was looking out for my best, even though the initial answer was disappointing.
Sometimes, I still forget what God has done and get frustrated when God says, “No.” Fortunately, God has said, “No” enough times now that have blessed me, that it’s easier to accept. Developing trust muscles comes through experiencing God’s repeated faithfulness in our lives.
I can trust the Interpreter to do His job wisely. He will stay true to what He hears and make known to me only what I need so I may walk in the wisdom of the Lord. Thank God for giving us the Holy Spirit as our Interpreter who intercedes only for God’s glory and our good.
Heeding the Holy Spirit
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 Florida.