Each month we ask two writers to reflect on a quote by Dr. Stanley. For March, Jamie A. Hughes and C. Lawrence explore the role of the Holy Spirit in our daily life—and how His presence meets us in unexpected ways. Here’s an excerpt from Dr. Stanley’s sermon “Our Incomparable Companion”:
We have a companion in the Holy Spirit who is beyond sufficient for us. In fact, you cannot come up with a situation where He finds Himself in a quandary, trying to figure out what to do. We can live in His empowering presence, and He will enable us to face every single circumstance of life—no matter what. He is available and He is adequate to face it.
by Jamie A. Hughes
When it comes to the sufficiency of the Holy Spirit, most of the testimonies and messages we hear focus on “big” moments—terminal disease, death, financial ruin, or a relationship damaged seemingly beyond repair. It seems people never share a story about the Helper guiding them through repairing a small home appliance or assisting their kid with a particularly complicated school assignment. Why is that? Has our culture conditioned us to expect divine intervention only in particularly dramatic scenes, or do we just prefer it that way?
Unlike a blockbuster film or Broadway play, life isn’t one intense action sequence after another. High-drama days are interspersed with a thousand mundane ones—average weekdays where nothing of great import seems to be going on. But, as Dr. Stanley says, the Holy Spirit enables us “to face every single circumstance of life—no matter what.”
Has our culture conditioned us to expect divine intervention only in particularly dramatic scenes?
Sometimes I can’t help but feel the everyday stuff can be just as overwhelming, if not more so, than the extreme stresses of loss, illness, or pain. In those “big” moments, there is a sense of focus. You have one job, whether it’s to support a loved one who is grieving or to fight the disease in your body with every ounce of strength and syllable of prayer you can muster. Life is whittled down to a scalpel-sharp point of survival, and distractions fade in comparison.
But what about those days when a dozen smaller stresses come rushing at you relentlessly—one after another—without mercy? I’m talking about those days when the dog throws up on the new rug, the missing shoe can’t be found, the gas tank runs dry a mile from the station, the water bill didn’t get paid, and no one remembered to thaw the ground beef for dinner.
The Holy Spirit is there too, beloved. It’s not beneath Him to help you through workaday disasters, those days when all you want to do is collapse to the floor and sob. He is capable and willing—oh, so willing—to comfort you in your frustration and to encourage you to get up and back to seemingly insignificant tasks. Never doubt His presence, especially in those moments when you feel small and totally on your own. You never were. You never will be.
by C. Lawrence
When we talk about the Holy Spirit as our companion, it’s natural to think of what that means in terms of the help He offers us. Jesus called Him “the Helper,” after all. But if there’s any danger here, it’s in our modern way of thinking about usefulness. We can all too easily fall into the trap of understanding the Holy Spirit in utilitarian, rather than personal, terms—focusing on what He does for us, rather than who He is. We carry on sometimes as if the Spirit were merely a cosmic wellness program director, or the divine equivalent of a wedding planner, making sure everything goes smoothly.
Acknowledging that the third person of the Trinity is indeed a person means that His companionship is foremost about having a relationship with Him—of loving and being loved—rather than what we get out of the arrangement. So what kind of relationship with the Spirit do we have? Though God doesn’t need anything—not from us or anyone else—it may be helpful to look at the question from the opposite direction. As a thought exercise, we might consider asking ourselves not what kind of companion the Holy Spirit is to us, but what kind of companion we are to Him. Do we ignore His presence most of the time? Are we distracted or disregarding until we need something? Do we deliberately do things that grieve Him (Eph. 4:29-32), knowing He will forgive us?
We can all too easily fall into the trap of understanding the Holy Spirit in utilitarian, rather than personal, terms—focusing on what He does for us, rather than who He is.
Though the Holy Spirit is God and we most certainly are not, honestly answering the questions above and others like them may lead us to clues as to why our relationship with God isn’t quite as intimate as we’d like it to be. Our replies will reveal attitudes we have about our relationship with God, along with unbelief and even rebellion against His will.
Consider this: In the Holy Spirit, we have fellowship with God the Father and the Son, right here and now, wherever we go. That means on my loneliest days, wandering deep in the ravine of self-doubt or grief or longing for connection, I’m not actually alone but lovingly welcomed and attended to, supported, nourished. When I’m surrounded by friends and family and we’re enjoying one another’s company but the fullness of it all never quite fills the glass, as it were, God walks with me there too—walks in me, as if my soul were a garden of His keeping. It means that when I’ve lost my way, the most loving of friends stands by, waiting to comfort and guide me home to my Father’s house.
No matter who abandons or ignores us in this life, no matter who lets us down, the Holy Spirit is our perfect companion, holding us in Christ’s perfect love. What wouldn’t you give to that kind of friend? Why would you hold back from trusting Him with everything?